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  • January 5, 2013

    Into the Fray: Redefining (failure as) victory


    One can only hope that the stiffening of national resolve the public seems to be displaying in its choice of candidates for the next Knesset, will result in a new political atmosphere that will permit the IDF to once again become the formidable and feared fighting apparatus it once was.

      Post-modern notions have blurred the strategic clarity of Israel’s political leadership and its defense and foreign affairs establishment. [T]he outcome of the 2006 [Lebanon] war makes the next round inevitable 
      – Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies
      Even if Israel can very capably defend itself…it lacks the will to make the protracted efforts to defeat its enemies…. No one at the upper echelons of Israel’s political life articulates the imperative for victory 
      – Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum

      The IDF either lost ability to or forgot how to close with and destroy a determined enemy…. When a nation’s infantry cannot close the last 100 meters and kill a determined foe a country is in trouble 
      – Col. (ret.) Kevin Benson, former director, the US Army’s School of Advanced Military Studies.

    Last week, Yaakov Lappin, who covers military and security affairs for The Jerusalem Post, published an article which should give cause for grave alarm to anyone concerned with Israel’s security.

    The reason the article, titled “Israel redefines victory in the new Middle East,” is so disturbing is that it appears to indicate that Israel’s defense establishment has learned little from the string of military failures – or at least, non-successes – incurred by the IDF over the better part of a decade.

    Fossilized thought process?

    As Lappin is a well-informed, responsible journalist, there seems little reason to question the credibility of his account of the prevailing mindset of the senior echelons charged with formulating the nation’s military doctrine.

    For what emerges is a dismal picture of fossilized thinking – a kind of mental rigor mortis – reflecting an unawareness of, or a refusal to acknowledge, the fact that the conceptual templates and perceptual frameworks being employed to formulate Israel’s operational procedures have precipitated a series of grossly unsatisfactory outcomes in virtually all the IDF’s major military undertakings since the beginning of this century.

    Indeed, if one examines the realities that developed in the wake of all these engagements, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Israel’s adversaries emerged with their strategic positions perceptibly enhanced – or at least, with having wrung important benefits for themselves and/or their constituencies.

    Time and again, Israel’s leaders have been unable to translate operational success into political-strategic advantage.

    Quite the opposite. Each time, after the guns fell silent, the other side has gained in strength and/or prestige, and Israel has been pressed into making concessions regarding the conditions that prevailed in the status quo ante.

    Catalogue of counter-productive campaigns

    A brief survey of the aftermaths of the IDF’s more significant campaigns/operations in recent years reveals a depressing picture of counterproductive martial endeavor, despite frequent displays of impressive intelligence gathering, pinpoint targeting and awesome destructive power.

    Thus, the 2006 Second Lebanon War paved the way for the ascent of Hezbollah.

    Despite the massive devastation inflicted on Lebanon, the inconclusive end to the fighting left Hezbollah in a distinctly enhanced position both in terms of refurbished armaments and political power. Indeed, any future threat to its status would seem more likely to arise from the outcome of the civil war in Syria and the fate of the movement’s hitherto sponsor, Bashar Assad, rather than any peril it might face from the IDF.

    Similarly, the 2008-9 Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, which, although conducted with a greater level of professionalism than the Lebanon fiasco, still left Hamas entrenched in power and spoiling for a fight, after defying the might of the IDF for almost a month – and, as was to be demonstrated a few years later, with greatly enhanced capabilities militarily and international stature politically.

    Even the interception of the 2010 Gaza flotilla, which was intended to enforce the blockade of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, resulted in the blockade being eased and restrictions being lifted.

    Likewise, the November 2012 Operation Pillar of Defense demonstrated that Hamas had not been deterred by Operation Cast Lead, but merely forced to regroup and re-arm, with a greatly improved array of weaponry. The premature curtailing of the fighting by Israel not only left the organization in a position to claim its defiant resistance victorious, but with its international standing considerably upgraded, with visits by high-level international figures and pledges of generous financial aid.

