The Nature of War

In Lieutenant Colonel (Res.) Ron Tira’s “The Nature of War”, war is likened to a game with constantly changing rules. Brigadier General (Res.) Dr. Dani Asher outlines the author’s analysis of various types of confrontations as seen through the prism of conflict in Israel and the world

The Nature of War

Ron Tira’s recently published book (currently only in English) sets forth the many facets of shaping military operations – a field he specializes in, inter alia, as a staff officer in the Israeli Air Force. The author likens war to the children’s game “rock-paper-scissors” - when one side has the advantage of a rock, the opponent develops the advantage of paper, which induces the first side to develop the advantage of a scissors, and in response the opponent develops the advantage of a rock – and so forth. Neither side gains an absolute advantage over its opponent in any move.

Tira shows that the nature of war reflects the dynamic fluctuation between maneuvering and fire, concealment and defense, mobility and obstacle, defensive advantage versus attack, and resistance versus strike force. Each side develops solutions to its opponent’s challenges (which recalls Newton’s third law of motion: for every action there is a reaction).

Tira examines the diverse aspects and changes involved in shaping the contours of an operation - from the selection of centers of gravity to the identification of the parameters of military decision. He analyzes the dynamics of operation shaping in various types of war: simple symmetrical war, complex asymmetrical war, guerilla war, parallel war, and next generation war.

The chapters include a doctrinal and historical background to the different types of wars. In the case of simple symmetrical war, the author looks at the Six-Day War, in which both sides entered the same battlefield with the same goals in mind. Tira then focuses on complex asymmetric wars fought against regular opponents, taking as examples the Second World War and the Yom Kippur War’s southern front, where the Egyptians upended the Israeli paradigm. The author also discusses the “battle of minds”, supporting his thesis with tables based, inter alia, on the book written by the author of these lines (The Egyptian Strategy for the Yom Kippur War) which describes the changes and solutions the Egyptians applied at the strategic, operative, and tactical levels. The chapter on asymmetric war against a nonstate opponent depicts the encounter between two sides with different goals on the same battlefield. The Vietcong’s strategy and Jihad activity illustrate this type of war. In the fourth chapter, the author looks at parallel war, that is, war between two systems that never meet, as when one side employs massive airpower against an enemy that it perceives as a “system” or “organism”.

An entire chapter is devoted to the Second Lebanon War that the author sees as a parallel war against a non-state enemy. Israel’s two wars in Lebanon are compared and lessons are derived from the comparison. The next chapter deals with the author’s assessment of a future parallel war against a state opponent.

Tira demonstrates that basic assumptions (‘classic military doctrine’) are eroding right in front of our eyes and altering the nature of war. Modern theories and concepts, and their relation to the terms ‘victory’, ‘military decision’, ‘center of gravity’, and ‘the decisive battle’ as conceived by Israel and the United States, are already irrelevant in many cases and will be even more so in the future.

Tira argues that in the future, Israel and the Western states may find themselves in a war against a regular state army that adopts a guerilla paradigm which challenges the ‘classic military doctrine’. The author contends that in such a scenario, a direct blow to the enemy, one that neutralizes his ability to realize his goal, will be practically impossible. Therefore, a military decision and victory can only be achieved by destroying the enemy’s freedom to fight, by undermining his war paradigm and ability to determine the type of war, and by attacking his centers of gravity known from previous wars.

The book is rich in tables and illustrations that clarify the changes and developments in the nature of war throughout history, with an emphasis on the present.

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