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The conflicts in Iraq, Lebanon, and Afghanistan and the global Islamist insurgency have revealed that Western democracies and their political and military leaders do not fully comprehend the multifaceted threats represented by radical Muslim nonstate actors. In this, they violate the most famous dictum of Sun Tzu, the Chinese strategic genius of 2,500 years ago: "If you know yourself and understand your opponent you will never put your victory in jeopardy in any conflict."
The broad support that al Qaeda jihadis and radical Islamist militias
such as Hamas and Hezbollah enjoy in the Muslim world and in the
global Muslim diaspora, as well as among non-Muslim anti-American
political forces around the world demonstrates that describing the
global Islamic insurgency as a fringe or minority phenomenon is
unrealistic and self-defeating. Since 9/11, democracies have fought
three wars against nonstate Islamist actors. The West needs to draw
important lessons from Iraq, Afghanistan, and the clash between Israel
and Hezbollah to address these strategic deficits. Lack of clarity in
defining the enemy and delays in formulating political and information
strategy severely endanger U.S. national interests and the security of
The Bush administration lost valuable time before it finally defined radical Islam as the premier national security threat in October 2005. Initially in the post-9/11 period, the president targeted "evildoers" and "terrorism" as the enemy. Moreover, Islam was declared a "religion of peace" and Saudi Arabia, which has spent the last 30 years spreading its Wahhabi/Salafi gospel, was labeled as "our friend." Unsurprisingly, the nation and the military were somewhat disoriented.
The U.S. military quickly and successfully destroyed the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. After that, however, the menu of enemies became slim: Saudi Arabia, from which 15 out of 19 hijackers came, was considered too important an oil supplier and too pivotal a state in the Middle East to be engaged. Pakistan, both the parent and the nursemaid of the Taliban, promised cooperation. Most important, the U.S. did not know (and still does not know) how to fight nonstate actors, be they sub-state terrorist organizations, militias, or supra-state religious/political movements.
The jury is still out as to all the reasons for the Soviet collapse, but it was defeated in part through an indirect strategy formulated by the Reagan administration, and in part because it disintegrated due to its own internal weaknesses. If we are to believe one who was "present at the destruction" -- Russian Prime Minister Egor Gaidar -- a key reason was the flooding of the world market with cheap Saudi expensive military-industrial complex. In addition, it was burdened with ideological fatigue and cynicism, torn by ethnic centrifugal forces, and being bled in Afghanistan by the U.S.-supported mujahedeen.
For over a century, the U.S. military and other arms of the government
have been designed, nurtured, and financed to fight nation states,
from Spain in 1898, to Germany in the two world wars, to Japan
in 1941-45. Working with insurgencies or counter-insurgencies hasn't
been Washington's forte for a long time. The U.S. military did not
succeed in defeating the North Vietnamese insurgency, nor did its Cold
War guerilla allies prevail in Angola or Mozambique. Beside the Huk
rebellion in the Philippines, and support of Afghan mujahedeen, U.S.
insurgency and counterinsurgency successes have been limited and
peripheral to war-fighting. The current conflict is fundamentally
The U.S. entanglements in Iraq and Afghanistan are exactly where the jihadis want the United States to be. According to Ayman al Zawahiri, in a taped interview at the second anniversary of 9/11, "If they withdraw, they lose everything, and if they stay they will continue to bleed to death." In other words, damned if you do and damned if you don't.
U.S. abandonment of Iraq would be seen as a major victory for anti-American and Islamist forces in the Middle East and throughout the Muslim world. After Iraq, jihadis may target Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, and eventually Egypt and nuclear-armed Pakistan for takeover. It is the belief of al Qaeda leaders from Osama bin Laden all the way down that Iraq is going to do to America what Afghanistan did to Russia. And this would be a major accomplishment for a nonstate actor in a confrontation with the mightiest state on earth.
Meanwhile, the future of NATO operations in Afghanistan remains uncertain, with many European allies foretelling the Alliance's defeat there. A resurgent Taliban, supported by al Qaeda and by elements within Pakistan, is threatening to overwhelm the NATO effort. At the same time, many in the Middle East believe that Israel, which they see as America's proxy, was defeated in Lebanon by Hezbollah; and Iran remains defiant, bringing on line batteries of 3,000 centrifuges capable of enriching uranium for nuclear weapons as well as funding Shiite extremists in Iraq and Lebanon.
