Historical Perspectives of the Operational Art

Article excerpt

HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVES OF THE OPERATIONAL ART, Michael D. Krause and R. Cody Phillips, Center of Military History Washington, DC, 2005, 487 pages, price unavailable.

Historical Perspectives of the Operational Art is a unique collection of essays by a distinguished group of professional officers and military historians. Bruce Manning's opening essay discusses the origins of operational art by addressing the changing nature of the military art, by looking at the professional vocabulary, and by reviewing the development of operational art in U.S. doctrine. The balance of the book is divided into four parts, each tracing developments in the operational art of a particular country during a particular period: Napoleonic France from the Jena campaign to the beginning of World War II; Germany from Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke's rise to blitzkrieg operations in World War II; Russia from Imperial Russian Army practices in 1878 to the end of the cold war; and the United States from the Gettysburg campaign to Operation Desert Storm.

The well-researched essays in this book provide a succinct history of the origins and development of operational art in theory and practice. Editors Michael D. Krause and R. Cody Phillips review the problems associated with devising a terminology to distinguish operational art from tactics and strategy and place various national practices in historical context. In their view, each nation developed either theory or practice based on historical experience, the impact of technological change, or the prevailing intellectual atmosphere. The French, for example, concentrated on the practical rather than the theoretical aspects of operational art. They took specific lessons from the Franco-Prussian War and used them to determine their practice at the start of World War I; similarly, lessons learned from World War I influenced French practice at the start of World War II. Krause traces Moltke's influence on German operational art to the Franco-Prussian War. German Army Brigadier General Guenther R. Roth discusses General Alfred Graf von Schlieffen's influence and the dangers inherent in a dogmatic approach. …