Tuesday, April 20, 2010

DefenseTech points us to an excellent new paper from RAND on lessons learned by the IDF from their war in Lebanon:
1. The basics of combined arms fire and maneuver are necessary for successful operations against opponents with capabilities like Hezbollah and Hamas. These hybrid opponents create a qualitative challenge that demands combined arms fire and maneuver at lower levels, despite their generally small-unit structures. The Israelis had lost these skills after years of preparing for and confronting (understandably) terrorist attacks during the second intifada. The U.S. Army, focused as it necessarily is on preparing soldiers and units for duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, might be approaching a condition similar to that of the Israelis before the 2006 Second Lebanon War: expert at COIN, but less prepared for sophisticated hybrid opponents. Furthermore, the introduction of sophisticated weapons (e.g., ATGMs, MANPADS) could radically escalate the challenges faced by U.S. forces in Afghanistan, as it did for the Soviet Union in the 1980s.
2. Precision, standoff fires are critical, but not sufficient, to cope with hybrid warfare opponents, particularly if they are operating “among the people.”
3. Responsive and adequate air, artillery, and UAV support are critical components of the combined arms fight against hybrid opponents. The well-practiced capacity to integrate these capabilities is a precondition for success.
4. Heavy forces—based on tanks and infantry fighting vehicles—are key elements of any force that will fight hybrid enemies that have a modicum of training, organization, and advanced weapons (e.g., ATGMs and MANPADS). Light and medium forces can complement heavy forces, particularly in urban and other complex terrain, but they do not provide the survivability, lethality, or mobility inherent in heavy forces. Quite simply, heavy forces reduce operational risks and minimize friendly casualties.

There's an old saying, that Generals are always fighting the last war. One of the most significant problems arising from the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is that they breed this mentality that all wars of the future will be guerilla or counter-insurgency warfare. But, we must remember, that the reason that we got into a counter-insurgency war in OEF and OIF was because we were able to be so successful in the opening phases of the conflict.
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