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Yom Kippur War Lessons Still Relevant

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AUSA
Thursday, June 07, 2018

A discussion about the 1973 Yom Kippur War and the lessons it holds for future conflicts was held June 5 at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan Conference and Event Center.

Sponsored by AUSA’s Institute of Land Warfare and the Israeli Institute for Advanced Military Thinking, retired Israeli Defense Force Brig. Gen. Gideon Avidor, a former armor officer, provided observations about his experience as an operations officer. Retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, a former U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command deputy commanding general, moderated the discussion.

Avidor offered insight into the human elements of warfare and the element of surprise, and how flawed assumptions spanning the strategic, operational and tactical levels of command contributed to the initial defeat of Israeli forces along the Suez Canal.

These assumptions contributed to inadequate assessment of available information which resulted in the initial success of the Egyptian offensive. Resiliency of its small units and rapid dissemination of tactical lessons learned in a communications-denied environment enabled the IDF to gain situational understanding, reorganize and regain the initiative.

A critical factor contributing to the ultimate success of the IDF was its application of a mission command-like approach to command and control, Avidor said. Mission command, built upon training and trust, empowered junior Israeli leaders with an understanding of the broader intent and the authority to act with disciplined initiative to regain the tactical momentum lost in the initial surprise attack by the Egyptian Army.  

The Israeli experience in the Yom Kippur War provides lessons relevant to the U.S. Army today and in the future, said retired U.S. Army Col. Daniel S. Roper, director of national security studies at AUSA’s Institute of Land Warfare. “While it is necessary to make assumptions about the character of emerging strategic, operational and tactical threats, it is imperative to challenge those assumptions with contrary and uncomfortable ideas that generate new and creative thinking about the problem to be faced,” Roper said. “Perhaps most importantly, in order for a mission command philosophy to be effective, it must be part of the Army’s culture, not simply a set of procedures.”