    Worse, the Egyptian brokered cease-fire understanding left Hamas with considerable concessions, including the lifting of additional restrictions on imports, and with undertakings by Israel to refrain from various military activities it had carried out in the past.

    Responding with resignation and rhetoric

    Alas, judging from Lappin’s account of the mentality that dominates the formulation of Israel’s security doctrine, this abysmal array of results is not difficult to understand. Indeed, some might contend that they were largely inevitable. For it appears that the nation’s policy-makers have resolved to respond to the realities of the New Middle East with a regrettable combination of resignation and rhetoric.

    Lappin begins his article with the following observation: “Israel is redefining its concept of military victory in a Middle East dominated by terrorist organizations turned quasi-state actors.”

    However, to some it may appear that the notion of “victory” (at least as it is understood in common English-language usage) has been expunged from Israeli strategic thinking, both as an admissible cognitive entity and as an attainable, even desirable, military goal.

    According to Lappin: “Victory was seen by the Israel Defense Forces as a clear-cut event, which ended when the enemy raised a white flag.”

    He continues: “Today, however, the IDF considers this thinking out of date in the 21st-century battle arenas of the region, where a terror organization such as Hamas will continue firing rockets into Israel right up until the last day of a conflict, and claim victory despite absorbing the majority of damages and casualties.”

    Lappin also writes that Israel’s strategic planners have renounced the notion of seizing territory from which attacks are launched against Israel – or at least prescribe refraining from it as far as possible: “Today, the goal of seizing control of the enemy’s turf is seen as a short-term initiative, and…is a highly unpopular development among strategic planners, who now argue that this should be avoided wherever possible.”

    Redefining deterrence

    It would seem that “victory” is not the only concept that is undergoing a “semantic overhaul.” So it would seem is the notion of “deterrence.”

    Lappin: “Deterrence, rather than clearcut conquest or triumph over the enemy, has formed the goal of Israel’s last three conflicts: the Second Lebanon War of 2006; Operation Cast Lead against Hamas and Islamic Jihad in 2009 and Operation Pillar of Defense against the same entities in Gaza in November.”

    As he goes on to clarify, however: “…deterrence-based military achievements are temporary by nature. At some point, deterrence erodes away, and must be reestablished all over again. This is what happened in Gaza last month. And the IDF has been preparing for a fresh confrontation with Hezbollah in Lebanon, which today is armed with at least 50,000 rockets and missiles, many of them… that can strike deep inside Israel.”

    This suggests a radical departure from the usual significance ascribed to both “deterrence” and to the means employed to attain it.

    For as Lappin explains: “The IDF’s evolving new [deterrence-rather-than-triumph-based] doctrine involves short spells of fighting, in which the IDF hits the other side…hard enough to ensure that the Israeli homefront will enjoy prolonged calm after the fighting ends.”

    Deterrence redefined (cont.)

    Clearly, in the new IDF jargon, “deterrence” no longer entails engendering the ongoing perception in the mind of potential adversaries that aggression will have unacceptable consequences, but merely inducing short periods of respite until the consequences are no longer so perceived.

    This is a formula for a never-ending tit-for-tat cycle of attacks and counterattacks, in which the aggressor can persist in attrition, secure in knowledge that the IDF will eschew measures aimed at “clear-cut conquest or triumph over the enemy.”

    In other words, whatever the damage inflicted on the environs, the enemy can be sure of being left able to fight another day.

    But perhaps what is even graver is that measures to achieve an effective deterrent posture are no longer focused on ensuring that the enemy’s will-to-fight is broken – as in the case with Germany and Japan after World War II. Instead, the virtually explicitly stated goal today is to coerce the enemy into a temporary truce, which merely forces it to regroup and redeploy while allowing it to rearm and rebuild, and thus to resume hostilities at a later stage, with its appetite to engage undiminished.

    As Israel Harel recently remarked in Haaretz in a scathing rebuke of the prevailing ethos in the IDF: “This is why terrorists can and will fire thousands of rockets at Israel, and this is what will lead us to the next intifada.”

