The Prussian General Staff: Meritocracy in Arms. Part 3b.

Image ‘PB383’ by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Released under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) License.


The Prussian General Staff influence and legacy (II)

In the previous part, the legacy and influence of the Prussian General staff in the current German armed forces and the US armed forces was reviewed, pointing the elements that remains in the case of the Bundeswehr along those absent while considering Germany is the main inheritor of the Prussian General Staff. The interest and slow but steady adoption – and implementation – of the General Staff system and its principles within the American armed forces.

The US is not the only example of an army interested in adopting the General Staff system and its principles. For instance, the British Empire, Russia/Soviet Union and France also introduced this system in full or in part, and just like the US, as a result of a needed change of doctrines evidenced by their own operational experiences. But it was during WWII, that such adaptation became necessary so to match the Germans’ doctrine in the case of the US, Great Britain and Russia, following Corum (2009).

The British Empire

In the British case, such implementation was gradual, with WWII being the final catalyst. British implementation and adaptation of the General Staff system started after witnessing the impressive performance of the Prussian Army in the German Unification Wars and the Franco-Prussian War, with the Boer War sparking further reforms. By 1912, a publication structuring the British Staff functioning appeared, being a mixture of the Prussian/General Staff with the British approach[1]. During WWII, Bernard Montgomery, head of the 8th army and rival of Rommel, further introduced the General Staff system in that army. Nevertheless, the figure of Chiefs of Staff was only for units of corps level upwards, until the 1980’s (Johnston, 2008). This was a stark contrast with Prussia/Germany.

The Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force (RAF) also established their own Staff Systems. In the Royal Navy’s case, in 1911 a General Staff was implemented by Winston Churchill after a strong opposition by many Sea Lords, with a dual staff system being implemented in the interwar period with a Chief of Staff for operations and an officer for support. A supporting body denominated the ‘Secretariat’ was also established. But this Staff was not as functional as that of the British Army (Johnston, 2008). In the case of the RAF, its own General Staff system was a product of the Army’s strong influence during its emergence. The RAF General Staff had three branches: air, technical and administration, having equal ranking and separate heads at tactical level, with the last two branches working under a single officer and the air branch having its own officer (Johnston, 2008).

Russia/Soviet Union

The Russian/Soviet case is also interesting in the way the General Staff system evolved there. Following Eisel (1993), a first stage is when the General Staff system (on its Frederician format) was introduced by Peter the Great, due to his admiration for the West thus basing such on the Prussian and Swedish models. It was enhanced through time mainly on its education and selection processes, addressing perceived gaps. A second phase is a more sophisticated and complex Russian/Soviet General Staff, yet suffering a direct and high political influence. This version is product of the training provided to Soviet officers by German officers in exchange for clandestine facilities for manoeuvres in the USSR[2]. In peacetime, the Soviet General Staff was subordinated to the Ministry of Defence; in wartime, it was subordinated to the STAVKA, the highest instance with decision-making powers in the USSR, and the Secretary General of the Communist Party, along many top officers being part of it (Eisel, 1993). The odds for political influence in the military, hampering its performance, were pretty high, since important political figures were part of the high commanding body (in wartime) and the General Staff was a mere subordinate. The risks of the “courtesan officers” keen on playing politics were also high, as well as politicization of the army, nepotism and corruption.

The Soviet General Staff had a similar role like its Prussian/German counterpart. According to Eisel (1993), the Soviet General Staff was tasked with basic strategic planning and defining missions for each service, with the particularity of being comprised by officers from all branches (evidencing a highly centralized command structure), and with their organizations’ performance and individual fidelity to the party and its affairs as grounds for promotion and future assignments. This also increased the risks mentioned in the previous paragraph.


The French case is equally interesting, considering that France was the nation that suffered the most under the efficiency and abilities (not to say the principles) of the Prussian/German General Staff. Such background also forced this nation to adopt many of the principles of the Prussian General Staff after its defeat in 1871. First, and following Eisel (1993), the French military realized the need to overhaul its own staff system, which was organized upon functional lines but came to stagnation after Napoleon I disappeared, considering such system emerged during his reign[3]. Then, a Staff training school was established in 1818, with Staff Officers having a rotary service between staff and field tasks like the Prussian General Staff officers. An 1833 reform made officers to serve for General Staff after being selected, and to include in the curriculum planning and drafting of maps; despite this, bad performance and defeat were the final outcome given the way the General Staff system was implemented by the French.

