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December 18, 2014 / 26 Kislev, 5775
 
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘strategy’

Israel Shouldn’t Be The Main Course

Thursday, September 12th, 2013

Israel has always suffered from an inability to form an all-inclusive strategy. In the words of former secretary of state Henry Kissinger: “Israel doesn’t have a foreign policy; it has only internal politics.”

This failure to form a strategy is not due to some Jewish intelligence deficiency; it is because we have been evading the fundamental truth of our national existence. We justify the existence of the state of Israel with pragmatic – not destiny-based – reasons. The Holocaust memorial museum, Yad Vashem, has become our holy temple. The Temple Mount, on the other hand, is a source of primal fear for Israel’s leadership, which will do everything possible to rid itself of it – and the sooner the better.

So despite the fact that we are the most (actually the only) advanced state in the region, we are the only state in the region that has no regional interests. Our only interest is to survive. That is why we are capable of nothing more than reacting. We will never initiate. If the Syrians attack, we will attack them even harder. Until then, though, we will simply wait.

Strategy means formulating general policy to foster a goal that is beyond mere existence. Tactic is a policy of actions and reactions.

In the Middle East, you either sit down for the dinner – or you are the main course. Western democratic countries can maintain static relations between them; in other words, “I do not desire what is yours, and vice versa.” Israel would love to conduct its foreign policy in such a reality. But the Muslim culture in our region rules that out. Here the rule is: if you do not trample me, I will trample you.

Strategically, Israel must strive to be a regional power in the Middle East. Due to the fact that we see ourselves as strangers and foreigners in our own land, we show no interest in strategic objectives – nothing beyond basic survival.

The Middle East is crumbling, taking on the shape of the original, pre-World War I Sykes-Picot Agreement. It will fall into the greedy hands of Iran or Turkey. Everybody wants to be the new Salah al-Din of the greater Arab nation, which is shedding the national masks forced upon it by the West. Iran bids for hegemony by threatening Israel with nuclear annihilation. Turkey does the same by repeatedly humiliating Israel.

Meanwhile, the vacuum that has been created is sucking in the world’s superpowers. First Russia, and now, reluctantly, the U.S., which is taking advantage of the chemical weapons massacre in Syria in an attempt to rehabilitate its image.

Having a strategy means that if there is a massacre in Syria, Israel must intervene and prevent it from happening again. What? Are we crazy? We should intervene on behalf of the Syrian nation and be the target of missiles in Tel Aviv?

Tragically, we are heading straight for a repeat of the U.S. attack on Iraq’s Saddam Hussein in 1991. If the U.S. attacks Syria (for its own interests) it will be Israel that will pay a heavy price. In 1991, Israel passively sat out the Iraq war, relegating its security to the U.S. As a reward for our “good behavior” we got Iraq’s Scud missiles exploding in Ramat Gan and diplomatic pressure that led to the Madrid Conference, Oslo, the Expulsion in Gaza, and the serious deterioration in Israel’s existential legitimacy that we witness today. If there is an American attack on Syria, we will pay the same price for our passivity.

If we take the initiative, our first step should be the neutralization of Syria’s missile capabilities. This would diminish potential harm to Israel and in the future, whoever would want to exert influence in the Middle East would understand that they must include Israel in the equation – not to exact a price, but to pay Israel its strategic due. In other words, in the Middle East, either you sit down for dinner or you are the main course.

I know that currently, this idea does not have many supporters in Israel. Israelis feel like guests in their own land. They cannot yet absorb this line of thinking. For now, this is food for thought. Until I am elected to lead Israel, we can all relax in our sealed rooms, contemplating life on the Saudi dinner plate.

Cancer Imagery and Jew Hatred

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

Rowhani’s comment about Israel being a ‘sore’ (whether or not he added that it should be removed) expresses a popular meme in the Muslim world. The idea is expressed explicitly in the Hamas covenant, and it often appears in PLO media. Palestinian Journalist Khalid Amayreh published an article in 2010 on an Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood website in which he called  Jews “an abomination, a cancer upon the world.” Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah on Friday called Israel a “cancerous gland” which must be “excised,” echoing Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Other Iranian officials also use this language on a regular basis.

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The idea persists, despite the fact that — by any objective standard — the behavior of Israel is anything but expansionist and invasive. Although Israel ‘grew’ at the expense of the Arab nations in 1967, it has eagerly abandoned most of the territory conquered in the name of ‘peace’, even when that goal proved illusory. It would probably have given it all up if the Arabs had been more focused on strategic advantage than honor and vengeance.