Islamist extremist/jihadi organizations, including movements and
militias from Egypt to Afghanistan, represent clear and present
dangers to American homeland security, our vital interests, and to our
Arab and Israeli allies. If and when victorious, today's terrorist
organizations, global Islamist movements such as Muslim Brotherhood or
al Qaeda, and "civil militias" such as Hezbollah or the Mahdi Army,
are likely to take over countries and acquire nuclear weapons and
other weapons of mass destruction. With their implacable anti-American
and anti-Western agendas, they will represent dangers comparable to,
or greater than, those presented by the fully armed and mobilized
nation states which topped the threat hierarchies of the twentieth
century. Hezbollah's relative success against Israel in the summer of
2006 is an important case study, worth analyzing in greater detail.
The Israeli-Hezbollah front, which had been relatively dormant since the hasty Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, erupted as world leaders gathered for the July 2006 G-8 Summit in St. Petersburg, Russia. Hezbollah's unprovoked killing of eight Israeli soldiers and kidnapping of two resulted in 34 days of fighting. The hostilities will have long-term repercussions for Israel and other states confronting terrorist organizations, militias outside of state controls, and other nonstate actors.
The main lesson of the Hezbollah war is that military responses are simply not enough. The jihadi threat needs to be defeated by a combination of political, ideological, media, military and intelligence measures. The good news is that the potential does exist for a broad coalition between Western, non-Western and Sunni Muslim and Arab nation-states to get the job done. The bad news is that these actors are still obsessed with weakening Israel and forcing its withdrawal from the West Bank without the foundations for durable peace and have not fully realized the necessity of working together against radical forces. The process of attaining this realization itself is likely to be painfully slow and costly in blood and treasure.
The Hezbollah war is at least the third conflict in the Greater Middle East characterized by the involvement of an advanced Western democracy on the one hand and a sub-state actor on the other. The first two are the war against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and the fighting against the Sunni and Shiite anti-American insurgencies in Iraq. The three wars have important commonalities, as the guerilla forces are religiously motivated, demonstrate a willingness to fight to the end, possess superior knowledge of the local terrain; and rely on dispersal among the local population, often utilizing systems of underground bunkers and strongholds which they prepare in advance.
The Israel-Hezbollah conflict was hardly the first -- or the last -- jihadi war. Israel is already involved in a low-intensity conflict in Gaza, primarily against Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Resistance Committees, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades of the PLO, elements of al Qaeda, and a bevy of other jihadi organizations. The Gaza forces have used Qassam rockets, which are primitive compared with Hezbollah's Katyushas, the Zilzal 1,2, and 3, and the Fajar low trajectory short-range ballistic rockets supplied by Syria and Iran, along with sophisticated anti-tank Russian-made missiles and SAMS. Additionally, Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami (the global Islamic Party of Liberation founded by a Palestinian cleric in the early 1950s) called for the creation of a caliphate (an expansionist military-religious dictatorship operating under strict interpretations of Islamic religious law) in Gaza. The declaration of a caliphate anywhere on the globe would allow jihadi movements everywhere to shift from a "defensive" jihad to an offensive one -- the jihad to impose Islam on the non-Islamic world, something only a caliph is allowed to do.
At least two additional theaters are worth mentioning, as they are not yet attracting as much attention. The first is Somalia, until recently under the tenuous rule of the Islamic Courts. While the Ethiopian Army and the provisional government defeated the Courts in December 2006, the Islamists dispersed among the population and are in the process of making a comeback. The international links of the Islamic Courts are clear. Chechens, Arabs, and even British and Swedish Muslims were killed fighting in Somalia.
The second theater is Darfur, where the Arab Islamist militia
Janjaweed, Hizb ut-Tahrir, and other jihadi organizations have
promised to fight any U.N. peacekeeping contingent deployed there.
Somalia and Sudan's combined population is 44.4 million, thus the
potential of these two impoverished countries to serve as a base of
jihad in Africa and elsewhere can be vast -- as long as the oil money
from Islamist sponsors keeps flowing in to recruit, train, and deploy
their populations as jihadi shock troops. Moreover, if Somalia reverts
to Islamic rule despite the December defeat of the Islamic Courts, its
location next to the Bab-el-Mandeb strait may put this strategic
shipping lane at the mercy of suicide boat attackers operating from
Somali coastal bases.
Even the most advanced militaries, such as the U.S. and Israeli, which relied on the deterrent capacity and reputation they gained in conventional, twentieth century warfare, will need to reaffirm or re-establish deterrence against sub-state actors by successfully destroying enemies in the future. This will not happen unless the nature of the new enemy is fully understood and new doctrines, approaches, tactics, and procedures are developed. Moreover, in the Israeli case, the reassertion of deterrence will not be complete before the appropriate reforms and training have been fully implemented in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
In the past, the U.S. relied on the power of its combined operations and technological and industrial superiority. Its aircraft and ships dominated the skies and the oceans during World War II. In addition, the two nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were a clear demonstration of overwhelming force by a weapon which, for a short time, remained exclusively in U.S. hands. The U.S. military performed majestically in Gulf One, in Afghanistan, and during the opening of the current conflict in Iraq. What happened after the last two campaigns is eroding U.S. power and the perception of that power around the world.
Israel has relied on the deterrence value of its military prowess, earned in the hard-won victory against five attacking Arab armies in 1948; the four-day defeat of the Soviet-equipped Egyptian army in the Suez campaign of 1956; and the victory over the Egyptian, Syrian, and Jordanian forces in 1967, in which Israel lost 779 soldiers while the combined Arab forces lost 21,000.
In the 1973 war, Israel was stunned by a Syrian-Egyptian surprise attack. Nevertheless, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) recovered in time to take back all of the Golan Heights, put Damascus within artillery range, and surround the Third Egyptian Army at Suez, with no effective fighting force between the Israeli troops on the African side of the Suez Canal and Cairo, within three weeks. In 1982, the IDF was at the gates of Beirut within a week, forcing the evacuation of Yassir Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to Tunis, Iraq, and Yemen and destroying a third of the Syrian airforce (86 planes) in one day. While Israel lost 675 soldiers, close to 10,000 Syrian and PLO combatants were killed. Between 1982 and 2000 Israel lost over 1,200 soldiers in Lebanon. But the defeat handed to Syria and the PLO in Lebanon, despite the war having been strategically bungled and the occupation domestically unpopular, bought Israel a quarter of a century without a major war.
The deterrence value of these victories could not last forever,
however. The 1982-2000 South Lebanon conflict ended with Israel's
poorly managed withdrawal and abandonment of the South Lebanon Army in
May 2000. Prime Minister Ehud Barak and then-Chief of Staff Shaul
Mofaz supervised the retreat, which was primarily triggered by
internal Israeli protests and dismay over casualties being suffered by
Israeli troops deployed in the self-styled "security zone" in South
Lebanon. The fact and the form of the withdrawal generated a
perception of Israeli weakness. Shortly thereafter, Yassir Arafat
unleashed the Terror War (the Second Intifada) which lasted until
2004, in which over 1,100 Israelis were killed in bombings and
shootings, 75 percent of them civilians. Many speculated that the
hasty retreat from Lebanon contributed to Arafat's decision to launch
the Second Intifada. However, if this was correct, the Israelis
certainly failed to internalize the lesson. Their 2005 withdrawal from
Gaza, including the abandonment of Jewish villages there, did nothing
to stop the volleys of short-range Qassam rockets from Gaza into
pre-1967 Israel. Many analysts now argue that Israeli withdrawal from
Gaza, billed by the Sharon government as yet another "painful
concession for peace," only contributed to the Hamas electoral victory
in January 2006 and increased the Arab perception of Israeli weakness.
In fact, in June 2006 Hamas conducted an assault and kidnapping
operation similar to Hezbollah's subsequent attack, which triggered
the latest war.
