Accession Number:



The Ballad of Odysseus: A Return to Surprise and Cunning in Operational Art

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Technical Report,25 Jun 2018,23 May 2019

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US Army Command and General Staff College Fort Leavenworth United States

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This monograph presents the elements and characteristics of the principle of surprise on the modern battlefield. For ages, commanders and theorists regarded surprise as the cornerstone of operations. Given the changing operational environment with the potential for contested domains in the future, the principle of surprise will be pivotal once again in US military planning and operations. The essence of surprise is cunning. The context of surprise in US Army doctrine is no longer clear for the practitioner. Doctrine should provide a holistic concept of surprise that allows for the practitioner to use it as a guide in any situation of war. Surprise is a key element in achieving operational shock. The Soviet theory of Deep Battle highlights that operational shock requires the elements of surprise preconceptions, deception, secrecy, and response time. The essence of operational art is cunning. The cunning practitioner achieves operational shock by creating depth and novelty on the battlefield. Cunning is not a mechanistic arrangement of the elements of operational art, but an intelligent orchestration of the elements of surprise, along with breaking the rules of form and function to create novelty. The Israeli Defense Forces IDF operations in 2002 provide a stunning example of surprise and cunning on a future battlefield.

Subject Categories:

  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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