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The failure of UN strategies of ceasefire





1.The UN ceasefire was enforced on Aug 14. By this time Israel had taken 3,790 rocket hits out of which 901 rockets were targeted towards towns and cities. 42 civilians were killed and 4,262 wounded. Civilians were found to be suffering from shock along with anxiety. Israel’s strategy based on EBO and SOD was over fascinated with air power and neglected the classical use of ground forces to exploit a sound ground maneuver. The IDFs dismal act was an epitome of a confused strategy. Hezbollah’s collapse was envisaged through a dedicated standoff campaign with air power and precision firepower. This inability to achieve the desired effects forced the IDF to launch a meek ground campaign probing southern Lebonan with raids aimed at achieving the preferred end state. However the failed attempts projected a defeat that was costing the IDF high. There were numerous Divisions of mechanized forces of IDF situated north of Litani when the war broke. A well-orchestrated ground offensive at this stage with logical targetting of Hezbollah well dug locations would have definitely gone a long way in achieving the desired end state. However an over-obsessed EBO approach had no place for a well-coordinated ground offensive with surgical air power.[1]

2.Lieutenant-General Dan Halutz was the first IAF officer to be appointed as the Chief of the IDF General Staff. He was a firm believer of air power and precision weapons in being able to gain victory without the need for a classical ground forces. As a commander, he was known to be arrogant and obstinate at times in his reliance on EBO and SOD strategies. It was not surprising that he chose a similar strategy in facing the Hezbollah. The dismal training status and readiness of the IDF forces at that time did not help is belief either. Clearly a limitation of EBO was exposed in this strategy.[2] It could have been shaped by the US approach to the military operations in Op Desert Storm wherein targeting the leadership and infrastructure with precision munitions and limited ground involvement. The doctrine also pointed towards heavy reliance on proven and advanced air power to build the required asymmetrical edge against conventional or regional enemies. The ground forces were envisaged to be more defensive with limited small and swift offensive operations in support of the aerial warfare.[3]

3.Such a low opinion of land forces and over confidence in air power lead to other problems too. The IAF was being strengthened at the cost of the land forces. Budget for the ground forces were reduced and the training suffered as a result with divisions and brigades being allowed to carry out minimum exercises. The equipment of the IDF reserves was in a poor state with limited or no replacements and repairs. Tank training took a backseat. Additionally the new doctrine coined new terms and concepts which were incomprehensible to most officers. Hence when air power failed the ground forces too could not deliver the punch when called upon.[4]


4.Absence of clear national security principles assessment of the political aims prior to entering the war was a grey area. In fact within the country itself, most ministers thought that it was an extremely limited conflict and not a full-fledged war. Hence the political structure never had a serious discussion of the offensive and its objectives. It appears that the whole operation was undertaken to send out a message deterring further kidnappings rather than to teach a lesson through a war. The chief of staff believed that the battering would last two or three days. Some senior ministers thought it would take even less time. It is doubtful whether Israel ever went to war in so slapdash a fashion.[5]

5.Taking no action or deferred offensive action was not acceptable to the government. A full-fledged offensive, even by air alone, would have necessitated executing a campaign in its totality. However, failure of this course of action involving precision standoff air attacks in meeting the set goals was not catered in the strategy. There was a definite mismatch between the adventurous goals and the option of military action exercised by the government. This raised unnecessary expectations in the Israeli public initially. A well carved out and practical politico-military aim could have led to better understanding and maybe better military actions by the IDF.[6]

6.The Israelis failed to understand clearly the real face of the adversary and its options and capabilities. The offensive action by the IDF would inevitably had to be special as regards to the enemy that it faced. Appreciation of the fact that they were faced with a stateless, resilient and elusive adversary who was well equipped and resourceful, courtesy Iran, was missing. Absence of a conventional enemy ruled out a straightforward and visible victory. Mere survival of Hezbollah was its victory and a humiliating defeat to Israel. Additionally the rocket arsenal of Hezbollah, especially the Katyusha, was not recognized as a center of gravity. The raining Katyusha rockets decimated public opinion and morale of Israelis. Israel had not realized that it had committed to a war that was almost impossible to win.