Many Israeli and foreign commentators are focusing, correctly, on the failures of the political leadership and top military to anticipate, evaluate, prepare for, and defeat the Hezbollah threat. They cast the net broadly, to include sociological, morale, bureaucratic and political issues -- not only narrow military ones. All these categories of analysis are valid. They point out that the Tel Aviv-based secular leftist European elite of Israel, including many in the IDF high command, bought into the same approach to military transformation that had been promoted by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. The current generation of Israel's political and military leaders had dismissed the concept of overwhelming military victory in favor of a dysfunctional technocratic reliance on a "Revolution in Military Affairs," emphasizing high-tech systems and air power. While high-tech gives an important advantage to developed countries and modern militaries, it cannot replace good old intelligence and boots on the ground. There clearly was a misguided belief that Israel is so powerful, nothing bad could happen to it. The political, military, and strategic results of this, yet another failed Israeli "concept," are there for all to see. The process of self-examination, investigation, and conclusions will be heart-wrenching. Israel went through a similar exercise after the perceived "earthquake" of 1973. However, the current war is viewed as a limited one but an even more decisive Israel failure than the Yom Kippur War was ever perceived to be. In 1973, the Israelis believed that the Arabs would not attack after the disaster of 1967 -- and paid for the misconception with 3,000 lives in a country of 3.6 million. Then, as now, the Israeli political class and the military became enamored of a concept which turned out to be a self-defeating construct rather than a valid reflection of reality.
In 2006, the political and military leadership suffered from a severe case of negligence and neglect. Israeli government and military institutions had been focused on "unilateral withdrawal" -- first from Gaza and, with an eye toward the future, from the West Bank -- to combat the perceived "drawbacks of occupation." The Olmert cabinet, and especially then-Defense Minister Amir Peretz, a former trade union leader, were busy championing social welfare issues instead of preparing the country for the forthcoming confrontation. At the same time, Syria and Iran were busily arming Hezbollah. The Israeli leadership also did nothing to prepare the country for the crucial realization that Hezbollah is not a conventional army, and that a repeat of the lightning victories of the past was highly unlikely.
During the period leading up to the war with Hezbollah, Israel under then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and then under Ehud Olmert failed to prepare ample bomb shelter space or to deploy the anti-missile defenses it claimed to have developed. It also failed to acquire vital intelligence (such as the location of Sheikh Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader, in the early days of hostilities; the scale of presence of Syrian short- and medium-range missiles in Lebanon; and the deployment of C-801/802 Iranian-made anti-ship missiles). Most important, the IDF did not implement existing plans to destroy Hezbollah through a ground operation and ad-libbed almost until the war's end. Reports from the field of failures to plan and lead operations; disasters in supply and evacuation of the wounded; missing weapons, ammunition, fuel, and other supplies indicate that the country and the army, which had not been engaged in fighting a major war since 1982, needs a massive shake-up.
Public diplomacy/strategic information is yet another area in which Israel utterly failed and which requires a major revamping. Throughout the world, Islamist insurgents masterfully use images and propaganda, relying on sympathetic elements among Western media and nongovernmental organizations to focus international attention on civilian collateral casualties (even to the point of staging them). They use these images to stir the outrage that increases recruitment for future rounds in the conflict.
The Israelis have been particularly inadequate at perception management at least since the 1982 Lebanon war, when they were attacked for allegedly high civilian casualties. In the ensuing years, Israel was systematically smashed in the international media and by the NGO community for the "occupation" of Arab lands, the alleged incarceration of 10,000 Palestinian prisoners, and other much-publicized misdeeds. In the most recent fighting, many an NGO, such as Human Rights Watch, simply refused to recognize that Hezbollah and Hamas deliberately used civilians as human shields and practiced a consistent policy of locating rocket launchers in civilian dwellings, schools, mosques, and hospitals, despite ample reporting in the mainstream, including liberal left, English language media.
With almost astounding ease, the media fell for every Hezbollah trick and deception, including doctoring Reuters photos; publishing a picture of a non-existing Israeli frigate being hit by a Hezbollah rocket (it was an Australian demolition explosion); falling for a sob story about an Israeli missile hitting a Lebanese ambulance right in the middle of its Red Cross; or using the same ruins to claim Israeli missile hits on different dates and deploying rehearsed "city criers" to feed tear-jerking stories to Western correspondents. Most of these hoaxes were exposed by Western bloggers, not by Israeli information officials, whose job it should be to debunk enemy propaganda.
