Friday, December 15, 2017

Margin of Victory Review in the Jerusalem Post

DECEMBER 13, 2017
Douglas Macgregor’s new book draws lessons from five key battles, including the Yom Kippur War
RETIRED US Army Col. Douglas Macgregor commanded US armored forces in the Battle of 73 Easting, the decisive tank engagement of the 1991 Gulf War, and is now a leading military tactician.

Macgregor’s groundbreaking books, “Breaking the Phalanx” (Praeger 1997) and “Transformation under Fire” (Praeger 2003) have profoundly influenced thinking about transformation inside America’s ground forces, NATO, the Israel Defense Forces and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. His books are available in Chinese and Hebrew.

Macgregor is widely recognized as an expert on organizational design and grand strategy. And his most recent book, “Margin of Victory: Five Battles That Changed the Face of Modern War” includes a chapter on Israel’s “come-from-behind” victory in the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

In an interview with The Jerusalem Report, Macgregor discusses his latest book’s lessons for the US and Israeli militaries and the factors that were responsible for Israel’s remarkable victories in 1973.

Macgregor is now Executive Vice President of Burke-Macgregor Group, LLC in Reston, Virginia.

The Report: What is your book’s message? Macgregor: The message of “Margin of Victory” is simple: Washington and its allies must reorient the US Armed Forces’ (especially the US Army’s) thinking and modernization toward fighting future wars of decision; nation-state wars that are fought against opponents with armies, air forces and air defenses, not open-ended interventions to suppress weak insurgents or build nations where none exist. Wars of Decision are fought with the expectation of eventual conflict termination based on the attainment of a defined political-military end state. These are wars the United States cannot afford to lose.

The hard truth is if today’s US Army Ground Forces were hit and hit hard, if American Commanders faced an air defense threat, rocket artillery, cruise missiles, and a capable armored ground force, these troops and their commanders would be shocked, even paralyzed.

It’s why “Margin of Victory” warns that change inside military establishments before and during war is always painful because adjustments to warfighting organizations and modernization threaten more people and institutions than we can count.

Inevitably, in the fight for badly needed changes in thinking, organization, structure, technology, and human capital, the enemy is not external. The enemy is us.

The Report: In “Margin of Victory,” you devote an entire chapter to the fighting in the Suez region during the 1973 War. Despite the early defeats and the severe air and armor losses, what turned the tide for the Israelis? Macgregor: What reversed the disasters of the first ten days of the Sinai campaign and eventually secured battlefield victory for Israel was Israel’s human capital in uniform.

I explain that Israeli forces prevailed in 1973 because Israeli officers did not send their men into battle; they led them into battle.

As I write in my book, “Senior commanders routinely went to the points on the ground where the action was critical and ensured the Israeli fighting forces received the resources they needed to be successful.

In the Egyptian military such behavior was the exception, not the rule.”

Israel’s unified military command structure with supporting general staff ensured that the two-front war did not overtax Israel’s military resources. These actions combined to ensure unity of effort on the strategic and operational levels creating a margin of victory Egypt could not match.

The Report: What are the lessons of the 1973 war for the IDF and Israel’s security today? Macgregor: To survive and prevail in 21st century close combat, the vast majority of Israeli, American and European soldiers must be protected; ideally, mounted in tracked armored platforms equipped with accurate, devastating firepower.

When tightly integrated with Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance (ISR) and Strike (Stand-off Attack) capabilities, a smaller number of more highly trained mobile armored combat formations manned by intelligent soldiers can accomplish more in the future than the mass armies of the past.

Human capital is a recurring theme in “Margin of Victory.” National culture is responsible for the pool of high-quality soldiers, sailors, and airmen that populate the armed forces and for the emergence of tens of thousands of exceptional leaders at the tactical and operational levels who can analyze, synthesize, and inspire.

Culture is the foundation for human capital.

For example, the quality of the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) training together with superior, aggressive leadership compensated for the IJA’s numerical inferiority on the ground in its fighting with the British in Malaysia during 1942.

The Report: Given the weakness and instability in Iraq and Syria and the reemergence of Iran, what should Israel’s military concerns and responses in force planning of force structure and training of units be today and in the immediate future? Macgregor: Israel’s experience in a series of wars has repeatedly taught the critical lesson that “one size does not fit all” – diversity of capability is vital to success.

However, I caution that in a future conflict with the Turks, Iranians or Russians, the exponential increase in the lethality of modern weapons makes light infantry – whether airborne, airmobile, or amphibious – a niche capability, not the foundation for a 21st century ground maneuver force.

IT IS more important to remember that target sets do not automatically equate to strategy or influence. With the IDF’s opponents in Southern Lebanon in mind, I would add the reminder that carefully concealed sites are also notoriously hard to target.

As I write in my book, “Only the decisive use of mobile armored forces in offensive maneuver operations, combined with the striking power of the Israeli air force and high-angle mortar, artillery, and rocket fire, can fix these mobile targets for armor and armored infantry to finish them off.”

The Report: Since 9/11, the global focus has been on counter-insurgency operations rather than land battle and major scale combat operations. Is Israel following this trend and should it continue to do so? Macgregor: If today’s US Army and Marine four-star generals have not figured it out, at least the American people know there is no point in trying to breathe new life into the comatose body of the perpetually failed states that litter the eastern hemisphere with American military power.

This is why “Margin of Victory” argues that the last major war’s technologies, force designs, and human capital strategies are seldom, if ever, perfect solutions for the next major war.

With the enemy at the gates, Israelis understand this point better than most.

The Report: Israel is focused on the Iranian threat. Are there other major conflicts with neighbors such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt or Russia it should also either a) make provisional plans for, or b) take exceptional efforts to avert? Macgregor: How [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan’s policies will play out in the shadow of Russian military power in Syria and on Turkey’s Caucasian border is hard to predict. After 1967, the Israelis gave little serious thought to the possibility that the Egyptians would do anything rash like start a war. Tel Aviv should not make this mistake when dealing with the Turks.

Erdogan’s readiness to cooperate with Moscow and Tehran suggest Erdogan is willing to set aside his visceral distaste for Shi’ite Persians and Orthodox Russians in favor of an arrangement that promises to constrain, undermine or destroy Israel and the West.

In addition, unlike the Iranian population that is resolutely non-martial and largely insulated from Iran’s military adventures in Iraq and Syria, the Turkish population is intensely proud of its Ottoman military heritage and stands behind Erdoğan.

Tel Aviv and Washington should also monitor Erdoğan’s close relationship with Islamabad and Islamabad’s potential to assist Ankara with nuclear weapons on short notice. Ankara’s confidence in this relationship is one of the reasons why Tehran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon never worried Ankara.

In summary, I believe that Israel confronts a new strategic environment in which Tel Aviv is unlikely to enjoy a nuclear monopoly.

This development will put a premium on the IDF’s capabilities for high-end conventional warfare to ensure the necessity for nuclear weapons does not arise.

For Washington, the key lesson of the last 16 years is that bungled military interventions like those in Iraq and Afghanistan could distract the warring Islamist parties from their struggle with each other and impart cohesion to the anti-Israeli/anti-Western coalition of Turks, Russians and Iranians

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