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Daniel Rosen

The ability to make war

After October 7th there was a reckoning for many people on many levels. Personally, in my pursuit to understand the world around me I endeavor to ask many questions. I strive to interpret the news in order to understand world events and try to make sense of it. I go through a process of having conversations with people I respect, but also asking myself questions. In this particular case. I asked myself: How is it, that Iran can menace the United States and the international community, when United States is so much stronger, economically, militarily, socially, morally and in so many other ways? On a smaller scale, but equally relevant, I asked the question: how is it that Israel, being much stronger than Hezbollah and Hamas combined, militarily, politically, economically and morally not able to easily defeat them? The answer I have come to is: it’s not about who’s stronger (a relative term), but rather it’s about the ability to make war. The ability to make war is the ability to perpetrate violence on one’s enemy.

The United States, has a GDP of $27.97 trillion (nominal; 2024 est.) as compared to Iran’s GDP of $366.438 billion (nominal; 2023 EST.)[5]

The US is the number one military in the world while Iran’s military is ranked number 17 (Business Insider). How can it be that Iran isn’t scared out of its wits to attack the United States? Conventional wisdom would suggest that there would be absolutely no battle here.

The answer lies in the ability to make war. As long as Iran has the ability to make war, i.e. the ability to perpetrate violence on their enemies, they can therefore be an adversary to the United States. And we must also understand that the ability to make war is connected to the appetite for loss. When we look at the Hamas/ Hezbollah example with Israel, we see that Hamas is willing to lose tens of thousands of people as long as they can inflict pain on their enemy. Israel on the other hand has a very low appetite for casualties.

The military asymmetry that exists between the US and Iran or Israel and Hamas is well documented and understood. There is another asymmetrical relationship which is not often discussed which is the tolerance for pain and death between the US vs Iran as well as Israel Vs Hamas. If Hamas is willing to tolerate the death of 10,000 of its people to kill 100 of its enemy, then it is a bargain worth making for them. This leaves Israel with a huge challenge. If Israel kills 10,000 people they still lose because it will not dissuade their enemy from acting.

The only way to stop an enemy with an asymmetrical appetite to incur casualties is to destroy their ability to make war. This is an extremely difficult thing. As long as the enemy has an ability to inflict pain, they will continue to do that. Currently Israel is rendering Hamas unable to make war. In order to stop Hezbollah Israel must do the same; only time will tell.

The sad and long answer is that Iran will not be overcome until the ability to make war is, either destroyed or greatly diminished. Israel does not have the ability to do this, but the United States does. Iran is a nation with a population of 86,758,304 (2022) [4] . With an area of 1,648,195 square kilometers (636,372 sq. mi), Iran ranks seventeenth in size among the countries of the world (Wikipedia). Therefore only the US has the power to render Iran unable to make war. From Israel’s perspective it can only hold Iran at bay and must work with US and other allies. In the meantime Iran will continue to “have the ability to make war”

About the Author
Daniel Rosen is the former leader of the TorchPAC pro-Israel group at New York University whose activism against campus antisemitism was reported on in the New York Post, the New York Sun, and multiple Jewish newspapers as well as the Village Voice. He worked for the Jewish Agency and now serves as co-CEO of a local family business. Daniel has also been published in JNS.org, Israel national news, Times of Israel blog, frontage magazine, and the Long Island Jewish world. currently, Daniel is the founder and president of Minds and Hearts a pro Israel advocacy group.
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