This comprehensive paper by Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Smith forms part of the Land Warfare Studies Centre Study Papers. The premise of this study paper is that operational art and strategy are dynamic and contingent practices. Talent, refined by dedicated study of war and warfare, are the critical prerequisites for capable operational artists and strategists. General principles, rules derived from them, and systems based on these rules have only limited value for strategy and operational art. In fact, they may even serve to undermine the practices of operational art and strategy because prescribed principles, rules and systems diminish the perceived relevance and importance of historical study, inhibit the application of judgement and innovation in the planning process, and marginalise the value of natural talent in decision-making in complex contexts.
The paper is divided into two parts which discuss the following:
- Section I – The Evolution of Modern Warfare, Operational Art and Strategy: War, the emergence of modern warfare, recognising operational art, redefining strategy, the revolution in military affairs, hybrid threats and comprehensive approaches, tactics defined, operational art defined, strategy defined, the relationship between operational art and strategy, grand strategy, operational art and strategy for minor partners in big coalitions, operational art, strategy and military support to policy objectives in non-warlike contingencies, and the constraints on operational art and strategy in the Australian context.
- Section II – Mastering Operational Art and Strategy in the Australian Context: Professional military education, campaign design, remaining cognisant that strategy is dynamic not static, defining success in the broadest possible terms, a campaign design is a framework for action – not a plan, maintaining a candid and open discourse with the statesman, accepting risk to exploit opportunity, creating a system of learning, and maintaining an adaptive mental stance.
The paper is well worth the investment in time taken to read it, however it is certainly a ‘long read’ – so make sure you set aside a large portion of time before you dive into this one, or tackle it in chapters.