Academic journal article Parameters

Information and Warfare: The Israeli Case

Academic journal article Parameters

Information and Warfare: The Israeli Case

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT: Much as Israel's 1967 Six-Day and 1973 Yom Kippur Wars served as lenses on the evolution of warfare in the latter half of the twentieth century, so too do its more recent experiences cast light on war's early twenty-first-century character. This article uses the Israeli experience to discuss the challenges inherent in designing, promulgating, and sustaining a strategic narrative today and, ideally, a comprehensive approach to operations.


War's inherent complexity requires political and military decision-makers to manage its challenges holistically, orchestrating resources in the service of sought-after objectives. Difficult even during short contingencies, those challenges are magnified by extended conflicts such as in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet, the duration of these undertakings pales in comparison with Israel's decades of continuous regional tensions. This article draws from the Israeli case to illuminate the nature of twenty-first-century conflict and its lessons for US security policymakers.

After considering several of the components that assumed increased importance to Israel's security interests, we look more closely at one element in particular: the increasingly recognized but little understood influence of the virtual domain on modern conflict, specifically in terms of the strategic narrative and targeted messaging. Social media, partly responsible for the restrained character of wars fought today, has also expanded theaters of conflict both geographically and temporally. Restraint has made decisive victory a relic of the past while rendering definition of ultimate end states an exercise in futility. Moreover, new ways of targeted messaging also provide opportunities.

Israel's security environment encompasses three primary spaces:

* The close-combat realm in which fire and maneuver are the primary means of engagement

* Broader, traditional warfighting environs encompassing the close-combat space while incorporating physical elements farther afield that influence competitors' effectiveness on the battlefield--manmade infrastructure, underlying terrain, and populations that potentially impact reinforcing or sustaining the forces

* The virtual space critical to command, control, and information exchange among those associated with military and extra-government activities, which are impacted by the laws of war, ethical constraints, ideology, religion, and the strategic narrative.

Persistent conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq suggests new doctrine-or more effective application of existing doctrine--is called for. This guidance must look beyond the physical battlefield to prepare commanders for effective orchestration of activities both within and across the three primary spaces. Populations continue to expect decisive victories despite compelling evidence most conflicts end differently. Israel is among the countries finding themselves in conflicts characterized by an evolving blend of activities across the three conflict spaces, any or all of which are susceptible to Clausewitz's play of chance and friction. Newer conceptualizations of conflict may reveal as-of-yet little understood opportunities. (1)

Brief Observations on Israeli Conflict

Israel has been a petri dish for cultivating thinking on future conflict much as was the case after its 1967 and 1973 wars. Three evolutions in approaches recently employed by Israel's nonstate opponents are notable. Subterranean excavations in the form of adversary firing positions for missiles, rockets, and mortars; hideouts for headquarters, munitions, or other facilities; and cross-border means of smuggling or attack have increasingly challenged the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Secondly, urban areas are more evident as primary--even preferred--physical spaces for waging combat when the threat finds itself at a technological disadvantage.

The last of our three environmental spaces--the virtual--has seen the most expanded influence on the conduct of warfare, particularly on the strategic narrative via the increased ability for parties to target specific audiences through social media. …

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