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Ex-IAF Chief: Concept of 'Decisive Victory' Less Relevant Today

Maj. Gen. (res.) David Ivry says partial military victories are attainable even if no decisive victory is achieved.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 8/31/2014, 6:18 PM

David Ivry
David Ivry
Flash 90

Former IAF Chief Maj. Gen. (res.) David Ivry says, in a new article, that Israel needs to rethink the concepts of ‘deterrence’ and ‘decisive victory’, which are less relevant in today's assymetrical battlefields.

“Limited-scale, asymmetrical conflicts have become the norm. All-out wars between states where both parties invest all of their national resources in an attempt to achieve a decisive victory have become less relevant,” writes Ivry, who is now President of Boeing Israel, in a paper for the BESA Center.

“David Ben-Gurion’s conceptual trinity of ‘deterrence’, ‘early warning’ and ‘decisive victory’ is no longer fully valid,” he explains. “These concepts should no longer be used as the only or main criterion when evaluating military and political moves made in the context of the new situation.”

“While ‘deterrence’ remains relevant to preventing total war, we may lose the ability to deter violence in specific situations, such as launching rockets at Israel by terrorist organizations,” he posits, and “in the context of limited-scale conflicts, partial military victories are attainable even if no decisive victory is achieved.”

The deterrence achieved after the Second Lebanon War, he says, was not necessarily the result of the severe blow inflicted on the Dahiyeh suburb of Beirut and the destruction of Hezbollah’s long-range missiles. Rather, he reminds readers, during the last day before the ceasefire came into effect, Hezbollah launched some 250 rockets into Israeli territory and declared this as a victory. It subsequently acquired a dominant role in the politics of Lebanon – and this political role contributed to the subsequent calm along the Israel-Lebanon border.

“The deterrence of the last eight years seemingly achieved in Lebanon was not achieved because of the accomplishments of the Israeli military,” Ivry determines. “It was not the result of the Israeli military blow, but the result of Hezbollah’s fears of losing their political accomplishments in Lebanon in the event of another conflict with Israel. Indeed, Hezbollah has not stopped preparing forces, materiel and arms for a future war. Instead, deterrence resulted from other developing interests over which Israel had no control or influence, such as the Syrian civil war.”

Under current conditions, with video cameras everywhere, high sensitivity to civilian casualties, and the need for domestic and foreign support, “achieving a decisive victory is close to impossible,” says Ivry, who commanded the IAF when it successfully attacked the nuclear reactor in Iraq in 1981. Therefore, “investments should be made in active and passive defense so as to enable discretion regarding the offensive operations. The better protected the rear area is, the less we will be dragged into unreasonable or insufficiently prepared scenarios.”

“It is desirable to plan for short-term confrontations lasting no more than a few days. In this way, the IDF can bring its superior firepower to bear in concentrated fashion, making a powerful psychological impact on the enemy, and doing so before international political backing wanes (as it inevitably does when the images of destruction broadcast by the media begin to gnaw away at support for Israel). Israel must strike swiftly and determinedly while the casualty parameter is still within the range regarded as proportionate.”