Where is the Maneuver?

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inssBy Gal Perel
INSS – Military and Strategic Affairs Program

לעברית לחץ כאן

17706705_sThe IDF’s combat doctrine involves the delivery of powerful blows with accurate fire from the air, sea and land, along with quick and deep maneuvers into the heart of enemy systems. This doctrine is based on the assumption that when hostilities break out as they did in the Second Lebanese War or Operation “Cast Lead”, it would be one of great intensity and a serious threat involving a high rate of missiles and rockets being launched on Israel, amounting to hundreds per day. Israel would not have much leeway in terms of time, and legitimacy for the use of force, so it would need to follow through with speed and force and hit the enemy – “In a Fast, powerful, and elegant manner,” according to the words of Lt. Gen. Haim Bar-Lev.

Ground maneuvers would be performed by using the theory of combined battle, which includes: Infantry and armor forces maneuver supported with fire. The goal would be to conquer territory, kill the enemy as well as destroy their infrastructure. Though the use of fires helps the combined effort a, it cannot solely be decisive and remove the enemy’s determination, i.e., their loss of desire and ability to continue fighting.

Strike forces are intimidating while advancing as they hit the enemy and cause them to feel pressured and feel persecuted, and, fight for their survival. Though in recent years we have witnessed debates about the relevance of decisive victory as a concept, and the changes in the nature of war, it seems that the concept of decisive victory remains relevant as ever.

Maneuver, by its mature, exhibit a strong presence on the ground, which achieves the dictum of General Sherman who determined that the purpose of the maneuver is to ‘leave the enemy hooked on the horns of dilemma.’ While the enemy can make an effort to exert fire against the maneuver and fight it back, it was proved during previous occasions that it suppressed the ability of the enemy to continue launching rocked from the conquered area. For example after the maneuver to the village of “Maroun al – Ras” during the Second War in Lebanon. Such an outcome cannot be achieved only with fire strikes.

Given that “war is a kingdom of un-certainty,” the process is carried out in a manner similar to the Six Days War, which began with a surprising air strike against high-value targets, while well prepared maneuvering ground forces were deployed immediately afterwards, to achieve rapid control of the area . All of this was performed in accordance to the IDF aspiration to shorten the duration of the fighting, and to minimize the extent of civilian casualties in the home front. Then political leverage could be applied asserting the achievements against the enemy as well as standing up and facing the international community.

In the last decade, the military confrontations which were fought by the IDF were characterized by an enemy operating beyond-line-of-sight weapons types on Israel during both the Second Lebanon War and Operation”Cast Lead”. During the Second Lebanese War Hezbollah fired some 4,000 rockets at Israel. Although the IDF Air Force operated freely, IDF commanders admitted, as their predecessors had admitted in the days preceding the Peace for Galilee Operation, that they had no effective means of response to short-range rockets. Though the Air-force is definitely an efficient tool for pinpoint action, it cannot stand on its own when it comes to a large scale campaign. Short rounds of fighting, such as those that occurred during March 2012, are not similar to such a battle.

Despite rapid ground maneuvers deployment in the arena, during operation “Pillar of Defense” the IDF refrained from acting in the Gaza Strip. The goals of the operation as defined by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, were: strengthening deterrence, severe damage to rocket systems and a painful injury to Hamas and terrorist organizations while minimizing damage to the civilian home front. Though one can ostensibly argue that the operation’s objectives were achieved without the need to involve ground maneuvering forces, in practice the State of Israel opted for a move that may have lasted too long.

Hamas responded to the killing of Ahmed Jabari, the military commander of Hamas and to the attack on its long-range missiles capabilities by launching a massive rocket attack at southern communities but also fired on the metropolitan area of Tel Aviv for the first time, raising the level of violence. This move, which crossed “red lines” in terms of the State of Israel, created the need to achieve a fundamental change in the security situation. In order to achieve this, a ground maneuver was a necessity. The Israeli government did well during Operation “Pillar of Defense” to prepare appropriate ground force operations in a timely manner, including extensive even reserve mobilization, in light of the lessons of the Second Lebanese War. The avoidance of a ground operation in light of its possible duration, and the broad understanding that the round of combat round will not be short, caused a loss of momentum in the use of force while missing significant leverage that could have improved the overall achievement.

The goal of war is to achieve better peace – even if only from your own point of view. However, in light of the geopolitical situation of the State of Israel and the Middle East, and since some enemies are non-state actors such as Hamas and Hezbollah, the initiation of an action is not necessarily about reaching a peace agreement. From the perspective of the State Israel, an act of force may be used as a form of deterrence one that would delay the next armed conflict as much as possible. Achieving such a goal is only possible by engaging the enemy in his territory, with maneuvering ground forces.  Such an action would force the other side to focus on its defense, while applying the necessary pressure to end the hostilities it terms favorable to Israel and instilling a sense of deterrence on the enemy for a relatively long period of time.

MSE Logo - inssGal Perel is an intern in the Military and Strategic Affairs Program at the INSS