Friday, October 23, 2015

Book Review: Sword and Shield of Zion

David Rodman
Sword and Shield of Zion
Portland, OR: Sussex Academic Press, 2013
Category: Israel Air Force - Strategic Study

Rating: 3-Stars

Unlike most of the books on the Israeli air force, which can be classified as either historical in orientation or biographical, David Rodman's book serves as a strategic survey: a more scholarly and less intimate approach to the subject of Israel's air force.  As such, it focuses on the application of Israeli air power to various Middle East wars, evaluating the effectiveness and contribution made to Israel's defense.

Although it might be tempting to compare a survey such as this to historical texts, it clearly is not.  It provides none of the human story and context that most historical texts are known for, and focuses exclusively on the facts and figures of how air power was employed and what the strategic outcome was.  In this sense, this book is best compared to the various strategic studies published over the years by the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv Univeristy - books such as Ariel Levite's Offense and Defense in Israeli Military Doctrine (1989), or Karen L. Puschel's U.S.-Israeli Strategic Cooperation in the Post-Cold War Era (1992).

Compared to some of the aforementioned, earlier publications published by the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, Sword and Shield of Zion extends the context for Israel's application of air power to include the 2006 Lebanon War - bringing this story into the 21st century.  Where it falls short, however, is in its presentation of new insight or statistical fact.  Most of the insights highlighted by Rodman's book will already be well known to any student of Middle East history or Israeli air power.  The pivotal roles played by the Israeli Air Force in the 1967 and 1973 wars have already been covered in great detail by a variety of sources.  Which ultimately, is why I had to give this book an "average" rating rather than a higher score.  There are still a lot of invaluable facts to be gleaned from between its pages, including statistics for sorties flown in various Middle East wars, and the break-down between air-to-air and air-to-ground operations.  It's not a bad strategic survey - just not an exceptional one.

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