The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

Israel-Hizballah War: Lessons Learned

One of the focuses of the CGSC History Elective A652 is how the modern history of warfare in the Middle East shapes today’s operating environment.  This study includes the 2006 Israeli-Hezbollah War and will likely include a discussion of on-going operations by the IDF in Gaza.  However, the military events in the Middle East don’t only impact on the operating enviornment –they also impact army doctrine, force structure and training.

The assessment of the Israel-Hezbollah War is still on going but several attempts have been made at determining lessons learned.  A short list of publications on the war include Israel-Hezbollah War: A Preliminary Assessment published by the Washington Institute (see pp 48-58), and Anthony Cordesman’s Preliminary Lessons of Israeli-Hezbollah War.

Israeli offensive operations were mostly characterized as battalion, brigade and multi-brigade conventional combined arms operations which integrated special operations forces and air support.   One of many debates that emerged from the war is the degree to which COIN-like operations in the occupied territories degraded the conventional combined arms capability of the Israeli army.  Some analysts contend that this degradation was partly due to a lack of skill training, but another important aspect of it was psychological.  Israeli soldiers, units, and particularly mid-level and higher combat leaders, were slow to adjust their tactical vision of operations from the pace and circumstance of security operations to the speed and violence necessary for successful conventional combined arms combat against a motivated, disciplined, well trained and equipped adversary.  The requirement to relearn essential tactical combat skills while engaged with the enemy cost Israel casualties and made a complex operational and strategic situation even more difficult.

It is certain that much of the operational analysis of the current Israeli-Hamas operations will focus on how well the IDF has learned and adjusted operations since 2006.

A similar debate is occurring within and about the U.S. military.  Its immediate implications are tactical:  are U.S. army and marine forces able to conduct mid-intensity conventional combined arms combat operations?  A survey of a small pool of American army CGSC students indicates that mid-grade officers believe the answer is a qualified yes. 

The debate also is argued at the institutional level regarding such issues as strategy, doctrine, force structure, and combat developments.  This debate is being carried on in the professional press and at the Small Wars Journal website.  Two representatives of the opposing arguements are COL (R) Pete Mansoor, now at Ohio State University’s History Department, and LTC Gian Gentile, of the West Point Department of History.  A start to understanding the dynamics of the debate can be obtained by reading COL Mansoor’s article, “Misreading the History of the Iraq War.”  Follow the various links and you will catch the opposing view of LTC Gentile.

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January 5, 2009 Posted by | A652 | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment