Book Review: On Flexibility: Recovery from Technological and Doctrinal Surprise on the Battlefield


by Meir Finkel

Standford: Stanford Security Studies, 2011. Pp. xii, 324. Tables, append., notes, biblio., index. $25.95 paper. ISBN: 0804774897

Originally published in Israel in 2007, this thoughtful work by Col. Finkel (IDF) looks at how modern military forces have coped with surprise in terms of innovative technologies, techniques, or tactics. 

Although an historically-based study, Finkel actually opens with a look at what the problem of coping with future unanticipated developments, using what he has learned from his case studies.  He identifies the aspects of "flexibility” (“Conceptual and Doctrinal”, “Organizational and Technological,” and “Cognitive and C2”), that go toward developing a “Mechanism for Lesson Learning and Rapid Dissemination.”  With this framework in mind, Finkel then examines his case studies, from World War II (France and the 1940 “blitzkrieg”, German response to chaff and the T-34, Britain’s to German tank and anti-tank tactics), the Yom Kippur War (Israel and Arab Sagger and AA missiles), and Afghanistan (the Soviets and low intensity conflict).  In some of the cases the "surprised" military establishment demonstrated an effective approach to developing counter-measures, and others experienced total failure. 

A volume in the series "Stanford Security Studies", On Flexibility is a good book for those interested in the problem of how armed forces learn.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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