The resulting operational (bad) performance and defeat in 1871, prompted the French Army to implement reforms more in line with the Prussian General Staff principles. According to Eisel (1993), after the Crimean and Franco-Prussian War, educational reforms were implemented with officers rotating between General Staff and field tasks. And after WWII two military bodies were established in 1950 to enhance preparedness. There is a National Defence General Staff with a military officer as a head and who in turn is subordinated to the French Prime Minister, followed by the Armed Forces General Staff with its own Chief of Staff.

Israel: General Staff with a special touch

Israel is another example where the General Staff system and its principles are being applied; if not entirely, at least in part and with the incorporation of very particular characteristics. The direct influence of Prussia in the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) is yet to be established[4]. However, it is clear that many IDF operational principles are similar – or at least are an adaptation of – to those of the Prussians. The context, location, culture and strategic and operational needs of Israel might explain such close resemblance[5].

More in detail, and following Murray (2009) and Senor & Singer (2011), the IDF relies heavily on professionals and the reserve force – similar to Prussia back in the bismarckian era – due to its own population size, which is very small. This requires the IDF to have a small force capable of mobilizing the scarcely available human resources[6]. In addition, the very limited space Israel has, reduces the margin for reaction, all while facing multiple threats and even with a dual-nature threat by facing adversary neighbouring hostile forces and irregular warfare. This also results in a very small number of officers, who also have to manage with tasks more common to higher ranks.

On the same General Staff System, the IDF General Staff is headed by the Chief of General Staff and the Chief of the ground forces, followed by the heads of the Navy and the Air Force, which are the second branch. The heads of different military affairs (Intelligence, Manpower, Operations, and Planning, Technologies and Logistics Directorates) come as the third branch, with the Heads of Operational regions/Theatres (which are four) being the fourth branch, and the heads of various military affairs or officers serving as liaison between the military and the politicians, among others[7].

There are two remarkable characteristics of the IDF General Staff. First, the Intelligence Division, which was – at least by 2002 – the main military intelligence gatherer and analyst of the Middle East and worldwide strategic context, acting also as political advisor to the government and the Defence Minister and the Prime Minister, yet unable to intervene in politics and decision-making, according to Peri (2002). The fact that this division is mainly tasked with awareness of the strategic context resembles another similarity between the IDF General Staff and the Prussian General Staff, as such awareness is crucial for assessing the strategic context and any threat from the surroundings.

But if the Intelligence Division is unable to intervene directly in politics and decision-making processes, the Planning Division of the IDF General Staff can do so. Following Peri (2002), this division can have a role in politics and in any policy-making regarding defence. This division also emerged from the Operations Division and only for military planning, covering in 1969 strategic planning as well as national interests, including political-economic aspect of national security. This is another important parallel of comparison between the IDF General Staff and the Prussian General Staff; while the latter took such aspect into account but not entirely, the former clearly considers such with special attention, recognizing the influence of politics influence in operations, war planning and national defence. This gives the impression that the IDF General Staff is more advanced or complex than the Prussian system on this sphere.

Interestingly, this division became an independent branch within the IDF General Staff with special scope and functions. As Peri (2002) points out, the Planning Division became a fully independent branch of the General Staff, yet subordinated directly to the Chief of General Staff and the Defence Ministry; it is also a joint military-Defence Ministry unit, with faculties to jump into civilian and political spheres. There is another interesting trait of the IDF General Staff. For instance, and according to Peri (2002), the Chief of General Staff acts as the commander of all the branches or services of the IDF, and tasked with preparing for war and of building military power and managing military operations. The Chief of General Staff is also a link between the military and the politicians, being the main military advisor to the government, meaning that politics can permeate heavily the military. The members of the General Staff have, in fact, an important political weight and influence, being crucial in many political processes and events besides the strategic ones, following Murray (2009) and Peri (2002).

One of the most particular characteristic the IDF General Staff has, similarly to the Prussian General Staff are the debriefings. Following Senor & Singer (2011), debriefings take place on a daily basis, for either operations or exercises, including a self-examination even if operations are successful. In addition, sub-officers have more autonomy (planning included) during operations, having also a very adaptable mentality that enables creativity and complexity, at the point of finding solution to problems on their own while in operations (as the Prussian General Staff established in principle), which resulted in new tactics, like those designed in the field by tank crews facing the anti-tank missiles in 1973[8]. This is possible due to the value the IDF gives to flexibility, initiative and innovation. This characteristic is not perfect nor entirely functional or applied entirely, as it will be explained below.

But the most Israeli characteristic that permeates its General Staff system is the same cultural approach this country has. For instance, and according to Senor & Singer (2011), the IDF is framed by two particular cultural approaches: rosh gadol and rosh katan. The first refers to a culture of following orders under what could be an Auftragstaktik approach, while placing aside mere discipline and even challenging the chief or officer; this is the prevailing approach there. The second refers to mere following of orders. That there is a wide rosh gadol approach means that there is a lack of rigid hierarchies with performance being the main criteria and the reason for subordinates to evaluate and even remove a high rank officer. And this cultural trait played a role in two important wars Israel faced: The Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War, as it keeps doing so now.

In relation with the Officers’ Corps, Senor & Singer (2011) remarks that, as the high officer ranks are understaffed (mind the abovementioned population limit), the mid and low rank officers are the most crucial piece within the IDF performing tasks normally a high-ranked officer would do, which benefits the IDF as it stimulates initiative and boosts operational flexibility. This was also critical for the abovementioned wars and the current operations. Combined with the cultural approach mentioned above, the operational efficiency of the IDF is maximized.

Two additional elements increase the impression there are strong similarities between the IDF General Staff and Prussian/German General Staff system, not to say some influence of sorts. First, the high sense of self-criticism and self-learning, along with the premise that mistakes are an acceptable source for learning and improvement, while avoiding ‘standardizations’ (Senor & Singer, 2011). Second, the importance given to technology. However, technology seems to be both an aid and a handicap, as it results in commanders relying heavily on such, losing the ‘sense’ of being in the battlefield and potentially hampering their operational performance when in combat (Senor & Singer, 2011).

Just like the Prussian/General Staff (and the German army), the IDF General Staff and the IDF were tested in combat, highlighting the latter’s qualities and deficiencies. They also provide an empirical example on how the system can contribute a military to address an intense crisis. These tests were the Six-Day War and the War of Atonement[9].

The deficiencies of the IDF General Staff system were very numerous, and at both command and operational level with serious consequences for the IDF performance in combat, which became very evident during the Yom Kippur War.

First, mobilization of reserves was delayed, rushed and disorganized, lacking also a proper alert as the control of the Sinai Peninsula meant that chances for a timely alert were reduced. Reserves weren’t the only units facing problems of mobilization. In fact, the armoured units and the artillery also lacked early warning and were slowly deployed given the same mobilization problems as such was improvised, worsened by the lack of decision (and even the negative by the Defence Minister) by the top-brass to execute a fast mobilization once the conflict started (Herzog, 2006; and Murray, 2009)[10].

Second, the astonishing victories of the Six-Day War and events during the Attrition War made Israel to commit serious strategic mistakes. It underestimated both Syria and Egypt, ignoring that Egypt (specially) began a process of evaluating its own military and the mistakes of 1967, thus failing in detecting Egypt and Syria’s hostile intentions and resulting in operational mistakes that will be explained below. It was estimated that Egypt would not wage a war until having recovered its air power, evidence of the sense of security. In addition, the 1967 victory also resulted in a lack of – crucial – self-examination or criticism and debriefing after the war, preventing the analysis of operational mistakes which were simply ignored, and missing the fact the Egyptians were not well deployed in 1967. It also prevented Israel to foresee the abovementioned evaluation and adaptation process by the adversaries, and their political aims behind a new (limited) war with strong diplomatic manoeuvres[11]. Overconfidence, relaxation, stagnation, arrogance and complacency were also factors behind the wrong assessment on the intentions of the adversary and the capacity of the own forces, as they were considered enough to deal with an aggression. To have some strategic depth was important for Israel (and even so nowadays). Yet paradoxically, the strategic depth the Sinai provided after its seizure in 1967 also reinforced the beliefs the Egyptians would not attack, as their airfields and Israeli southern towns were now wide apart (Herzog, 2003; Herzog, 2006; and Murray, 2009).

