Developing a New Israeli Way of War

From the Yom Kippur War through the last spring’s Gaza conflict, Israel’s enemies have deployed missiles as decisive strategic weapons, often in unprecedented ways. It is likely that a future conflict with Hizballah will involve massive volleys of advanced missiles from Lebanon, Gaza, and perhaps elsewhere as well. Brigadier General Eran Ortal, who heads the IDF’s internal think tank, argues that the Jewish state has not yet implemented an appropriate set of doctrines for confronting this new kind of warfare. To do so, he encourages the use of sensors and other high-tech tools, including what has been dubbed “the battlefield Internet of things,” combined with the old-fashioned deployment of ground forces:

Two elements make it difficult to fight a missile-based force. First, the missile allows its operator to remain hidden, at least most of the time. The second challenge is lethality: Hamas and Hizballah missiles are increasingly accurate and lethal. A missile-based adversary deprives Israeli forces of effective targets, while at the same time turning Israeli soldiers into targets. The solution lies in two simple principles. “Turn on the light”—expose the enemy as the result of his need to reveal himself, helped by more sophisticated detection capabilities. Then “extinguish the fire”—attack the missile launchers (and intercept missiles already launched) in the short periods during which they are exposed.

The enemy’s weakness is, in fact, that its whole purpose on the battlefield is to launch and fire. During most of the battle, enemy forces will be in hiding. . . . While Israeli forces have invested tremendous effort locating hideouts and attempting to hunt down enemies moving covertly between positions, they have not effectively taken advantage of the fact that an individual becomes visible at the moment of firing or launching. This missed opportunity is exacerbated when one considers that radar location and optical launch detection are simple and cheap solutions that cover large areas.

A “turn on the light and extinguish the fire” maneuver would be able to attack deep into enemy territory to conquer main nerve centers and inflict a decisive defeat, while suppressing enemy rockets and missiles launched nearby toward Israeli forces and toward the home front. The force would protect itself and the home front from missiles and rockets. It would also avoid more traditional, complex, and risky seek-and-destroy missions by striking only selected targets, thereby shortening the battle. If necessary, fire suppression assets could also be deployed outside the main force’s path of advance, supported by dedicated assault and security forces.

Read more at War on the Rocks

More about: Hamas, Hizballah, IDF, Israeli Security, Israeli technology, Strategy

Iran’s Calculations and America’s Mistake

There is little doubt that if Hizballah had participated more intensively in Saturday’s attack, Israeli air defenses would have been pushed past their limits, and far more damage would have been done. Daniel Byman and Kenneth Pollack, trying to look at things from Tehran’s perspective, see this as an important sign of caution—but caution that shouldn’t be exaggerated:

Iran is well aware of the extent and capability of Israel’s air defenses. The scale of the strike was almost certainly designed to enable at least some of the attacking munitions to penetrate those defenses and cause some degree of damage. Their inability to do so was doubtless a disappointment to Tehran, but the Iranians can probably still console themselves that the attack was frightening for the Israeli people and alarming to their government. Iran probably hopes that it was unpleasant enough to give Israeli leaders pause the next time they consider an operation like the embassy strike.

Hizballah is Iran’s ace in the hole. With more than 150,000 rockets and missiles, the Lebanese militant group could overwhelm Israeli air defenses. . . . All of this reinforces the strategic assessment that Iran is not looking to escalate with Israel and is, in fact, working very hard to avoid escalation. . . . Still, Iran has crossed a Rubicon, although it may not recognize it. Iran had never struck Israel directly from its own territory before Saturday.

Byman and Pollack see here an important lesson for America:

What Saturday’s fireworks hopefully also illustrated is the danger of U.S. disengagement from the Middle East. . . . The latest round of violence shows why it is important for the United States to take the lead on pushing back on Iran and its proxies and bolstering U.S. allies.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, U.S. Foreign policy