    Remilitarizing the IDF

    In his “How Israel Bungled the Second Lebanon War” inMiddle East Quarterly, Efriam Inbar makes an astute diagnosis of the malaise: “… many IDF leaders believed that minimal force if not diplomacy would suffice to minimize the threat.”

    To make the point, he cites then-chief of the Northern Command, Maj.-Gen. Udi Adam, who declared: “There is nothing that can be solved just by the military… There is a need for a diplomatic solution,” adding, “I do not believe that anyone wants to go back into Lebanon.”

    This is precisely the point.

    Cowered by the tyranny of political correctness, Israel has abandoned the pursuit of military imperatives. The dread of being bogged down in a “quagmire” of a land operation has ensnared it in the quicksand of impotence, leading to a string of strategic failures that have left its adversaries stronger than they were before Israeli action.

    Yes, Israel’s overall national strategy must incorporate a judicious mixture of military and diplomatic endeavor. But diplomatic endeavor must be geared to facilitating the pursuit of that strategy’s objectives, not to undermining it –and certainly cannot become a determinant of those objectives, nor a factor that dictates the measures to achieve them.

    The IDF needs to remilitarize its thinking, readopt military methods/methodologies, and reinstate military objectives.

    It needs to refocus on “military solutions” and leave the diplomatic ones to the diplomats.

    Reinstating the “white flag” objective

    According to Lappin, the architects of Israel’s defense strategy have essentially renounced any endeavor to coerce the enemy to raise a white flag of surrender.

    This is a grave error rooted more in the prevailing mood in the political milieu rather than in military realities in the field.

    True, some might protest with a degree of justification, the idea of a comprehensive victory over the Arab world is a dangerous, unattainable delusion. Perhaps – but imposing surrender on the enemy in specific theaters of military engagement is not.

    Thus, as Inbar observes, the IDF definitely could have “eviscerat[ed] Hezbollah’s ability to harm Israel.”

    So surrender could have been imposed on Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006; it could have been imposed on Hamas in Gaza in 2008. It can and must be imposed on Hamas today.

    The missing ingredient was not martial prowess of the IDF, nor the motivation of its warriors. The lack of political will was the missing ingredient required for a more successful outcome.

    In the next encounter – regrettably made inevitable by the policies now adopted – Israel’s Arab adversaries, whether non-states, quasi-states or states, must be crushed by overwhelming force, from the land, sea and air. Their leaders must be seized or slain. They must be forced to admit defeat – and indeed forced to hoist a white flag as an unambiguous acknowledgment of surrender.

    The coming elections

    This is far from an exhaustive critique of the problem Lappin sets out in his article, and much remains to be addressed that, sadly, the constraints of space does not permit.

    But given that the sources of the malaise afflicting Israel’s military planners are dominantly political, one can only hope that the stiffening of national resolve the public seems to be displaying in its choice of candidates for the next Knesset, will result in a new political atmosphere that will permit the IDF to once again become the formidable and feared fighting apparatus it once was – free of the impediments which currently curtail its operational alternatives, endanger the country it is assigned to defend and imperil the citizens it is charged to protect.

    Martin Sherman ( is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.

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  • Posted by Ted Belman @ 6:03 am | 27 Comments »

    27 Comments to Into the Fray: Redefining (failure as) victory

    1. andrew morris says:

      Can anyone define what represents victory in the middle east? A clear cut military victory for Israel, with a permanent effect is impossible.

    2. the phoenix says:

      andrew morris Said:

      Can anyone define what represents victory in the middle east? A clear cut military victory for Israel, with a permanent effect is impossible.

      well andrew, i believe it all to be a mindset.
      and it all boils down to courage to face the reality for what it really IS (“Egypt’s Islamic Jihad: Jews Deserve to be Killed” ) and not some bs pie in the sky let’s hug the trees, and the arabs , and peace now etc etc….
      THAT is the reality.
      THAT is the mindset of the enemy, and in this case, i define the enemy as I.S.L.A.M. pure and simple (unfortunately, we have many others BESIDES the musloidds, but for the sake of discussion, and to answer your question, it is islam)
      we are talking here about 1400+ years of ingrained (and inbred) mentality that is raised on the kkkoran, with its hateful verses and commands to kill the infidel wherever you find him and to kill the jews (why even a rock or a tree will be saying that’there is a jew hiding…so go and kill him’.

