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15 August 2007


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on the topic of casualty aversion, how do you feel about all the kit the infantry have to wear when running ops?
It seems excessive. They can't sneak up on anybody, and the crap wears 'em all out in that heat.
Kind of reminds one of the kid who's parents made him wear a helmet for bike riding. weak.



when one uses their military against unarmed women and children and a few fellows with make-shift explosives, one can expect 'rot' to decay their once honed warfighting skills. israel's idf has become little more than bullies with big sticks against old men, women, and children who use sling shots. a u.s. made f15 firing a missile at an old folks home, or a non-armored ambulance, makes for a real stellar fighting force -- not!

hizbollah had been anticipating and watching the erosion of the idf and planned accordingly. so have the egyptians, the syrians, etc. the whole mideast neighborhood has 'noticed' the idf's erosion. and the mideast won't work too well with a balkan template.


Considering on a relative scale the amount of money and the quality of the weapons as well as the unfettered nature of access to weapons and material that the IDF and the US army have compared to HA or the myriad "insurgents" in Iraq - what does it say about value for money?

It seems to me that both Israel and the US have been seduced by its high-tech military which dominate their landscape at least on paper that policy has been reduced to military force to get whatever they want.

Also now that Iran's Revolutionary Guard will soon be labeled as a terrorist organization they can technically be abducted, renditioned and treated without regard to the Geneva Conventions. Does that mean that Iran will now retaliate and consider US private military contractors as "terrorists"?

W. Patrick Lang


I think it probably depends on what you are doing. If you are riding around in a HUMVEE or walking a short distance in an urban foot patrol I, personallym would be glad to wear it.

On a long walk in the country it is a bad idea. pl

Tom S

Two points concerning the air campaign against Serbia/Montenegro.

The air forces involved were also casualty-averse, bombing "strategic" targets from high altitudes. It could be argued that riskier strikes on the units actually carrying out the forced evacuations and depredations would have had a more direct effect.

Second, my understanding was that the threat of bringing ground units into the area finally forced the Serbs to back down.


Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't it the case that the Serbs didn't start moving out of Kosovo until there was a real threat they might encounter Nato ground troops – namely Brits, French and Australians invading Kosovo from Macedonia.

Obviously the reality is complicated, with Serbian perceptions of the situation being subject to many disparate influences, but I had always thought the Balkans in general and Kosovo in particular demonstrated the limitations of airpower. How little it is able to accomplish on its own.

João Carlos

I think there is a demographic problem that no one is seeing.

It is not possible to first world countries to repeat World War I casualties. The population age strutcture changed from a piramid to a column. Not much youths to send to a "meat grinder".

And to send the army to fight the "deep defence" that HA built at Lebannon will be a "meat grinder".

And take note that Israel fear a "brain exodus". What will happen if they have high casualties from these combats?

João Carlos

sorry the bad english, my native language is portuguese.


Original Haaretz Article

Starts out about a multilayered missle defense system being needed before even thinking about giving up West Bank, then talks about IDF reforms.

Some nuggets:

"In addition, all tanks must be protected against the advanced antitank missiles now owned by Hezbollah and Syria. Spending $150,000 to armor a tank that costs $3 million is a good investment, Barak says.

Some of Barak's proposals would require massive expenditures, so he is banking on the promised increase in American military aid "

" A single brigade commander, he explained, lacks a clear picture of the entire front, and must therefore act on the assumption that his superiors have good reason for their orders. "

" Operations to arrest wanted terrorists, for instance, are often halted in the middle if a soldier is wounded, as evacuating him is considered to take priority. In war, however, such conduct would be beyond the pale: An assault must continue even if the unit suffers casualties. "


"People will point to the Balkans in the '90s as an example of vindication for these ideas, but it has been argued that this is not so. A discussion of that would be welcomed."

In a previous thread, I recently referred to Clinton's bombing campaign in Serbia and Kosovo as "lucky". By this I meant that there was a period when it was clear that Milosevic had dug in and wasn't going to yield despite effective bombing. The U.S. was faced with the choice of continued bombing that would, more and more, hurt the Serbian populace or giving up. Clinton had ruled out a ground force. We were saved from this choice by the success of the KIA. In other words, there was a ground component that was necessary; but it wasn't provided by the U.S.

Israel had a ground component as well, even if its use was belated. However, whereas we were trying to restrain Serbia from moving into territory that was hostile to it, Israel was trying to restrict Hizbullah from it's "homeland".

It seems to me the different outcomes in these two situations are due less to the tactics used by the U.S. and IDF, which were similar, than the differing goals of the campaigns and the situation on the ground. Col. Lang, do I understand you correctly as arguing that the IDF's primary flaw was tactical?

Also, although I am happy to accept the experts' opinions that the IDF has deteriorated, this is relative to itself 20 years ago, right? Isn't it true that there is still no contest for pitched battles with Syria and similar?


I hit the post button instead of preview on my last post. Apologies if the writing was poor.

I wanted to add an off-topic question for the experts here. I was surprised and pleased at Bush's approach to the intial conduct of the war in Afganistan. Not what I expected from the man at all. (That would come later in Iraq.) Is it likely that the war plans used had already been formulated during the previous administration based on what happened in the Balkans? Basically, were there pre-existing plans for a replay with Special Forces and the Northern Alliance replacing the KIA?



Uri Avnery wrote an article about the effects of 40 years of occupation by the IDF.

"Israel arouses different expectations than the Congo or Sudan. But for years now, hundreds of millions of people see it almost daily in the form of occupation soldiers, armed to the teeth, abusing a helpless population. The accumulating effect is becoming clear now."

"18-year old youngsters, most of who have been brought up by decent parents as moral human beings, are drafted into the army, enter the brutal subculture of their units and receive an indoctrination that justifies every act of brutality against Arabs. Only a few rare individuals are able to withstand the pressure. After three years, the majority leave the army as tough men with blunted sensibilities. The brutality in our streets, the routine killings around the discotheques, the proliferation of rape and violence within the family - all these have undoubtedly been influenced by the day-to-day reality of the occupation. After all, it's the same people who are doing it."

He essentially says that the Army is now made up of thugs and liars. The demise of the IDF is a direct consequence of Israel's imoral policies against Arabs. IMHO, Uri Avnery is a great man.




I suspect that the folks most worried over this re-designation will be the US basketball pro's who played for the IRGC team in the domestic Iranian league.

It's actually quite hard to see how this translates into anything physical on the ground though - I guess the intent is to try to squeeze their commercial trading operations ( or, more specifically, US allies that do business with them ).


ATimes has 3 part section examining What happened during Lebanon war. (3 part section, ground, intel, politics) Most are widely known conclusion for readers of this blog. but it's nice to read it all in one spot.

(oh course the IDF now has to prepare itself for war with Iran/Syria, as Bush just declare Iran revolutionary guard "terrorist". Which automatically is an escalation of tension like never before.)


Sixth, the Hezbollah victory has had the very unfortunate consequence of blinding Israel's political leadership to the realities of their geostrategic position. In the midst of the war with Lebanon, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert adopted Bush's language on the "war on terrorism", reminding his citizenry that Hezbollah was a part of "the axis of evil". His remarks have been reinforced by Bush, whose comments during his address before the UN General Assembly mentioned al-Qaeda once - and Hezbollah and Hamas five times each. The United States and Israel have now lumped Islamist groups willing to participate in the political processes in their own nations with those takfiris and Salafists who are bent on setting the region on fire.

