Military Art

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Military art is the theory and practice of preparing and conducting military actions on land, at sea, and within the global aerospace envelope.

Historically, Russian military theorists held that the primary function of military art was attainment of victory over an adversary with the least expenditure of forces, resources, and time. This postulation stressed a well-developed sense of intent that would link the logic of strategy with the purposeful design and execution of complex military actions. By the end of the nineteenth century, Russian military theorists accepted the conviction that military art was an expression of military science, which they viewed as a branch of the social sciences with its own laws and disciplinary integrity. Further, they subscribed to the idea, exemplified by Napoleon, that military art consisted of two primary components, strategy and tactics. Strategy described movements of main military forces within a theater of war, while tactics described what occurred on the battlefield. However, following the Russo-Japanese War of 19041905, theorists gradually modified their views to accommodate the conduct of operations in themselves, or operatika, as a logical third component lying betweenand linkingstrategy and tactics. This proposition further evolved during the 1920s and 1930s, thanks primarily to Alexander Svechin, who lent currency to the term "operational art" (operativnoye iskusstvou ) as a replacement for operatika, and to Vladimir Triandafillov, who analyzed the nature of modern military operations on the basis of recent historical precedent. Subsequently, the contributions of other theorists, including Mikhail Tukhachevsky, Alexander Yegorov, and Georgy Isserson, along with mechanization of the Red Army and the bitter experience of the Great Patriotic War, contributed further to the Soviet understanding of modern military art. However, the theoretical development of strategy languished under Josef Stalin, while the advent of nuclear weapons at the end of World War II called into question the efficacy of operational art. During much of the Nikita Khrushchev era, a nuclear-dominated version of strategy held near-complete sway in the realm of military art. Only in the mid-1960s did Soviet military commentators begin to resurrect their understanding of operational art to correspond with the theoretical necessity for conducting large-scale conventional operations under conditions of nuclear threat. During the 1970s and 1980s emphasis on new reconnaissance systems and precision-guided weaponry as parts of an ongoing revolution in military affairs further challenged long-held convictions about traditional boundaries and linkages among strategy, operational art, and tactics. Further, U.S. combat experience during the Gulf War in 19901991 and again in Afghanistan during 2001 clearly challenged conventional notions about the relationships in contemporary war between time and space, mass and firepower, and offense and defense. Some theorists even began to envision a new era of remotely fought or no-contact war (bezkontaknaya voynau ) that would dominate the future development of all facets of military art.

See also: military, imperial era; military, soviet and post-soviet


Menning, Bruce W. (1997). "Operational Art's Origins." Military Review 76 (5):32-47.

Svechin, Aleksandr A. (1992). Strategy, ed. Kent D. Lee. Minneapolis: East View Publications.

Bruce W. Menning