7.The asymmetric threat faced by the IDF was different than the ones it was used to. The IDF was geared up for lower scale operations against terrorists in Gaza and West Bank. However this new asymmetric threat tested the IDF. Capability did not match the aims that were set. Hesitation for employment of ground forces at the commencement compounded the problem. Hence incorrect combat potential was applied for achieving the stated goals. Fascination with US strategy in Op Desert Storm was another problem when looked in isolation. The political, international and financial constraints of Israel were far greater than that of US. Such a templated approach, based on lessons learnt from a disconnected setting and nation is bound to be flawed.

8.The Olmert government could have made simple and clear decisions to face the problem. If the ground offensive was a course that was not acceptable at the beginning, then the objectives could have been to teach Hezbollah a lesson by causing unacceptable pain by attacking assets both military and infrastructure. Such clear aims could have allowed the standoff offensive to be halted on reaching the well-defined conflict termination criteria’s. In case Israel wanted physical destruction of the rocket arsenal, then a well-coordinated air and ground offensive should have been the obvious choice. In any case, a well-defined strategy backed by clear objectives and understanding of the enemy could have prevented the IDF from losing its face in the world community.



1.The 34 days campaign which the IDF undertook has many lessons that are applicable in the Indian context. The challenges faced by our country are on a new high, especially so from a spectrum that is poised at a much lower scale. The ongoing Naxal problem and the Mumbai attacks are stark realities that our armed forces are faced with. Though our armed forces are ideally suited and equipped to fight the conventional battle, this lower end warfare is likely to test the might of the forces when pitted against such a asymmetric threat. There are numerous examples worldwide to support this conclusion, be it the Vietnam war or this 34 day conflict. Even the Indian armed forces have had a stint of this kind of operations in Kargil and Peace keeping ops in Sri Lanka. The application of air power in these complex scenarios will be the most challenging task that the commanders will face. The way to overcome this dilemma would be to analyse the air power employment in conflicts like the Israel-Lebanon conflict in focus. Analysis of the pitfalls of air power in combating sub conventional warfare and the various limitations of even the newer technologies will give an insight into better employment in the Indian context.


2.Operational Rhythm and Tempo.The IAF was able to maintain a tempo that was comparable to the US forces in Op Desert Storm. It was clearly indicative of a well-oiled machinery capable of churning sorties at an enviable pace. Night operations constituted a major chunk demonstrating the IAFs capability as a potent force enabled by new technology. The sheer number of RPA missions, casevacs, armed and utility helicopter sorties showed that even for such operations the tempo would be high to relentlessly apply the right force on the enemy. This is a major lesson that our air force must learn and strive towards being able to sustain such tempo. This would require a meticulous maintenance structure and logistics along with smart management of human resources.

3.Time Sensitive Targetting (TST).This would be a crucial capability to fight such sub conventional threat. IAF successfully located many rocket launchers within minutes of launch and targeted them. The capability that was displayed ensured a rapid response structure to allow flexibility in execution. The demands of battlefield transparency kept the ISR functionaries busy throughout the 34 days. The concept of TST is best suited for such operations where the demands for low collateral damage and high mobility of targets present a small window for targeting. The rapid modernization of Indian armed forces have enabled such missions to be executed with pin point accuracy. However the SOPs governing the same have to be carved out keeping in mind the objectives as well as the regional complexities. There is a need for the armed forces to purse this concept in order to enable its timely usage for mission accomplishment.

4.Employment of RPAs.The employment of RPAs during these operations was intuitive indeed. These proved to be real force multipliers. They found themselves in newer and better roles in direct support of the air as well as ground forces. The lessons for effective employment of these aerial assets are extremely applicable in the Indian context. The Indian armed forces will be hugely benefitted from employment of RPAs in roles like sanitization of helicopter routes, Time Sensitive Targetting, target validation, RPA assisted fighter strike, Bomb damage assessment, persistent surveillance etc. A well-executed RPA employment will indeed reduce collateral damage in such a urban scenario. The Indian military think-tank’s need to work out better ways to employ RPAs in newer roles enabled by better technology and capability.