Third, operational mistakes with serious implications took place, which were many. For instance, the high emphasis placed on armoured warfare and aviation meant that a doctrine of combined-arms, infantry weaponry and mobility, and night-time warfare were neglected. There was an over-focusing on the tactical sphere at the cost of the overall management of large units in a general (strategic) context or even in the battlefield. Tanks and aviation were considered more than enough for any conflict, even to deal with the AA missiles. The armoured units also lacked good support by the infantry, given this over-focusing at the cost of proper infantry support and mobility, which took some toll on the tanks. Artillery was also hampered, which strained the same Israeli Air Force (IAF) and denying the troops proper fire-support once the IAF was affected by the Egyptian AA missiles. To make matters worse, mobility did not receive enough attention and forces were divided and uncoordinated (benefiting the strategy of the adversary and weakening any counterstrike), along with the fact that the supply system performed poorly as it was strained. The same Bar-Lev line became a problem itself, as it neutralized the Israeli superiority in mobile warfare when it became mere defensive line, and many tactical factors were ignored, like the sand-wall made by the Egyptians as platforms for attacks. There was widespread relaxation and discipline issues, with half-trained reservists manning the Bar-Lev line and accidents and negligence being the norm (Herzog, 2003; Herzog, 2006; and Murray, 2009)[12].

Fourth, the same military intelligence, enrooted within the General Staff, was riddled with mistakes and issues that resulted in the crisis at the earlier stages of the Yom Kippur War. The intelligence failed in providing accurate assessment and early warning to Israel; it did not provide the political and military high command with solid information, hampering a timely mobilization of the reserves as well. Even worse, it dismissed solid evidences on the imminent attacks by the Egyptians and the Syrians, preventing also the acknowledge of data on certain weaponry, like the ‘Sagger’ anti-tank missiles, preventing the adoption of tactics and awareness by the crews of the tanks prior the conflict. Even worse, the information gathered by the Military Intelligence was ‘accommodated’ so to fit in the preconception the adversaries wouldn’t be able to attack, strengthening the deceitful sense of security based upon a wrong evaluation on the adversaries, considering an attack would take place when their air power would be fully re-established. In contrast, the adversaries had an enhanced intelligence that was even capable of ‘penetrating’ the IDF at the point of having sensible information on the Israeli units deployed at the Sinai (Herzog, 2003; Herzog, 2006; and Murray, 2009).

And fifth, the political and high command level had considerable failures with a considerable impact in the IDF performance during the war. For instance, the political leadership failed in providing good guidance prior and during most of the conflict to the military, as well as to wage a counter-diplomacy to answer that of the Egyptians and Syrians, underestimating also their capacity to launch a new attack. Equally, the military leadership – mainly at theatre of operation level – also had important operational and command and control issues. It failed in defining solid and accurate solutions to the problems posed by the Bar-Lev Line, and it failed in assessing and associating correctly events at both the Golan and the Sinai prior the war, and during the conflict it tended to issue wrong orders[13]. Both political and military levels failed in detecting the political aims behind the war by Egypt and Syria, and even the deployment of AA missile defence system by the Egyptians while taking advantage of a ceasefire during the War of Attrition (Herzog, 2006; Murray, 2009).

Such mistakes are explained by a series of political events in the Middle East, which also led to wrong assessments and overconfidence. Following Herzog (2006), the first was the US support and supply of weaponry to Israel; the second was the US defence of Jordan as Syria intended to invade it during its September 1970 Civil War; and the same conflict within Jordan that yielded peace at the border between Jordan and Israel. Interestingly, the IDF General Staff committed another crucial mistake regarding the political context, as it seems that, following Herzog (2003) and Herzog (2006), it ignored the role of the Soviet Union’s critical supplying Egypt and Syria with weaponry as well as with political support, encouraging somehow the 1967 and 1973 wars and the regional instability. It also ignored the weaponization of oil as a mean to support in politics what was to be done through the military.

