How Many Operational Commanders? Insights from History.
ARMY WAR COLL CARLISLE BARRACKS PA
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Emerging doctrine on the operational art level of war leaves many unanswered questions. One issue concerns the role and number of operational level commanders in a theater of operation. The thesis of this essay is that in order to win on todays battlefield in which U.S. Army forces will undoubtedly be outnumbered, there must be several commanders at echelons from brigade to field army empowered to act with the freedom and authority of an operational level commander. A second critical insight in the paper is that the side possessing the greater number of operationally thinking commanders stands the better chance to emerge as the victor. In order to assess the merit of the thesis, the author first broadens the definition of operational art and then examines the senior operational commander for the Union Army in the campaign at Chancellorsville. General Joe Hooker did not conform his operational objective to the strategic objective. More importantly he did not involve his subordinate commanders in the planning of the campaign or envision them with overall pattern of his operation. As a result his commanders did not seize opportunities on the battlefield that could have meant the difference between success and failure. Hookers real lesson for the modern operational commander is that all operations cannot be under his personal supervision and that waging war on the map requires envisioning troops he cannot see.
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