January 11, 2014

MOBILITY, MOBILITY, MOBILITY:

The Ingenious General (Edward N. Luttwak, 1/11/14, Project Syndicate)

Consider the Yom Kippur War. On October 16, 1973, ten days after Egypt's army surprised the Israelis by crossing the Suez Canal, Sharon turned defeat into victory by leading his own troops across the canal through a narrow gap in the Egyptian front. The Israelis swiftly spread out behind the Egyptians, overrunning anti-aircraft batteries and blocking supply and reinforcement routes.

Within six days, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat had to plead for an immediate, unconditional ceasefire: so many Egyptian units were cut off, wrecked by air strikes, under attack, or fully encircled that no major forces were left to stop the advancing Israelis - not even to guard the road to Cairo.

The Egyptian high command was convinced that Sharon's crossing was only an overnight raid by light forces. Their reasoning was sound: The Israelis did not control even their own side of the canal, so they could not possibly reinforce the first wave of a few hundred men with a handful of tanks. Rather than pulling their units back across the canal to chase the raiding Israelis, the Egyptian commanders believed that their forces could capture all of them by converging toward one another, thus closing the two-mile gap that Sharon had exploited.

Sharon's superiors agreed with their Egyptian counterparts. They ordered Sharon to stop sending forces across the canal, and instead to widen the gap on the Israeli side. Sharon did not obey, pleading communications difficulties while sending as many of his forces as possible across the canal. He calculated that attacking the Egyptians from their own rear - destroying the missile batteries that impeded the Israeli air force, ambushing reinforcements and supplies, and simply causing massive confusion across the entire front - would induce organizational collapse in the Egyptian army.

That is exactly what happened. But Sharon's fellow generals were furious at him, as was often the case.


Posted by at January 11, 2014 9:25 AM
  
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