Barak will “fix” the IDF

Air_f15_idf_kill_lineup_lg "A focus on counterterrorism and guerrilla warfare in recent decades has weakened Israeli ground forces by creating a mind-set averse to accepting casualties, according to an initial assessment by Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

Mr. Barak, a former army chief of staff, a former prime minister and arguably Israel’s most decorated soldier, took over the defense portfolio two months ago with a mission to rebuild the army after a disastrous war with Hezbollah in southern Lebanon last summer.

Examining the lessons of the war, colleagues say, Mr. Barak has been disturbed by how far the ground army had regressed since fighting in 1982 against Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization and the Syrian army in Lebanon."  Abraham Rabinovich


All those who thought I was excessively harsh last year in criticizing IDF performance in Lebanon should consider this.  Those who claimed as a part of the usual Israeli propaganda campaign that the IDF had won against Hizbullah should also take note. 

The IDF and US forces have now had so much contact that they begin to resemble each other.  The shared aversion on the part of commanders to accepting necessary losses in mission accomplishment is merely one example. In Iraq, commanders are reported to be so casualty shy that operations are often not pressed for that reason.  Why?  Dead soldiers can easily mean the end of a career. 

In the case of the IDF, the "rot" in the forces extended far past the tactical level of operations and planning.  The conception on the part of the general staff and the government which led to a bombing campaign intended to break the will of the Lebanese was deeply flawed.  This application of classic strategic bombing theory was as bad an idea as it proved to be.  Douhet’s theories were embraced by such people as Hugh Trenchard, Curtis Lemay and "Bomber" Harris.  They have never worked well as a predicate of national victory.  People will point to the Balkans in the ’90s as an example of vindication for these ideas, but it has been argued that this is not so.  A discussion of that would be welcomed.  pl

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58 Responses to Barak will “fix” the IDF

  1. verc says:

    on the topic of casualty aversion, how do you feel about all the kit the infantry have to wear when running ops?
    It seems excessive. They can’t sneak up on anybody, and the crap wears ’em all out in that heat.
    Kind of reminds one of the kid who’s parents made him wear a helmet for bike riding. weak.

  2. J says:

    when one uses their military against unarmed women and children and a few fellows with make-shift explosives, one can expect ‘rot’ to decay their once honed warfighting skills. israel’s idf has become little more than bullies with big sticks against old men, women, and children who use sling shots. a u.s. made f15 firing a missile at an old folks home, or a non-armored ambulance, makes for a real stellar fighting force — not!
    hizbollah had been anticipating and watching the erosion of the idf and planned accordingly. so have the egyptians, the syrians, etc. the whole mideast neighborhood has ‘noticed’ the idf’s erosion. and the mideast won’t work too well with a balkan template.

  3. zanzibar says:

    Considering on a relative scale the amount of money and the quality of the weapons as well as the unfettered nature of access to weapons and material that the IDF and the US army have compared to HA or the myriad “insurgents” in Iraq – what does it say about value for money?
    It seems to me that both Israel and the US have been seduced by its high-tech military which dominate their landscape at least on paper that policy has been reduced to military force to get whatever they want.
    Also now that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard will soon be labeled as a terrorist organization they can technically be abducted, renditioned and treated without regard to the Geneva Conventions. Does that mean that Iran will now retaliate and consider US private military contractors as “terrorists”?

  4. W. Patrick Lang says:

    I think it probably depends on what you are doing. If you are riding around in a HUMVEE or walking a short distance in an urban foot patrol I, personallym would be glad to wear it.
    On a long walk in the country it is a bad idea. pl

  5. Tom S says:

    Two points concerning the air campaign against Serbia/Montenegro.
    The air forces involved were also casualty-averse, bombing “strategic” targets from high altitudes. It could be argued that riskier strikes on the units actually carrying out the forced evacuations and depredations would have had a more direct effect.
    Second, my understanding was that the threat of bringing ground units into the area finally forced the Serbs to back down.

  6. wsam says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t it the case that the Serbs didn’t start moving out of Kosovo until there was a real threat they might encounter Nato ground troops – namely Brits, French and Australians invading Kosovo from Macedonia.
    Obviously the reality is complicated, with Serbian perceptions of the situation being subject to many disparate influences, but I had always thought the Balkans in general and Kosovo in particular demonstrated the limitations of airpower. How little it is able to accomplish on its own.

  7. João Carlos says:

    I think there is a demographic problem that no one is seeing.
    It is not possible to first world countries to repeat World War I casualties. The population age strutcture changed from a piramid to a column. Not much youths to send to a “meat grinder”.
    And to send the army to fight the “deep defence” that HA built at Lebannon will be a “meat grinder”.
    And take note that Israel fear a “brain exodus”. What will happen if they have high casualties from these combats?
    João Carlos
    sorry the bad english, my native language is portuguese.

  8. Will says:

    Original Haaretz Article
    Starts out about a multilayered missle defense system being needed before even thinking about giving up West Bank, then talks about IDF reforms.
    Some nuggets:
    “In addition, all tanks must be protected against the advanced antitank missiles now owned by Hezbollah and Syria. Spending $150,000 to armor a tank that costs $3 million is a good investment, Barak says.
    Some of Barak’s proposals would require massive expenditures, so he is banking on the promised increase in American military aid ”
    ” A single brigade commander, he explained, lacks a clear picture of the entire front, and must therefore act on the assumption that his superiors have good reason for their orders. ”
    ” Operations to arrest wanted terrorists, for instance, are often halted in the middle if a soldier is wounded, as evacuating him is considered to take priority. In war, however, such conduct would be beyond the pale: An assault must continue even if the unit suffers casualties. ”

  9. dws says:

    “People will point to the Balkans in the ’90s as an example of vindication for these ideas, but it has been argued that this is not so. A discussion of that would be welcomed.”
    In a previous thread, I recently referred to Clinton’s bombing campaign in Serbia and Kosovo as “lucky”. By this I meant that there was a period when it was clear that Milosevic had dug in and wasn’t going to yield despite effective bombing. The U.S. was faced with the choice of continued bombing that would, more and more, hurt the Serbian populace or giving up. Clinton had ruled out a ground force. We were saved from this choice by the success of the KIA. In other words, there was a ground component that was necessary; but it wasn’t provided by the U.S.
    Israel had a ground component as well, even if its use was belated. However, whereas we were trying to restrain Serbia from moving into territory that was hostile to it, Israel was trying to restrict Hizbullah from it’s “homeland”.
    It seems to me the different outcomes in these two situations are due less to the tactics used by the U.S. and IDF, which were similar, than the differing goals of the campaigns and the situation on the ground. Col. Lang, do I understand you correctly as arguing that the IDF’s primary flaw was tactical?
    Also, although I am happy to accept the experts’ opinions that the IDF has deteriorated, this is relative to itself 20 years ago, right? Isn’t it true that there is still no contest for pitched battles with Syria and similar?

