Thursday, February 16, 2006

Israeli Principles

Principles are those universal guidelines that apply in many areaas over time and across distance and culture. I recently read an article by General Y. Yadin of the IDF (if it was even called the IDF back then) General Staff in 1949.

Early in the article he listed the principles of strategy that had been important in the Arab-Israeli war of 1947-48. I don't know where he got his list of principles or if they were original to him. Doesn't matter. The more different ways we can look at the basic problem, the more we can learn. The list, with a few comments-

1) The Principle of Surprise- a classic. There is great power in being the only one who knows what is going on and it is usually easy to win a fight if you are the only party aware that a fight is happening. Many, many pages can and have been written on this and it is no accident, IMO, that it was listed first.

2) The Principle of Maintenance of Aim. Keep your eye on the ball. Do not be distracted from your primary objective. This is important in grand strategy, also, in that once a goal has been set it is counterproductive and wasteful to spend time and energy on handwringing and second guessing, or to give attention or power to those who would have you constantly revisit already made decisions. We know from bitter experience that even a bad decision usually ends better than indecisiveness in combat. There is a problem inherent in this principle, however: If the aim is obvious or well-known, you automatically give up strategic surprise. The strategic artistry of being able to shift goals as opportunities arise is very powerful.

3) The Principle of Economy of Force. The Seiryoku Zenyo of Kano's Judo, "Maximum efficiency, minimum effort". Not always minimum effort, but it is essential not to waste: not to waste time or men or material.

4) The Principle of Coordination. Different parts must work together. Clumsy organizations fail the same way clumsy people do. Organizations who are divided between different parts, like management and line staff or command and operations and those parts have different goals or visions or ethics will fail just like a person who has no single basic idea of right or can't decide on a goal.

5) The Principle of Concentration. 'Kime' of Japanese Martial Arts. When you hit, focus everything you can spare on the smallest point in space and time that you can.

6) The Principle of Security- despite 5 above, you usually need to watch your ass. This is one area where military strategy is different than the strategy of self defense. In a sudden assault, you are fighting for your ass already and saving something back to watch it is wasted. A military operation has resources and lines of communication that must be protected or the troops are alone. Any action might leave troops on the flank or rear exposed. A military operation allows a certain amount of attrition- one dead person rarely scrubs the op. When you as an individual are attacked, the resources, flank and rear are all YOU and an attrition of one surely scrubs the op of living.

7) The Principle of Offensive Spirit. I'm not sure if I would characterize this as a principle rather than a motivational goal. In a way, it is saying that 5 is more important than 6; that it is preferred to attack than to defend. Not always true in a war of attrition, but usually true in other forms of conflict.

8) The Principle of Mobility. This allows and reinforces all of the above except, possibly, "Maintenance of Aim". It's powerful and important.

There- a lesson in strategy and history from the last century.

No comments: