Israeli Mistakes Against Hybrid Adversaries Serve as Cautionary Tale for U.S. Military
Jan 19, 2012
Israel in Lebanon and Gaza
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When Israel fought Hezbollah during the Second Lebanon War in 2006, it discovered that it was ill prepared for the challenges posed by its "hybrid" adversary. Hybrid adversaries employ effective standoff weapons (e.g., antitank guided missiles, man-portable air-defense systems, mortars, rockets, unmanned aerial systems). Thus, defeating such opponents requires different tactical and operational concepts than those used to fight the irregular adversaries — who do not have standoff weapons — that the Israelis had become accustomed to confronting. In the war's aftermath, the Israeli military undertook significant reforms whose effectiveness was demonstrated in 2008–2009 during Operation Cast Lead, when Israel fought Hamas in Gaza.
Like Israel in 2006, the United States today is likely ill prepared for hybrid warfare after years of focusing on irregular adversaries. To identify lessons that the U.S. military might learn from the Israeli experience in Lebanon, the author examines the following: the state of the Israeli military before the Second Lebanon War, the challenges that Hezbollah's hybrid warfare posed, the lessons the Israelis learned from the 2006 war, the reforms the Israeli military undertook to address its deficiencies, and how Israel fared during Operation Cast Lead three years later.
The author finds that, in facing hybrid opponents, joint combined-arms fire and maneuver are necessary; precision, stand-off fires are critical (but not sufficient); and responsive and adequate air, artillery, and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance support are vital. Finally, heavy forces — based on tanks and infantry fighting vehicles — are key to fighting sophisticated hybrid opponents because they reduce operational risk and minimize friendly casualties.
The Second Lebanon War
Operation Cast Lead
The Relevance of the Israeli Experience for the U.S. Joint Force
Timeline of the 2006 Second Lebanon War
The research described in this report was sponsored by the United States Army and by the United States Air Force and was conducted by the RAND Arroyo Center and RAND Project AIR FORCE.
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