  10. dws says:

    I hit the post button instead of preview on my last post. Apologies if the writing was poor.
    I wanted to add an off-topic question for the experts here. I was surprised and pleased at Bush’s approach to the intial conduct of the war in Afganistan. Not what I expected from the man at all. (That would come later in Iraq.) Is it likely that the war plans used had already been formulated during the previous administration based on what happened in the Balkans? Basically, were there pre-existing plans for a replay with Special Forces and the Northern Alliance replacing the KIA?

  11. Steve says:

    Uri Avnery wrote an article about the effects of 40 years of occupation by the IDF.
    “Israel arouses different expectations than the Congo or Sudan. But for years now, hundreds of millions of people see it almost daily in the form of occupation soldiers, armed to the teeth, abusing a helpless population. The accumulating effect is becoming clear now.”
    “18-year old youngsters, most of who have been brought up by decent parents as moral human beings, are drafted into the army, enter the brutal subculture of their units and receive an indoctrination that justifies every act of brutality against Arabs. Only a few rare individuals are able to withstand the pressure. After three years, the majority leave the army as tough men with blunted sensibilities. The brutality in our streets, the routine killings around the discotheques, the proliferation of rape and violence within the family – all these have undoubtedly been influenced by the day-to-day reality of the occupation. After all, it’s the same people who are doing it.”
    He essentially says that the Army is now made up of thugs and liars. The demise of the IDF is a direct consequence of Israel’s imoral policies against Arabs. IMHO, Uri Avnery is a great man.

  12. dan says:

    I suspect that the folks most worried over this re-designation will be the US basketball pro’s who played for the IRGC team in the domestic Iranian league.
    It’s actually quite hard to see how this translates into anything physical on the ground though – I guess the intent is to try to squeeze their commercial trading operations ( or, more specifically, US allies that do business with them ).

  13. Curious says:

    ATimes has 3 part section examining What happened during Lebanon war. (3 part section, ground, intel, politics) Most are widely known conclusion for readers of this blog. but it’s nice to read it all in one spot.
    (oh course the IDF now has to prepare itself for war with Iran/Syria, as Bush just declare Iran revolutionary guard “terrorist”. Which automatically is an escalation of tension like never before.)
    Sixth, the Hezbollah victory has had the very unfortunate consequence of blinding Israel’s political leadership to the realities of their geostrategic position. In the midst of the war with Lebanon, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert adopted Bush’s language on the “war on terrorism”, reminding his citizenry that Hezbollah was a part of “the axis of evil”. His remarks have been reinforced by Bush, whose comments during his address before the UN General Assembly mentioned al-Qaeda once – and Hezbollah and Hamas five times each. The United States and Israel have now lumped Islamist groups willing to participate in the political processes in their own nations with those takfiris and Salafists who are bent on setting the region on fire.
    Nor can Israel now count on its strongest US supporters, that network of neo-conservatives for whom Israel is an island of stability and democracy in the region. These neo-conservatives’ disapproval of Israel’s performance is almost palpable. With friends like these, who needs enemies? That is to say, the Israeli conflict in Lebanon reflects accurately those experts who see the Israel-Hezbollah conflict as a proxy war. Our colleague Jeff Aronson noted that “if it were up to the US, Israel would still be fighting”, and he added: “The United States will fight the war on terrorism to the last drop of Israeli blood.”

  14. Matthew says:

    Let’s keep manufacturing more and more enemies. We’ll never run out of money, right?

  15. b says:

    Zanzibar, Dan
    The re-designation of the Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organisation allows Bush to attack them under the AUMFs without getting Congress involved.
    Both authorisations for use of military force, for Afghanistand and for Iraq, have language that allows Bush to attack “terrorists” that hinder the effort.
    see here
    Simple “trick” … watch the oil prices …

  16. Montag says:

    Colonel, a kindred spirit of yours was the French General Pierre Bosquet, who watched the Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaklava and said, “It is magnificent, but it is not war.”
    Israel has always expected too much of its army. It’s main job is to fight the next war, no to promote social cohesion, no to fight terrorism, no to serve as an occupation force. One problem is the amount of “roughage” it consumes in the form of draftees (both men and women, mind you–but not the 20% Palestinian population) who are too many to stay in the army and learn the technical skills necessary for modern war.
    This is bunk and the numbers of young people who evade the draft are growing, especially since the Lebanon War. Since Israel offers no form of alternative social service for conscientious objectors, evasion or outright resistance is their only choice. One young woman said she was exercising her exemption as an Orthodox Jew because she had no desire to waste part of her life herding Palestinian civilians around or serving coffee to generals.
    The U.S. and Israeli militaries ARE coming to resemble each other in many ways. In fact, there’s a new training facility that Israel is building at their Tse’elim Base that can be made to look like any area of Lebanon, Syria or Iraq, etc. (after all, one must think ahead). The plan is to have U.S. forces train there in “actual conditions” on their way to Iraq. The problem is that so far the Israelis are too stingy to maintain a “Red Team” of skilled opponents for the troops being trained. So much for “actual conditions.”
    And Tse’elim is notorious in the IDF for the number of fatal training accidents. The 1992 “Tse’elim Bet Incident” still hangs like a cloud over Ehud Barak. “Bet” means Two, since this was the second training accident at Tse’elim where 5 soldiers were killed. They actually have to number the fatal accidents to tell them apart! As Hawkeye said on “M*A*S*H” when told that an ammunition dump would be placed next to the hospital because the Germans had done it in WWII:
    “Oh, great, now we’re taking lessons from the losers.”

