Accession Number:



New Look at the Theories of Operational Art and the Levels of Warfare

Descriptive Note:

[Technical Report, Monograph]

Corporate Author:

US Army School for Advanced Military Studies

Personal Author(s):

Report Date:


Pagination or Media Count:



Theory is a critical component of military thinking and doctrine. It underpins how the United States views, comprehends, and acts within the strategic environment. The Joint Force views warfare through the lens of the Levels of Warfare model and the Theory of Operational Art. These theories relate to and interact with political, strategic, operational, and tactical theories to form a complex environment that the Joint Force must view, understand, and act within. By reviewing and revising these theoretical constructs and their relationships, the Joint Force Commanders can better see and understand the environments emergent properties to aid understanding, modeling, and decision making. This study shows that operational art is more than the use of elements to design major operations and campaigns, it is a way of thinking that uses mindset, methods, and methodologies to affect an opposing system by denying its aim, reducing its options, disrupting its synergy and function, overloading its processes, and disrupting its equilibrium and cohesion. It makes five specific deductions. First, each military theory is separate and distinct with its own logic and use but cannot be viewed or used in isolation from the others. Second, the current Levels of War model misapplies and misrepresents how these theories interact. Third, the theory of operational art is currently misunderstood in the American military, as it has been linked with operational theory the operational level of war, which causes practitioners to use the theory in an improper manner. Fourth, the linear model levels of warfare must be updated to represent all of the complex linkages and relationships between each theoretical sphere. Finally, operational art is a mindset of beliefs, behaviors, and practices used to manage the connections between each of the other theoretical spheres and uses methods and methodologies to affect other systems in pursuit of strategic advantage and political power.

Subject Categories:

  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

Distribution Statement:

[A, Approved For Public Release]