Rethinking Contemporary Warfare
A Sociological View of the Al-Aqsa Intifada
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: State University of New York Press
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At the outset, we would like to thank all of the soldiers and officers who answered our many questions, often with great candor and consideration. Next we express our gratitude to the people who worked ...
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In this volume we examine the combat experience of Israel's ground forces in the Al-Aqsa Intifada that erupted in September 2000. We contend that the case of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in this conflict allows us to explore debates about how the armed forces of industrial democracies wage contemporary war. Our book, however, is not another addition to scholarly works focusing on the broad social and...
2. Methodology, Analysis, and Positioning
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Our period of research spanned just over five years—from July 2000 to October 2005. During this time we gathered data primarily through interviews and focus groups with over 150 soldiers and officers belonging to the IDF’s ground combat units. In addition, we had long discussions with individuals belonging to various branches of the Ground Forces Command and army training...
3. Schoolbook Wars—Textbook Units
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Before moving on to analyze the experience of the IDF in the Al-Aqsa Intifada, let us explore the image of what we call "textbook units," since the differences between this representation and the actual reality of combat units are at the base of our argument. We argue that the IDF, like many armed forces around the world, still bases much of its training, preparation, and operation on images of conventional...
4. War on the Frontier
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A term that was often used among (mainly Jewish) Israelis referring to the Al-Aqsa Intifada at its beginnings was "the situation" (ha-matsav). The term and its ostensibly dispassionate connotation seemed - perhaps like the phrase "The Troubles" used in Northern Ireland at the end of the 1960s - to indicate the difficulties of classifying the conflict in any conventional textbook manner. Thus, for instance, journalist...
5. The IDF Reacts
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During the first few months of the Al-Aqsa Intifada, Israel's top generals set a rather self-congratulatory tone in regard to how the conflict was waged. The tone was set, as Oren, a military analyst for Ha'aretz newspaper, observes, because the conflict was pursued without many Israeli casualties, without it transforming into a wider war, and without the intrusion of foreign forces into the region (HA October 5, 2001). ...
6. Swift Trust, Speedy Organizing
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In popular imagery, scholarly portrayals, and professional depictions, "unit cohesion" - the organic imagery of military forces - is seen as a prime precondition for effective military action (Kellet 1987). Thus, for example, synthesizing and integrating previous writings, Smith (1983) states that of all motivating factors - group cohesion, unit allegiance and pride, ideology and patriotism, lack of alternatives, ...
7. "Tactical Bubbles," "Civilian Seductions," and "Three-Block Warfare"
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This chapter is an analysis of the social and organizational dynamics of military units and individual experiences in urban warfare. Its focus is thus on combat taking place in citified, urban environments characterized both by intense friction between armed forces and highly complex relations with civilian noncombatants. While our focus is on cities, urban environments are diverse and also include suburbs, large villages or towns, industrial parks, ...
8. The Sociology and Psychology of Contemporary Urban Warfare
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To briefly recapitulate the wider argument of this book, the social scientific study of the military has, on the whole, adopted the traditional doctrinal view of modern, conventional war and warfare and consequently has developed concepts suited to what we call textbook units. This view, to put it somewhat simply but not inaccurately, centered on large formations of infantry and armor engaged in combat over open territories marked by the...
9. Technology, Gender, and New Combat Roles
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The "separation barrier" constructed along the northern part of the West Bank has been at the center of much attention during the past few years. The common IDF term for the barrier is "the seam zone" (merkhav hatefer), a somewhat optimistic label referring to a combination of security measures, crossing points, and transportation arteries linking its two sides. The barrier itself, however, comprises ditches, patrol roads, delaying hedges, electronic...
10. "Human Rights," "Precision Warfare," and Violence
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The organizational structures and practices through which the IDF pursued the Al-Aqsa Intifada are different from the ones used in the previous intifada. The major part of the previous intifada (the Palestinian uprising) saw the use of mass beatings, the arrests of large numbers of people for lengthy periods, and the rather limited use of elite forces. In this conflict, we find first a host of new structures and practices related to what may be called...
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In the introduction to this volume we argued that to the analytical frameworks developed to study "conventional" wars and "textbook" units, social scientists need to add new concepts based on the way conflicts are actually waged in contemporary circumstances. To reiterate a point made earlier, social scientists need to go beyond concepts developed to examine combat units in World War II and Korea, or the Israeli wars of 1967 and 1973. ...
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Page Count: 212
Publication Year: 2010
Series Title: SUNY series in Israeli Studies
Series Editor Byline: Russell Stone