  17. John says:

    An interesting article by Gilad Atzmon in the Palestinne Chronicle
    goes into the current state of the IDF and how it got that way.

  18. Abu Sinan says:

    Kind of on topic here. Did you read or listen to Nasrallah’s recent speech?
    He promised a surprise if/when the Israelis act against Hizb’Allah again.
    What do you make of that? I think Hizb gave them a surprise this last time, what more is in store?
    I think that Nasrallah is about the only Arab leader that you can trust what he says. He doesnt lie like almost 100% of other Arab leaders.
    What do you think this surprise is? Given the use of air power against Hizb this last time I think it has to do with an effective ground to air system.
    Hizb’Allah knows that the real threat from Israel is via the air. Hizb can contain and cause large casualties to Israeli ground troops. Eliminate or reduce Israeli air capability and the battlefield is very different.

  19. Binh says:

    Not sure if the 1999 Serb campaign was much of a success long-term. The KLA-dominated government is threatening to unilaterally declare independence since the Russians are blocking it in the UNSC. The situation seems unstable to me and has the potential to get a lot worse, especially if the the KLA turns against the US/NATO although that is probably not too likely.
    From my shabby memory, NATO’s air war did little to no damage to Serbia’s military. I think they blew up something like 10 tanks or 15 jeeps. (The Serbs deployed a lot of effective decoys.) There was a lot more damage to civilian infastructure. Many Serbs were angry with Milosevic for “capitulating” to the U.S. but I’m not sure how much bombing they could have taken.
    As for the threat of U.S. ground forces, I remember American generals claiming that it would take 6 months or more to get helicopters into the region. That I think points to casualty aversion you spoke of and I doubt the Serbian military took rumors of ground troops seriously.
    Also, the Serbian military at that time was quite experienced, having fought in the Yugoslav civil war and the Kosovar insurgency. Fighting on their mountainous hometurf would have put the U.S. at a disadvantage, no? Especially if they opted for hit-and-run tactics which would be the smart thing to do in the face of overwhelming American firepower.
    Lastly, I think the reluctance to even mention the word “draft” these days is similar to casualty aversion in that everyone wants war on the cheap these days.

  20. VietnamVet says:

    What the USA is trying to do in Iraq is not all that different than British Empire in the American colonies a couple hundred years ago. Standing armies are great at killing other armies. Tanks, airplanes and artillery enhance the range and lethality. But, the American elites should stop trying to wear those haughty old Brit’s boots they inherited.
    The finest army doesn’t mean squat if it is too small to conquer the enemy’s sanctuaries; even worse, if the occupier’s tactics alienate and force young males to defend their homes and religion; when the occupier’s political goals are unacceptable to the occupied.
    The Likud and GOP war plan is simple attrition. But, there are not enough young Christian and Jewish males to kill every Islamic warrior by bullet or bomb. Nuclear War is the ultimate end point. The only alternative is a Middle East peace settlement, withdrawal, secure borders and treating all religious fanatics in an open fair judicial process.

  21. Will says:

    Chris Matthews on MSNBC Hardball nailed Mitt Romney for daring to compare his sons’ assisting his campaign to military service. Chris called Romney another Chickenhawk wanting to fight America’s wars with other people’s children.
    Likewise Barak is concerned with massive IDF draft dodging. But the likudniks reply they are not interested in evacuating their brethern from “Hevron” Hebron and the rest of the God Given patrimony in “Judea-Samaria” West Bank.
    from the Israeli press
    “Defense Minister Ehud Barak strongly condemned the growing phenomenon of insubordination in the army, in a speech to soldiers on Tuesday, a day after over a dozen members of the Duchifat Battalion were sentenced to a month in jail for refusing to take part in the evacuation of Hebron families. ”
    “Barak also criticized the growing rate of draft-dodging. “While you are here doing the work and serving above and beyond the call of duty, considering what is happening in all walks of society – there are youths who should be enlisting yet they shirk that duty using whatever means.
    “We intend to deal with this and minimize drastically this phenomenon of avoiding the IDF,” he said.

  22. Will says:

    the Asia Times three part series
    how HA won the war
    and the Times Online article
    the humbling of the supertroops
    are given as clickable refrences in the Battle of Maroun al-Ras wikipedia article. In the infobox the likudnik point of view prevailed.

  23. ked says:

    decoupling the public’s influence upon national security policy is a strategic challenge for wiser-than-thou political leadership in open societies. low combat losses is an operational component. thus, the volunteer military (they signed up for it!), out-sourcing (they’re private & paid handsomely for it!) and (even more) influence over the media-message.
    of course, one can’t fool everybody all the time… can one?

  24. david says:

    Abu Sinan,
    Did you see the interview with al-jazeera last year where Nasrallah was asked about lying and the demands of psychological warfare? It was priceless. I swear I saw a twinkle in his eye.

  25. Jose says:

    Israel could wipe entire Arab armies before 1973 because those Armies did not believe the cause was worth dying for.
    Since 1973, Israel has progressively been made weaker by each conflict it has been involved in.
    The Second Lebanon War was a defeat despite what Bush, Olmert and the Neocons say and write about it.
    The US is not winning the War on Terror despite what those same people continue to say and write.
    Iraq, is not a winnable war like the current slogan is stating nor is Afghanistan.
    Colonel, a simple question, are we getting weaker and dumber or are the OPFOR’s getting stronger and smarter?
    By dumber, I mean that we resort to slogans like “War of Terror”, “Winnable War”, etc instead of presenting a strategy that makes sense.
    The OPFOR has presented a strategy from the beginning and continues to hold that strategy until now.
    “Force the enemy into a quagmire, bleed the military and the treasury and force them out of the Middle East to establish a Caliphate”