More in detail, the key political and high military level figures had serious mistakes that, if it wasn’t for the military culture of Israel and the General Staff system, would have had terrible consequences for Israel. Following Herzog (2006), the Ministry of Defence was having interest in some aspects of the armed forces (like frontline and operations and plans) but not in the more daily aspects, neglecting the aspect that ensured the functionality of an army. He also tended to leave most of the responsibilities to the General Staff and the Chief of General Staff as well as the Ministry’s personnel.  And during the crisis, he was unable to cope with it, as he was very cautious, delaying the mobilization orders, and unable to impose his will or reach a decision. The Prime Minister, in turn, tended to be authoritarian, doctrinaire and inflexible, not allowing alternative evaluations and exerting an unorganized style of government (Herzog, 2006). And the same Chief of General Staff was in part responsible for the wrong assessment, although he was also deceived by the wrong intelligence provided. The most worrisome issues regarding the same General Staff were those related to the performance of its different branches, affecting troops discipline, intelligence, equipment and supplies (Herzog, 2006).

But there weren’t issues only at the top political and military levels, as the field-grade ranks or unit-level command had its considerable problems too. For instance, and according to Herzog (2006) and Murray (2009), the Southern Command HQ (Suez Canal/Sinai) was the most problematic, as its commander was still in process of getting used to the scenario (yet this issue was due to the problematic policy of rotational command by the IDF, which limited the commander’s performance), being also the most sceptical commander at field level on the capacity and intention of the adversaries to wage war. He was also deceived by the wrong intelligence. But he was also unable to exert a good command of the troops thus being incapable of addressing the crisis and even contributing in immobilizing the troops at the Bar-Lev Line, worsened by the inaccurate plans the previous commander – Sharon – which consisted on the IDF resisting and then counterattacking as soon as possible without waiting for the reserve forces. And when it counterattacked, it resulted in heavy casualties as such lacked coordination and proper artillery support, as well as lacking concentration. Orders were also inaccurate.

The Northern Command HQ (Golan) was also having issues of its own, but were a fairy-tale in contrast to those the Southern Command HQ faced. This Command was having a very competent commander, but it failed in having a common HQ for the two armoured brigades that allowed independence but at the cost of coordination. Yet one of the brigades had an officer that also underestimated the Syrian while dispersed too much its armoured units. Here, the lack of infantry support to the tank units was also being felt. Nevertheless, operations here were more successful than in the Sinai (Murray, 2009).

As it was abovementioned, these operational and command issues were neutralized by the IDF capacities and by the same General Staff system, as well as the skills the high command and the single soldier had. The following positive aspects and measures taken during the conflict evidence the possibility of the General Staff system to neutralize or compensate for these kind of issues, as it was intended originally to do; this was maximized by the fact it was implemented within a proper (military) cultural context. The adversary also played a role in helping the IDF and its General Staff system, as it committed more mistakes than the Israeli alongside its own operational and command issues. Curiously, and following Herzog (2006), some of the issues in the IDF also had a positive role that sparked adaptation during the conflict.

On the chapter of mobilization and mobility, the Israelis were able to exploit their doctrine of mobilization of reserve forces, which fought well thanks to the training and experience. In addition, the high capacity for adaptation (with agility) yielded a positive outcome for the IDF during the war, alongside the focusing of the IDF in small units. The fact that the main HQ and the Northern and Southern Commands exerted no direct control over the units meant that they could operate with full autonomy and to exert initiative and implement ad hoc measures, despite the lack of a sort of Auftragstaktik, this also gave rom for improvisation during combat, as an improvised combined-arms tactic was implemented. This situation allowed units to ignore or contest orders that were not accurate or even disconnected with the reality of the battlefield, in 1967 and 1973. Each and every single unit of the IDF, from commissioned and non-commissioned officers to the most single soldier and tank crew behaved like this even without any support from the top-brass, thus changing the very adverse situation Israel was facing. Other factors such as skills, motivation, quality of the chain of command – after all – and the courage and perseverance, were factors that contributed to this (Murray, 2009; Herzog, 2006).

