Strategic Planning versus Tactical Planning

Terrorism is a phenomenon that plagues the world. Previously, terrorism was a fringe phenomenon which accompanied political, class, or military conflict which had tactical implications of varying magnitudes. Terrorism, by its very nature, is based on the principle of surprise, and so most of the terrorist attacks in the past there were sporadic rather than strategic. War on the other hand, was always strategic in nature and requires strategic responses.

There is a big difference between a military leader and a political leader. A military leader has strategic vision on the one hand, while on the other hand, is unpredictable, ensuring that the enemy cannot predict his plans and initiatives, both in attack and defense. A political leader must lead a nation or a group, as he attempts to fulfil his people’s desires and ambitions, and therefore, must be predictable to supporters and constituents.

The world today faces a war of terror, a war which requires strategic planning, both in the attack and defense sphere. It is based on activities which are beyond the public eye, and run by various military figures who lead organization that spread terror across the world. However, the response to the terror war has been provided by political leaders rather than by military leaders; thus, their responses are predictable and partial.
The State of Israel, since its establishment, always faced the dilemma between political leadership and military leadership. The state has been led by political leaders, by military leaders, by military leaders who thought they were political leaders, and by political leaders who thought they were military leaders. In the early days of the state, prime ministers generally also served as defense ministers. Thus, they enjoyed the double role of political leader and commander-in-chief. Indeed, decisions often were often taken in the realm of politics and strategy. Levi Eshkol, the third Prime Minister of Israel, passed the baton of defense minister to General Moshe Dayan, which, to a certain extent, can be connected with the great triumph of the Six Day War, viewed as a victory of military leaders rather than as a victory of politicians. However, the failures of the Yom Kippur War, was a dual failure of both the political and military leadership, from which Israel has yet to recover.
The world today is facing the difficult situation of asymmetrical conflict against terrorism, which requires a significant change in the decision-making processes of the global leadership. The global terrorist military leadership engages in the planning of detailed strategies, such as assisting populations around the world to organize as a fifth column within international security organizations such as NATO. The world takes hesitant steps in response, looking for quick solutions, while the the Muslim world has a completely different approach towards time. The terrorist leadership slowly establishes cantons around the world, such as Hezbollah-ruled villages in South America and areas in which Sharia law rules around the world, beyond the borders of Muslim countries.

Within the context of the terror war, terrorist leaders have gradually conquered key nexuses within the global world media, which directly impacts public opinion, potential voters in democracies, and political parties. In addition, this leadership acquired financial power in various sectors. Sporadic groups are able to easily organize and impact the global agenda through acts of violence and the intelligent use of media.
Democratic governments are elected for a limited time. Thus, democratic governments have difficulty making long-term strategic plans. They provide solutions to tactical issues, but under no circumstances can they provide strategic solutions to global problems.

The global state of affairs should worry all of humanity. Israel’s position is even more acute. The fact that Israeli governments are often short-lived prevents the possibility of long-term solutions for Israeli society. Several elements within the changing world want to harm the State of Israel by acting against its economy, its military, its technology, its knowledge base, and its international support – all of which are strategic for Israel’s precarious situation. Social and political fragmentation and frequent elections hamper national unity and prevent a real convergence of forces against looming danger, as the Jewish people illustrated in the past, immediately following the Holocaust until the early 1970s.

Today, the trend of cantonization of radical forces around the world, the establishment of separate spheres of influence in European countries, has become part of the radical Islamic campaign against Israel. Israel’s border communities face increasing threat, while many in Israel’s Arab community are seeking autonomy. Israeli society is increasingly divided along social and religious rifts among the national religious, the ultra-orthodox, secular, Arabs and Jews, and non-Jews. Such deep social chasms can explode and bring about the collapse of the entire system of the State of Israel.

By focusing exclusively on election campaigns, the political leadership has has failed to see the strategic challenges facing Israeli society. There is a lack of strategic thinking and creative thinking, and no real preparation for these long term trends.

Israel is attacked in dozens of ways beyond its borders and within. In its war of terror, fundamentalist Islam enjoys a strategic advantage of numbers. Terrorists attack numerous societies simultaneously, thus preventing the target from focusing on any single source of terror and violence. The international community is unable to map strategic goals and solutions, and move from defense to initiative.

The Israeli leadership must establish an independent think tank, a kind of National Security Council, which could provide wide-ranging solutions proposed by experts who are not constrained by specific political agendas. Such a think tank not only requires out of the box thinking, but the construction of a global strategic approach, embracing various issues that the state must deal with in order to meet the challenge that it is facing, taking into account that the approach of the international community is often not part of the solution, but part of the problem.

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