  26. Will says:

    out of topic, but well worth reading for those interested in IDF’s northern adversary HA.
    Greater Lebanon was created out of two mountains,and the Bekaa valley, by the French colonial masters. Two “Jebels.” Mainly Xtian Mount Lebanon (Jabal Lubnan) and Mainly Shiite (then called “Mutwali”) Mount Amel (Jabal Amel). Jabal Amel had been alternatively administered from the North and sometime from Acre. The residents of Jabal Amel did not want to be part of a greater Lebanon and actually petitioned to be joined to Syria.
    Gen Michel Aoun of the Free Patriotic Movement Party has actually pulled off quite a coup aliging his mainly Xtian party to HA. HA waving Lebanese flags is quite a nationalist accomplishment toward a Lebanese identity.
    Recently Aoun was mocked by being called Michel Nasrallian. The “ian”, an Armenian ending for his alliance with the Lebanese Armenian Christian party, the Tashnag, in the recent by election. He replied that the moniker showed he was truly a unifying nationalist figure, uniting Maronites, Armenians, and Shiites. He”ll never be presiden, he’s too independent- look for the current chief of staff, Gen Suleiman (Soloman). Why the Armenians have Leb citizenship and the Palestinan refugees don’t is a topic itself worth of discussion.
    for deep insight of the two jabals, lubnan and amel read
    Getting to know each other- the two Jabals

  27. charlie says:

    How do you feel about Obama commments today about too much reliance on airpower (and the increased collateral damange to civilains) is hurting our efforts in Afghanistan?

  28. Cloned Poster says:

    Abu, Hizb’Allah knows that the real threat from Israel is via the air.
    I’d rephrase that and say the Hez knows that manpads will scupper Israeli flights over the Litani for many years to come. You have to admire Hez’s ability to stop infiltration by “agents”.

  29. Mo says:

    Abu Sinan, the surprise was to, and I quote, “change the history of war and the region forever”. AA missiles are not going to do that….

  30. Mo says:

    Cloned, the lack of infilitration is based on the fact that you cannot join, only be invited to join and even that is a 2 year process.

  31. Ralph says:

    Good post & thread. I’ve been puzzled by the after-action commentary on the IDF campaign against Hezbollah being all over the map. It’s easy to bash the Air Force for overuse of its precision strike capabilities, but as is sometimes pointed out, this is due more to a casualty-avoidance mentality on the part of the national leadership and the senior military leadership than to airpower propaganda from the blue-suit crowd. What puzzles me most about that war is that the IDF undoubtedly knew about but completely lacked a strategy to address Hezbollah’s “center of gravity” — a very well-developed underground infrastructure. Seems to me that the only way for the IDF to deal with this would be to put lots of boots on the ground atop this infrastructure, and then resign itself to playing a long game of “swat the mole.” For a while relatively little progress would be evident, but in time the moles would become fewer in number and at the end of the struggle the IDF would have eradicated an infrastructure that took decades to build. Airborne precision strike (helo & fixed-wing) would be marginally useful in such a campaign, but the decisive tools would be more traditional — ground-penetrating radars, demolitions, flamethrowers, gas (non-lethal, of course!), and lots of troops willing to engage in close-quarters combat underground. I wonder if anyone in the IDF thought in these terms.

  32. Curious says:

    Bargain diplomacy. Two moves in one trip. (I guess now we know who is paying to “fix” the IDF.)
    Burns is meeting with Israeli officials in Jerusalem on Wednesday to discuss a $30-billion, 10-year U.S. military aid package for the Jewish state and regional security issues, “including the challenge posed by Iran,” the department said in a statement on Tuesday.
    Israeli concerns about Iran and its nuclear program are well known and the sanctions to be imposed against the Revolutionary Guard, its subsidiaries and business partners will likely be welcomed there.
    Yet, the preliminary decision to blacklist the corps comes as the United States and Iran have begun a tentative, if yet unsuccessful, engagement on Iraqi security issues.

  33. zenpundit says:

    “It is not possible to first world countries to repeat World War I casualties”
    Why should running straight into machine gun emplacements in a human wave attack be a mark of military success ? I’m not sure this is the standard for which the IDF or the U.S. Army should strive.
    An army can demonstrate a willingness to incur casualties in aggressively attacking the enemy without also being blindly predictable, inflexible and slow.

  34. John Howley says:

    The wikipedia article for KLA contains the following note (without supporting reference):
    “Although it had little direct military impact on the much stronger Serbian forces, the KLA did play one vital role in the war. After Ceku’s appointment, it began to take a much more aggressive stance by attacking security force units and forcing them into the open, where NATO aircraft were able to attack them.”

  35. bernard says:

    “A focus on counterterrorism and guerrilla warfare in recent decades has weakened Israeli ground forces by creating a mind-set averse to accepting casualties”
    “The shared aversion on the part of commanders to accepting necessary losses in mission accomplishment”
    Spoken like true militarists. Why should citizens or conscripts accept having their lives thrown away in pointless wars by corrupt and incompetent military/political leadership?
    As Avnery and others have argued, the occupation has ruined both the IDF and Israel itself.
    Face it, Israel was soundly beaten, both militarily and politically. Atzmon puts this in very blunt terms:
    Another war, against Lebanon or Syria, would be an even greater folly, if possible. Instead of ‘reforming’ the military, Barak should make good his lost opportunity at Camp David and negotiate the end of the occupation. Or just pull out, like he did out of Lebanon.

