The first level of the activity of the defense of an organized Society is called national strategy and also, some old-fashioned, great strategy. In it must be considered also the economic and diplomatic resources of the State, as part of the resources of a nation to obtain her big strategic goals in a war.
The military strategy or simply strategy treats, in the second great level of activity in the national defense, of the definition of the big goals of a war, of a theatre of operations or a campaign, and of the assignment of the military, generally scanty or very scanty resources, to get them.
The tactics devote itself to the best accomplishment of the combats against an enemy, whom is opposed to the achievement of our strategic goals by military means. The combat skills and technics are the bricks which help to construct the tactics. They are the specific knowledge of weapons, movements, protections, which the men personally and collectively learn with the training and their experience.
Between both levels of the military action exists a space of essentially practical and eminent activity, so called operational level or operational strategy. Its mission is to optimize the use of the tactics and of the available resources in the campaign and in the theatre of operations. To do that, it defines and conceptualizes the battles, the marches, etc., both the military operations and their correct succession, depending on those decisive goals.
So it gives to the tactics and the decision to which it is orientated, a superior importance. Which is far beyond of the pursuit and the exploit of the tactical success. That is to say, the operative strategy uses the tactics as one of its immediate instruments. Integrating them to reach the goals that are entrusted to it and being orientated to them, taking part then of its strategic nature.
This way, the operational strategy defines its own goals in the military theatre or campaign, which are the incapacitation and the disorganization of the enemy, through the action over his operational and strategic vulnerabilities. The first is orientated against the enemy combat capacity, seeking to incapacitate positionally or functionally it, and simultaneously protecting the own combat capacity. The second is achieved by the occupation or the destruction of the enemy critical vulnerabilities in the operations zone.
These vulnerabilities are those elements, possessions or reasons that give sense to the fight that the enemy makes against us. That is to say, whose loss inevitably infuses a hopelessness sensation and a uselessness sense in continuing the fight in these circumstances, which only is now oriented to accumulate more losses.
In the World War II, the occupation of the enemy capital and the fall of his government were critical strategic vulnerabilities. To which get through an operative strategy of mobile offensive war: as example, the spring campaign of 1940 in the western front. The same thing Hitler looked for in 1941 in the Soviet front in relation with Moscow. Surely in this total war, almost of extermination, in the East front, its occupation had not had the importance that was assuming him. But Moscow was constituting a great railway «hub», a vital center of railway communications for the whole USSR at the west of the Urals mountains. And, in this respect, it had been a critical permanent vulnerability of the military operational level.
To achieve these intermediate strategic aims, the operational level has several specific operational means that are the intelligence, the imbalance and the incapacitation of the enemy, the tempo or operations and combats relative speed, the logistic organization and its physical support, the full supplies line and the correct sense of the commands.
It uses these means to lead and to optimally use (without squandering) the tactical – operational means at its disposition.
the area transitability (in the whole geographical dimension of the nature of the lands, climate, station and day hour),
the combat capacity (all kind of military means like men, equipment, supports and combat or carrier vehicles) and the operational movement capacity (big and small tonnage transports, the supplies and replacements of all kinds and combustible and the deposits and accessible parks in the zone) available,
the freedom of action and the «favorable interfaces of action» with the enemy (that exist and that can also be created always, by means of the extension or the decrease of the «field of action» over him, like a tactical operative zoom, or by means of its change to another sector of the front or in the depth of the enemy zone). With these last 2 «systems» we can act always according to our criterion and interest and not simply reacting to the enemy actions.
Hereby, the mentioned 10 «operational systems» realize the employment and the functioning of all the levels of the National Defense. And they go from the conception and the great creation of goals and interests. Received from the high command and ultimately from the nation, including the allocated resources, up to the practical final accomplishment of them. Involving also the necessary and the inevitable and imposed by the enemy tactical employment of the military means, as stages for the optimal attainment of those entrusted goals. These “operational systems” are full developed in my book “On the Nature of War”, specially dedicated to the international educational military market.