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Manufacturing the Horns of Dilemma: A Theory of Operational Initiative

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Technical Report,01 Jul 2014,31 May 2015

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US Army Command and General Staff College Fort Leavenworth United States

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Initiative is a long debated aspect of warfare and most practitioners of warfare agree that it is better to have the initiative than not. How then does an army get the initiative during a campaign Theory and doctrine do not offer holistic theories about initiative but rather varying definitions of what it is and why it is important to have it. This monograph proposes a theory of initiative that states that an army can seize, retain, and exploit the operational initiative by constant reorientation that fosters aligning its operational concept against its opponents limitations and weaknesses, and limits an opponents freedom of action through the arrangement of tactical actions to reduce key opponent capabilities. Three case studies will be utilized to support this theory. The first, Grants 1864 Overland Campaign will demonstrate how an army seized and retained the initiative throughout the duration of the campaign. The second case study will detail Eighth Army in Korea, and highlight an army that re-seized the operational initiative in the midst of a campaign. The final case study, the Israeli-Hezbollah War of 2006, will show a technologically superior army failing to seize the operational initiative throughout the course of a campaign. The conclusion of this monograph argues that the two most significant implications of this theory are that an armys ability to reorient during combat operations is just as critical, if not more so than its operating concept. Secondly, political considerations can be just as detrimental to an armys freedom of action as the loss of tactical capabilities through engagements.

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