One of the courses taught to future IDF battalion commanders at the Staff and Command College in Glilot is on the way modern warfare is conducted.
By Yaakov Katz
The Jerusalem Post
The emphasis, these lieutenant colonels are told, is not about which side conquers more territory or loses more fighters – as was the case in conventional battles, such as the 1967 Six Day War – but rather on perception. In other words, the victor is the side that is perceived to have won.
To demonstrate this idea, one of the instructors at the school decided several years ago to show his students the 2002 Hollywood movie, We Were Soldiers, which tells the story of US Lt.-Col. Hal Moore – played by Mel Gibson – who led a battalion of American soldiers in the Battle of la Drang during the Vietnam War.
Moore leads his 400 soldiers into the “Valley of Death” against an entire division of 4,000 Vietnamese soldiers and, at the last second – after hundreds of bodies have piled up on both sides of the valley, with Moore ready to surrender – the Vietnamese commander decides to withdraw first, fearing that the US army is stronger than it really is.
While the Battle of la Drang took place in 1965, officers at the IDF’s Kirya Military Headquarters were discussing it this week in reference to Operation Cast Lead, the current battle against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The common denominator between the two, the officers explained, is that neither was or is about conquering territory, and each was and is about changing the enemy’s perception.
Ultimately, this is what Operation Cast Lead is all about. As a result, the IDF gave it a relatively modest goal – improving the security situation in the South – and not the more grandiose objective of toppling or destroying Hamas. For this reason, the IDF decided on a “shock and awe” policy for the operation.