The top-brass and the unit-level command also contributed to the impressive victory Israel achieved against all odds. First, the same Chief of General Staff and the Defence Minister gave some warning. Also, the later assessed accurately the role of the USSR and did the right appointments during the conflict, while the former acting with determination by ordering a general mobilization and exerting a good command, let alone to send the right units at the right time and materializing an early counterstrike by thinking with anticipation. They also replaced a bad commanding officer with a good commanding officer at the Southern Command, prioritizing also the Northern Command, which was the most threatened. Second, the Prime Minister issued the military with strong leadership and good decision making (like rejecting the proposed pre-emptive attack against Syria by the Chief of General Staff), thus providing the military a clear direction of the war from the political side at least on that aspect. Third, Generals Sharon and Bar-Lev good commanders and high level of initiative, capable of addressing a very intense crisis (and despite Sharon’s tendency to have public rows with other officers). Generals Gavish and Eytan wer also cautious enough to train and prepare its units under their command for the incoming war and weaponry they would be facing. And fourth, the military command was able to exploit Egypt’s mistake of advancing further the Suez beachhead to support Syria, allowing Israel to exploit its superiority in armoured warfare and to counterattack, taking advantage of its offensive mentality (Herzog, 2005; Murray, 2009).

As it was abovementioned, the same adversaries contributed to Israel’s victory and the proper functioning of the General Staff system and its principles, mainly by their own operational issues. Indeed, as Murray (2009), Herzog (2003), and Herzog (2006) explain, Egypt designed a war with a limited objective while learning from the lessons of 1967 and taking into account the strengths and weaknesses of Israel, making use of a combined-arms tactic and training that focused on crossing the Canal and securing a bridgehead. They exploited the surprise factor, the Israeli overconfidence and misjudgements, and international diplomacy, focusing on neutralizing the tanks and the air power, the bedrocks of the IDF military doctrine, and attrite Israel while dividing its forces.

But as soon as war became unpredictable with its ever-changing circumstances during combat, Israel could exploit its adaptation capabilities, which the adversaries could not match, changing the course of the war in favour of Israel. As soon as the Egyptian and Syrian were forced to deal with unpredictable situations, their armies were required to improvise, to have quick thinking and take responsibility; abilities they clearly lacked. They were simply not prepared to deal with unpredictable situations during combat, resorting heavily on the authority given the rigid and inflexible mindset framing their militaries, and their strong focusing on planning. The IAF also contributed in limiting the Egyptian and Syrian advance, as it forced them to be anchored to the AA missiles; once the adversaries were forced out of these aegis, it had no problem on destroying the Egyptian ground units in conjunction with the armoured units (Murray, 2009; Herzog, 2006).

The example of the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur war allows to understand the benefits and limits the General Staff system has. Many of the limits might have origins from other factors beyond the same General Staff system, yet clearly will end in affecting it one way or another. But the General Staff system – and/or some of its principles – fulfilled its purpose, which is to compensate for strategic, operational and command problems – even overcoming pre-conceptions on the adversary – with the Auftragstaktik, adaptation, flexibility, the independence and space for initiative at unit-level command and troop, as well as at high command level. It even led to victory when defeat looked certain. An ample discussion on the advantages and limitations of the Prussian General Staff system will be the topic of the next – closing – part of this study.




[1] This approach, having roots in the New Army Model by Cromwell, consisted on three main bodies: A Staff for operational aspects, another for personnel and administrative affairs, and a ‘quarter-master’s staff’ for logistics. Usually, the last two bodies worked as a single one, hence having two Staff officers. See: Johnston, (2008).

[2] But also, the implementation of German-like operational doctrines, as Corum (2009) remarks. See above.

[3] The French system is denominated by Johnston (2008) as the ‘bureaux’ approach at both high and field HQs, having four main sections: one tasked with administrative tasks; another with armaments, hospitals and engineering; another with operations and communication; and a fourth for HQ tasks. All were headed by an adjuntant general and with a Chief of Staff as main commander. By WWI this transformed into a three-branched General Staff, one for administrative issues, another for intelligence, and a third for operation and planning affairs. See: pp. 27-28.

