Sometimes you just need a military guy to explain things to you. In the latest Defensive News, Barbara Opall-Rome explains what was wrong with the approach of General Halutz the old Israeli Chief of Staff and what will be different with General Ashkenazi’s IDF.
The Halutz approach was that in an asymmetrical war you can’t count on the military alone to win. There is no such thing as a decisive victory. War is won by a mix of military might and diplomacy. The problem with that approach was seen in Lebanon if you don’t try to win you lose.The approach with Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi’s IDF will be, you fight to win and hope for diplomacy. Read this informative piece from Defense News:
Just before relinquishing command due to failures from last summer’s Lebanon War, Israel’s chief of General Staff warned that the increasing complexity of asymmetric threats would force political leaders to rethink what, exactly, they expect to achieve through military force.In his farewell address to the nation last February, in the visibly discomfited presence of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz, Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz insisted the military alone must not bear the burden of solving the terror threat.“Today’s reality is not painted in black and white, rather many shades of grey,” Halutz said. “It’s much more complex. The threats to Israel are not from the tank or the plane or the revolver that are in the hands of the enemy, but rather can be found in cultural, social and other threats.”In last summer’s war, “The front and the homeland have become one,” with Israel’s power depending on what Halutz defined as comprehensive military and social resilience.Insisting that the solution to the terror threat requires a new world view, Halutz warned: “Concepts like ‘decisiveness’ and ‘victory’ that were correct in the past in force-on-force warfare, and will be correct also in the future [in force-on-force warfare], demand deep reassessment” given the realities of today’s asymmetric warfare. “We cannot escape from this fact.”Defense experts here do not dispute this modern-day spin on the inherent Clausewitzian connection of warfare to diplomacy. But many reject attempts to justify battlefield failures as a natural byproduct of so-called asymmetrical, or hybrid, war.Indeed, in testimony before the government panel tasked with investigating wartime failures, Halutz goes into detail about his war-as-an-extension-of-diplomacy world view and the ultimate responsibility of Israel’s political echelon.According to transcripts released May 10 by retired Supreme Court Justice Eliahu Winograd and his panel, Halutz admits that the 33-day war could have been halted after the first six or seven days, when the Israel Air Force essentially ran out of meaningful targets and achieved “the maximum fruits from the military effort.”Another potential stopping point, said Halutz, was around the 14th to 18th days of the war, before an Israeli air strike at Qana left dozens of Lebanese civilians dead and severely eroded Tel Aviv’s legitimacy in the court of public opinion. When asked why he didn’t recommend a halt to the fighting at those particular points in time, Halutz said exit strategies must be a product of the military as well as the civilian echelons, and that both levels had hoped that prolonged fighting would improve terms of a cease-fire.With regard to the Israel Defense Force’s (IDF’s) inability to deliver decisive battlefield results, Halutz insisted, “I personally believe the words decisiveness and defeat against guerrillas and terror are not relevant words. Of course, this may not be a popular thing to say, but I’m saying it. You can’t defeat ideology.”A New Direction?But a new IDF Land Forces mission statement approved in the aftermath of the Lebanon debacle appears to refute its ex-commander’s thinking, with its clear call for the Israel Army to be able to deliver the type of decisive results that proved elusive in the last war.Codified in the very first sentence of the revised IDF document is the directive to “ensure deterrence, decisiveness and the achievement of victory in every operational situation and against any threat.”The apparent disconnect between Halutz’s parting words and the revised Land Forces Command vision could reflect lessons from Lebanon and the military’s back-to-basics approach to soldiering.Or, as some here say, it could illustrate the differing perspectives between the guy at the top — who views military force in the strategic sense of securing government objectives — and those at the lower levels who must prepare tactically decisive forces for battle.Only Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, Israel’s new chief of General Staff, and Halutz are in position to shed light on their respective expectations of the Israeli military in the era of asymmetric warfare. And with Halutz in self-imposed exile at Harvard University and Ashkenazi religiously adhering to his “less talking, more training” approach to the IDF command, experts here are given to varying interpretations.Jacob Amidror, a retired major general and former commandant of the IDF war colleges, says Halutz and others are using asymmetric warfare as an excuse for shirking their obligation to provide military solutions for any threat.“The Israel Defense Forces cannot hide behind the fabricated rationale that we’re in a new era of asymmetric warfare which limits our ability to be decisive in battle,” Amidror said.“Every time the military fails to achieve planned results or finds itself in a situation of surprise, you’ll find those who will pin the failures on the so-called new type of asymmetrical warfare,” he said. “This is a cop-out that reflects defeatist thinking. It doesn’t matter if the threat is from conventional armies or heavily-armed terror forces operating from urban areas, the military must be capable of denying the other side’s ability to kill us.”At the same time, Israel’s political leaders bear sole responsibility for reducing the enemy’s intention and desire for conflict.“The political level has to focus on solving the issues that motivate the other side to war,” Amidror added. “But removing the ability of the other side to wage war is the responsibility of the military, and here we must be decisive.”As an example, Amidror cited IDF successes in combating Palestinian terror in the West Bank, where suicide bombings, shootings and other attacks claimed the lives of more than 1,500 Israelis from 2000-2005.“But in 2006, only 11 citizens were killed by Palestinians in the territories,” he said. “That doesn’t mean the terrorists have lost the desire or the will to fight, but that the IDF and Israel’s security services managed to find a militarily effective answer to the threat.”Nevertheless, there remain many experts here who credit Halutz for his candor and courage in preparing the nation for times when the IDF may not be decisive in creating the conditions for political victory.“In the conventional wars of the past, where nation-states fought nation-states, success or failure could be measured by the physical end-state, by how many kilometers of territory were actually conquered,” said Dror Ben-David, a colonel in the Israel Air Force reserves.“But that no longer holds true when military force is used against a non-state actor for the purpose of creating a new political reality,” he said.Speaking May 9 at a symposium on asymmetrical warfare, sponsored by the Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies, Ben-David said the IDF needs a new force structure, operational concepts and benchmarks by which to measure military decisiveness and victory.“I’m not saying that in asymmetrical warfare, physical battlefield achievements are not required,” he said. “They are. Solders will still need to know they can win decisively at the tactical and operational level by capturing the next hill. But in this new world of asymmetric warfare, we’re going to need a whole new set of parameters to judge military success not by the physical end-state, but by the extent to which it succeeds in imposing new rules of the game.“I think that’s what Halutz meant by re-examining the notions of decisiveness and victory, and the fact that he used his last minutes as chief of staff to communicate this to the public speaks to his integrity as a commander and strategic thinker.”