Do you read me? IDF launches obligatory literature program for commanders

Initiative requires officers to gain relevant knowledge via books, articles and films; this year’s required reading is by US Colonel Douglas Macgregor

An illustrative photo released on October 16, 2019, showing an IDF officer reading a book. (Israel Defense Forces)
An illustrative photo released on October 16, 2019, showing an IDF officer reading a book. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israel Defense Forces has been known to incorporate unconventional battle strategies, but its latest project will require commanders to operate by the book.

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi on Wednesday launched an initiative for every commanding officer to read literature that will be defined as relevant to their jobs, the military said in a statement.

The books, articles and documentary films will be on subjects in history, military history, leadership, psychology, strategy and more.

Each year, the chief of staff will decide on obligatory reading material for all officers ranked lieutenant colonel and above, and every commander of a branch or arm of the military will decide on a book all their subordinate commanders must read.

“Underlying this decision is the understanding that a commander in general, and a commander leading soldiers into battle in particular, is a professional who is required to learn relevant knowledge, including about past military incidents, test cases and examples they could use in the moment of truth,” the IDF said in the statement.

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi attends a ceremony in Glilot military base, near Tel Aviv, May 26, 2019. (Flash90)

The book picked by Kohavi for 2019 is “Transformation Under Fire” by US Army Colonel Douglas Macgregor, “because it is a practical and thought-provoking example of the transformation of the United States military, specifically in light of its successes in the battlefield,” the military said.

Additionally, commanders will be required to watch a four-episode documentary by the Kan public broadcaster called “Lo Tishkot Haaretz” [“The Land Will Not Calm”] that deals with the Yom Kippur War in 1973, from the intelligence failure at its beginning to the eventual victory over several Arab armies.

“IDF commanders must be professionals, read professional literature on various subjects, watch professional films, listen to lectures on relevant topics and devote personal and group time to investigating, studying and practice core issues,” said Kohavi.

“In battlefields that are constantly taking on new forms, in-depth study of professional issues is an imperative, a need and a commandment that stems from conscience and responsibility.”

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