Since 1948, the Arabs (and from 1979, the Iranian regime) have persisted in trying to ‘cure’ the Jewish ‘cancer’, sometimes by war, sometimes by diplomacy and often by both at once. The Arabs seem to have learned by successive humiliations (which only deepen their hatred) that direct means will not be successful. Now they have adopted a multi-pronged strategy of military pressure combined with delegitimization to reduce Western support for Israel, along with diplomatic offensives at the UN and with the US to obtain a solid territorial base. Once this is achieved, they expect to finish the job in another regional war.

The Arabs in particular have never been terribly original. First they borrowed the anti-Jewish ideology of the Nazis, exemplified by Palestinian Arab leader al-Husseini’s relationship with Hitler and the Nazi scientists and war criminals who found sanctuary in Egypt, Iraq and Syria after the war.

The rest of the world was understandably repelled by Nazi ideology, but in the late 1960′s Yasser Arafat was instructed by the KGB to present his gang as a movement of national liberation for a distinct ‘Palestinian people’, and Zionism as a form of imperialism. The international Left followed the KGB’s lead, and this marked the beginning of the Left’s fanatic anti-Zionism.

In 2001, a new element was added with the development of the Durban Strategy by anti-Israel NGOs. Gerald Steinberg explained it thus in 2005:

The Durban conference crystallized the strategy of delegitimizing Israel as “an apartheid regime” through international isolation based on the South African model. This plan is driven by UN-based groups as well as non-governmental organizations (NGOs) which exploit the funds, slogans and rhetoric of the human rights movement.

On this basis a series of political battles have been fought in the UN and in the media. These include the myth of the Jenin “massacre,” the separation barrier, the academic boycott, and, currently, the church-based anti-Israel divestment campaign.

Each of these fronts reflected the Durban strategy of labeling Israel as the new South Africa.

Since then the campaign has expanded greatly, despite the complete absence of parallels between Israel and apartheid South Africa.

It’s important to understand — and the cancer imagery makes this clear — that despite the various guises that the Arab-Muslim-Palestinian cause affects, there is one basic element that underlies it: an extreme hatred of the Jewish people and the desire for another genocide against it.

Why the Ancient Art of War and Other Strategies Matter

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

Why is it important to study the strategies of history and the ancient art of war today? Has military strategy essentially changed over the years? In part two of this week’s podcast, Andrew R. Wilson, Professor of Strategy and Policy at the United States Naval War College, and prolific author on the subject of Chinese military history, explains why the lessons of history are so important today.

A Policy in Search of Doctrine

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

In the face of seemingly irrational threats from North Korea, at least one American conclusion should be obvious and prompt: Nuclear strategy is a “game” that sane world leaders must play, whether they like it, or not. President Obama can choose to play this complex game purposefully or inattentively. But, one way or another, he will have to play.

Should he opt for the more sensible style of engagement, he will need to move significantly beyond his currently misconceived search for global denuclearization (“a world free of nuclear weapons”) to a far more thoroughly realistic plan for (1) controlling further nuclear proliferation and (2) improving America’s own nuclear posture. More than anything else, this indispensable move will require the creation of a more suitable U.S. strategic doctrine.

Earlier, at the start of the Cold War, the United States first began to codify vital orientations to nuclear deterrence and nuclear war. At that time, the world was tightly bipolar, and the indisputable enemy was the Soviet Union. Tempered by a shared knowledge of the unprecedented horror that finally ceased in 1945, each superpower had readily understood the core need for cooperation (or at least coordination), as well as for conflict preparedness.

With the start of the nuclear age, American national security was premised on seemingly primal threats of “massive retaliation.” Over time, especially during the Kennedy years, that calculated policy was softened by more subtle and nuanced threats of “flexible response.” Along the way, a coherent and generalized American strategic doctrine was crafted to accommodate every conceivable kind of adversary and enemy encounter. Systematic and historically grounded, this doctrine was developed self-consciously, to evolve prudently, and in carefully considered increments.

Strategic doctrine, defense intellectuals had already understood, is a “net.” Only those who cast can catch.

Today we live in an increasingly “multipolar” system. No longer is the world under the controlling ambit of either Washington or Moscow. Now, there are complex and sometimes intersecting axes of global conflict. Among other things, this means that we must construct our national nuclear strategies with a deliberate view toward impacting multiple and interdependent centers of global power. Moreover, this view still includes some of the usual suspects, especially Russia.