      moses was going in the desert for 40 years so as to have a generation with a slave mentality die off and be replaced by a new generation that was born free (new mindset, new paradigms)

      we are now 45years after the six day war.
      the euphoria that came immediately in its aftermath, has evaporated. in the weeks and months immediately after ’67 no friggin’ arab would even DARE to raise his head or say a word…
      we did not take advantage of them, and did not have a savage crowd of jews screaming for their blood…
      none of that happened.
      quite the contrary.
      45 years have gone by and with it, it brought a new mindset to these bastards. they realised that they can…slowly raise their heads…higher…and higher…and there is noneed to fear ‘the asraeelis’ since they are not like the musloids…so, as such…they started to push their envelope and to see what are the limitations…only to see, to their disbelief – that not only THERE ARE NO LIMITATIONS, but there are some asraeeli jooooos (allah be blessed!)that are helping them in their fight….

      for the animal that a muslim believer is, only understands the language of force and as such this should be the language that should be used.

      we had the sad experience last century where we did not take a madman’s words seriously…
      let us not repeat the same mistake again, and let us not have ‘never again’ be just a cute little slogan…

      in my view, to answer your question andrew, it is a question of setting precedents, which over the course of time WILL CHANGE MINDSETS.

      iran must be nuked!
      and if as a result of that, there will be thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions, whatever, that will die…
      well, so be it. better them than us, and let us call a spade a spade here, they would not hesitate and would have no second thoughts about droping a nuclear bomb on israel (and the enlightened west would hold a moment of silence…..F**K THEM!!!)
      once the nuclear threat is removed, and israel has shown resolve and not flinching, all these barking muslim dogs will become quiet, one after the other…
      the world (like i said before – f**k it!)will change its paradigm as well to ‘hmmmm we had better not mess with the jews’

      that is what it takes.
      and as far as the illegal musloid squatters in the land of israel… why, THEY MUST GO!

    3. the phoenix says:

      @ andrew morris:
      my comment to you is in moderation

    4. Max says:

      I always remember that Olmert said in 2005 that he was ‘sick of victories’.
      Victory is the complete military elimination of Hamas and Hezbollah no matter what the cost for a start – and to show that any more that start up in either place will be similarly exterminated
      Failure is the fact that these organizations were allowed to start and were not crushed on day one.

      Anything short of that tis not even on the road to ‘victory’.

      Failure is Failure. Taste the bitter and hunger for the sweet.

      On the Syrian Front, I read a disturbing report that Saudi Intelligence ordered (Al Queda in Iraq) (Al Nusra) to assassinate the leaders of the FSA and take over the revolution.
      The thing is, that if I were them – it’s a really good strategy – just the thing that they are good at and the FSA is not – so I can see it happening , orders or not. –
      Until now I thought it was a slam dunk to eliminate Al queda post Assad.

      I guess not. I blame America, Obama and the West for letting them get in and not rushing in to back the ones we had a better chance to deal with.

    5. the phoenix says:

      Ted please release my comment from moderation.
      Thank you

    6. Max says:

      Max Said:

      On the Syrian Front, I read a disturbing report

      Oh gee, wait a minute – “PressTV’ a twisted propaganda rag – not reputable . Too soon to react to something like that.
      A object lesson in not letting the strings be pulled.

      “Several Syrians injured as mortar shells hit Damascus”

      ha ha – that’s one of their headlines- “injured’ – the daily carnage and bodycount there is so bad, I haven’t the stomach to follow it, or the time it would take five days in a day to view all the video and read all the reports – There isn’t a city unshelled with vast areas looking like a lunar landscape.

    7. Michael Devolin says:

      “back the ones we had a better chance to deal with.”

      And which “ones” would they be, Max??

    8. andrew morris says:

      @ Max:
      Nato forces are charged with the task of completing destroying Al Qaeda. After 12 years of intense warfare Al Qaeda is still very much alive. If NATO was not up to the task, how would you expect a small nation like Israel to totally destroy its enemies.-Hizbollah, Hamas, Iran, Turkey,Syria, Egypt (the Moslem Brotherhood). THERE IS NO MILITARY SOLUTION.

    9. larry lunchpail says:

      I agree wholeheartedly with Andrew Morris when he writes, There is no military solution and the Israeli public in large agrees as well.

    10. andrew morris says:

      @ the phoenix:
      No one is prepared to nuke Iran, period.

      Israel might be under pressure from the Muslim world, but no one least of all Israel is prepared to go to war with 60 nations containing some 1.6 bil people. Any way you cut it, THERE IS NO MILITARY SOLUTION.

    11. moishe says:

      There is a military solution.

    12. moishe says:

      I shall append my previous post- there is a military solution- but only with the active approval of the U.S.

    13. yamit82 says:

      Much of the Israeli military doctrine is dictated by the knowledge that our political establishment will bend to the will of the demands if not dictates of all American Presidents and their administrations. Israeli military planners need to take into account conflicting imperatives, A- the limited window of freedom of action 2- Reducing to the extent possible Israeli battlefield losses.

      These two imperatives conflict because to ensure B- Israel would need to ignore and discount A.

      Adding to A + B Israel is confused due to her inability to differentiate between an enemy that must e defeated and an enemy that is a potential partner for an agreement some call Peace. The question always raised is if we eviscerate our enemies totally on the battlefield who would be left to make an agreement with?

      U.S. had emergency plan for attacking Israel in 1967
      Plan was aimed at preventing Israel from expanding westward, into Sinai, or eastward, into the West Bank.

      Our victory in 67 did not impose deterrence but our victory in 73 did but our personnel losses and the national depression and major political fallout was not lost on our military planners. While deterrence of national enemy conventional armies seem to have succeeded. Israel was slow to meet the threats of surrogate asymmetrical warfare and is slow in adapting to meet changing threats not only at the tactical military level but at the strategic political level.

      Israels political and military elites have chosen to follow the American model with over reliance and dependency of Hi-tech untested expensive gadgetry over time tested principles of war: Killing more of the enemy than losses to ourselves and denying them the initiative by the use of preemption, boots on the ground and taking and holing as much of the enemies territory as possible till they admit defeat.

      There is no reason I can imagine where Israel needs or can justify the purchase of 5th generation fighter aircraft costing up to $150 million dollars per plane. They would be so expensive that training and fear of even training losses would limit and reduce their overall worth. Their purchase ties Israel to America and American dictates over Israel more than ever before.

      The purchase by Israel of the American F-35 is symptomatic of how we got to the situation we find ourselves in today as Sherman points out.

      Israel’s divestment of America is essential to our national survival. BB and those like him will bring our future survival more than any of our enemies into question. Obama, Hegel and Kerry despite BB might force our leadership both political and military to return to the basic Israeli principles that we cannot rely on anyone else but ourselves in good times and especially in bad ones.

    14. yamit82 says:

      Ted please release my comment from moderation.
      Thank you

    15. moyshe says:

      @ yamit82:
      “Boots on the ground” – Yes that is precisely the problem. Israel being a relatively small power has a limited number of foot soldiers. And adding to the problem is the lack of boots because most orthodox Jews don’t serve and because most of the Arabs don’t serve. A victory over its foes is simply not enough, but must be followed up with a long difficult occupation. The Arab population that is no longer cowed by Israel’s military might. That is precisely why Israel will ultimately settle for a negotiated settlement.

    16. Max says:

      Michael Devolin Said:

      “back the ones we had a better chance to deal with.”
      And which “ones” would they be, Max??

      As per your previous self-declarations you are ethnically biased. How could that possibly have any meaning to you? For that matter how could any undertaking of any human being have any meaning to you?

    17. Michael Devolin says:

      Max, what the hell are you talking about? It’s a pretty simple question. “ethnically biased”??

