web analytics
December 20, 2014 / 28 Kislev, 5775
 
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
8000 meals Celebrate Eight Days of Chanukah – With 8,000 Free Meals Daily to Israel’s Poor

Join Meir Panim’s campaign to “light up” Chanukah for families in need.



Learning From Ancient Chinese Military Thought: Israel And Sun-Tzu’s Art Of War


Beres-Louis-Rene

Despite altogether unimagined transformations of weapons technologies, some ancient principles of warfare remain entirely valid. Founded upon the essentially persistent nature of human behavior in organized conflict, these principles can be ignored only at great strategic risk. For the always-imperiled state of Israel, there is especially much to be learned from certain elements of past thought. This includes the unchanging requirements of national survival.

Chinese military thought originated amidst Neolithic village conflicts almost 5,000 years ago. But it was Sun-Tzu’s The Art Of War, written sometime in the fifth century BCE, that synthesized a coherent set of principles designed to produce military victory. The full corpus of this work should now be studied closely by all who seek to strengthen Israel’s military posture and its associated order of battle. Indeed, confronted by a steadily deteriorating “correlation of forces” after the recent Lebanon war and the ongoing nuclearization of Iran, Israel now needs to re-evaluate the very meaning of power in world politics.

Israel’s leaders should begin with Sun-Tzu’s principles concerning diplomacy. Political initiatives and agreements may be useful, they will be instructed, but military preparations should never be neglected. The primary objective of every state should be to weaken enemy states without actually engaging in armed combat. This objective links the ideal of “complete victory” to a “strategy for planning offensives.” In Chapter Four, “Military Disposition,” Sun-Tzu tells his readers: “One who cannot be victorious assumes a defensive posture; one who can be victorious attacks…. Those who excel at defense bury themselves away below the lowest depths of Earth. Those who excel at offense move from above the greatest heights of Heaven.”

This advice seems obvious enough. Yet, current IDF (Israel Defense Force) strategic posture depends substantially upon various forms of ballistic missile defense. This is certainly correct and understandable in light of the growing threat of unconventional attack, but it can never succeed adequately.

In essence, by placing too much hope in active defense systems, Israel effectively disavows pertinent preemption options. The result is that Israel could continue to survive only at the pleasure of its enemies. Sooner or later, having been permitted to develop weapons of mass destruction because Israel and the United States had been burying themselves away “below the lowest depths of Earth,” these enemy states – in particular Iran – could attack. Israel’s deterrent posture notwithstanding, there could then come a time in which the power of its implicit nuclear threat would be immobilized by enemy miscalculation, inadvertence, mechanical accident, false warnings, unauthorized firings (e.g., coup d’etat) or even outright irrationality.

Some would argue that Israel has already lost the offensive preemption option with respect to Iranian WMD (weapons of mass destruction). As a consequence of enemy multiplication, dispersal and hardening of these infrastructures, goes the argument, Israel can now only wait until the time comes for it to retaliate. Such total reliance upon deterrence and active defense, if this argument were correct, would represent an existential (and potentially fatal) indifference to the still-valid general principles of classic Chinese military strategy.

There is another section of the The Art Of War that can help Israel to compensate for any disproportionate reliance upon implicit nuclear deterrence and ballistic missile defense. This is Sun-Tzu’s repeated emphasis on the “unorthodox.” Drawn from the conflation of thought that crystallized as Taoism, the strategist observes: “…in battle, one engages with the orthodox and gains victory through the unorthodox.” In a complex passage, Sun-Tzu discusses how the orthodox may be used in unorthodox ways, while an orthodox attack may be unorthodox when it is unexpected. Taken seriously by IDF planners, this passage could represent a subtle tool for tactical implementation, one that might purposefully exploit an enemy state’s particular matrix of military expectations.

For Israel, the “unorthodox” should now be fashioned not only on the battlefield, but also long before the battle; indeed, to prevent the most dangerous forms of battle, which would be expressions of all-out unconventional warfare, Israel should examine a number of promising postures. These postures would focus upon a reasoned shift from an image of “orthodox” rationality to one of somewhat “unorthodox” irrationality. This is what the late American nuclear strategist Herman Kahn once called the “rationality of pretended irrationality.” For now, every enemy of the State of Israel knows pretty much exactly how Israel will initiate major military action and how it will respond to armed attack and armed conflict initiated by others. If, however, Israel did not always signal perfect rationality to its enemies − meaning, that its actions (defensive and offensive) were always completely measured and predictable − it could significantly enhance both its overall deterrence posture and its capacity to carry out purposeful preemption options. This same lesson applies, by the way, to the United States, which is always mired in altogether predictable policies.