Moscow has continued to reinvigorate its production of intercontinental ballistic missiles and ICBM supporting infrastructures. In part, this represents an entirely predictable Russian response to expectations that America may yet push ahead with its plans for expanded ballistic missile defense in Europe. In Russian calculations, which are by no means eccentric or devoid of merit, such plans are actually offensive. This is because they would threaten to undermine the always-basic deterrence requirements of mutual vulnerability.

At this moment, we may at least hope, Obama’s primary strategic focus is on North Korea, Iran, and an already-nuclear Pakistan. There certainly is nothing wrong with such a focus (quite the contrary); the problem is that each case is likely being considered as if it were altogether singular, ad hoc, or unique. Instead, acknowledging that generality is a trait of all scientific meaning, the president should now be fashioning a comprehensive doctrine from which logically appropriate policies for each of these urgent cases could then be properly extrapolated.

In all three cases there are more-or-less plausible concerns of enemy irrationality. In such alarming situations, where leadership elites in Pyongyang, Tehran, or Islamabad might value certain presumed national or religious obligations more highly than physical survival, the logic of deterrence could fail. Such a scenario is improbable, but it is certainly not inconceivable.

Also important to understand are possible interactions or synergies between major adversaries. North Korea and Iran, both with documented ties to China, Syria, and Russia, have maintained a long-term and consequential strategic relationship.

Other major problems face us. These threats may even be unrelated to what is happening in Russia, North Korea, Iran, or Pakistan and might only be indirectly connected to the belligerent intentions of other nation-states. Such problems could stem, in part, from the effectively uncontrolled growth of certain virulently antagonistic sub-state guerrilla and/or terrorist organizations.

This sort of growth, moreover, is made more likely by ongoing events in Syria and also by the UN’s recent tilt to further formalizing Palestinian statehood. Now already a “nonmember observer state,” the Palestinian Authority is closer to becoming, together with Hamas in Gaza, a palpably more effective base for launching significant anti-Israel terror attacks.

Obama’s Flawed Advice To Israel (First of Two Parts)

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

It’s farewell to the drawing-room’s civilized cry, the professor’s sensible whereto and why, The frock-coated diplomat’s social aplomb, Now matters are settled with gas and with bomb.

W.H. Auden, Danse Macabre One must presume that President Obama’s most recent calls for Israeli cooperation in the Middle East peace process are balanced, fair, and well-intentioned. Why not? At the same time, unsurprisingly, these all-too-familiar calls are manifestly thin, in the sense that they lack any genuine intellectual content.

At best reminiscent of former president Bill Clinton’s inept and unforgivable orchestrations of Oslo, they are merely the latest unimaginative representation of “old wine in new bottles.” At worst, and once again evocative of Clinton’s long reach of incapacity, they exhibit a conspicuously shallow compilation of empty witticisms. For Obama, as for Clinton before him, advising Israel always entails inevitable diplomatic default: a visceral capitulation to comforting banalities, and convenient half-truths.

In any event, one analytic conclusion is abundantly clear and incontestable. Mr. Obama’s core argument is founded upon thoroughly incorrect strategic and jurisprudential assumptions. Intellectually, this argument is an unwitting self-parody.

The key problem is not, as the president still seems to think, Israel’s unwillingness to compromise more fully. It’s not that Israel is unwilling to make more “painful sacrifices for peace.” It is, rather, the plainly asymmetrical commitment to peace that continues to exist between the Palestinian side(s) and the Israeli side.

It makes no real sense to ask that Israel undertake increasing and incremental surrenders to a bifurcated enemy (Fatah and Hamas) that can still gleefully share at least one overriding commitment – that is, a relentless and generally unhidden dedication to Israel’s “liquidation.”

Let Obama finally take note. From the beginning, the only Israeli compromise that could have satisfied both Fatah and Hamas would have been a perversely codified Israeli commitment to self-destruction and national disappearance. Should Israel now be expected to be complicit in its own genocide?

International law is not a suicide pact. Why hasn’t Obama even looked at the unambiguous historical record? Even before formal conferral statehood in 1948, Israel had sought, courageously and reasonably, to negotiate with its many unheroic and unreasonable enemies. Always, in these efforts, Jerusalem had preferred peace to war.

Nonetheless, challenged by insistent and interminable Arab aggressions, diplomacy has insistently failed Israel. Even the most visible example of any alleged diplomatic “success,” the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty of 1979, is apt to fail calamitously sometime in the post-Mubarak/Muslim Brotherhood era. It’s only a matter of time.

