Israel losing 4th Gen War conflict in Gaza

By WILLIAM S. LIND   |   Jan. 14, 2009 at 11:20 AM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 14 (UPI) -- So far, Israel's assault on the Gaza Strip has produced no surprises. On the physical level of war, the Israel Defense Forces are triumphing. The Palestinians are suffering about 100 people dead for every dead Israeli. To a Second Generation War military, which is what Israel's formerly Third Generation War army has become, that is the main measure of victory.

On the moral level, the picture is reversed. Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement, is almost assured of victory. As Israeli military historian Martin van Creveld has observed, all it has to do to claim victory is survive, which it will. That claim will not be just propaganda: For Hamas to survive everything a modern state military can throw at it is a legitimate victory. In fact, it not only will survive but also will be strengthened by a worldwide flood of sympathy, which will translate in part into new recruits and more money.

In the end, if Israel wants to stop Hamas' rockets, it will be able to do so only by making a deal with Hamas. Since that was equally true before the war, the question of why it was fought will soon present itself. The real reason is a tad sordid: The current Israeli government is trying to split the "get tough" vote to prevent the Likud Party from winning the next election.

The same motivation lay behind last weekend's "discovery" that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert asked the United States for permission to attack Iran. The parties in the current Israeli coalition government are saying, in effect, to Israeli voters, "Why vote for an oaf like (Likud Party leader) Binyamin Netanyahu when you can get the same thing from us without the endless embarrassments?"

What all Israeli parties and the IDF seem to share is that they don't get Fourth Generation War. They have been defeated repeatedly by 4G forces, but they do not learn.

The problem goes beyond the late U.S. Air Force Col. John Boyd's framework of moral-mental-physical, with the moral the most powerful level of war and the physical the weakest. What Israel cannot grasp is that in the face of 4GW, all states should be seen as allies.

The most dangerous opponent of any 4G entity is a local state. The state must be local: Interventions against 4GW forces by outside states are doomed to failure. But local states sometimes can win. It does not matter whether the state in question is a democracy. It does not matter whether it is a friend or enemy of Israel. By its inherent nature as a state, it will view 4G forces as threats.

A state may or may not be strong enough to suppress 4G entities on its soil. It is in Israel's most vital interests that neighboring states be strong enough -- morally as well as physically -- to do so.

In concrete terms, what does that suggest? First, it means Israel should be very concerned about the strength and solidity of Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Iraq -- Lebanon is a state in name only. The Israeli assault on Gaza has seriously undermined the legitimacy of three of those four, with Syria the only exception.

Egypt and Jordan have diplomatic relations with Israel, and Egypt has been an all-too-obvious partner of Israel in besieging Gaza. Iraq's government -- still a government without a state -- is an American creation, and the United States is seen as Israel's main enabler. On the moral level, every Israeli bomb dropped on Gaza has also landed on Cairo, Amman and Baghdad.

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(William S. Lind, expressing his own personal opinion, is director of the Center for Cultural Conservatism at the Free Congress Foundation.)

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