But, most important, in the war with Hezbollah -- and in previous conflicts, as well -- the media fail to comprehend, and the Israelis fail consistently and adequately to explain, that those who are and were fighting Israel (including the PLO's Yassir Arafat, Hezbollah's Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, and his Iranian sponsors) seek genocide and the ultimate demise of the state of Israel in its totality. Similarly, the media often compartamentalize descriptions of jihadi atrocities and the overall strategic goal of jihadis to force the demise of Western civilization. Representatives of Western governments almost never explain these key points, or they explain them without sufficient facts. Western publics are rarely afforded coherent information through which to frame and understand events.
Stigmatized yet again by the conflict with Hezbollah, Israel lost what little support it enjoyed at the beginning of the conflict in Europe, among the American left, and in many developing countries, while the hatred of the Arab world was easily further inflamed by the daily stream of "atrocity news" being served up by Al Jazeera and Al Manar, the Hezbollah satellite tv network. However, Israeli efforts to engage in strategic information operations were and remain virtually nonexistent. The budget of Al Manar is greater than the entire Israeli foreign ministry public diplomacy (hasbara) budget. The architect of this failing public diplomacy/strategic information policy under former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Raanan Gissin, has admitted himself that Jerusalem was particularly lacking on this battlefield.
The Israelis aren't facing this particular battle alone. The U.S. and
the West faced similar difficulties after the liberation of
Afghanistan and the "desecration of the Koran" allegations; and
continue to encounter a media barrage over Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, the
Prophet Muhammad cartoons, and other perception crises, both real and
media-generated. Winning hearts and minds is and will remain the
greatest challenge for Israel -- and the West -- in the forthcoming wars
against the jihadis.
Jihadi organizations, supported by anti-status quo powers such as Iran and Syria, do not threaten only individual states, but are bringing about instability and the destruction of regimes throughout entire regions (Iraq, the Levant, the Arabian Peninsula, the Gulf, the Indian subcontinent). At the same time, state support is a source of sub-state actors' vulnerability which is not sufficiently understood, let alone exploited. As nation-states have leaderships, assets, and interests, those need to be put under pressure to promote a cessation of support for sub-state or supra-state actors.
The Israel-Hezbollah war, as well as conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, yielded many important lessons vital for the success in the conflict against Islamist radicalism world wide. These include:
Do not underestimate the enemy. Not being a conventional army, Hezbollah elicited the contempt of Israeli political and military elites. The deputy chief of staff and Israeli Air Force intelligence commanders referred to Hezbollah as a "terrorist gang," discounting its lethality. Hezbollah wasted no time, putting down roots in Gaza and attempting to penetrate the West Bank. The Pentagon leadership and the U.S. military top brass were slow to recognize the nature of the conflict in Iraq as an insurgency, not just a terrorist campaign.
Find sponsors and leaders. More intelligence penetration of Hezbollah and of Iraqi militias is necessary, both in terms of human intelligence and signal intelligence. More scrutiny needs to be focused on the location of Hezbollah's leadership; the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah link, including the identities of liaison officers; the type and volume of hardware supplied to Hezbollah; the nature and location of the joint Syrian-Iranian-Hezbollah command-and-control center in Syria; the identities of Iranian experts and trainers working with Hezbollah; the identities of Hezbollah personnel trained or training in Iran; and the doctrine and tactics, techniques, and procedures (ttp) that the Iranians are teaching Hezbollah and their allies in Iraq and elsewhere now or in the future.
Similarly, the leadership and connections to foreign states and funders of the Ba'ath underground and the Shiite militias need to be further mined for actionable intelligence of the kind collected in the January 2007 raid on the Iranian representative office in Mosul. Such information can assist in putting down the insurgency.
Local knowledge, language skills, and understanding of political, historical, and religious dynamics of the theater of operations are weapons in themselves. Hezbollah spent a tremendous amount of resources spying on Israel, including recruiting Israeli military officers and gaining a deep understanding of Israeli doctrine and tactics. A similar effort is afoot in Iraq and Afghanistan. Every war is a war of intelligence, of strategic and operational deceit and subterfuge, but twenty-first-century wars will be outstanding for their heavily reliance on and integration with intelligence activities. Gathering and analysis of intelligence are impossible without linguistic and cultural knowledge.
