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July 06, 2007

What we can learn from Israel's mistakes
Posted by Lorelei Kelly

A year ago this month, Israel and Hezbollah engaged in a bloody conflict on Lebanese territory. The horrors of civilian deaths on both sides dominated the headlines, the poor United Nations got clobbered yet again....but the conflict quickly faded into the background noise of fearful mayhem that dominates media coverage of the Middle East.

Well, a few months ago Israel released a document called the Winograd commission interim report--a highly critical review of how Israeli leaders carried out the conflict. It is important for its frank self-evaluation and notable also for what is left out (Israel's use of collective punishment against Lebanese civilians for example). But it also has great implications for US policy because some of the findings are very relevant to the defense debate here at home. The report is bad news for the advocates of the so-called “revolution in military affairs” (a thesis that champions technology over human resources and which has pretty much failed). The Center for Defense Information provides a critical summary and analysis of the Winograd Commission Interim Report by Israeli citizen Haninah Levine

Levine writes that the failures the Israel Defense Forces encountered “stemmed, according to the commission, from ‘excessive faith in the power of the Air Force and incorrect appraisal of the power and preparedness of the enemy, amounting to an unwillingness to examine the details.’” More precisely, the failure can be attributed to a new twist in the decades-old agenda of the advocates of air power. Levine’s analysis connects the “revolution in military affairs” to a “new doctrine [in Israel] which emerged as stating [according to the commission] that ‘success can be achieved by means of ‘effects’ and indirect ‘levers,’ in place of classic concepts of success….’” Later, Levine writes, “Faith in advanced air and artillery system as magical ‘game changing’ systems absolved the [Israeli] General Staff from the need to consider what capabilities … the enemy possessed, and led the IDF into a strategic trap….”


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Faith in terror bombing has been the fault of most air force officers in almost every country for the past 50 years. It's clearly an institutional bias. Why our army generals also fall into this trap sometimes is beyond me.

Speaking of which, take a look at NATO's new commmander in Afghanistan:

...Senior British soldiers have previously expressed concerns that American General Dan McNeill, who took command of the 32,000 Nato troops in Afghanistan only recently, was 'a fan' of the massive use of air power to defeat insurgents and that his favoured tactics could be counter-productive.
'Every civilian dead means five new Taliban,' said one British officer who has recently returned from Helmand. ...
The American general has been dubbed 'Bomber McNeill' by his critics.

I think the link here is bad. Try:

Dan Tompkins

Is all bombing "terror bombing". The IDF made similar mistakes in 1973 based on the 1967 war. Once they went back to combined arms instead of tank heavy formations along with relying on artillery instead of airpower in the face of heavy AA and SAM threats they did well again. At the end of the day war is still about closing with and killing the enemy. Israel forgot that.

What the RMA or transformation or network centric crowd continue to downplay is that the enemy and terrain get a very large say in how a specific conflict will look. In open terrain a few well placed teams can call in air and artillery over a large area at known targets. It's not quite the same in urban or difficult terrain where the enemy is dispersed and/or hiding. They also ignore that while a few SF and CIA teams were able transform that war into a very quick victory at little cost those same few could not seal off a given area to trap Bin Laden. That is a classic infantry centric mission that requires large numbers of troops.

I imagine the IDF will learn from it's mistakes here. I do not see the Pentagon learning quite as much but that might change. 1973 scared the Pentagon into action more than any event I can recall post WWII.

This should be Lorelei's new mantra:

"The ends for which we fight are changing from the hard objectives that decide a political outcome to those of establishing conditions in which the outcome may be decided.

We fight amongst the people, not on the battlefield.

Our conflicts tend to be timeless, even unending.

We fight so as to preserve the force rather than risking all to gain the objective.

On each occasion new uses are found for old weapons and organizations which are the products of industrial war.

The sides are mostly non-state, comprising some form of multinational grouping against some non-state party or parties."

Sir Rupert Smith, Utility of Force

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Is there anyone out there besides me that thinks the UN should simply evacuate their people from Lebanon completely until the war is over?The UN should remove all of its “Peace Keepers” from everywhere, because, even thought they are armed, they never keep the peace. But, of course, the UN won’t, epsecially in Lebanon, because that would leave only unarmed Lebanese civilians for Hezbollah to use as cover.Actually, the UN should remove itself from existance, period!

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