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Decisively Avoiding Defeat: Strategy, the Operational Artist, and Limited War

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Technical Report,05 Jul 2015,26 May 2016

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US Army School for Advanced Military Studies Fort Leavenworth United States

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This monograph explores how tension between operational artists and policy makers in limited war is resolved. Wars with limited aims frustrate political and military leaders as they try to reconcile different conceptions of political and policy risk and military effort. Doctrine does not ease this frustration. This monograph shows how strategy in limited war emerges from the negotiation between policy makers and operational artists over means. This emergence aligns different views of risk and military effort. This paper uses three case studies to show emergence of strategy through negotiation Burma, August 1943 to March 1945, Korea, June 1950 to April 1951, and Vietnam, January 1967 to March 1968. Each case traces development of the policy aim for military action and the operational approach that guided it, then examines the discourse between the operational artist and policy maker to demonstrate its effect on strategy. This study demonstrates two outcomes. The Burma case examines a limited theater in a war for final victory where strategy stays constant. However, the Vietnam and Korea cases, with more limited aims, show dramatic strategic shifts to resolve tension between the operational artist and policy maker.

Subject Categories:

  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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