1. A red, white, and blue hat. <one hat with all three colors, or three hats of different color>
2. A red, a white, and a blue hat. <three hats; three different colors>
3. Red, white, and blue hats. <many hats; two meanings>
4. The red, white, and blue hat. <same as 1), but specific; i.e., 'the'>
5. The red, the white, and the blue hat. <three hats; one red, one white, and one blue>
1. The operation and the behavior of this machine. <both>
2. The operation and behavior of this machine. (OK)
Hope that helps.