Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Return of Maneuver

Israel is refocusing on making their army the dominant force in the region and in their military. Reliance on air power is being scaled back:

The IDF intentionally refrained from large-scale ground maneuver operations during the 2006 Lebanon War. This was one of the causes of it's poor showing, which left the scene, for the first time in it's history, without clear and visible decision, both militarily and political. As the war was examined in depth by the so-called Winograd Commission, it became clear to decision-makers, that extensive ground operations, relying on large-scale, rapid maneuver warfare remain significant elements in any future warfighting, both high-intensive and asymmetric, in which the IDF will have to defend it's nation against looming threats, both at the frontline and especially in the vulnerable rear zone....

The lack of focus to achieve 'Land Dominance' – a situation where land forces perform a series of rapid and decisive operations, employing maneuver forces throughout the battle area, precisely, lethally and effectively, to defeat the enemy, was identified soon after the war in after action reports. Lacking area dominance, and recognizing the vulnerability of the individual elements, the IDF response to threats was incomplete, insufficient and deliberate tactical moves were rapidly reduced to evacuation of casualties after initial engagements with the enemy. In an attempt to reduce vulnerability to stand-off anti-tank missile threats the IDF limited operations to night time. Furthermore, movement of lightly armored vehicles was prohibited throughout the theater while heavy armor was ordered to move off-road, which was proven highly challenging for the inexperienced crews. These factors had a negative effect on combat support and combat service support to forward forces, severely degrading their operational effectiveness and combat flexibility.

The Israelis screwed the pooch in Lebanon in 2006. Their ground approach was awful and the above article confirms my suspicions at the time:

In 1973 the Israelis needed 18 days to mobilize and defeat the combined militaries of Syria and Egypt. This time the Israelis were unfocused, intent on winning with air power alone, then used minimal ground force in a shallow frontal assault that was just a low-level war of attrition, and then gathered forces for a big push that lasted all of half a day or so before pulling back. They could have had longer if they hadn't misused their air power in a misguided strategic campaign that compelled Sunni Arab states to cancel their support for Israel's fight against Shia terrorists.

I felt their army conducted shallow attacks on a wide front that just let the enemy fight on their terms. And it was worse than I thought. The Israelis actually stopped their attacks to withdraw wounded troops! The Israelis forgot the purpose of war and so lost that war.

Frontal attacks on fanatical light infantry is costly to the attackers. What was needed, I argued, was a strategy that penetrated the enemy's frontline bunkers and got behind them. Maneuver the enemy out of their prepared positions and victory would be achieved.

The question is, will Israel refocus in time for the next round?