Nor can Israel now count on its strongest US supporters, that network of neo-conservatives for whom Israel is an island of stability and democracy in the region. These neo-conservatives' disapproval of Israel's performance is almost palpable. With friends like these, who needs enemies? That is to say, the Israeli conflict in Lebanon reflects accurately those experts who see the Israel-Hezbollah conflict as a proxy war. Our colleague Jeff Aronson noted that "if it were up to the US, Israel would still be fighting", and he added: "The United States will fight the war on terrorism to the last drop of Israeli blood."


Let's keep manufacturing more and more enemies. We'll never run out of money, right?


Zanzibar, Dan

The re-designation of the Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organisation allows Bush to attack them under the AUMFs without getting Congress involved.

Both authorisations for use of military force, for Afghanistand and for Iraq, have language that allows Bush to attack "terrorists" that hinder the effort.

see here

Simple "trick" ... watch the oil prices ...


Colonel, a kindred spirit of yours was the French General Pierre Bosquet, who watched the Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaklava and said, "It is magnificent, but it is not war."

Israel has always expected too much of its army. It's main job is to fight the next war, no to promote social cohesion, no to fight terrorism, no to serve as an occupation force. One problem is the amount of "roughage" it consumes in the form of draftees (both men and women, mind you--but not the 20% Palestinian population) who are too many to stay in the army and learn the technical skills necessary for modern war.

This is bunk and the numbers of young people who evade the draft are growing, especially since the Lebanon War. Since Israel offers no form of alternative social service for conscientious objectors, evasion or outright resistance is their only choice. One young woman said she was exercising her exemption as an Orthodox Jew because she had no desire to waste part of her life herding Palestinian civilians around or serving coffee to generals.

The U.S. and Israeli militaries ARE coming to resemble each other in many ways. In fact, there's a new training facility that Israel is building at their Tse'elim Base that can be made to look like any area of Lebanon, Syria or Iraq, etc. (after all, one must think ahead). The plan is to have U.S. forces train there in "actual conditions" on their way to Iraq. The problem is that so far the Israelis are too stingy to maintain a "Red Team" of skilled opponents for the troops being trained. So much for "actual conditions."

And Tse'elim is notorious in the IDF for the number of fatal training accidents. The 1992 "Tse'elim Bet Incident" still hangs like a cloud over Ehud Barak. "Bet" means Two, since this was the second training accident at Tse'elim where 5 soldiers were killed. They actually have to number the fatal accidents to tell them apart! As Hawkeye said on "M*A*S*H" when told that an ammunition dump would be placed next to the hospital because the Germans had done it in WWII:

"Oh, great, now we're taking lessons from the losers."


An interesting article by Gilad Atzmon in the Palestinne Chronicle
goes into the current state of the IDF and how it got that way.


Abu Sinan

Kind of on topic here. Did you read or listen to Nasrallah's recent speech?

He promised a surprise if/when the Israelis act against Hizb'Allah again.

What do you make of that? I think Hizb gave them a surprise this last time, what more is in store?

I think that Nasrallah is about the only Arab leader that you can trust what he says. He doesnt lie like almost 100% of other Arab leaders.

What do you think this surprise is? Given the use of air power against Hizb this last time I think it has to do with an effective ground to air system.

Hizb'Allah knows that the real threat from Israel is via the air. Hizb can contain and cause large casualties to Israeli ground troops. Eliminate or reduce Israeli air capability and the battlefield is very different.


Not sure if the 1999 Serb campaign was much of a success long-term. The KLA-dominated government is threatening to unilaterally declare independence since the Russians are blocking it in the UNSC. The situation seems unstable to me and has the potential to get a lot worse, especially if the the KLA turns against the US/NATO although that is probably not too likely.

From my shabby memory, NATO's air war did little to no damage to Serbia's military. I think they blew up something like 10 tanks or 15 jeeps. (The Serbs deployed a lot of effective decoys.) There was a lot more damage to civilian infastructure. Many Serbs were angry with Milosevic for "capitulating" to the U.S. but I'm not sure how much bombing they could have taken.