Everyone, it seems, has heard something about the “Samson Option.” This is generally thought to be a last resort strategy wherein Israel’s nuclear weapons were used not for prevention of war or even for war-waging, but simply as a last spasm of vengeance against a despised enemy state that had launched massive (probably unconventional) counter-city and/or counterforce attacks against Israel. Here, faced with an “End of the Third Temple” scenario, Israel’s leaders would accept that the Jewish state could no longer survive, but that it would only “die” together with certain of its enemies.

The view of the “Samson Option” from the Arab/Iranian side is clear. Israel would resort to nuclear weapons only in reprisal, and only in reprisal for overwhelmingly destructive first-strike attacks. Correspondingly, anything less than an overwhelmingly destructive first-strike would elicit a measured and proportionate Israeli military response. Moreover, by striking first, the Arab/Iranian enemy likely knows that it would have an advantage in “escalation dominance,” allowing it to control the “ladder” of escalation. These calculations would follow from the more or less informed enemy view that Israel will never embrace the “unorthodox” on the strategic level, that its actions will probably be reactions, and that these reactions will always be limited.

What if Israel fine-tuned its “Samson Option”? What if it did this in conjunction with certain doctrinal changes in its longstanding policy of nuclear ambiguity? By selectively taking the bomb out of the “basement” and by indicating simultaneously that its now declared nuclear weapons were not limited to “Third Temple” scenarios, Israel might go a long way to enhancing its national security. It would do this, in part, by revealing a departure from perfect rationality − in essence, by displaying the rationality of threatened irrationality. Whether or not such a display would be an example of “pretended irrationality” or of an authentic willingness to act irrationally would be anyone’s guess. It goes without saying that such an example of “unorthodox” behavior by Israel could actually incite enemy first-strikes, or at least hasten the onset of such strikes as may already be planned, but there are ways for Israel in which the “unorthodox” could be made to appear “orthodox.” To discover and identify these ways should now be a priority concern for IDF planners and their academic allies.

Copyright, The Jewish Press, June 8, 2007. All rights reserved.

Louis Rene Beres was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971) and is the author of many books and articles dealing with nuclear strategy and nuclear war. He is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press, and Chair of “Project Daniel.”

About the Author: Louis René Beres (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is professor of political science and international law at Purdue University and the author of many books and articles dealing with international relations and strategic studies.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Learning From Ancient Chinese Military Thought: Israel And Sun-Tzu’s Art Of War”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Posted to Twitter in Ferguson, MO by St. Louis County Police: "Bricks thrown at police, 2 police cars burned, gun seized by police. Tonight was disappointing."  Their motto is, "To protect and serve."
Prosecutor in Ferguson Case: ‘Witnesses Lied Under Oath’
Latest Indepth Stories
The annual  Chabad menorah lighting in Sydney has been called off this year because of the murders in the Lindt cafe.

The decision to not publicly light the Menorah in Sydney, epitomizes the eternal dilemma of Judaism and Jews in the Diaspora.

Greiff-112814-Men

Am Yisrael is one family, filled with excruciating pain&sorrow for losing the 4 kedoshim of Har Nof

Two dreidels from the author’s extensive collection.

What is its message of the dreidel?” The complexity and hidden nature of history and miracles.

Keeping-Jerusalem

Police play down Arab terrorism as mere “violence” until the truth can no longer be hidden.

The 7 branches of the menorah represent the 7 pillars of secular wisdom, knowledge, and science.

Obama obtained NO verifiable commitments from Cuba it would desist from acts prejudicial to the US

No one would deny that the program subjected detainees to less than pleasant treatment, but the salient point is, for what purpose?

For the past six years President Obama has consistently deplored all Palestinian efforts to end-run negotiations in search of a UN-imposed agreement on Israel.

It’s not an admiration. It is simply a kind of journalist fascination. It stands out, it’s different from more traditional Orthodoxy.

For Am Yisrael, the sun’s movements are subservient to the purpose of our existence.

Israelis now know Arab terrorism isn’t caused by Israeli occupation but by ending Israeli occupation

Anti-Semitism is a social toxin that destroys the things that people most cherish and enjoy.

Amb. Cooper highlighted the impact of the Chanukah/Maccabee spirit on America’s Founding Fathers

Zealousness has its place and time in Judaism; Thank G-d for heroic actions of the Maccabees!

More Articles from Louis Rene Beres

A “Palestine” could become another Lebanon, with many different factions battling for control.

Louis Rene Beres

President Obama’s core argument on a Middle East peace process is still founded on incorrect assumptions.

Once upon a time in America, every adult could recite at least some Spenglerian theory of decline.

President Obama’s core argument is still founded on incorrect assumptions.

Specific strategic lessons from the Bar Kokhba rebellion.

Still facing an effectively unhindered nuclear threat from Iran, Israel will soon need to choose between two strategic options.

For states, as for individuals, fear and reality go together naturally.

So much of the struggle between Israel and the Arabs continues to concern space.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/louis-bene-beres/learning-from-ancient-chinese-military-thought-israel-and-sun-tzus-art-of-war/2007/06/06/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: