Customer Review

Reviewed in the United States on June 28, 2002
Martin Van Creveld does an masterful job at writing about the rise and the decline of the IDF. The first part of the is about how the IDF was improvised in the early phases of the First Arabi-Israeli War. According to Van Creveld those who originated from the PALAMCH companies were much more effective in combat compared to their British trained compatriots within the Israeli army. In the middle section Van Creveld criticizes is the IDF's performance in the Suez Canal campaign and the Six Day War. Van Creveld credits the airforces of the British and French in making the Israeli's campaign successful, but the Israelis committed numerous mistakes such the as the paratroop landing at Mitla Pass that was a militarily useless objective. The next chapter Van Creveld questions the IDFs effectiveness during the Six Day War. Van Crevled theorizes that contrary to public opinion the IDF did not practice the much vaunted indircet approach. The IDF mainly attacked the northern and central Egyptian forces in the Sinai. This allowed those Egyptians in the southern sector to escape. The only general to practice the indirect approach was Yoffe, but since Yoffe was an reservist he never received the publicity and the credit that was due to him. The IDF also never made use of combined arms except in the case of Sharon's operations in the Sinai. Van Creveld harshly condems Israeli operations in the opening phases of the Yom Kippur War of 1973. The overcentralized yet disoganized command structure of the IDF led to near disasterous defeats in the early phases of the Yom Kippur War. Van Creveld then evaluates the IDF's performance in Lebanon during the early nineteen eighties. The IDF tried to put too many armored vehicles in a country that had a scarcity of roads. As a result the IDF became bogged down in traffic jams and the PLO was allowed to escape. The IDF proved itself to be incapable of dealing with insurgencys as to seen in their response to the Palestinian uprisings of the late eighties. The IDF would send it's most ill trained sildiers to deal with the uprising. As a result the IDF either used excessive force or prudence, both of which led to defeat. Van Creveld states the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is slowly stagnating the IDF and that the Israelis must pull back from these territories.
Another aspect that is mentioned in the book is the situation of manpower within the IDF. In the first phase of it's history the IDF was a compact, highly trained, and motivated fighting force. But in the seventies and eighties the force became bloated and ineffective. The IDF accepted so many conscripts that all but the elite units were trained effectively.Van Crevled opionizes that the conscription of women has only made the problem worse. Van Creveld tells about how ill educated IDF officers are compared to their foreign counterparts. Unlike most Western nations the IDF has no formal service academy. Instead IDF officers had to prove their leadership ability while as an NCO and then go to officer training school. The attempt to introduce a defense university has only met with failure in Israeli history. In the eighties and nineties a vast majority of educated Israelis opted out of the IDF officer corps. But very ill educated but religious Israelis became a large percentage of the current Israeli officer corps. Van Creveld believes that these new religious officers pose a great threat to Israelis democracy. The only criticisms that I have with the book is that Van Creveld glosses over Israeli operations in the Golan Heights during the 1967 and 1973 wars. Other than these minor criticisms this is by far the best book about the history of the IDF.
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