Andy Blumenthal
Leadership With Heart

Preventing a Future October 7

AI Generated Image via Craiyon

After the October 7 massacre by Hamas in southern Israel, there will be deep and penetrating investigations into such a massive security lapse.

How Could This Have Happened to Israel?

We’ve heard everything, from that no one believed that Hamas was capable of such a large and sophisticated attack in 2023 and that the “IDF doesn’t prepare itself for things it thinks impossible” to others who have blamed the Shabbat and Simchat Torah holidays (like the unpreparedness for the 1973 Yom Kippur War fifty years earlier) for the reduced military and police presence to safeguard the border and protect the communities and people.

However, considering that Israel is well aware of the deep and violent hatred of designated terrorist organizations like Hamas (which was founded back in 1987 with a charter to destroy Israel), Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah, all supported by state terror sponsor Iran (which has been in a “war between wars” with Israel almost as far back as the 1979 radical Islamic revolution), and has been fighting for its existence in an almost endless series of wars of independence since 1948, it is self-evident that Israel has enemies with the motive and determination to wage a brutal and relentless war against it.

Further, with the capacity of these terror organizations to dig hundreds of miles of terror tunnels, send endless barrages of rockets and missiles into Israeli civilian centers, and conduct cross-border raids attacking and abducting Israelis (such as in 2006, across both the Lebanese border and from Gaza, snatching Gilad Shalit and keeping him hostage for five years), there was really every precedent in the book for Israel security mavens to have foreseen the events of October 7.

Perhaps we can cough up the security lapses of October 7 due to over-reliance on new and advanced technology (cyber, sensors, drones, artificial intelligence, and more), as well as a good dose of hubris in Israel’s rise as an economic and military power in addition to its newly founded and growing acceptance and peace with Arab neighbors (such as the Abraham Accords of 2020). Yet none of this should be an excuse for the successful Hamas attack that killed 1,200 unsuspecting Israelis and resulted in the abduction of 240 more, and that led to Israel’s largest war in Gaza ever.

Have We Seen This Happen Elsewhere?

There have been many notorious surprise attacks in history, including, of course, on the United States, whether in Pearl Harbor in 1941 or at the World Trade Center and Pentagon in 2001.

Additionally, we don’t have to look too far to see another major war going on between Ukraine and Russia. While the Ukraine war with superpower Russia is not the same as Israel’s war with the terrorist organization Hamas hiding behind human shields and in a vast tunnel network, we can still see a similar inability to perceive the threat that was at their door.

Even after the surprise attack in 2014 that took Crimea and other large sections of Ukraine’s east, and despite eight years of trench warfare leading up to the February 2022 massive attack by Russia with hundreds of thousands of troops from the north, east, and south, we still saw Ukrainians shopping, dancing, and eating in cafes, apparently oblivious or disbelieving of the devastating war that was about to hit them and has been going on for almost two years now with perhaps half a million dead and millions more displaced or as refugees.

Why Do We Get Lulled Into a Sense of Complacency?

Aside from over-dependence on technology and our perceived abilities to solve problems and a sense of misplaced infallibility once we have become “sated and fat,” there are certainly other reasons that we miss the mark in terms of recognizing the terrible threats out there.

As human beings, for example, while we have wonderful imaginations that help us innovate and build towards a better future, we also have challenges that limit our ability to perceive threats, whether it’s being overly optimistic, not wanting to “cry wolf,” or shying away from anxiety-producing and depressing topics like people that want to attack and kill us. It could be said that every day people already have enough on their plates just trying to earn a living, take care of their families, deal with health and other issues, and get through the day without having to worry about the next nightmare scenario, even when it is staring them in the face.

Additionally, considering that there are so many possible threats out there from environmental catastrophes (e.g., global warming or an asteroid hitting our planet), economic turbulence (e.g., the next big downturn or market crash), political and social instability (e.g., the dysfunction of government and various social disorders including communism and even anarchy), let alone military and cyber threats from Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran, as well as terrorists with the potential use, one day, of weapons of mass destruction that our minds and psyches simply can’t deal with confronting and coping with all of these.

Further, it cannot be ignored that there was almost a full year of deep polarization in Israel (e.g., judicial reform), endless weekly protests, and political disaffection and disorder leading up to the Hamas attack and this cannot be ruled out as an incubator for letting down of the guard with our enemies. 

Finally, it must be said that often the most pernicious threat is that of the “insider threat,” who has the access and ability to tamper with and/or bring down our defenses before our adversaries. What role this may have played in the October 7 attack by Hamas, who was able to not only cross the border en masse but literally rampage for hours, if not days, virtually unimpeded, remains a question that deserves to be fully explored. 

What Can We Do to Improve Our Ability to Prepare for Crisis?

Listen, as we’ve seen, there are limits to our abilities and desire to face the abyss. Nevertheless, we owe it to ourselves and our loved ones to try our best to prepare for a crisis or catastrophe. We have scarce resources and lots of national debt, so we need to apply our resources strategically.

First and foremost, we need more and better capability to think outside the box and see things not only as they appear, but what’s behind the curtain as well. War gaming, planning, modeling and simulation, and using artificial intelligence are just some of the tools at our disposal for breaking the paradigm and thinking about what’s possible and even what’s probable. Most importantly, we need a diversity of thinking to end the groupthink and mind-numbing stasis of seeing things only as we think they are and not as they really are or could be. Whether we employ think tanks and advisory boards; military and intelligence assets; strategic planners, futurists, and statisticians; technologists, scientists, and engineers; psychologists, sociologists, and anthropologists to get into the heads of our adversaries or the realm of the unthinkable, we must break down the barriers to novel thinking and creative solutions. Along with faith in the Almighty and a strong, technologically advanced, and well-trained IDF, this deep planning must become the bedrock of our security preparedness.

Just a simplified example: when I look at October 7 and see the Hamas terrorists rampaging over the Israeli border, I can’t help but look at Ukraine and Russia’s war, where they have been building fortified “borders” with trenches, razor wire fences, anti-tank obstacles (e.g., concrete dragon teeth), minefields, troops, drones, and more to stop the advancing enemy. Whether it is a mechanized armor force attacking in Ukraine or hordes of terrorists at the Israeli border, we must be open to applying new and layered defenses and prepared to stop them in their tracks and not even get near, and certainly not over, the border to hurt and kill innocent civilians.

Recently, I overheard a conversation with someone being discharged from the hospital, and the nurse said to the patient something that took me aback. She goes rather bluntly: “I hope I never see you again.” In response, the patient, gleeful to be getting out of the hospital, responded in kind, “And I hope I never see you again!” This is sort of the way I feel about the threats at our doorstep. We need to be brave, eyes wide open, and dutifully prepared so that we can say to Hamas or whatever threats are awaiting us, “I want to never see you again, and I mean it!”

About the Author
Andy Blumenthal is a dynamic, award-winning leader who writes frequently about Jewish life, culture, and security. All opinions are his own.
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