Whatever the neatly fashioned expectations demanded from Washington, Prime Minister Netanyahu is first obligated to inquire: What real chance exists that, somehow, this time and also for the future, diplomacy might actually be purposeful?

From Oslo to the present “Road Map,” diplomacy over Israel’s rights and obligations has always been a blatantly one-sided process.

Ironically, Israel’s principal enemies remain thoroughly candid. On some things they do not lie. When it comes to their unceasing intention to annihilate the “Zionist entity” they are seemingly sworn to truth.

The principal disputing Palestinian factions (Fatah or Hamas, it makes little difference) will never accept anything less than Israel’s complete removal. This is already obvious to anyone who cares to pay attention to what is actually said. Moreover, in a clearly corroborating bit of explicit cartography, every PA and Hamas map already incorporates all of Israel within “Palestine.”

Toward the end of his tenure, former prime minister Ehud Olmert released several hundred Palestinian terrorists as a “goodwill gesture.” Together with then-president George W. Bush, he had decided to aid Fatah against Hamas with outright transfers of weapons and information. Soon after, the American and Israeli guns were turned (predictably) against Israel.

As for Olmert’s graciously extended “goodwill,” it only served to elicit the next multiple rounds of murderous rocket fire. Matters were not helped at all by the Bush administration’s corollary support for a Palestinian state, a thoroughly misconceived support now being more or less viscerally extended by Barack Obama.

…Continued Next Week

Understanding Israel’s National-Security Policy

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

Most of my Jewish Press columns deal with Israel’s most urgent national security problems, especially those that have, or have had, a real or prospective nuclear component. What I have never dealt with on these pages, however, are the important and corollary issues of how Israel actually makes its national security policy.

Now, auspiciously, Charles D. Freilich, a senior fellow at the Belfer Center at Harvard and a professor at Tel Aviv University, has written Zion’s Dilemmas: How Israel Makes National Security Policy (Cornell University Press), an authoritative and authentically magisterial answer to this vital question. There is much here for the reader to learn.

Let me start with the author’s conclusion, because, paradoxically, it represents an ideal place for me to begin. “The Lord is my shepherd,” quotes Freilich from the Book of Psalms, “and fortunate this is, for the decision-making process in Israel is deeply flawed.” Following 256 pages of meticulous and systematic investigation – an investigation that proceeds with all of the best architecture of modern social science, including appropriately careful delineations of “‘independent” and “dependent” variables – Freilich is intent to call all things by their correct names.

This is no narrowly partisan exegesis. This is no attempt to present a uniformly positive or contrived picture of Israel’s national security establishment. To the contrary, the author offers an entirely honest and open consideration that is often conspicuously less than visceral praise. To be sure, there is also a good deal of praise in Freilich’s book for the Israeli DMP, or decision-making process, but it is correctly based on a dispassionate and detached assessment.

What we learn is that needed changes in the DMP have simply not kept up with the growing complexities and synergies of Israel’s always-hostile external environment:

“Nearly sixty-five years after independence, the same basic political processes, which so successfully gave rise to the nation in its formative years, are still largely intact.”

Especially troubling to the author, the reader will discover, is that Israel’s DMP is more “chaotic” and “politicized” than in other countries, not by any means an intrinsically fatal disadvantage, but one, nonetheless, that has still managed to generate injurious “pathologies.”

Worth noting, at this point, is that Freilich has served as a senior analyst in the Israeli Ministry of Defense, and also as Israel’s deputy national security adviser. His assessments, therefore, are not simply an expression of outstanding academic scholarship, but the well-reasoned product of a distinguished and astute observer, one who has already had an important seat at the government table.

As a political scientist, I can admire the graceful way the author moves effortlessly between fashioning general theory and tendering elucidations of pertinent history. Combining the perceptual strengths of Isaiah Berlin’s “hedgehog” and “fox,” Freilich helps us see both one big decisional canvas and also many smaller, constituent elements.

Shaping a consciously nuanced model of national security decision-making in Israel, he applies it to assorted and carefully selected events of the past thirty years, ranging from Camp David I to the “disengagement” from Gaza in 2005 to the Second Lebanon War one year later.

