The following essay explores some of the problems with “lessons learned.” It offers a few tentative observations on the limitations and dangers of lessons. To illustrate these (but not necessarily prove them), it then looks at the experiences of the Israel Defence Forces, particularly its armoured forces, from 1948 to 1973. Finally, three recommendations discuss how military organizations might reduce the danger of lessons leading them astray.
In this article, I offer an ethnographic examination of neoliberal techniques of control through absence by the Israeli military, the state institution most associated with discipline, indoctrination, and direct coercion. I highlight the ways that the apparent withdrawal of the state from practices of indoctrination and the punishment of conscientious objectors are accompanied by a shift in recruitment and training that emphasizes self-advancement and social mobility above national and ideological commitments. While in the past the Israeli state and military focused exclusively on shaping self-sacrificing citizens, today it invests a great deal of its effort in structuring the calculated choices of self-interested individuals toward favorable outcomes. I explore the uneven but strategic deployment of incentivized governance and consider some of the effects of these techniques for the meaning of engaged citizenship and the politics of state violence in a militarized society. Further, I demonstrate that the lightening of disciplinary sanctions in favor of individual freedom is an effective form of weakening dissent and that it confounds efforts to constitute organized resistance to militarism, leaving activists floundering to find effective ways to express their political concerns.
Marcus, Raphael D. “Military Innovation and Tactical Adaptation in the Israel–Hizballah Conflict: The Institutionalization of Lesson-Learning in the IDF.” Journal of Strategic Studies 38.4 (2015): 500-28.
This article highlights a pattern of military adaptation and tactical problem-solving utilized by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) while engaged in protracted conflict with the Lebanese militant group Hizballah. It discusses the IDF’s recent attempts to institutionalize their historically intuitive process of ad-hoc learning by developing a formal tactical-level mechanism for ‘knowledge management’. The diffusion of this battlefield lesson-learning system that originated at lower-levels of the organization is examined, as well as its implementation and effectiveness during the 2006 Lebanon War. A nuanced analysis of IDF adaptation illustrates the dynamic interplay between both ‘top-down’ and ‘bottom-up’ processes of military innovation.