Safe havens are crucial. These wars are not local. Just as Syria provided Hezbollah a safe haven, and Iran supplied money, weapons and training, the Taliban and other jihadi groups are using safe havens, such as in Pakistan, to train, equip, treat the wounded, and learn military and technological innovations. A task for the twenty-fist century war against radical jihad will be to render safe havens unsafe, using diplomacy where possible and force where necessary.
The Hezbollah victory is empowering Iran and threatening to destabilize the whole Middle East. Iranian leaders from Ayatollah Ali Khameini to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have called the outcome "the divine victory." Arab commentators have already opined that the Hezbollah success will boost jihadis (Both Sunni and Shiite) from Iraq to Jordan to Egypt.
Riyadh, Amman, and Cairo were deeply uncomfortable about the Iranian involvement with Iraqi Shiites and support of Hezbollah. Sunni adicals, however, sided with Iran. Ayman al Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's top lieutenant, welcomed Hezbollah's resilience, opening the way to expanded cooperation between extremist Sunnis and extremist Shiites in toppling pro-Western regimes. Cooperation between the United States, European powers, out-of-area actors, and the moderate/pragmatic Arab nation-states, as well as Israel, needs to be boosted to stem the Iranian expansion and a possible anti-American Sunni-Shiite jihadi alliance.
Information warfare and perception management is paramount. Without effective hearts-and-minds strategies that are an integral part of the overall war strategy, the West and its allies in the area have very little in terms of soft power to counter Iran and the jihadis. This information strategy has to affect not just the Western and Muslim media, but also the mosques and the education systems. Modern states and militaries have repeatedly failed to clearly recognize, much less effectively counter, the deliberate campaign of manipulation and propaganda being carried out by militant Islamists/jihadis through the mass media, especially the internet. The largely pacifist Western nongovernmental organization (NGO) sector is often a target of Islamist propaganda that vilifies the U.S. and its allies. Islamists consistently score points through the media, academia, and the NGO community in the court of the public opinion. A case in point for an information warfare offensive would be pressuring the Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, to further cut support not just to al Qaeda and other jihadi organizations, but also to radical Islamic charities and madrassahs, and to deligitimize jihadi-supporting preachers and imams. More efforts are needed to boost the profile of those clerics who promote a message of tolerance and to facilitate the launch of satellite tv channels and websites with agendas aimed at reconciliation and peace. This should be the highest priority in the war of ideas — information warfare that so far the U.S. has been fighting only half-heartedly, and unquestionably losing.
The U.N. is an unreliable agency for peace. Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and the permanent members of the Security Council, especially France and Russia, did precious little to fight terror in Lebanon or Iraq. As far as France is concerned, things are improving under the new administration of President Nicolas Sarkozy. The UN peacekeeping force,unifil, has collected and published detailed data about Israeli force movements in wartime, endangering the lives of Israeli servicemen and women, and violating its own neutrality mandate. Just as the UNSC sat on its hands when Lebanon and Hezbollah failed to implement UNSC Resolution 1559, which stipulated the disarmament of Hezbollah and deployment of the Lebanese Armed Forces to the South, the violation of UNSC Resolution 1701, which demanded the same and more, began the day it was signed. Specifically, Hezbollah announced that it refused to consider procedures to disarm, and it refuses to stop the resupply of weapons from Syria; it considers Israeli troops legitimate targets -- with no repercussions from the UN. Syria and Iran are openly defying the UN and furnishing arms supplies to Hezbollah, with no sanctions and no calls for sanctions against these terror-sponsoring states. Those U.S. and Israeli decision-makers who actively lobbied for Resolution 1701 as the solution for the conflict now look na&uiuml;ve at best, and possibly worse than that. All this is hardly surprising in view of previous UN failures in the Middle East (such as the hasty evacuation from Sinai of the UNEF by Secretary General U Thant in 1967) and the UN "peacekeeping" disasters in Bosnia, Somalia, and Rwanda.
