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Israeli Conflicts

Key to the Sinai: The Battles for Abu Aghelia in the 1956 and 1967 Arab Israeli Wars

"Key to the Sinai

The Battles for Abu Aghelia in the 1956 and 1967 Arab Israeli Wars

By Dr. George W. Gawrych

150 Pages

CSI Research Survey No. 7 - Published: 1990

Situated between the Suez Canal and Israel and marked by the harsh environment of the central Sinai lies Abu Ageila, an unprepossessing area of low ridges and hills through which passes the best-surfaced road in the peninsula. Owing to its location on the central route, close to the Israeli-Egyptian border, Abu Ageila became the key to the Sinai in the Arab-Israeli wars of 1956 and 1967. The struggle for this barren land in two wars provides an epic story of battle and reveals the influence of experience on the preparation for and conduct of war.

In both the 1956 and 1967 wars, Abu Ageila was the main gateway to the Sinai for the Israel Defense Forces. Yet, as Dr. George W. Gawrych demonstrates, there were marked differences between Egyptian and Israeli war plans, preparations, operations, and results in the two battles for the area. In 1956, Israel carried the burden of a constricting alliance with Britain and France and faced other extensive military problems. The result was that Israel fought a difficult and costly battle for Abu Ageila. In contrast, in 1967, the Israel Defense Forces developed a brilliant operational plan and achieved effective unit command and control and attained a decisive victory.

Based on extensive research, including personal interviews with Israeli commanders and briefings by Egyptian military historians, Key to the Sinai is a crisp battle narrative of desert warfare and a systematic historical analysis of two armies confronting the changing terms of battle. Students of Airland Battle doctrine will find reading this Research Survey a stimulus to meeting the challenges of modern warfare.

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The 1973 Arab-Israeli War: The Albatross of Decisive Victory

"The 1973 Arab-Israeli War

The Albatross of Decisive Victory

By Dr. George W. Gawrych

106 Pages

Leavenworth Papers No. 21 - Published: 1996

The observation that military establishments in peacetime generally prepare to fight their last war has acquired the status of a cliche. Whatever the merit of this generalization, it should not suggest that, in the wake of hostilities, military professionals should foreswear changes and adjustments designed to make their forces more proficient on future battlefields. Indeed, military forces that have just suffered a costly defeat often manifest a greater readiness to initiate military reforms than those that have experienced a decisive victory. One will recall, for example, that following 1763, some of the most original thinking on military reform, organization, and tactics came out of France, a country that had paid dearly for its loss in the just-completed Seven Years' War. A case in point more familiar to today's U.S. officer corps is the reorientation of their Army's military doctrine in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. Dr. George Gawrych reminds us of another instance in his Leavenworth Paper, The 1973 Arab-Israeli War: The Albatross of Decisive Victory-the example of the Egyptian armed forces, who following Egypt's humiliation in the 1967 Six-Day War, made significant changes to their force structure and tactics. The Egyptians may have been preparing for something like their last war, but given a chance to refight it, they prepared for a different outcome.

The victors in a conflict are often less inclined than the vanquished to make radical departures from methods and means that, after all, had proved effective. In a postwar period, analysis by the winners will proceed apace, new technology and weapons will be incorporated into the inventory, and appropriate adjustments will be made. But short of a dramatic change in the external environment, these developments will often serve only to reinforce the conventional wisdom bred of earlier military success. Sometimes, this intellectual and institutional inertia might prove to be exactly what is required. In other cases, it might lead to disaster or near disaster-as the Israelis discovered to their dismay in 1973. Decisive victory in 1967, as Dr. Gawrych points out, became an albatross for Israeli military leaders who, wed as they were to the lessons of 1967, lacked the flexibility to recognize, much less adapt to, a dynamic, rapidly changing situation.

Most military professionals think of themselves as open-minded and flexible. They would be shocked, probably angered, to be described otherwise. In this context, as the reader may conclude from Dr. Gawrych's account, self-deception and overconfidence can be the worst enemies of officers in peacetime, to be guarded against with all their powers of perception and analysis.

