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Examining Operational Art in Byzantine Campaigns

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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

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This monograph analyzes historical campaigns through the lens of modern American military doctrine. Using the elements of operational art particularly the concepts of operational reach, center of gravity, and risk it compares the campaigns of Basil II against the Bulgars and Romanus IV against the Seljuk Turks. The study argues Romanus IV failed in his campaign against the Seljuk Turks by imprudently accepting unmitigated operational risk. This gamble led to his capture, the defeat of his army, and the subsequent collapse of the Byzantine Empire from invasion and civil war. In contrast, his predecessor Basil II cultivated his strategic, operational, and tactical capacities in Bulgaria which mitigated the risk of failure. By assuming mitigated risk to create an opportunity, Basil II defeated the Bulgarian field army while preserving his options to continue the campaign. These outcomes should prompt modern operational artists to deeply consider the risk inherent in Large-Scale Combat Operations in a world of reemerging great power competition.

Subject Categories:

  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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