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The Crucial Role of the Operational Artist: A Case Study of Operation Barbarossa

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US Army School for Advanced Military Studies Fort Leavenworth United States

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According to current United States US Army doctrine, operational art is the pursuit of strategic objectives through the arrangement of tactical actions in time, space, and purpose. This monograph raises the research question why the German application and failure of operational art before and during Operation Barbarossa 1941 is still relevant for todays US doctrinal understanding of operational art. Furthermore, the analysis challenges the doctrinal notion that operational art is applicable at all levels of warfare. Operation Barbarossa helps to understand that tactical success cannot prevent strategic failure if the operational artist is not able to build the crucial cognitive bridge between tactical actions and the overall policy aim. The analysis of Operation Barbarossa reveals the crucial and unique function of operational art at the intersection of political aims and military actions. The monograph uses the methodology of a single case study presented chronologically the planning phase July 1940June 1941 and the execution phase JuneDecember 1941. The roles and functions of the operational artist provide the three evaluation criteria for the analysis the discourse between the policy maker and the operational artist, the military operational objectives and to what extent they support the given political objectives, and the assessment of military means. The analysis of Operation Barbarossa shows how important an open and continuous discourse between the policy maker and the operational artist is. Strategic mismanagement and over-extension as experienced by the German army in Russia always trump doctrinal innovation and tactical brilliance.

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Technical Report,05 Jul 2016,25 May 2017



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Approved For Public Release;

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