Under-promise and over-deliver. The best strategy is not to advise the
enemy of your strategic goals. Policymakers should not have promised
"a new Middle East" safe for democracy; they should not have
proclaimed that Hezbollah would be destroyed, disarmed, or denied the
ability to fire rockets into Israel. All Israeli leaders needed to say
was "Hezbollah will pay the price" -- and strike at a time and place
of their choosing. Instead, they fought when and where Hezbollah
wanted them to. Rather than under-promising and over-delivering, the
Israelis inflated expectations, articulated maximum goals, and managed
to snatch a public perception of failure from the jaws of potential
victory. Similarly, the U.S. over-promised in Iraq by talking about
turning the country into a model of democracy for the New Middle East.
Now Washington needs to find ways to exercise the art of the possible
and achieve pacification with the least number of American and Iraqi
casualties. Whether this is in fact possible remains to be seen.
When facing sub-state actors, conventional, twentieth-century military doctrines aimed at wars against nation-states and industrial-era mass armies are effectively dead. Even the best traditional militaries, such as the U.S. and Israeli armies, face formidable difficulties when confronted with irregular, well-motivated, and foreign-supported forces, which enjoy media battlefield advantages. The Israel-Hezbollah conflict was not so much a defeat of Israel as it was a defeat of the old-style warfare by the new. The same can be said about the U.S. military in Iraq. The best nineteenth-century cavalry army would be impotent against small and well-trained tank and mechanized infantry divisions. And with modern warfare becoming increasingly political, intelligence-based, and waged on the information battlefield, it is time to restructure the military to answer these challenges. The time to wake up and rethink the paradigms is now. Tomorrow may be too late.
1 Ariel Cohen, Russian Imperialism: Development and Crisis (Greenwood Publishers, 1998).
2 Ayman Al Zawahiri, quoted in Bruce Hoffman, "Combating Al Qaeda and the Militant Islamic Threat," Testimony presented to the House Armed Services Committee, Subcommittee on Terrorism Unconventional Threats and Capabilities, Rand Corporation CT-255 (February 2006).
3 Anthony Cordesman, "Preliminary Lessons of the Israeli-Hezbollah War," Center for Strategic and International Studies (August 27, 2006).
4 Julie Stahl, "Radical Group May Declare Islamic Caliphate in Gaza," CNSNews.com (August 24, 2006).
5 Opheera McDoom, "Islamist Threaten to Fight U.N. Darfur Force," Reuters (August 25, 2006). See also, Ariel Cohen, "Hizb ut-Tahrir: An Emerging Threat to U.S. Interests in Central Asia," Heritage Foundation, Backgrounder 1656 (May 30, 2003).
6 Ari Shavit, "Systemic Failure," Haaretz (August 4, 2006); Yuval Steinitz (the former chairman of the Knesset foreign affairs and defense committee), "The War That Was Led Astray," Haaretz (August 17, 2006).
7 Interview with the author, retired general, Israeli general staff (August 8, 2006).
8 Ralph Peters, "Hezbollah 3, Israel 0," New York Post (August 17, 2006).
9 Anthony Cordesman, "Qana and the Lessons for Modern War," Center for Strategic and International Studies (July 31, 2006).
10 Alan Dershowitz, "What are they Watching," New York Sun (August 23, 2007).
11 "Reuters Drops Beirut Photographer," BBC, (August 8, 2006).
12 "Hezbollah sinks Australian War Ship," Herald Sun, Andrew Bolt's Blog (August 22, 2006).
13 "The Red Cross Ambulance Incident. How the Media Legitimized an
Anti-Israel Hoax and Changed the Course of a War"
14 Raanan Gissin, "The Critical Importance of Israeli Public Diplomacy in the War Against the Iran-Hizballah Axis of Terror," Jerusalem Issue Brief, Institute for Contemporary Affairs 6:9 (August 23, 2006).
15 Gissin, "The Critical Importance of Israeli Public Diplomacy."
16 Tamim Al-Barghouti, "Two souths, one war," Al Ahram Weekly Online (August 3-9 2006).
17 Lori Lowenthal Marcus, "What did you do in the war, UNIFIL?" Weekly Standard (September 4, 2006).
This appeared as Policy Review 145, October & November 2007,
Ariel Cohen is senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation. He is the editor and co-author of Eurasia in Balance (Ashgate, 2005.)
This appeared as Policy Review 145, October & November 2007,
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