  36. walrus says:

    I believe we are seeing, across the entire world, a shift in power structures that is the root cause of a lot of war, and a lot more to come…..and we will be the losers in all of it unless we start immediately to reduce the amount of hypocrisy we routinely apply to foreign policy.
    The shift in power is caused by the increasing ubiquity of technology and its increasing availability to the poor and dispossessed. The most obvious example is the internet and radio communications of all sorts. In Vietnam, we had radio operators carrying AN/PRC (I’ve forgetten the number- 47?). These days “insurgents” have access to almost immediate and reasonably (operationally) secure communications via mobile phones and walkie talkies – this sort of stuff used to be the province of standing armies only.
    Then of course there is GPS, and Google Earth, and PC strong encryption – and the internet. These are no longer the province only of ruling elites – it’s everywhere.
    Then we are in the process of “open sourcing” weapons, starting with the Kalashnikov and the RPG7 family, god knows what happens when we “open source” MANPADS – the technology already exists for this to happen, it’s just that nobody has put it together yet, a Guy in New Zealand last year started his own do-it-yourself cruise missile project before he was “sat on” by the Government. What happens when people succeed in these projects? What happens when the greed of corporations makes available the raw ingredients for a nuclear weapon? For five years I walked past a desktop bioreactor at a University lab every day. All of this technology is now increasingly within the reach of people with a college education and a grievance.
    Our response so far has been vague and futile exhortations about security screening students. Are we now going to say “You can’t study nuclear physics or biochemistry because you are a Muslim?”
    What has this got to do with the IDF? Simple, the technology, education and intelligence “asymmetry” that existed between the Israelis and their opponents is vanishing fast. Furthermore, the “hi-tech” solutions to this problem being pursued are producing diminishing returns, both for Israel and the U.S.
    Hezbollah has built a defence in depth network in Lebanon because it now can – it has the technology. And all the bunker busting bomb bullshit is not going to make it go away. Same with Al Qaeeda – and they don’t even seem (yet?) to be taking the most basic cold war security precautions that in my opinion, could mightily frustrate even the most extreme countermeasures (and torture) we can apply, and I hope Al Qaeeda never do learn to do this.
    Increasingly, other nations and groups are going to acquire such technology, and when they do, they are going to settle old scores.
    Our only long term hope is to start living up to our stated democratic principles as if we mean it, in the hope of defusing these disputes before they erupt.
    The most volatile area is not going to be the Middle East either, a fact recognised by the establishment of the U.S. African Oberkommando. Take a look at Nigeria for example. It’s a country dripping with oil, gold and minerals, yet its people are among the poorest and most downtrodden on earth, ruled by a thoroughly corrupt and evil government.
    What are we doing to help Nigerians? Probably nothing except sell their government the tools to oppress them further while pumping out their oil. What happens to our “interests” when they finally have the tools and ability to rebel????
    I’m reminded of a very old science fiction short story that illustrates what I mean.
    The plot went something like this: An American Libertarian type of scientist calls a live press conference at his zillion dollar ranch to publish his discovery of a very powerful new laser.
    This laser looks something like a pistol, and cuts steel, timber, flesh, shoot sthrough vehicles, aircraft and whatever at a great range.
    The laser can be made from readily available materials (this is fiction right?) and one of his ranch staff demonstrates in front of the TV cameras how to build one.
    The punchline of the story occurs when Government officials try and stop the live broadcast mid stream after they realise the enormity of the power that has just been handed to the average man. The TV cameraman says to a threatening policeman “I’m pretty handy with electronics, you can’t control me anymore.”
    That is the future for us, unless we make a major effort to walk the walk and talk the talk we so regularly regurgitate, as if we mean it.

  37. dan says:

    Iran was designated a state sponsor of terrorism by the US many, many years ago, and there has been little, in principle, preventing the Bush administration from applying the AUMF already.
    In any event, US administrations generally have a 60-day window for military actions prior to requiring congressional approvals/appropriations.
    The specificity of this new move potentially allows for the US military to draw up “rules of engagement” – although it is hard to see how they can be actualised without hideously unpleasant second and third-order effects.
    US naval forces in the gulf, for example, are in regular communications contact with IRGC/Iranian navy units because they have to be given the particulars of the shipping enviromment – and it’s doubtful that they can readily discriminate between Iranian naval regulars ( ok ) and IRGC naval units ( naughty, naughty, naughty ). Does this then mean that all contacts in the Gulf maritime environment between the Iranians and the US navy have to stop? To what effect on regular commercial shipping?

  38. Will says:

    building on Walrus’ post. I had read in Time magazine that al-Qae?da had achieved the Holy Grail of terrorism R&D, to wit: binary gas technology. But, had decided, in their discretion (didn’t know they had it) not to use it.
    Time: Cell Planned a Poison-Gas Attack on the N.Y. Subway

  39. Sidney O. Smith III says:

    This thread appears related to two others: the prior one re: Winograd Commission, and the present one on the long farewell to the GB.
    At least to me, the melding of the IDF and USM indicate that the USG is abandoning the tradition and experiences that arose from the VN war, particularly that of the Green Berets. And it is this tradition that threads back to our founding. It is a unique tradition, part of our national heritage and different from that of the IDF.
    Symbolically, one of the defining moments (in Am. History, imo) took place when the OSP crowd called General Zinni a traitor and there was no blowback. None at all. I am sure it meant to them that they had achieved a tremendous psychological victory at the Pentagon…and apparently they did.

  40. mo says:

    It would seem to make sense when you are going into multiple battlefields in a particular area of the world that you would take advice from the army that has been, traditionally, the most successful in that region.
    When that armys’ success is based on technological superiority and a meek and disorganised enemy leadership, mirroring your own situation it makes it that more obvious a thing to do.
    What a pity that the US military should choose to do so the very same time that the Israelis have been “found out” and the local opposition is not under the leadership of corrupt and incompetent Generals more interested in their property portfolio in Europe than the lives of their soldiers.