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We Were Caught Unprepared: The 2006 Hezbollah-Israeli War

"We Were Caught Unprepared

The 2006 Hezbollah-Israeli War

By Matt M. Matthews

105 Pages

Occassional Paper No. 26 - Published: 2008

The Combat Studies Institute (CSI) is pleased to present Long War Series Occasional Paper 26, We Were Caught Unprepared: The 2006 Hezbollah-Israeli War by CSI historian Mr. Matt M. Matthews. The outcome of the war that was, at best, a stalemate for Israel has confounded military analysts throughout the world. Long considered the most professional and powerful army in the Middle East, with a history of impressive military victories against its enemies, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) emerged from the campaign with its enemies undefeated and its prestige severely tarnished.

Matthews’s historical analysis of the war includes an examination of IDF and Hezbollah doctrine prior to the war, as well as an overview of the operational and tactical problems encountered by the IDF during the war. His research convincingly argues that the Israeli reliance on poorly understood and controversial Effects-Based Operations (EBO) and Systemic Operational Design (SOD) warfighting theories, and a nearly singular dependence on air power, were root causes of Israeli problems. Additionally, after years of counterinsurgency (COIN) operations in the Gaza Strip and West Bank territories, IDF ground forces were tactically unprepared and untrained to fight against a determined Hezbollah force that conducted what was, in many ways, a conventional, fixed-position defense. In researching this study, Mr. Matthews interviewed several prominent IDF officers and other experts in the field, many of whom had not previously been interviewed. The result is an insightful, comprehensive examination of the war.

In 2006, Hezbollah demonstrated that terrorist groups around the world are capable of learning from, adapting to, and exploiting weaknesses in conventional military forces. Inasmuch as the US Army has focused almost exclusively on irregular warfare since 2001, the lessons offered in this analysis are particularly relevant. We believe that this study will be of great use to the US Army as it conducts current operations and prepares for an uncertain future in which potential enemies are watching and learning. CSI–The Past is Prologue!

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Warfare in the Age of Non-State Actors: Implications for the US Army

"Warfare in the Age of Non-State Actors

Implications for the US Army

The Proceedings of the Combat Studies Institute 2007 Military History Symposium

By Kendall D. Gott

395 Pages

Published: 2007

The annual Combat Studies Institute Military History Symposium, now in its fifth year, provides a forum for the interchange of ideas on historical topics pertinent to the current doctrinal concerns of the United States Army. Furthermore, the Symposium solicits input from a diverse group of military personnel, government historians, civilian academicians, journalists and thinkers in a setting that promotes the exchange of ideas and information. With the support of the US Army Command and General Staff School staff, this year’s Symposium was held 11-13 September 2007 at the new Lewis and Clark Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

The 2007 symposium’s theme, “Warfare in the Age of Non-State Actors: Implications for the US Army” explored the challenges associated with conflict between nation states and transnational religious, ethnic, or criminal groups. It examined the historical experiences of both the United States and other nations in this most asymmetric of environments in an attempt to distill the insights from the past can provide us guidance into the future.

In addition to the many excellent panelists who presented their research, this year we were fortunate again to have a number very distinguished featured speakers. Representative Ike Skelton IV and General (Retired) Barry R. McCaffrey not only addressed the symposium, but the entire student body of the Command and General Staff College. Lieutenant General William B. Caldwell IV, Commanding General of the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth shared his recent experience in Iraq as the Director of Strategic Effects for Multination Forces-Iraq. These proceedings contain the papers and presentations of all the speakers and panelists, as well as the transcriptions of selected question and answer periods following the presentations.

These annual symposia continue to be an important event, for the past has much to offer in the analysis of contemporary military challenges. The Army also continues to derive many important insights from non-military historians and thinkers who add to the Army’s own historical efforts. The phrase “history with a purpose” captures the goal of all Combat Studies Institute publications. We intend for the readers of this volume to find the experience useful in their current and future endeavors. CSI - The Past is Prologue.

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