Refreshing Strategic Thinking

Since World World I, armed combat around the world have changed significantly, in part, due to technological changes. Various types of forces are no longer with us, and other types of forces have taken over. Cavalier forces and diggers of trenches have been replaced hi-tech air forces, missiles and anti-missile systems, and cyber warfare forces. However, these types of changes are primarily tactical in nature, reflecting various technological advances.

However, beyond technological advances, the modern world has done little to cope with the new type of warfare. The Third World War, which is currently taking place before our eyes, is completely different than previous wars. This type of warfare can be call a war of terror – a general label which includes numerous activities committed by state and non-state actors beyond specific acts of violence against civilians. The strategies used by terrorist organizations are different in nature than any traditional type of warfare. State-sponsored terror also part of this equation, as various states utilize terror in numerous locations to advance their strategic interests.

Terror’s purpose is to create fear, as it sanctifies death and cruelty. Terror invents new types of weapons and new types of soldiers, and the world has difficulty thinking according to these new terms.

After the World War II, the Geneva Conventions banned cluster bombs and dum-dum (expanding) bullets to prevent significant civilians deaths and suffering. However, terrorism does not play by these rules, as it places screws, nails, and pieces of metal into its bombs to increase the amount of civilian casualties.

Furthermore, terror enjoys the support of populations in various Western states who serve as a fifth column, serving to advance the goals and ideology of terrorist organizations.

When facing the terror war, various states utilize conventional armies which are ill-equipped to fight these kinds of wars. The response of these armies is too slow and too late. The strategies used are intended for conventional wars which are no longer relevant. Thus, terrorism is always a few steps ahead as it sets the agenda, and the West only responds in an ad-hoc manner.

Thus, the world finds itself responding to acts of terror, but does not engage with terrorism in a comprehensive way before it attacks. The world must take a comprehensive approach to the terror war, which includes an approach towards psychological warfare, the battle for public opinion, and the feelings of personal security of its citizens.

When official representatives of the strongest state in the world, the United States, publicly offer justifications of terrorism, it is clear that the war on terror is failing. As terrorist enjoy the active or passive support of many around the world, it is nearly impossible to make gains against an enemy that is always one step ahead.

This issue obviously rings event more even true in Israel. Israel have developed the best technologies for defense against the warfare of terrorists, including anti-missile systems and the most advanced homeland security systems. However, a strategic approach is sorely missing. We seem to ignore the psychological and public opinion aspects of this war. We ignore the de-legitimization campaign that terrorists employ against Israel. We ignore the coalitions that terrorists have formed with various major actors in the global system. More than ever, we do not lead an offensive, but only defend after we have been attacked.

The current terror wave in Israel must be dealt with through a preemptive war, which can be won, rather than being pulled into a system of ad hoc reactions to various terrorist attacks.

New approaches are needed, both in Israel and globally, in dealing with this terror war which has been imposed upon us.

About the Author
Dr David Altman is senior vice-president at the Netanya Academic College and vice-chair of the college's Strategic Dialogue Center
Related Topics
Related Posts