    18. Shmuel HaLevi says:

      @ moyshe:
      Confused Moyishe and others? Working with the other side guys?
      I do not know your background. Here is mine. Former Senior-Fellow Engineer US Department of Defense Military Avionics Programs. I hold critical Patent rights. Invited Consultant to the Israeli Ministry of Defense. Decorated soldier.
      Israeli basic military can easily destroy the combined irrational islamic beasts quite fast.
      The problem facing us is a compromised leadership, problem likely to be taken care in two weeks…
      We have a formidable economy. Terrific manpower. Superb education, and grit.
      In two months the TAMAR natural gas large field starts deliveries turning us free from basic fuel dependence. A few months later the LEVIATHAN huge field comes on line and soon after our oil fields will follow. Some pundist say they are larger than the Saudi fields.

      Chazak Am Israel!

    19. the phoenix says:

      @ Shmuel HaLevi:

      The problem facing us is a compromised leadership, problem likely to be taken care in two weeks…

      There is no doubt about it.
      From your keyboard to god’s ears

    20. Ed Katz says:

      Because if Israel loses her strength that she possess now and capitulates to the Arabs, it may be another 1,000 years to have the ability to govern herself, if ever. There is a very shaky truce at this point, but will esculate into another go at each other soon. Israel must solve this problem, once and for all.

    21. rongrand says:

      @ Shmuel HaLevi:

      Chazak Am Israel!

      The Israeli leaders need to get on board.

    22. moishe says:

      @ Shmuel HaLevi:
      You don’t remember the 20 year occupation of Lebanon that led to the build up of a highly effective force that we now know as Hizbollah. You don’t remember the fact over that period the Israeli hospitals were being filled up by returning IDF veterans with loss of limbs, shattered physically and mentally. THAT TURNED OUT TO BE A DISASTER. WE DON’T NEED ANY MORE DISASTERS

    23. Shmuel HaLevi says:

      @ moishe:
      Oh! I remember, I received the OT Lebanon gained as a soldier there. Were you there Moiyshe?
      You represent a dwindling minority. Otherwise. “we” is a term assumed by certain cadre to make it appear that you represent a mjority. You do not.
      You folk use that “we” much as the same cadre assuned the word “peace” which led to 1500 “victims of peace”, 12000 maimed on that purported peace behalf, 8000 pogromed against on the same vein. And the loss of Jewish Heritage Icons while at it, ranging from Har Habait to much of our ancestral land.
      Your masked objectives never amounted to anything but disasters.
      Soldiers do nott have an easy life. In know, I was one.Manquins dressed as soldiers do.
      I demand that soldiers defend Jews, not assault them. Those doing so are no different from the capos of old.
      No one desires war, but if enemies attack or plan to attack it incumbent upon real mentchen to respond to the call.

    24. steven l says:

      Muslims as well as the West want submissive Jews. Dhimmitude is engrained in many Jews of the Diaspora.

    25. Max says:

      moishe Said:

      You don’t remember the 20 year occupation of Lebanon that led to the build up of a highly effective force that we now know as Hizbollah. You don’t remember the fact over that period the Israeli hospitals were being filled up by returning IDF veterans with loss of limbs, shattered physically and mentally. THAT TURNED OUT TO BE A DISASTER. WE DON’T NEED ANY MORE DISASTERS

      What nonsense! The only disaster was the leftist policy to leave Lebanon to the terrorists – that and the weak military policy in Lebanon. Freedom has a price and if it is not paid freedom and survival is lost.

      Typical anti-war leftism! Where do you people thing you can go in this world where you don’t have to fight for freedom? You are only alive because others fight for your existence.

    26. Michael Devolin says:

      “Where do you people thing you can go in this world where you don’t have to fight for freedom? You are only alive because others fight for your existence.”

      Well said, Max.

    27. yamit82 says:

      @ moyshe:

      You have no idea of the firepower even a squad of our forces can put down. Worse comes to worse we depopulate the areas involved.

      Once an area has been depopulated we destroy every habitable structure and make sure the population has nothing to return to.

      I have long advocated the return to our use of Napalm, it’s cheap and effective not to mention the deterrence factor.