Air University Press


Yacov Bengo

  • Published

Author of Cracking the Code

Yacov Bengo is a retired Israeli army general. His last active position was the head of the Israeli Defense Force Planning Directorate (J8). His military career spans approximately 30 years of service, mainly in the Armored Corps and the General Staff. Bengo is an expert in force buildup and in the utility of force from the tactical level to the strategic level of the General Staff. He is fluent in Hebrew and English. Bengo is married and is a father to two children.



Cracking the Code

In this extensive endeavor to formulate a general theory of war, Major General Yacov Bengo (Israeli Defense Forces) provides his unique perspective, deftly weaving industrial revolutions, the domains of war, the major conflicts of the last two centuries, and the works of both classical and modern theorists—from Clausewitz, Jomini, and Mahan to Douhet, Brodie, and Petraeus—into a methodology describing the fundamental principles of warfare in a broader context. His collected insights on the nature, purpose, and conduct of war will guide and inform current practitioners, helping them to adapt to and prosecute contemporary and future conflicts.

[Yacov Bengo / 2023 / 280 pages / ISBN: 978-1-58566-329-3 / AU Press Code: B-182]

Q1: What was the genesis of your writing—what led you to this topic in the first place?


A: Initially, I was struck by the notable absence of substantive written works on security and military strategies in Israel, a country renowned for its literary heritage. As an officer, I felt a profound obligation to bridge this gap by sharing the practical knowledge accrued over my three decades of hands-on operational experience. Witnessing the dearth of accessible resources in our field, I recognized the urgent need to offer insights and guidance to those dedicated to defending our nation.

In our demanding field, being too absorbed to read often leads to learning the hard way —from your own mishaps or those of your team. But diving into books? That’s like tapping into a gold mine of others’ experiences—a smarter path, especially in our line of work where mistakes can be game-changers for rookies. Reading isn’t a magic fix, but it’s a beacon in the murkiest of paths, shedding light on what might otherwise be a blind journey forward.

The military profession necessitates both practical expertise and a profound grasp of theoretical frameworks for triumph. Victory transcends mere tactics; it involves comprehending the depth of military theory—a fundamental element for those committed to mastering the art of warfare.

Q2: How did you organize your research with all its many threads: theorists, industrial revolutions, technology, etc.? It can become overwhelming to correlate so much information.

A: My approach to organizing research drew inspiration from Einstein’s work on the theory of general relativity—an elegant construct built on extensive scientific exploration. I realized that while war isn’t a precise science like physics, it holds its own set of principles rooted in human nature and relationships.

The four major topics through which, in the end, I chose to explain the general theory of war are:

  1. The theoreticians, those unique people who somehow managed to rise above the horrors of war and describe it in a way that allows proactiveness for victory.
  2. The various industrial revolutions that express not only an accumulation of technologies but a profound change in human behavior and the manner in which wars are waged.
  3. The dimensions of war, as physical dimensions in which man is willing to fight to the bitter end in order to achieve the desired victory.
  4. Finally, the wars themselves, the wars that those theorists chose to study from.

I grappled with the audacity of formulating a “general theory of war.” It seemed overly ambitious, akin to Einstein’s challenges with quantum theory. Yet, my mentor’s encouragement echoed Einstein’s sentiments: “The total effort matters.”

Just as a soldier steps into battle uncertain of its outcome, research carries a similar uncertainty. The journey of understanding the phenomenon of war mirrored this uncertainty.

My personal experiences in the thick of warfare provided a lens to interpret theorists’ perspectives. They unwittingly contributed to shaping my understanding of war, unraveling its aspects through their insights.

The writing process wasn’t effortless. Crafting precise messages demanded relentless effort. I revisited and refined the book multiple times, recognizing the importance of simplicity in conveying complex ideas to readers.

Modesty is crucial in this realm. I’m indebted to those who reviewed and edited various versions, guiding me to articulate my thoughts more effectively. Acknowledging their input is essential for readers to grasp the sincerity behind my words.

The endeavor to formulate a comprehensive theory of war was a journey of highs and lows, aiming to illuminate the complexities of warfare through the lens of theorists’ wisdom. It’s a pursuit that continues to demand humility, gratitude, and a commitment to clarity.

Q3: What do you hope readers will take from your work in Cracking the Code: War’s Hidden Methodology?

A: Like every leader, researcher, and writer, my aspiration lies in making a meaningful impact. I firmly believe that the strength of the free world is pivotal for preserving its values and way of life.

My hope for Cracking the Code: War’s Hidden Methodology is to empower all involved in defending their homelands—be it political leaders, scholars, or military personnel—to engage in a vital introspection. I aim to provoke a profound examination of beliefs concerning warfare through a comprehensive thesis.

The roles of political and military leaders extend beyond steering their people toward goals; it includes contemplating the most effective methods to achieve these objectives. Criticism might not sit comfortably with leaders, yet it’s through this critique and reevaluation that we refine the art of organized warfare—a uniquely human endeavor.

This hope isn’t a litmus test at a singular moment but an enduring journey. I envision this book catalyzing ongoing reflection, challenging established beliefs, and ultimately guiding the evolution of our approach to war and warfare.

Q4: What’s next for you—any upcoming research topics on your agenda?

A: My journey in the realm of military security has yielded invaluable knowledge. Stepping into uncharted territories now, I find myself uncertain where the next beacon of inspiration will emerge. True research, I believe, stems from a passionate drive.

My focus now shifts toward mentoring and guiding young commanders and students. Engaging with their critical reflections on my work is where I anticipate discovering new paths. Their inquiries, akin to a young officer questioning an experienced general, have the potential to ignite fresh perspectives and rekindle the flames of curiosity and innovation within me.

In these interactions, there’s a symbiotic exchange—each contributing their role and experience, forging a collaborative journey forward. Just as the old general humbly admits uncertainties, I embrace this uncertainty as an invitation to explore new frontiers together. It’s within these dialogues that I foresee the birth of renewed passion and the impetus for further research, writing, and innovation.

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