Monday, September 15, 2008

Maritime Strategy Monday: learning from The 2nd Lebanon War

Two of the most dangerous people out there are the fresh faces LT or LCDR engineer just out of War College - or someone who has been teaching at one so long that they think they have discovered a military truth that no one else in thousands of years had ever seen.

Just an outstanding read from the Journal of Strategic Studies from earlier this year on the lessons from The Second Lebanon War.

Just devastating.
But, as already pointed out, since 1982 experience in conducting war or large-scale operations has hardly existed, as most of the IDF activity has long been of a policing nature in the territories. To make matters worse, in recent years the IDF has undergone a process of superficial intellectualization, the manifestations of which have been a pretentious post-modern approach and a tendency to imitate American military thinking in an absorptive rather than competitive form. One of the outcomes of this process has been a weakening commitment to one of the cornerstones of Israel's traditional defense doctrine - battlefield decision.
Pretentious post-modern approach

The IDF's Operational Doctrine Research Institute, which was very influential in the training of the officer corps before the war, believed that delving into non-military post-modern theories would equip senior officers with the tools necessary for dealing with the complex and changing realities of war. According to the Institute's director Brigadier General (res.) Shimon Naveh, '[…] We read Christopher Alexander, […] John Forester, and other architects. We are reading Gregory Bateson; we are reading Clifford Geertz. Not myself, but our soldiers, our generals are reflecting on these kinds of materials. We have established a school and developed a curriculum that trains “operational architects”.'

In his lectures Naveh was using a diagram resembling a 'square of opposition' that plotted a set of logical relationships between certain propositions referring to military and guerrilla operations. Labeled with phrases such as 'Difference and Repetition - The Dialectics of Structuring and Structure', 'Formless Rival Entities', 'Fractal Maneuver', 'Velocity vs. Rhythms', 'The Wahabi War Machine', 'Postmodern Anarchists' and 'Nomadic Terrorists', Naveh and his team often referenced the work of Deleuze and Guattari. 'War machines, according to these philosophers, are polymorphous; diffuse organizations characterized by their capacity for metamorphosis, made up of small groups that split up or merge with one another, depending on contingency and circumstances.'
Classic military thinkers became no more than names, whose sayings were occasionally cited, but whose writings were not read or studied in-depth. Inspired by this institute, IDF officers in military academies and colleges started learning the writings of great architects instead of the writings of the masters of war.
Everyone needs to remember this hard - and think about it every time you do a Suez transit. We're in a tough business; bad fuzzy ideas gets your people killed and your nation in danger.
It is a warning sign against the over-reliance on technology in general and on airpower or network-centric warfare in particular, or the illusion that thanks to technology such countries can rely on 'small but smart' militaries, and that technology minimizes fatalities, eliminates friction, decreases the dependence on logistics, breaks the enemy's will and can achieve quick victory by itself. RMA conceptions may be elegant and sophisticated, but they cannot replace simple military notions that have been held by military thinkers for centuries, such as the identification of and operation against centers of gravity - not just creating 'effects'; the role played by ground forces in battlefield success; the importance of inflicting physical damage on the enemy - not just 'burning its consciousness'; and the fact that the enemy does not abide by the rules one wishes to dictate. A highly ideologically motivated and determined enemy, conducting heroic warfare, using simple but effective technology, and relying on a decentralized command and control and logistical system can compensate for its quantitative and qualitative inferiority. No RMA-inspired warfare doctrine can effectively work against such a combination.
BTW, just added the source, Journal of Strategic Studies to the blogroll if you need some, ahem, 'light reading.' I got turned on to this by Gen. Mattis, USMC. Consider the source.

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