  41. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    From Chris Layne’s piece “Blunder in the Balkans”:
    “The administration’s foreign policy team mistakenly concluded that, under a threat of air strikes, the Yugoslav government would sign a dictated peace accord (the Rambouillet agreement) to be implemented by a NATO peacekeeping force in Kosovo. Even if Milosevic initially refused to sign the Rambouillet agreement, administration leaders believed that Belgrade would relent after a brief “demonstration” bombing campaign. Those calculations proved to be disastrously wrong….
    President Clinton and his advisers justified their decision to use force with two arguments: that NATO bombing was needed to prevent a Serbian military offensive in Kosovo with attendant “ethnic cleansing,” and that vigorous action was essential to prevent the Kosovo conflict from spilling over into neighboring states, thereby destabilizing the southern Balkans. Administration leaders also hoped that NATO pressure would undermine Milosevic’s political power and embolden the democratic opposition in Serbia. The bombing campaign has been wholly counterproductive with regard to all three objectives….
    Administration officials have committed miscalculations eerily reminiscent of faulty U.S. assumptions during the Vietnam War. Those mistakes include overestimating the effectiveness of air power; underestimating the willingness of the target government and population to fight for their homeland; and demonizing the opposing political leader, thus making a negotiated settlement more difficult. ” Etc.
    As it happened, I was in New York City the day after the bombing campaign commenced. Having read the details on the front page of the New York Times over breakfast, I took a taxi from the Lotos Club on 66th to my morning appointments. The appointments were at the United Nations and included a meeting with Kofi Anan. Memorable.
    For background on Clinton’s Balkan policy see the very revealing book, Michael Dobbs, Madeleine Albright. A Twentieth-Century Odyssey (New York: Holt, 1999). Note the discussion of Holbrooke, our Hungarian born next Secretary of State in the Gore or Clinton or whatever Administration?
    Does anyone seriously believe 08 will change American foreign policy?

  42. Adrian says:

    re: the airpower vs. threat of ground invasion in Kosovo vs. the Serbs, Dave Johnson at RAND has what I think is one of the best takes on it. He has a book on it called “Learning Large Lessons” on the airpower vs. ground power debate in general.

  43. Curious says:

    Free money yo!
    The US sealed a deal today to provide Israel with $30bn in defence grants over the next decade, a 25% boost that Washington describes as strengthening a bulwark against Iran.
    Burns said the new aid to Israel, which currently receives $2,4bn in annual military grants, would not be conditioned on diplomatic progress or concessions though “one of the major priorities for our government … will be to help push forward a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians”.
    The US, Burns said, considers “this $30bn in assistance to Israel to be an investment in peace, in long-term peace – peace cannot be made without strength”.

  44. David W says:

    Ralph, your ideas are not unique–the IDF is well aware of the feel of ‘Lebanese mud,’ and, imo, last summer’s ‘Shock and… Awwww’ tactics were decided based on the IDF’s past failures to ultimately control south Lebanon on the ground, despite their best/worst efforts.
    I think the larger picture has to do with the type of operation being fought, and the overarching sense of military history that can cause blindness to the changes of time–whether its Normandy or the Six Day War, conditions have changed, and its (another) tragic mistake for Barak to wistfully remark that soldiers just aren’t willing to die like they used to. The situation is made especially pungent by Israel’s history with Lebanon–their impugn behavior has become so common that it is referred to colloquially as ‘brotherly love.’ Despite what may be called (by some) the best of intentions by the Israeli leadership, there’s no doubt that their incursions into Lebanon have been a disaster. HA are treeated like they sprang unbidden from the forehead of Zeus, when the reality is that they are the offspring of Israel’s prior ‘indescretions’ with Lebanon.
    While I tend to get overworked in discussing Israel in Lebanon, the result is the same whether the theater is Lebanon, Iraq or Vietnam–even though the military may march and fight on orders, for some ineffable reason, they are only as good as their superior’s wisdom. Thus, technological superiority, and all of the best reasoning in the world cannot beat an indigenous, motivated insurgency in an occupation. Barak’s frustration and desire will end up making things worse, as the die has already been cast.
    Frankly, I’m of a mind that the Israelis are currently on their best behavior, while focusing on securing their $30 Billion dollar package of US aid, accompanied by brave new high-tech armaments that will surely solve all of their problems…at least according to the sales rep! The situation brings to mind large and successful corporations that solve problems by throwing money at them, until they end up losing out to a leaner, hungrier startup.

  45. TR Stone says:

    All the the consternation about the military balance in the ME is based on the reality of this:,,2147052,00.html
    Does reality enter into the thought processes of our government. I assume not when you are creating your own REALITY!
    If there is a God, I hope he helps all of humanity.

  46. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    “Designed by Hezbollah computer experts, players of “Special Force 2” take the role of a Hezbollah fighter, or Mujahid. Weapons and points are accumulated by killing Israeli soldiers.
    The game, launched on Thursday, recreates key phases of the conflict, which was triggered when Hezbollah raided northern Israel and captured two soldiers, saying they wanted to negotiate a prisoner swap….
    The 3-D game forces players to think and use their resources wisely, reflecting the way Hezbollah fights, Daher said.
    “The features which are the secret of resistance’s victory in the south, have moved to this game so that the child can understand that fighting the enemy does not only require the gun.
    “It requires readiness, supplies, armament, attentiveness, tactics.”
    Just starting on Juan Cole’s new book about Napoleon in Egypt. Page 46:
    “Egyptian women helped frustrate the French advance down the Nile…women’s willingness to desert their homes to deny the enemy any comfort showed…a strategy of defiance.” Suppose that went for the children as well.