5.Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR). The high battlefield transparency demanded the ISR cycle to be extremely dynamic and agile. There is no doubt that the IDF managed it exceedingly well. This clearly demonstrated the need for an efficient ISR cycle in sub conventional warfare. Similar would be the needs for the Indian armed forces in the near future. Only a well networked and joint approach in a NCW umbrella can achieve this. The flow of timely information will be crucial in a sub conventional warfare.

6.Jointmanship.There were ample examples of poor jointmanship between the IAF and ground forces. Such occurrences of voids in a battlefield are not merely unnecessary but can prove to be lethal. There were clash of command between the Northern Command commander of the ground forces and the commander of IAF. The forces clearly lacked joint operations experience and this was commented by mane analysts based on poor execution of close air support missions. The domain of jointmanship needs to be pursued with new greater zeal in our armed forces so that India as a nation can apply military power optimally. Better joint structures, training and exercises are the way ahead.

7.Role of Attack Helicopters.Attack helicopters are commonly associated with anti armour role only in our armed forces. However this conflict totally lacked an adversary with any mechanized forces for IDF. But these helicopters were employed extensively in many roles. This again reiterated the fact that modern day attack helicopters are extremely versatile and multi role. The fascination of attack helicopters in pure anti-armour role with decentralized control in Indian armed forces is hence questionable. Such assets are best used efficiently when placed under centralized command so that all roles can be exploited optimally. This would allw their force to be projected in sub conventional war, a greater possibility than a conventional war in our context. However such employment in versatile roles would require persistent training in a realistic scenario. This again supports that fact that these should be placed centrally for peacetime training as well.

8.Gearing for Asymmetric Warfare.Clearly the IDF was not ready for a symmetric war with complex objectives and an ever elusive adversary. Similar parallels can be drawn for our armed forces as well. Hence gearing up for such eventualities need to be accorded priority.

9.Getting the Strategy Right.The strategy adopted was indeed a clash between EBO and conventional warfare. It was shaped based on experiences of the US led forces in Op Desert Storm. However the efficacy of such lessons learnt by a superpower against a conventional adversary is doubtful when viewed in light of the situation of the IDF. There existed a clear confusion between saving face in the international community vs full-fledged military operations in the minds of the political leaders. The doctrine was poorly written and semantics were given preference over content. COG analysis was poor wherein the Katyusha was never taken as a critical capability. These all point to a poorly carved out strategy and understanding of the situation. Similar situation will present itself in our scenario. Hence it is imperativethat we get our strategy right for success.

10.Defining Aims.The political as well as the military aims were never defined clearly. Hence the full campaign actually lacked a conflict termination criteria. This led to avoidable confusion wherein the campaign lacked a clear motive. Perhaps this is the biggest lesson that the political and military leadership should imbibe from this campaign. Lack of clarity flowing from the top is likely to reduce the combat power application towards identifying and neutralising the centres of gravity.



1.It is safe to say that Operation Change of Direction signified a peculiar conflict in which the ceasefire came about without a comprehensive Israeli victory. However it should not be taken as an outright defeat of the air assets of the country in failing to perform their intended tasks. It was more circumstances and a flawed approach that let the country down. The choice of the strategy itself was doubtful with no viable contingency plan to cater to emerging and dynamic challenges. There was a clear confusion between the ends and the means to achieve them, with an ever present alibi of collateral damage loomig large over mission accomplishment. Wrong understanding and implementation of an imported concept of EBO also didn’t serve them well. And impulsive and obstinate reaction of the government along with an obsession with precision attacks not involving a full ground offensive ensured that the right combat power could never be applied and Hezbollahs shoot and scoot tactics continued unhindered.

