22'd IDF Chief Aviv Kochavi .
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S UNIT)
On Wednesday, the IDF released a new plan formulated by Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi. While it is interesting and impressive, it seems that Kochavi is falling into the trap of many officers before him.
Using amorphous and vague terms like “Multidisciplinary Target Mission Directorate” or “Multidimensional Units,” the IDF briefed reporters on the new multi-year plan the IDF chief plans to approve and implement by the end of the year when he will present it to the cabinet. “Under the plan, there will be a change in the formulation of the operational concept of victory of the IDF, which will include new concepts and methods of warfare which have been adapted to the challenges of the urban battlefield saturated with enemy fire,” wrote Anna Ahronheim, The Jerusalem Post’s military correspondent.
What all is this means is unclear. The terms are vague and the concepts are ambiguous. At a time when most Israelis are asking the IDF to simply win, using these kind of terms does not help increase the public’s confidence in its military or in Kochavi, its first-100-day chief of staff.
Obviously, the IDF is an institution that constantly needs to grow, adapt and improve. Because of this, for example, Kochavi also called for the establishment of a new technological division that will study the modern battlefield and look at ways to incorporate innovative technologies.
This is an important step. Israel has always taken pride in its ability to retain a qualitative military edge over its enemies and adversaries. While it might not have as many soldiers as Syria or as many tanks as Egypt, its soldiers and tanks are more technologically advanced – and come with weapons, as well as command-and-control systems, that give it an edge over the other side.
Kochavi, though, might be making a few mistakes. The first is his use of language. A military needs to operate according to simple concepts and ideas. The substance might be complicated but there is little value in using terms that soldiers will have difficulty understanding what they mean.
This has happened before. After the Second Lebanon War in 2006, a number of IDF officers came under criticism for using theoretical, academic rhetoric in military discourse. Instead of speaking in black-and-white terms like “conquer”, “withdrawal” and “defense” they taught new terms and objectives that soldiers could not comprehend.
This might be nice in a university classroom, but on the battlefield – as the IDF has learned in the 13 years since – simple orders are needed alongside easy-to-understand concepts.
The second possible mistake is his clear desire to completely transform the IDF. While one of his missions is to ensure that the military stays ahead of its enemies, he should be wary of trying to undo what his predecessors had put together. Kochavi has a reputation of being a reformist and is credited with carrying out sweeping reforms in Military Intelligence when he led the branch a few years ago.
But when done to the military as a whole, this can also confuse soldiers and units – especially when compounded with the use of vague terms and orders.
Lastly is the question of where the money for all of this will come from. This will be tricky since, with the country already facing a growing deficit, the new government might not have the appetite for its military to grow anymore.
While we do not question Kochavi’s intentions, he might do well to wait and see the outcome of the coalition that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will try to build in the coming weeks. If, for example, Avigdor Liberman decides to return to the Defense Ministry, it is unlikely that he will be willing to be a rubber stamp this time around for whatever the IDF wants.
What is clear is that Liberman does not have patience for lofty terms that are unclear to soldiers or to the public. He wants the IDF to return to winning again – and the first test might be just around the corner.
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