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There is as much controversy amongst military historians surrounding the origin of operational art as there is surrounding the origin and evolution ofhumankind. In order to understand what operational art is and how it should be applied to present day military operations it is first necessary to understand how operational art originated and how it evolved. This section answers the question what is operational art, by looking first at it's origins in theory and evolution in modern doctrine.

Operational art is defined today in joint doctrine as: The employment ofmilitary forces to attain strategic and/or operational objectives through the design, organization, integration, and conduct ofcampaigns, major operations, and battles. Operational art translates the joint force commander's strategy into operational design, and, ultimately tactical action, by integrating the key activities at all levels ofwar. l

The Army definition found in the 1993 version ofFM 100-5 is: The employment ofmilitary forces to attain strategic goals through the design, organization, integration, and execution ofbattles and engagements into campaigns and major operations. In war, operational art determines when, where, and for what purpose major forces will fight over time.

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The joint and army doctrinal definitions are not really that different, their similarities offer some clues to understanding the origin ofoperational art. Both definitions clearly state that operational art is the link between strategic aim and tactical action. The idea that war should be directly linked to the aims ofthe nation state isnothing new. Sun Tzu wrote "Warfare is the greatest affair ofthe state, the basis oflife and death, the way to survival or extinction. It must be thoroughly pondered and analyzed."

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What is clearly different now then when Sun Tzu wrote about war is the method in which war is executed. Warfare has become much more complex as it evolved over time. The origin ofoperational art is a product ofthe evolution ofwarfare and can be traced to the birth ofmodern warfare. This can be seen in the other similarity between the joint and Army definitions ofoperational art. Both definitions use plurals when describing battles, campaigns, operations, and objectives. Understanding why these words are plural and not singular is the required first step toward understanding operational art. These plurals created the gap between strategy and tactics that is Called the operational level ofwar. The when and the how operational art originated is a subject still being debated. Two different schools ofthought on the origin ofmodern warfare provide some basic clues to the origin ofoperational art. Two separate views ofthe origin ofmodern warfare are held by two senior faculty members at the School ofAdvanced Military Studies at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. The School ofAdvanced Military Studies, or SAMS, is the Army's school for teaching Army officers how to plan for and conduct military operations at the operational level ofwar. The two theories are both extremely interesting, but more importantly shed light on the core elements ofoperational art. The first theory argues that modern warfare began with Napoleon, the second theory claims the US Civil War as the origin. Both theories present valid arguments and both must be reviewed in order to understand operational art.Napoleon and the Origin ofModern Warfare Robert M. Epstein, a professor ofhistory at the School ofAdvanced Military Studies, presents his theory in his book entitled, Napoleon's Last Victory: 1809 and the Emergence ofModern War. Professor Epstein argues that there are more factors to consider, than simply technological factors, when determining the origin ofmodern war. The factors that Epstein considers are, structural, organizational, intellectual, and operational elements.

Epstein defines modern war when it has the following characteristics: a strategic war plan that effectively integrates the various...
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