Friday, January 07, 2011

Speed Limit

The Israelis are practicing the ability to react and move fast on the ground:

In a monthlong war in 2006, Lebanese guerrillas with relatively simple rockets knocked out Israeli tanks, and Israel's high-tech military was powerless to stop a barrage of primitive, unguided Katyusha rockets on northern Israel.

The latest computerized gadgetry is designed to knock down the military's response time. Troops on the ground can add new targets as soon as they spot them — like militants on foot, a rocket squad or a vehicle — to the network for commanders to see instantly and hit.

Strikes that used to take 20 or more minutes to coordinate now take just seconds, said Maj. Hagai Ben-Shushan, head of the C4I section for Israel's artillery. "It doesn't take much, then shells are going to the target," he said.

Israel is among several nations harnessing digital and satellite technology to develop C4I systems — short for "command, control, communications, computers and intelligence" — that integrate battlefield information.

This is great, as far as it goes. But the problem in 2006 wasn't the lack of this system. Plenty of armies in the past have moved fast without command and control above the horse-mounted courier. The problem in 2006 was that the Israelis decided to wage a shallow frontal assault on Hizbollah forces and rely on air power to shut down the rocket bombardment of northern Israel (by hitting the rockets directly and pressuring Lebanon's nominal government to shut down Hizbollah by hitting Lebanon's infrastructure).

The reported system and exercise is significant only if Israel has decided that a fast-moving assault deep into Lebanon to crush Hizbollah is the proper course of action. If Israel repeats the strategy of 2006 with the new command and control system, Israel will simply demonstrate that they can dither at impressive speeds and with high situational awareness.

I think the Israelis learned the real lesson of 2006 and that this tool will reinforce the right strategy. The real speed limit is ultimately in their own minds. But we shall see.