As far back as 2005, even before the Second Lebanon War, operations research specialist Haim Assa and Yedidia Yaari, formerly the commander of the IDF Navy and IDF Naval Commandos, had devised and formulated a new concept of warfare intended to match the changes identified in the nature of warfare at the outset of the 21st century.
The “diffused warfare” concept was intended to provide a solution to the threats that emerged in the era following the high-intensity wars, which were characteristic of the 20th century and faded, to all intents and purposes, pursuant to the fighting experienced in the course of the First Lebanon War. The Israeli military devoted substantial efforts to an attempt to learn from the experience of other armed forces as well as to an attempt to understand the new needs and find solutions through a different way of employing military power.
For a campaign of the type in question, the authors thought that a different kind of warfare was required. They also maintained that a military overbalance in such a campaign had a different meaning than the prevailing concept of overbalance. Against that background, the heads of the Israeli defense establishment were asked to develop a new concept that would be suitable for the battlefields of that time and for those that are likely to evolve within the changing political-social environment.
Reflections, conclusions and new ways to employ military power had been deliberated previously at IDF Central Command under Maj. Gen. Moshe Ya’alon, at the Operational Theory Study Institute of the David Elazar Center for Interdisciplinary Thinking, which dealt primarily with conceptualization and seeking solutions at the operative level.
The authors were members of a team established by IDF Chief of Staff Ya’alon in March 2003, in an attempt to consolidate a new concept for “a different military” – an approach that would suit the asymmetrical battlefield. The primary principles of the new concept, were diffused warfare using dynamic, nuclear force structures. According to the authors, diffused warfare, and the network that enables it, provided, for the very first time, a real option for developing a new type of armed conflict. This conflict would not only be much more effective in its execution, but additionally – and primarily – it would be more selective, accurate and proportionate in a manner that would make it possible to minimize indiscriminate killing and destruction.
After the Second Lebanon War, the real need for a new combat doctrine for the asymmetrical battlefield arose again, even more acutely. On this battlefield, a powerful yet vulnerable side – the state – fought against a weaker but more resilient side – a cellular, amorphous terrorist organization, dispersed wide and deep among the layers of a sympathetic civilian population.
Along with the entire West (and some eastern forces such as the Russians in Afghanistan and subsequently in Chechnya), Israel is engaged in a campaign that pointed to changes in the nature of warfare.
Based on the conclusions drawn from the Second Lebanon War, Operation Cast Lead, Operation Pillar of Defense and Operation Protective Edge, and equally based on the conclusions drawn from the operations of the coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, Assa and Yaari draw the battlefield of the early 21st century and the steps the IDF should take in order to emerge victorious from that battlefield.
In the new edition, the authors included three additional chapters: “Situational Awareness”, “Utilizing the Information” and “Operation Protective Edge”. These chapters were necessary, in the authors’ opinion, owing to the experience gained through the comprehensive implementation, on the ground, of the diffused warfare concept.
In the authors’ opinion, such notable events as Operation Cast Lead, Operation Pillar of Defense and the drone war waged by the CIA in Afghanistan constitute undisputable proof of the implementation of the concept. It is unclear whether all of the field of commanders of the IDF had, indeed, internalized the concept and operated in accordance with it on the battlefields of the new era.
Haim Assa has a PhD in philosophy and degrees in mathematics and operations research from the Technion. He leads several research and high-tech R&D organizations and serves as head of the simulation and war game unit at the Tel-Aviv University.
Maj. Gen. (res.) Yedidia Yaari is the former commander of the IDF Navy. He had also commanded the IDF Naval Commandos, and for the past decade has served at CEO of Rafael Advanced Defense Systems (the company that was responsible, among other things, for the development of the Iron Dome system). He holds a degree in philosophy from the University of Haifa.