  47. Will says:

    Since another thread was closed, in frustration, I will, with indulgence, share my comments here.
    Of course, when it comes to the MidEast the U.S. does not behave rationally, you have to throw the book away. This is due to the Israel Lobby and the Evangelical Christians.
    One insight I previously mentioned, stop thinking about South Lebanon as just the Southern part of Lebanon, think about it as Jabal Amel, Jabal Shia- In the same sense as Jabal Lubnan (Mount Lebanon) is largely a Maronite home, the Chouf submountain now a predominatly Druze home, and the Golan Heights (which is actually called Jebel Druze) another Druze home.
    Our role vis a vis China has been that of an offshore balancer- disrupting Chinese hegemony. In the Near East, our role has not only been that of an offshore balancer with respect to Saddamite Irak but as an Israeli hegemon enforcer!
    from the John Mearsheimer Wikipedia article
    “Offensive Realism
    John Mearsheimer is the leading proponent of a branch of realist theory called offensive realism. Offensive realism is a structural theory which, unlike the classical realism of Morgenthau, blames security competition among great powers on the anarchy of the international system, not on human nature. In contrast to another structural realist theory, the defensive realism of Waltz, offensive realism maintains that states are not satisfied with a given amount of power, but seek hegemony for security. Mearsheimer summed this view up in The Tragedy of Great Power Politics:
    Given the difficulty of determining how much power is enough for today and tomorrow, great powers recognize that the best way to ensure their security is to achieve hegemony now, thus eliminating any possibility of a challenge by another great power. Only a misguided state would pass up an opportunity to become hegemon in the system because it thought it already had sufficient power to survive.[3]
    In this world, there is no such thing as a status quo power, since according to Mearsheimer, “a great power that has a marked power advantage over its rivals is likely to behave more aggressively because it has the capability as well as the incentive to do so.” He has also dismissed democratic peace theory (which claims that democracies—specifically, liberal democracies—never or rarely go to war with one another).
    Although Mearsheimer does not believe it is possible for a state to become a global hegemon, he believes states seek regional hegemony. Furthermore, he argues that states attempt to prevent other states from becoming regional hegemons, since peer competitors could interfere in a state’s affairs. States which have achieved regional hegemony, such as the U.S., will act as offshore balancers, interfering in other regions only when the great powers in those regions are not able to prevent the rise of a hegemon.
    Mearsheimer has been a vocal critic of American policy toward China. Though China does not have openly militaristic ambitions today, he thinks that by trading with China and helping its economy, the United States is providing a base from which the Chinese could seriously threaten American national security in the years to come. Furthermore he thinks that China’s neighbours are increasingly worried about the growing power of China and that there are already indications that they are trying to balance China by improving ties with the United States, making the U.S. an offshore balancer. [1] ”

  48. Will says:

    According to the “Generation” doctrine of the US Army World War II re-introduced the importance of cavalry and maneuver. German Gen Guderian famously said the engine of a tank was just as important as its gun. The General Staff studied Hannibal’s battle of Cannae for the tactic of maneuver and envelopment. The first prominent success was the envelopment of the Allied forces at Antwerp. Later followed by the bagging of millions of Soviet troops on the Eastern front.
    Ist Generation warfare was smooth bore musket, Prussian drill, lining up soldiers in columns, drilling for rapid fire, one row shoots, then squats and reloads, while the row behind is shooting. Second generation would follow the introduction of breech loading rifled weapons, machine guns which made columns and rows irrelevant. It called for small rifle squad movement. Machine Guns brought on trench warfare. Massed tanks employed as cavalry killed second generation warfare.
    Now, advanced bazookas, and possibly manpads have put a strain on the third generation doctrine.
    Barak thinks technology is the answer. In the Haaretz article he talks about spending $130,000 to protect the $3,000,000 Merkava (Arabic Merkaba chariot) tank. Of course what he is talking about is the Trophy system. A miniature Aegis system for a tank. It has a radar system to detect incoming projectiles and a kinetic anti-missle system (shotgun like blast) to defend against them.
    Is there a $20 defence against Trophy?

  49. Brian Hart says:

    The power to defend territory against armored columns has vastly increased in recent years.
    The availability of common electronics and the education to deploy them is now ubiquitous. The use of passive infrared sensors to accurately detonate; the availability of low cost radios and cell phones to communicate tactically; the availability of low cost world wide communications via satellite phone, satellite cable and the internet; the availability of EFP technology (not the sole venue of Iran despite neocon propaganda); the ubiquitous availability of low cost remote camera systems;….
    All of these developments have made the cost of projecting armored columns exceedingly high and the ability to defend territory exceedingly easy. Also the cost of occupation has skyrocketed.
    The issue for Israel and the United States is now one of financial attrition.
    Trading a $3.5 million tanks against a $150 IEDs is not indefinitely sustainable.

  50. Steve says:

    “As Avnery and others have argued, the occupation has ruined both the IDF and Israel itself.”
    I think Uri Avnery has it right. Most comments here, focus on military complexity and the need for policy change. The main problem for Israel is moral and cultural rot. The need to brutalize young men and turn them into thugs is disgusting to many of Israel’s youth, I’m sure. Fat chance we will ever see Uri Avnery published in US papers!
    I am looking forward to Col Lang’s comments on the upcoming “fighting” withdrawl of the English from Basra! It’s all over the English press this eve.

  51. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    <"the Israel Lobby and the Evangelical Christians">
    Your geographic-demographic focus per Lebanon is of interest.
    Not all Evangelical Christians support “Christian Zionism,” which is actually a cultic heresy. Just in the last couple of weeks, authentic Evangelical organizations in the US denounced Christian Zionism.
    From an analytical standpoint, US Near East policy today is modeled in part on Britain’s imperial policy of the first half of the nineteenth century. By this I mean that Lord Palmerston’s policy designed circa 1839-40 used a particular “religious” current just developed by some eccentrics namely Christian Zionism. This is the beginning of modern the “restorationist” ideology that seeks to transfer and restore Jews to the Holy Land. Local Oriental Jews in Palestine (about 10,000 then) wanted nothing to do with this as they were OK under the Sultan. Organized Christian Zionist restorationism began in London in 1809 with the formation of the “London Society for Promoting Christianity Among the Jews (LJS)” [for which Google] and spread out into a number of organizations.
    Palmerston’s strategic concept was to work with the Ottomans against Russia and France and Egypt. Under this concept, a Palestine populated by transfered Jews from Europe and elsewhere would act as a sort of buffer state or marcher state. At that time, Palestine was within “Syria” so this aspect of the “Eastern Question” became the “Syrian Question” and later in the nineteenth century the “Jewish Question” and “Palestine Question.”
    Palmerston therefore supported the various religious groups in the UK involved in Christian Zionist lobbying. His son in law, Ashley Cooper (Lord Shaftesbury) was deeply involved in these religious groups and apparently convinced Palmerston of the utility of the CZ lobby for imperial projects in the Near East. Palmerston also initiated contact with the Druze as a local ally.
    The Christian Zionist ideology then came to the United States in 1859 with the arrival on our shores of its leading exponent, John Nelson Darby. The ideology is and was then totally unrelated to, and antithetical to, traditional American Protestant belief (not to mention Roman Catholic and Orthodox belief). The constructed ideology was “dispensationalist” and “premillennial” in its eschatology and “futurist” in its interpretation of Biblical prophecy (particularly Daniel and Revelation). Traditional American Protestantism (and Catholicism and Orthodoxy) is “postmillennial” in outlook with “dispensationalism” regarded as cultic and heretical.
    After about 50 years, this cultic ideology became the core of American Fundamentalism. Today, as President Carter points out in his excellent book Our Endangered Values “One of the most bizarre admixtures of religion and government is the strong influence of some Christian fundamentalists on U.S. policy in the Middle East.” As a former President, and an active Christian, he ought to know. Mainline American Christian Churches reject Christian Zionist ideology.
    The best single analysis of the ideology of Christian Zionism from a traditional Christian theological point of view is: Stephen Sizer, Christian Zionism. Road-map to Armageddon? (Leicester: InterVarsity Press, 2004). Father Sizer is an Anglican priest associated with the evangelical current and knows this landscape thoroughly. This is must reading on this issue and I would recommend it strongly to any SST readers of the Muslim faith.
    On so-called “Realism” I would just say that the philosophical core is Nietzsche and Hobbes for most in this school which developed after WWII in the US. Interestingly both were atheists. For me, both are twisted and un-American as well.

