By its improved use of correlation of forces thinking, Israel will need to seize every available operational initiative, including certain appropriate intelligence and counterintelligence functions, to best influence and control each enemy’s particular matrix of expectations. This is a tall policy order, especially as these multiple enemies will include both state and sub-state adversaries, often with substantial and subtle interactions between them. Moreover, in an age of chemical, biological and even nuclear weapons, the consequences of certain IDF planning failures could be literally intolerable.
Now, in greater detail, with new and particular uncertainties in Egypt, Lebanon and North Africa, what should be the more holistic IDF concept of correlation of forces?
First, this concept must take careful account of all enemy leaders’ intentions as well as capabilities. Such an accounting is always more subjective than any more traditional assessments of personnel, weapons and basic logistic data. But such an accounting will also need to be thoughtful and nuanced, despite relying less on tangible scientific modeling, than upon behaviorally informed profiles. It will not be enough for IDF plannersto judiciously gather and examine relevant hard data from all of the usual sources. It will also be important to put Israeli planners directly into the “shoes” of each enemy leader, president, king or terrorist, thus determining, among other things, what relevant Israeli capacity and vulnerability looks like to them.
Second, expanding more precisely what has just been discussed, any properly refined IDF correlation of forces concept must take very close account of enemy leaders’ rationality. Any adversary that does not conform to the presumed rules of rational behavior in world politics (an increasingly probable scenario) might not be deterred by any Israeli threats, military or otherwise. This is the case even where Israel would actually possess both the capacity and resolve to make good on its pertinent deterrent threats.
Where an enemy state or sub-state would not value its own continued survival more highly than any other preference or combination of preferences, the standard logic of deterrence would be immobilized. Here, all bets would be off concerning probable enemy reactions to Israeli retaliatory threats.
This sobering point now refers especially to prospective nuclear security threats from a potentially unstable Iran. In this widely recognized theatre of possible future war, especially if President Ahmadinejad, his clerical handlers and/or his successors should subscribe to faith-based expectations of a Shiite apocalypse, Israel could find itself confronting what amounts to a suicide bomber in macrocosm. This radically unfavorable scenario, of course, would be contingent upon a prior willingness by both Jerusalem/Tel Aviv and Washington to forego any remaining preemption options.
Insofar as assassination/targeted killing may be considered as a particular form of preemption (“anticipatory self-defense” under international law), however, it is plausible that the United States and Israel could abandon any operational plans for the more standard and recognizable military forms of defensive first-strike, but still remain more or less willing to selectively kill Iranian leaders and/or nuclear scientists. In essence, viewed from the standpoint of an expanded and improved IDF correlation of forces orientation, this would mean the formal inclusion of assassination and sabotage within the country’s strategic doctrine.
Third, IDF planning assessments will assuredly need to consider the organization of changing enemy state units; their training standards; their morale; their reconnaissance capabilities; their battle experience and their suitability and adaptability to the prospective battlefield. Traditionally, these sorts of assessment are quite ordinary and not exceedingly difficult to make or innovate on an individual or piecemeal basis. But now creative IDF planners will be those who are able to conceptualize such ordinarily diverse factors together, in their entirety. Recalling Sun-Tzu’s The Art of War, one vital purpose of this new strategic holism should be to avoid protracted warfare. Indeed, the ancient Chinese strategist’s observation that “No country has ever profited from protracted warfare .” is always meaningful to Israel.
Fourth, IDF assessments must consider the cumulative capabilities and intentions of Israel’s nonstate enemies; that is, the entire configuration of anti‑Israel terrorist groups. In the future, such assessments must offer more than a simple group-by-group consideration. Rather, the groups in question should also be considered in their entirety, collectively, as they may interrelate with one another vis-à-vis Israel. These several hostile groups will also need to be considered in their particularly interactive relationship with core enemy states. This last point might best be characterized as an essential IDF correlation of forces search for vital synergies between its assorted state and sub-state adversaries.
There is nothing really new about the concept of asymmetric warfare, but today, especially in the “New” Middle East, the really crucial asymmetry lies not in particular force structures or ratios, but rather in determination and strength of will. In a similar vein, Clausewitz, in his Principles of War (1812), spoke of a genuine need for “audacity.” This quality represents yet another crucial variable for IDF planners; it must inevitably elude any kind of precise or tangible measurement.
Fifth, and this time recalling Sun Tzu’s spatial injunction that “If there is no place to go, it is fatal terrain,” IDF strategic planning judgments should take suitable note of the still-ongoing metamorphosis of a fragmented nonstate adversary (Fatah/Hamas) into a sovereign state adversary (Palestine). As has been well-known since 1967, with such a significantly injurious metamorphosis, Israel’s “strategic depth” would shrink to decisively less manageable levels. Further, any expanding enemy momentum to fold Israel itself into the new Arab state would be further energized. After all, the official maps of Palestine drawn by both the Palestine Authority, and Hamas, already include all of Israel.
If, perhaps because of still- insistent “peace” pressures coming from Washington, Palestinian statehood cannot be avoided, how should Israel learn to “live with Palestine?” In one respect, any codified institutionalization of disparate Arab enemies into Palestine could possibly offer at least some geostrategic benefit to Israel. For example, now certain forms of Israeli reprisal and retaliation would likely be easier and thus more purposeful. Yet, there would also be a corresponding and incontestably serious loss of strategic depth through its loss of vital territories. And this is to say nothing of the obvious historical, religious and legal grounds that exist for maintaining a full Israeli possession of Judea and Samaria (West Bank).
In the matter of synergies, the IDF will also need to consider and look for critical new force multipliers, which is a collection of related characteristics, other than weapons and force size, that may make any military organization more effective in combat. A force multiplier may be generalship; tactical surprise; tactical mobility or certain command and control system enhancements. It could include such imaginative and less costly forms of preemption as assassination and sabotage. It will now also include well-integrated components of cyber-warfare and a reciprocal capacity to prevent and blunt any incoming cyber-attacks.
Today, this particular force multiplier could even prove to be more decisive than any of the others. Although, of course, nonexistent in the times of Sun-Tzu and Clausewitz, “cyber-audacity” could already represent a core component of Israel’s necessarily broadened approach to correlation of forces.
LOUIS RENÉ BERES was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971), and has lectured and published widely on Israeli security issues for forty years. Born in Zürich, Switzerland on August 31, 1945, he is the author of ten books and several hundred journal articles and monographs in the field. Dr. Beres is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press.