THE LIMITATIONS OF 4GW
As a rule, I dislike writing about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict because it is a problem that under the current dynamic, cannot be resolved but I will make a military theory exception today.William Lind
has an interesting analysis of the predicament that the HAMAS
government of the Palestinian Authority finds itself in during the current crisis with Israel over kidnapped Israeli soldier, Cpl. Gilad Shalit
. In " To Be or Not To Be a State?
", Lind argues that the move by HAMAS, a 4GW entity, to accept the responsibility of state governance was a serious strategic error that played into the hands of Israeli and American officials who had no intention of permitting a HAMAS government to be a success:"In cooperation with Israel (can Washington now do anything except in cooperation with Israel?), the U.S. imposed a starvation blockade on the Palestinian territories. Instead of British armored cruisers, the blockaders this time are U.S. banking laws, plus Israeli withholding of Palestinian tax receipts. As the government of a quasi-state, Hamas found itself with no money. PA employees went unpaid and PA services, such as they were, largely collapsed. The burden, as always, fell on average Palestinians.
In the past week, Israel has upped the ante by threatening a full-scale military attack on Gaza. The Israelis had already been escalating quietly, a raid here, a missile there, artillery shells somewhere else. With Palestinian civilians dying, Hamas had to respond. It did so with a raid on an Israeli army post, a legitimate military target. (Attacks on military targets are not “terrorism.”) The well-planned and brilliantly conducted raid (so well done as to suggest Hezbollah assistance) killed two Israeli soldiers and captured one.
Normally, that captured Israeli would be a Hamas asset. But now that Hamas is a state, it has discovered Cpl. Gilad Shalit is a major liability. Israel is refusing all deals for his return. If Hamas returns him without a deal, it will be humiliated. If it continues to hold him, Israel will up the military pressure; it is already destroying PA targets such as government offices and arresting PA cabinet members. If it kills him, the Israeli public will back whatever revenge strikes the Israeli military wants. Hamas is now far more targetable than it was as a non-state entity, but is no better able to defend itself or Palestine than it was as a Fourth Generation force. 4GW forces are generally unable to defend territory or fixed targets against state armed forces, but they have no reason to do so. Now, as a quasi-state, Hamas must do so or appear to be defeated. "
In my view, the original miscalculation made by HAMAS was the expectation that they could have their cake and eat it as well by enjoying the prestge and power base of PA instrumentalities while being allowed to carry on their terror war with Israel. A free pass of sorts from accountability by virtue of having won a democratic election. This did not happen as both Israel and the United States indicated that a HAMAS-run PA would be responsible for upholding all of the agreements the PA had signed with Israel under Arafat's Fatah or suffer accordingly. Lind is correct here -HAMAS had become very "targetable".
A better strategy for HAMAS than clinging to its credo of uncompromising resistance to Israel would have been a full court press P.R. campaign for a " Hudna" or truce that would let the Islamists save face while pragmatically adhering to past agreements. The "Hudna" idea was floated by a few HAMAS leaders after their victory but was never made the centerpiece for a political victory at the moral level of warfare; indeed, recent threats to attack Israeli schools in retaliation for Israeli attacks in Gaza
would seem to indicate that HAMAS does not understand the dynamics of 4GW at all.
Lind did have some bold advice for HAMAS:"There is, however, another way out for Hamas. It can call and raise Washington’s and Tel Aviv bets. How? By voting to dissolve the Palestinian Authority. Ending the PA would dump the Palestinian territories and their inhabitants’ right back in Israel’s lap. Under international law, as the occupying power, Israel would be responsible for everything in the territories: security, human services, utilities and infrastructure, the economy, the whole megillah (oy!). Israel could try to restore the PA in cooperation with Fatah, but if Fatah joined Israel in doing so, it would destroy what legitimacy it has left. Hamas could meanwhile return to a 4GW war against Israel, unencumbered with the dubious assets of a state, and with lots more targets as Israel attempted to run the Palestinian Territories itself."
That is probably tactically sound advice but strategically unwise. Statehood seems to be something deeply desired by the vast majority of Palestinians, despite divisions over the form that state should take and its relationship to Israel (for those Palestinians willing to accept less than 100 % of the old Transjordanian Mandate). Unilaterally discorporating the PA, hollow quasi-state it may well be, risks de-legitimizing HAMAS as a Palestinian political movement and, perhaps, might be resisted by Fatah/PLO by force.
Which brings us to the limitations of 4GW itself. It is not, in the the strategic taxonomy of Colonel John Boyd
, a constructive force
and a nation-state is. HAMAS needed to make the jump from being an anti-Israeli vehicle for destruction to an entity that can construct a positive future for the Palestinian people. Without the state as an end, the means of 4GW would appear to result in little other than societal disintegration.