On Operations: Operational Art and Military Disciplines
By B. A. Friedman
Naval Institute Press, 2021, 256 pp.
Having written a well-received book on military tactics, the U.S. Marine Corps reservist Friedman turns a critical eye to military operations. He argues against the “ruinous” Pentagon view that identifies an “operational level” of war between strategy and tactics. Separating the two leaves the objectives to the strategists and the detail of fighting to the tacticians, yet the real challenge is to bring the two together so that political purpose can infuse all military action. Friedman prefers the term “operational art,” which blends the logistical and wider strategic aspects of military planning. In separate chapters, he considers the six discrete disciplines that need to be marshaled when fighting wars—administration, information, coordination, fire support, logistics, and command and control—and uses a range of historical case studies, from the Battle of Austerlitz in 1805 to the Battle of Britain in 1940, to show how these disciplines are deployed. This is a book for the military professional yet one of interest to anyone curious as to why some operations succeed while others falter.