Organizational Forms and New Wars

Back to The Israeli Military

 
 
In 2010 I published a co-authored book on the Israeli military in the Al-Aqsa Intifada. The volume places the violent friction between Israeli troops and Palestinians within the global context of the “new wars” and an increasing importance of a new global human rights regime. We utilized an analysis of this one conflict to formulate new ideas and frames for the analysis of combat and contemporary military missions. Theoretically, the volume thus proposed a broad conceptual shift in the social scientific study of armed struggle and the new tasks carried out by current-day ground forces.

We argue that to the conceptual tools developed for studying ‘conventional’ wars and ‘textbook’ units, social scientists need to add new analytical frameworks based on the way conflicts are actually waged in contemporary circumstances. By ‘textbook’ units and ‘conventional’ wars we refer to the combat forces that have participated in World War Two and Korea, or the Israeli wars of 1967 and 1973. These wars are important in two respects: first, they offer the major template for military professionals for the training, preparation and deployment of ground forces; and second, they provide the basic conceptual tools developed by social scientists over the past fifty years for understanding combat – the localized, violent encounter between two or more forces.

Today’s ‘New Wars’ such as the Al-Aqsa Intifada, however, present a much messier reality that includes both high and low intensity conflict, periods of extreme and minimal stress, the increased presences of the media and human rights movements, militarized policing, or the martial administration and regulation of civilian populations. As of yet, however, very little social scientific work has been devoted to conceptualizing the psychological, sociological or organizational dynamics of military units participating in such struggles. Social scientists studying contemporary conflicts tend to continue using the same kinds of concepts developed in regard to conventional wars – leadership, cohesion, stress – to analyze ‘irregular,’ ‘sub-conventional’ or ‘unconventional’ wars.

In contrast, we develop an alternative set of theoretical propositions to analyze the emergent order of the IDF’s ground forces in the Al-Aqsa Intifada’s varied contexts. Throughout the chapters we offer such notions as tight and loose-coupling between units, hybrids and in-between organizations that mediate the relations between ground forces and their civilian environments, the development of local knowledge and organizational improvisations not dictated by military doctrine, the ‘strategic corporal’ whose actions may carry significant political repercussions, or the militarization of civilian environments entailed by urban warfare. Our conceptual move, then, is from an appreciation of how the military is a machine for creating order to how it is a machine for creating hybrids, mixes and fusions.

 

Publications

Eyal Ben-Ari Mastering Soldiers: Conflict, Emotions and the Enemy in an Israeli Military Unit. Oxford: Berghahn Books, 1998. [Book Link]

Eyal Ben-Ari Masks and Soldiering: The Israeli Army and the Palestinian Uprising, Cultural Anthropology, 4(4):372‑89, 1989.[PDF | Download]

Eyal Ben-Ari,Zev Lehrer, Uzi Ben-Shalom and Ariel Vainer Rethinking the Sociology of Combat: Israel’s Combat Units in the Al-Aqsa Intifada. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2010. [Book Link]

PowerPoint


Uploaded on authorSTREAM by eyalba

Uzi Ben-Shalom, Zev Lehrer and Eyal Ben-Ari Cohesion During Military Operations? A Field Study on Combat units in the Al-Aqsa Intifada. Armed Forces and Society 32(1): 63-79, 2005.

Eyal Ben-Ari Between Violence and Restraint: Human Rights, Humanitarian Consequences and the Israeli Military in the Al-Aqsa Intifada. In Ted van Baarda and Desirée Verweij (eds.): The Moral Dimension of Asymmetrical Warfare: Counter-terrorism, Democratic Values and Military Ethics. Amsterdam: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. 231-46, 2009.

PowerPoint


Uploaded on authorSTREAM by eyalba

Eyal Ben-Ari Human Security, the Military and the (Israeli) State: “In-Between Organizations” at Checkpoints. In Jaap de Wilde and Monica den Boer (eds.): New Directions in the Study of Human Security. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press. Pp. 127-48, 2008.

PowerPoint


Uploaded on authorSTREAM by eyalba