Why the IDF prevails

MosheDayanQuoteMy understanding of history and my numerous visits in Israel nourished my conviction that – confronted with continuous and lethal threats since its rebirth in 1948 – this country would not have survived without the capacities of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

A recent article by Raphael D. Marcus in the Journal of Strategic Studies has brought yet another proof to support this assertion.

In July 2014, Israel was forced to launch Operation “Protective Edge” to counter Hamas murderous attacks on Israel from Gaza. Along the way, IDF would have to turn on a dime, since “[…] Hamas had developed an extensive network of tunnels, with some designed to infiltrate large numbers of fighters into Israel to kill or kidnap soldiers and civilians.”

If it was to be victorious, IDF needed to cope with the new reality. And, based on a “[…] leadership style that is open and dynamic [and] which improves its ability to learn and adapt” – in the pure German military tradition of Auftragstaktik – it did just that, relying on the autonomy, creativity and audacity of its human capital – its boots on the ground.

The Yahalom Unit (the main unit with expertise in underground warfare) was therefore tasked with the development of the operational response to Hamas tunnel warfare and to share its expertise with other units on the ground. The forces active on the theater of operations could then implement the lessons learnt and improvise the actions to be taken to destroy the tunnels and neutralize the enemy.

At the end of the day, the unconventional mindset of the IDF was the best asset to prevail over an irregular enemy that will never stop seeking to hurt Israel. In the words of a former Bridage Commander involved in the 2014 war: “Surprises are part of war. The question is who recovers first.”

I just loved every page of that excellent article, which I recommend to anyone interested in learning how the best military minds craft victories.

Si vis pacem para bellum

Major General Sami Turgeman, Commander of the IDF Southern Command. Photo Credit: jewishvoiceblog.org
Major General Sami Turgeman, Commander of the IDF Southern Command. Photo Credit: jewishvoiceblog.org

There is an unavoidable fact about Israel that is sometimes very difficult for many people, mainly those who have never visited the country outside the regular pre-digested touristic routes, to grasp or understand. Israel is a small country (From West to East, the distance between the Mediterranean Sea and the West Bank is only a 45 minutes drive) surrounded by enemies (Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad just to name a few) and its military need to be alert 24/7. They can’t let their guard down. Not a single minute.

For Israelis and their government, the famous Roman dictum Si vis pacem para bellum takes all its sense. If you want peace, prepare for war.

One of the very eloquent representation of this reality can be found in this Passover interview with the Commander of the IDF Southern Command, which is not only interesting for what it says about Operation Protective Edge initiated to respond to attacks perpetrated against Israel by Hamas in Gaza, but also for the fact that it reveals about the IDF high levels of competence and preparation for any possible military scenario.

No matter how hard they try, Israel’s enemies will always find people like Major General Turgeman to confront and vanquish them. A fascinating man to get to know, that’s for sure.