[4] Many Israelis were of European origin, making the country and its military Western in essence, according to Murray (2009). This might explain why the General Staff system is implemented in Israel.

[5] For instance, the geographical context and territorial limit was very similar to that of Prussia, meaning that Israel indeed lacks strategic depth. This forced the IDF to have an offensive mentality, framing its operational doctrine and making it to seek for a counterattack as soon as possible and deep into enemy territory, so to decide the conflict (Herzog, 2006; Murray, 2009).

[6] This system would be put under heavy test during the 1973 Yom Kippur (or War of Atonement), mainly due to political considerations and the fact it took place during one of the holiest periods for the Israelis, following Herzog (2005), Herzog (2003) and Murray (2009). In addition, a partial mobilization in May upon inaccurate alerts and the economic costs of such deterred a timely mobilization prior the war according to Van Creveld (as cited in Murray, 2009, p.19).

[7] See: Israel Defence Forces. (2015). The General Staff. Retrieved from:

[8] Yet at least one commander trained his units to face this particular threat, as it will be pointed out below.

[9] The War of Attrition, which took place between 1967 and 1973, was also crucial for the Yom Kippur War, as it was the conflict taking place in a very decisive scenario as the Sinai and the Bar-Lev Line were. Egypt waged very limited attacks to attrite and test the Israelis while seeking to create the conditions for recovering the lost territory, taking advantage of the static situation the Israelis put themselves in by relying heavily on the Bar-Lev Line (Herzog, 2006).

[10] See footnote 6.

[11] Murray (2009) remarks that such attitude is widespread, as the militaries worldwide are not that keen on accepting criticism from lower ranks and from people outside it. Nevertheless, self-criticism, self-examination and debriefing are pillars in the Israeli military culture.

[12] Nevertheless, and according to Herzog (2006), the armoured units were very crucial in the battlefield prior a good planning, suffering only a 25% of casualties by infantry-operated anti-tank missiles.

[13] Interestingly, and according to Murray (2009), there was no control of units in the field during the Six-Day War. Units acted upon their own judgement, exerting initiative, as there were no direct orders or an efficient communication system delivering them to control their actions.



Lt. Col. Corum, J. S (2009). Prefacio. In B. Condell., & D. T. Zabecki (Eds.), Wehrmacht – El Arte de la Guerra Alemán. [On the German Art of War. Truppenführung, Alejandro Pradera, trans.]. Madrid, Spain: La Esfera de los Libros (Original work published in 2001).

Maj. Eisel, B. (1993). An American General Staff: An Idea Whose Time Has Come? Fort Leaveworth, Kansas: School of Advanced Military Studies. Retrieved from: on (ADA274042).

Herzog, C. (2006). La Guerra del Yom Kippur. [The War of Atonement, Gerardo di Masso, trans.]. Barcelona, Spain: Inèdita Editores (Original work published in 1975).

Brig. Gen. Herzog, M. (2003). Introducción. In C. Herzog, La Guerra del Yom Kippur. [The War of Atonement, Gerardo di Masso, trans.]. (pp. 11-22). Barcelona, Spain: Inèdita Editores (Original work published in 1975).

Israel Defence Forces. (2015). The General Staff. Retrieved from: on 25.06.2017

Maj. Johnston, P. (2008). Staff Systems and the Canadian Air Force: Part 1. History of the Western Staff System. The Canadian Air Force Journal, Summer 2008, 1(2), 20-30. Retrieved from: on 24.11.2016

Murray, W. (2009). Military Adaptation in War. Alexandria, Virginia: Institute for Defense Analyses. Retrieved from: on 26.06.2017 (IDA Paper P-4453).

Peri, Y. (November 2002). The Israeli Military and Israel’s Palestinian Policy. From Oslo to the Al Aqsa Intifada. (Peaceworks No. 47, November 2002). Washington DC, USA: United States Institute of Peace. Retrieved from: on 25.06.2017

Senor, D., & Singer, S. (2011). Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle. New York, USA: Twelve.

One response to “The Prussian General Staff: Meritocracy in Arms. Part 3b.

  1. Pingback: The Prussian General Staff: Meritocracy in Arms. Part 4a. | Drakkar: Defence, Strategy and Security

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