Any non-fiction writer, journalist or intelligence service knows that there are no good sources on the future. There are also tribulations if any sources they do find and use are accurate and reputable; if they are quotable; and if due care and attention is paid to quoting; or else plagiarism and disrepute may ensue. If only this was the only predicament; for politicians and the military and their advisers make decisions affecting all of us based on open sources. Journalism, hearsay, academia and think tankers all contribute to open sources. Let me detail some issues with examples why information from the Horses Mouth is essential for Israel’s future.
In the 12 years before the Iraq War (2003) journalists quoted politicians, generals, scientists and experts who in turn quoted the media who in turn quoted politicians, generals, scientists and experts. Ultimately a new narrative emerged from the sum of many narratives. This new narrative bore little resemblance to reality despite each fact of the narrative being accurate in its own right. The timeline was compressed by government analysts compiling the Intelligence Dossier; they didn’t take due note of the origins of sources or the dates. Ultimately Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction as was clearly determined and stated prior to the war by United Nations inspections. Given this failure the world is now awaiting the Iran Intelligence Dossier; speculating Iran’s nuclear intentions and capability; and wondering just who writes these dossiers, how and why. Israel lives in the shadow of bomb or be bombed.
This last week YNET reported that all of the Austrian and Philippine forces in UNDOF had crossed into Israel and hence UNDOF had disintegrated totally; photos and videos and interviews with alleged UNDOF forces completed the Internet scoop. The next day, the Foreign Office informed me that the Philippine forces was still in UNDOF; and that both them and 82% of the Austrian contingent were still in the Area of Separation between Israel and Syria. One thing is for certain, since I have been there; there is a Golan Heights and it is the border between Israel and another state. The world awaits the United Nations Security Council debate on UNDOF on 26 June; hoping that the 15 Members of the Security Council have read more than the news.
Sometimes it is not error but intent. The many thousands of journalistic reports each day are on a sliding scale of ensuring 100% accuracy or a sensational story that might contain rumors or innuendos when pandering to the demand of populace and indeed editors; while intense competition for advertising revenue provokes mass media to provide newsworthiness in a breathtaking story. This is not acceptable to national security decision-making that requires 100% precise information. On the other hand sometimes it is government that provides disinformation as part of psychological warfare operations (PSYOP); the conspiracy theories and paranoia abound. Living in Akko I am in no doubt that there are Palestinians and they do want a state; but I am skeptical if they know what their leaders are negotiating and if they know that once the deal is signed that they will all have to live in peace and harmony with all Israelis.
The Correlates of War (COW) and the International Crises Behavior (ICB) projects provide extensive data that most inter-state wars are between neighboring states; all intra-state wars are within states; and almost all wars result out of an escalation from a dispute; from the lack of communication between disparate parties; and intelligence failures. The United Nations was established so that disgruntled states and others could have a common meeting venue to debate their differences and exchange views and information to prevent conflict, prevent escalation and reduce tensions. The Blue Beret UN Peacekeeping Operations are observers once the sides have indicated that they want someone there to keep them apart. Israel and UNDOF and UNTSO ponder who rules Syria and who wants to be kept apart from Israel.
The bottom line is that there is no bottom line; re-read the introduction and change the subsequent paragraphs with different examples because the world is in a cycle. Human nature remains the same throughout the centuries; truth is an individual perception; conflict begets conflict; universal peace is an unattainable utopia; and there is less than perfect accuracy in open source data, information, intelligence, and knowledge. Two thousand years ago Jerusalem burnt while the Rabbis argued; today the Middle East is burning while the United Nations debates; and while Israel muddles through, reactionary to crises and lacking national security novelty. The cause is The Horse is Out to Pasture because the debates then and now are not based on reliable accurate quotable actionable information and sources from the Horses Mouth; which is essential for analysis and hence decisions on Israel’s future.
Dr. Glen Segell, FRGS, is Researcher at The Institute for National Security Studies Tel Aviv, Lecturer at Bar-IlanUniversity and Senior Researcher for the ArielResearchCenter for Defense and Communication