March 18, 2012

Adherence to Mission...

I'm accumulating bits and pieces of what I hope will be a book someday. (Concerning the transition from the Industrial Age to the Information Age. Which I believe was a profound change in thinking, that arose before PC's and the Internet.) Many of them I'm just retrieving out of this blog, since Random Jottings is a big messy closet stuffed with odds and ends that interest me, and now I find that a lot of them are useful for the new project. To my surprise I've sort of been writing a book for ten years without realizing it!

But also, things I'm collecting now for the book may be worth putting into the blog. This one is from Six Days in June, by Eric Hammel, which I read years ago. It's a great book about the Six-Day War in 1967, and the history that led up to that stunning victory. Here are some quotes. I'm sure you will see what I'm getting at...

NOTE: Zahal is the Hebrew acronym for the Israeli Defense Forces. And the emphasis on speedy decisive victory is not some kind of blood-thirstiness, but is based upon the reality that Israel is a tiny country surrounded by much larger enemies. She has no room for maneuver or retreats, and lacks the resources for a long war.

The simplest definition of Adherence to Mission is that higher headquarters establishes a goal in broad terms and the unit charged with achieving the goal may do so by any means at hand. This very definition runs exactly counter to the conventional wisdom pounded between the ears of the soldiers of virtually every military force in the world. Only Zahal actively inculcates its leaders—indeed, every single one of its soldiers—with the dictum of Adherence to Mission.

Most wars fought by most modern armies—whether offensive or defensive—begin with a strategic statement from the government that is illuminated with a carefully drawn operational plan. This carefully drawn plan is known as a sequential plan, for each phase is dependent upon the successful completion of the previous phase...

...When the basic fact that war is chaos and the fog is most penetrable at the point of contact were recognized, analyzed, and institutionalized after the 1956 war, Zahal achieved the ultimate hallmark of its war-making potential.The Israelis came up with an operational doctrine based upon their own actual experience with cumulative warfare. They would intentionally allow for tactical and operational plans governing movement toward the final objective to be made on the fly by the man on the spot: Adherence to Mission...

...While all the reasons for the old method remain essentially true—senior commanders usually do have more experience and higher headquarters usually do have access to more information and broader vistas—the Israeli drive for decisive battlefield dominance—and strategic victory in the shortest possible time—cannot tolerate the time lost in passing information up the chain of command and waiting for instructions to come back down the chain...

...Far from attempting to control the chaos of the battlefield, Adherence to Mission was the first attempt by any of the world's armies to accept and exploit that chaos—virttually to employ chaos as an ally. Israeli soldiers of all ranks are taught that chaos and confusion are inevitable and that their accumulation will inevitably lead to opportunities that cannot possibly be foreseen in any sequential plan and might not be noticed by higher authority. The object of Adherence to Mission is to get every soldier at every level to recognize—and then exploit on his own authority—opportunities that are occurring right before his eyes...

M3 Halftracks, Sinai, Six Day War
(The picture is of Israeli forces in Sinai during the Six Day War. I have a fondness for the M-3 half-tracks, a great American machine. A friend who knows more than I wrote that they were designed to last only for 1,000 miles—from Normandy to Berlin. But there are many of them still running.)

Posted by John Weidner at March 18, 2012 11:00 PM
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