As for the threat of U.S. ground forces, I remember American generals claiming that it would take 6 months or more to get helicopters into the region. That I think points to casualty aversion you spoke of and I doubt the Serbian military took rumors of ground troops seriously.

Also, the Serbian military at that time was quite experienced, having fought in the Yugoslav civil war and the Kosovar insurgency. Fighting on their mountainous hometurf would have put the U.S. at a disadvantage, no? Especially if they opted for hit-and-run tactics which would be the smart thing to do in the face of overwhelming American firepower.

Lastly, I think the reluctance to even mention the word "draft" these days is similar to casualty aversion in that everyone wants war on the cheap these days.


What the USA is trying to do in Iraq is not all that different than British Empire in the American colonies a couple hundred years ago. Standing armies are great at killing other armies. Tanks, airplanes and artillery enhance the range and lethality. But, the American elites should stop trying to wear those haughty old Brit's boots they inherited.

The finest army doesn't mean squat if it is too small to conquer the enemy's sanctuaries; even worse, if the occupier's tactics alienate and force young males to defend their homes and religion; when the occupier's political goals are unacceptable to the occupied.

The Likud and GOP war plan is simple attrition. But, there are not enough young Christian and Jewish males to kill every Islamic warrior by bullet or bomb. Nuclear War is the ultimate end point. The only alternative is a Middle East peace settlement, withdrawal, secure borders and treating all religious fanatics in an open fair judicial process.


Chris Matthews on MSNBC Hardball nailed Mitt Romney for daring to compare his sons' assisting his campaign to military service. Chris called Romney another Chickenhawk wanting to fight America's wars with other people's children.

Likewise Barak is concerned with massive IDF draft dodging. But the likudniks reply they are not interested in evacuating their brethern from "Hevron" Hebron and the rest of the God Given patrimony in "Judea-Samaria" West Bank.

from the Israeli press

"Defense Minister Ehud Barak strongly condemned the growing phenomenon of insubordination in the army, in a speech to soldiers on Tuesday, a day after over a dozen members of the Duchifat Battalion were sentenced to a month in jail for refusing to take part in the evacuation of Hebron families. "

"Barak also criticized the growing rate of draft-dodging. "While you are here doing the work and serving above and beyond the call of duty, considering what is happening in all walks of society - there are youths who should be enlisting yet they shirk that duty using whatever means.

"We intend to deal with this and minimize drastically this phenomenon of avoiding the IDF," he said.


the Asia Times three part series
how HA won the war
and the Times Online article

the humbling of the supertroops
are given as clickable refrences in the Battle of Maroun al-Ras wikipedia article. In the infobox the likudnik point of view prevailed.



decoupling the public's influence upon national security policy is a strategic challenge for wiser-than-thou political leadership in open societies. low combat losses is an operational component. thus, the volunteer military (they signed up for it!), out-sourcing (they're private & paid handsomely for it!) and (even more) influence over the media-message.

of course, one can't fool everybody all the time... can one?


Abu Sinan,

Did you see the interview with al-jazeera last year where Nasrallah was asked about lying and the demands of psychological warfare? It was priceless. I swear I saw a twinkle in his eye.


Israel could wipe entire Arab armies before 1973 because those Armies did not believe the cause was worth dying for.

Since 1973, Israel has progressively been made weaker by each conflict it has been involved in.

The Second Lebanon War was a defeat despite what Bush, Olmert and the Neocons say and write about it.

The US is not winning the War on Terror despite what those same people continue to say and write.

Iraq, is not a winnable war like the current slogan is stating nor is Afghanistan.

Colonel, a simple question, are we getting weaker and dumber or are the OPFOR's getting stronger and smarter?

By dumber, I mean that we resort to slogans like "War of Terror", "Winnable War", etc instead of presenting a strategy that makes sense.

The OPFOR has presented a strategy from the beginning and continues to hold that strategy until now.

"Force the enemy into a quagmire, bleed the military and the treasury and force them out of the Middle East to establish a Caliphate"

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