The result is plainly disconcerting, as these seven cases reveal many critically lost opportunities, flagrantly unpardonable decisional errors, and an always highly politicized decisional context. While Freilich underscores the liabilities of Israel’s too-informal planning process, he also notes that this flawed process has allowed a relatively high degree of latitude or flexible response, as well as a gainfully self-serving sensitivity to pragmatic solutions.

Particularly helpful to the serious reader is the author’s continuous emphasis on “existential decision-making” as a critical component of Israel’s national security environment. Undoubtedly, this particular component is indispensable to understanding what drives the country’s DMP at its very core. In this connection, however, I would have liked to see greater attention paid to important details of Menachem Begin’s decision to attack Iraq’s nuclear reactor on June 7, 1981.

Of course, each reader will choose to assess the author’s selection of case studies differently according to his or her own personal hierarchy of concerns. But the connections between Operation Opera and the current threat of a nuclear Iran are unambiguously of the very highest urgency. Jurisprudentially, the attack on the Iraqi reactor was treated by Israel as a permissible expression of “anticipatory self-defense.” One may surmise that any future Israeli preemption against Iranian nuclear assets and infrastructures would have to be cast in very similar legal terms.

Amidst the Chaos, the IDF Preserves Israel’s Independence

Monday, April 15th, 2013

In today’s Middle East, radical forces, which thrive on chaos, are on the rise; and those who rule the Arab states are here today and gone tomorrow.

Independence Day in Israel, which this evening starts celebrations for the 65th year of Israel’s Independence, takes place deliberately right after Memorial Day, dedicated to honoring Israel’s fallen soldiers, so the Israeli public remains keenly aware that independence is possible only due to the sacrifices made by the fallen.

This year, however, looks set to be decisive – when the world finds out whether the international community’s policy of engaging Tehran diplomatically, while applying biting economic sanctions, will work or not. Should the policy fail, military action remains a serious possibility.

Since Israel’s founding in 1948, Israelis have sought peace and seized upon opportunities to make it when they arose, such as Israel’s return of the Sinai Peninsula in 1979 in exchange for peace with Egypt, as well as departure from Southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.

“Despite everything,” said newly appointed Defense Minister, Moshe Ya’alon, “despite so many elements that wanted to prevent this country’s founding, and who continue to invest so much every day to destroy us – they arise here in our intelligence assessments, Iran, Hezbollah — nevertheless, there is no doubt, that what stands between independence and a lack of independence is the shield of the IDF. ”

“We have the great privilege of defending Israel and protecting its independence,” Israel Defense Force Chief of Staff Benny Gantz concurred this week at IDF General Headquarters in Tel Aviv. “I wish us a successful year of independence, in the face of the challenges that are emerging before us. I am sure we will know how to carry out our missions.”

While Ya’alon and Gantz have been studying the intelligence on the upheavals and multiple asymmetric threats developing on Israel’s borders, Iran and its nuclear program remain at the top of the security agenda.

Although a collapsing Syria no longer remains a conventional military threat to Israel — the Syrian army is engaged in fighting the rebels, while steadily losing its power — the crumbling Middle Eastern old order is allowing for a plethora of terrorist organizations to grow on Israel’s borders.

Hizballah, for example, an Iranian-backed Shi’ite terrorist group, remains with its estimated 80,000 rockets – an unprecedented number of projectiles – pointed at Israel.

Should Hezbollah initiate a future round of hostilities, the IDF has prepared a large-scale ground operation into Lebanon, aimed at extinguishing rocket attacks on the Israeli home front.

The Israel Air Force has also been busy preparing surprises for future conflicts. New technologies allow fighter jets to strike as many as 1500 targets in 24 hours. Israel’s reply to Hizballah aggression would be devastating.

Both Iran and Hezbollah are in the process of setting up a militia in war-torn Syria. This militia, made up of 50,000 fighters, will remain active in Syria even if the Assad regime is toppled.

Also in Syria, Al-Qaeda is planning to raise the flag of radical Sunni Islam, as its Syrian and Iraqi forces announce a merger.

In Israel’s south, near the Gaza strip, the IDF is also closely monitoring Hamas, which, at least for the time being, has remained deterred by Israel. Next door, however, the Sinai Peninsula is filled with Al-Qaeda-affiliated jihadi fighters, who are planning their next cross-border attack.

The IDF is closely studying this complex map of threats, and making sure it is ready for the future. Today, with Israel’s military is at its strongest, the country is capable of dealing with its highly chaotic and dangerous environment.

Originally published at the Gatestone Institute.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/amidst-the-chaos-the-idf-preserves-israels-independence/2013/04/15/

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