Summary: As Israel has another round of conflict with one of its neighbors, we should neither overlook the toll of causalities nor focus excessively on these details. More important is the long trend. History shows the difficulty of distinguishing strong from weak players in 4GW, and that choosing the wrong grand strategy can be terminal for a state. It could easily prove fatal for Israel. Events today show how a nation might look strong while on a path leading to bad outcomes. This is a revision of a 2006 post, chapter two in a series of articles about grand strategy when 4GW has become the dominate form of war.
“It is not possible to found a lasting power upon injustice, perjury, and treachery.”
— Demosthenes (Athenian leader, 384 – 322 BC)
- Is Israel is stronger than the Palestine?
- Winning requires strategy, not just power
- Israel abandons the high ground
- Comparing the Strategies of Israel & Palestine
- Strengths of the Palestinian people
- How ight the Palestinian people defeat Israel?
- Other predictions of doom for Israel
- For more information
(1) Everyone knows Israel is stronger than the Palestinians. That might be wrong.
To plan a successful grand strategy the strategist must know if he has a weak or strong position. Failure almost certainly results from getting this fundamental wrong. Unfortunately, history shows the difficulty of correctly determining weak from strong during times of rapid change.
“So confident of victory were the French that many sat up late drinking, gambling and boasting about who would kill or capture whom. Some knights even painted a cart in which Henry V would be paraded through the streets of Paris!”
— Description of the French camp on 24 October 1415, the night before Agincourt – the last of the 3 great English victories over the French during the Hundred Years War.
“You are now my prisoners. Let this be a lesson to you that Americans are weak. You must realize that Japan will rule the world. You are stupid for letting your leaders take you to war.”
— Speech by Tetsunosuke Ariizumi, Commander of His Imperial Majesty’s submarine I-8, addressing captured Americans from the SS Jean Nicolet on 2 July 1944.
“No Viet-Minh cannon will be able to fire three rounds before being destroyed by my artillery.”
— Colonel Charles Piroth, French artillery commander at Dien Bien Phu, quoted in Hell in a Very Small Place, Bernard Fall (1966), p. 102.
Measuring strength between peoples has become even more difficult in our age — when 4GW is the dominant form of war. Hence the endless stream of surprises from the anti-colonial wars after WW2 to our defeats in Iraq and Afghanistan.
So which looks stronger: a stateless people with no modern government, economy, or army – or a developed state with its vast superiority in ideas and hardware? An occupied people or the nations that rules them?
(a) Israel, a western industrial nation, has rationally educated elites in a modern bureaucratic government. Israel’s army and intelligence service (the Mossad) are superior to their Palestinian counterparts in every way.
(b) Israel has wielded these advantages to win many tactical victories over the Palestinians. For example, Thomas X. Hammes (Colonel, USMC, retited) describes how Israel won the second Intifadah in chapter 9 of his book, The Sling And The Stone.
(c) The Palestinian people have none of Israel’s advantages: stateless, politically mobilized in only a primitive manner, with severe internal fractures, and a history of weak and self-interested leadership. Each year their enclaves on the Gaza Strip and the West Bank sink further into poverty and chaos.
Who has the best odds of long-term survival, Israel or the Palestinians?