Mission command is a command philosophy that denotes decentralized leadership; it is a philosophy of command that requires and facilitates initiative in all levels of command and encourages subordinates to exploit opportunities by empowering them to demonstrate initiative and exercise personal judgement. In its first decades of existence, military analysts portrayed the Israeli command system as such and termed it ‘optional control’. The primary objective of this article is to explore the rise and decline of ‘optional control’ in the IDF. The first part of the article follows the development of optional control in the IDF’s first decades of existence until the 1970s. The second part of the paper will describe its decline through the analysis of command in recent IDF military campaigns. The last part is analysis; explanation for the decline in mission command is attributed to four major factors: the changes in Israel’s society and thereof in civil‒military relations; the changes in character of military operations; the lack of appropriate military education; and the role and impact of new technologies on the IDF. The combined effect of these factors impedes the ongoing efforts of the IDF to re-establish mission command as its preferred command philosophy.
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- mission command
- optional command