2.Believing that air power (standoff firepower) single handedly achieve the objectives by coercing the wanted enemy behavior was an error that was exaggerated by a poor strategy, lack of realistic training and well defined goals. Definitely it does not mean that air power application is not decisive, however it most definitely is not an antiseptic tonic that suits the politicians. The matching of strategic objectives with the available instruments is the basis for application for any combat power. It is true for air power also. However the ensuing collateral damage while using an instrument like air power especially against an elusive and asymmetric threat like Hezbollah has to be factored in overall planning process. It is a known fact that no successful leader, both military and political, has applied one single service in order to gain outright victory. Will it be fair to say that the air power of IAF failed because it single handedly could not defeat a well dug Hezbollah who was using classical guerilla tactics?

3.In order to answer this question, it would be prudent to debate whether one could blame the ground forces for their inability to capture and perhaps hold territory with no help from the air force and the Navy. The obvious answer would be ‘Negative’. There is little doubt that IDF’s all facets, which is land, air and sea forces, faced challenges which were difficult to overcome. The lack of actionable intelligence and a poor strategy further compounded the problems. This campaign was a classic example of how closely integrated battles are the best form of application of combat power.

4.Another aspect which bothered many was the brewing resentment in the minds of the IDF’s land force commanders in appointment of an airmen as the IDF’s Chief of Staff. Were there inner problems that marred the application of the land forces initially by the ground commanders? In the study of the campaign, there exists no such evidence of a larger conspiracy designed to sabotage Halutz’s strategy to justify any interservice rivalry. However there is no evidence of the argument that it was Halutz’s natural strategy to go in for a standoff offensive primarily driven by IAF. In fact there was a general inertia amongst the land commanders and the civilian leaders to press into a massive land operation. Whatever the reason may have been, it is safe to assume that the campaigns hard realities and the failures would not allow another airman to be appointed as the Chief of Staff in the near future.

5.At the end of the research, it is now the apt time to bring about the hypothesis for its verification. The hypothesis was that whether application of Air Power alone is enough to win a battle? Can Air Power completely replace the need for ground forces? The research dwelt into the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war and studied in detail the reasons for a near failure of the Israeli forces, an outcome that the world is not used to. After all the Israeli application of combat power and the disproportionate results has been the talking point of the military students all over the world. After having gone over the research, it will be correct to say that the application of mere air power will almost never win a battle and hence air power cannot replace the need for ground forces. Winning any future battle would require the application of joint and integrated power to deliver the knockout punch. Hence the hypothesis is proved incorrect.

6.The decision to press with a standoff strategy and exclude the employment of ground forces must not be taken as an inability of the air power to bring about a decision. However this decision alone may not be able to fetch victory. The underlying problem was a flawed grand strategy and poor course of action at the commencement of the conflict itself. It must be appreciated that the lessons of this conflict were understood well by an intelligent military leadership and the execution of the subsequent conflict, Operation Cast Lead with Hamas. This operation epitomized excellent preparation, understanding ends and means and integrated approach. The clear lesson that must be appreciated by all is that exclusive means of approaching even a low intensity conflict will be troublesome, even for a technologically advanced force. The sure way to decisive victory in such operations would be the joint application of combat power so that weaknesses of an exclusive service can be overcome by the strengths of the other.

[1] M.Matthews, Matt. "We Were Caught Unprepared : The 2006 Hezbollah-Israeli War." usacac.army.mil. 2008. http://usacac.army.mil/cac2/cgsc/carl/download/csipubs/matthewsOP26.pdf (accessed Aug 16, 1105 Hrs, 2014). P. 61.

[2] Ibid. P. 62.

[3] Lambeth, Benjamin S. “Air Operations in Israel's War Against Hezbollah.” www.rand.org. 2011. http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/monographs/2011/RAND_MG835.pdf (accessed Aug 16, 1110 Hrs, 2014). Pp. 209-211.

[4] Matthews. Op.cit. Pp.63-65.

[5] Issacharoff, Amos arel & Avi. 34 Days-Israel, Hezbollah, and the War in Lebonan. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008. P. 87.

[6] Lambeth. Op.cit. Pp. 307-309.

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