As the war against the self-proclaimed caliphate in Syria and Iraq appears to come to a close, the greatest risk of regional conflict comes from Iran. The intervention of Iran’s forces and proxies in Syria, Yemen, and Iraq have emerged as imminent threats to Israel and Saudi Arabia that could escalate into the next major war in the Middle East. Iran may not be deterred by unilateral interventions by Israel or Saudi Arabia, so the U.S. must play a role in averting a catastrophic conflict.
All things considered, Israel must now prepare to rely upon a multi-faceted doctrine of nuclear deterrence. In turn, this doctrine must be rendered selectively less ambiguous and more expressly synergistic. Its operational range of application must include both rational and non-rational adversaries and both state and sub-state foes.
The 1973 Arab-Israeli War provides an example of how even relatively inferior forces overcame similar threats from a more powerful adversary through a whole of government approach. Moreover, in an age of increasing emphasis on technological supremacy in warfare, Operation BADR proved that leveraging all elements of national power in crafting operations can yield an equally effective path to victory absent superior technology. There are, perhaps, lessons here for the U.S. and others.
Israel’s success in overcoming its imbalances in 1948 provides important lessons for the development of national strategy. Israel’s victory demonstrates how capable leadership can unite competing interests to create a professional military in a short period of time, how diplomatic and military efforts can complement each other, and how military principles such as mass and space can be manipulated. The 1948 war also helps the observer understand Israel’s strategic thinking in later conflicts and highlights the importance and possibilities of military organizational reform.
For Israel, ultimate survival tasks will necessarily be profoundly intellectual or analytic, and require utterly durable victories of "mind over mind" as well as more traditional ones of mind over matter. These victories, in turn, will depend upon prior capacities to fully understand the prospectively many-sided elements of Cold War II. In principle, at least, such prior capacities could lead Israel to seriously consider certain preemption options.
By definition, as long as particular countries regard their nuclear status as an asset, every state that is a member of the so-called nuclear club is a direct beneficiary of the Cold War. This is because all core elements of any national nuclear strategy, whether actual or still-contemplated, were originally conceptualized, shaped, and even codified within the earlier bipolar struggles of post World War II international relations. Nonetheless, as the world now enters into a more-or-less resurrected form of this initial struggle the strategic postures of each extant nuclear weapons state are being modified within the still-developing parameters of Cold War II.
Since 2005, Hamas and other Gaza militants have fired over 12,000 rockets at Israel. They caused at least ten deaths, over 1,100 injuries, and over $50 million in property damage. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) responded with three military operations against Gaza. Their stated goal was to protect Israeli civilians from the rockets. How productive were the operations relative to their goals? Leaving aside their many secondary effects, were they effective and efficient at protecting Israelis from rockets? This issue is studied in an examination of Israeli rocket countermeasures covering Operations Cast Lead in 2008-2009, Pillar of Defense in 2012, and Protective Edge in 2014. The research estimated the operations’ effects, benefits, and costs. With limited data available, the estimates are rough but nonetheless informative.
While Iron Dome’s past success makes it a tempting solution to future challenges, a careful look at the system’s success to date should engender caution. The system has performed well against an adversary with a limited arsenal of rockets, targeting relatively sparsely inhabited areas. However, even there, it has produced unexpected negative political consequences, feeding international perception of Israel as disproportionately aggressive and attenuating strategic ends to be less decisive. In future conflicts, even this mixed outcome may not be achieved.
After the humiliating defeat during the 1967 Six-Day War, Sadat sought out to restore Arab self-confidence, shatter the Israeli myth of invincibility, and bring Israel to the negotiating table.While Sadat ultimately achieved his objectives, his strategy was risky, and one could argue his political gains were a result of sheer luck and mistakes made by his adversary. Despite ultimately signing a long-lasting peace treaty with Israel, Sadat isolated Egypt and himself, with many Arab nations calling him a traitor. Nevertheless, much can be learned from Sadat’s decision making process. With clear, attainable objectives, Sadat’s strategy during the 1973 October War is perhaps a perfect example achieving political gains through limited war by exploiting an adversary’s weaknesses and simultaneously employing clever, diplomatic means.
Assumptions form the bedrock of any strategy. The choice of ways and means to achieve a particular outcome or objective is based on the assumption that those choices will lead to an expected result. Assumption is just one of many reasons flexibility is the key to good strategy - assumptions must be continuously analyzed for their efficacy. One major assumption at the root of the United States’ strategy in the Middle East has stood the test of time: the US needs Arab oil, or the continued flow of oil out of the Middle East, therefore it must remain on good terms with its oil-exporting Arab allies. It would follow that Arab disdain for Israel suggests the US should put distance between itself and Israel in favor of better relations with its Arab allies. Dennis Ross, in Doomed to Succeed: The US-Israel Relationship from Truman to Obama, is rethinking this assumption and Middle East analysts, policy makers, and strategists should listen.
The West needs a new plan for curbing violence and increasing stability and prosperity in the Middle East. We have decades of experience from which we can learn in order to map out more effective future strategies. This article details a new 5-point plan for promoting peace, prosperity, and stability in the Middle East.The West needs a new plan for curbing violence and increasing stability and prosperity in the Middle East. We have decades of experience from which we can learn in order to map out more effective future strategies. This article details a new 5-point plan for promoting peace, prosperity, and stability in the Middle East.