  52. Ian Whitchurch says:

    Dunno. But I’d be trying a nice spray of some metallic paint first, or maybe chaff.
    Something to jam the radar, in any case.
    And if you cant jam it, then a nice spray of machinegun fire to try and mission-kill the radar system.

  53. DH says:

    From Will’s above link:
    “MSNBC has reported that there is resistance to incorporating TROPHY in the US Army. The U.S. Department of Defense has contracted with Raytheon to develop an equivalent system, which will not be ready before 2011 at the earliest (but now declines to say whether it still is on course to meet that deadline),[1] whereas TROPHY could be deployed much sooner. According to MSNBC’s sources, the reason for not adopting TROPHY for now is that it would remove the need for the Raytheon program, causing it to be canceled. [2][3]”
    Sad, if true.

  54. Will says:

    Someone has made the point that the Shia are more organized than the Sunna. Any Sunna can make a fatwa but the Shia are more hierarchial with their Ayatollahs and imams. They have clearer lines of authority and a renegade like Zarqawi or UBL would be harder to emerge.
    I remember now where I saw it and where I used it:
    ==Takfiri Salafists==
    That is the term I see most often as synonymous for Al-Qae?da or quasi AQ. here is a quote of its use from a random google search
    *It is takfiri Salafist (Sunni) extremist ideology that menaces the world. Shi’ite extremism is a different animal entirely — and much more amenable to control by religious hierarchies. Sunni Imams, conversely, are freelancers. That’s why it can legitimate an apostate group like al Qaeda.[]
    Likewise, The Catholic Church and Orthodox, well, by definition are more hierarchical and controlled. No offense, the Protestant Church is by definition a free for all. Freedom has its price. I had studied post and premilleniumism and had nailed it at one time. Then I forgot all about it. My bust.
    My religion is simple. I tell people, tell me not about the Second Coming. Jesus has already returned and lives in the Heart of those that Follow His Teachings. Xtian is as Xtian does! What have you done today? Kind of like the Immanence theory of Altizer which overshadows the “God is Dead” nonsense. I”m with Thales, The Greek Philosopher and said to be the first scientist, he didn’t dispute that the God{s} created the World, but he said thereafter they left its workings to natural law (and free will.)
    There is even a Wiki article about the doctrine of “Immanentize(ing) the eschaton.” William F. Buckley has broadened the concept beyond strict application to the Dispensationalists.

  55. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    Barbara Tuchman in her “Bible and Sword. England and Palestine from the Bronze Age to Balfour” lays out the political aspects pretty well.The 1956 edition is available in paperback from Ballentine Books. An absolute must read given the current situation and predicament the United States finds itself in thanks to necons and fundis.
    Per “eschaton,” recall Buckley’s denunciation of Ike’s 1956 policy in the Suez Crisis and draw a logical conclusion on Buckley as Christian Zionist. (Like Sykes)
    He borrowed the phrase from Eric Voegelin’s classic “The New Science of Politics” where we find on page 121 in a critique of political gnosticism as he called it:
    “The attempt at constructing an eidos of history will lead into the fallacious immanentization of the Christian eschaton.”
    This is an excellent book by a profound (Roman Catholic) thinker, IMO, and beats the Straussian sewage floating around in academia. His book “Israel and Revelation” is also fascinating.

  56. Will says:

    Fascinating reading Clifford. Thanks for the lead.

  57. Curious says:

    And if you cant jam it, then a nice spray of machinegun fire to try and mission-kill the radar system.
    Posted by: Ian Whitchurch | 20 August 2007 at 07:52 AM
    not if the radar system you are trying to kill is cheaper than your machine gun bullets.
    multi spectra light drone is here. (basically one of those glorified RC toy plane with spectrometry)
    It’s pretty hard to hide a huge chunk of iron like tank in a barren landscape with no other metal.
    combined with automated guided missile launcher. Tank is pretty much super expensive sitting duck.
    If there is ever a persian gulf war. It’s the future of tank battle. (cheap guided missile vs. ship) It’s a preview of cheap drone vs. tank.

  58. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    Will, glad of interest.
    I would suggest after Tuchman, to look over conservative Republican analyst Kevin Phillips, American Theocracy (New York: Viking, 2006) for his discussion of the Fundamentalists and their Christian Zionism and its implications for US domestic and foreign policy.
    He says (p. 103), “American foreign policy has its own corollary to the end-times worldview: the preemptive righteousness of a biblical nation become a high-technology, gospel-spreading superpower.” IMO he is dead on in his analysis as presented in the book.
    Then, consider the analysis of the American Christian Zionists political allies in Israel. For this see, Isreal Shahak and Norton Mezvinsky, Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel, new ed. (London:Pluto Press, 2004). It is excellent. I just had dinner with Norton a few weeks ago in DC; he is writing another book in this line.

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