Friday, July 07, 2006

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 at DNI 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.
Mark, pardon me, but begin rant:

The limitations of 4GW will continue because the theory is full of gapping holes and cannot hold water. Hamas is not unique and the label of a "4GW entity" is a symbolism both attributes and fails to attributes characteristics. A 4GW force is, almost by definition, a force that cannot defend territory is, while attacking the recent (150 odd years) "innovation" of nation-state owner of military power and nation-state responsibility of military power eminating from its territory, a force without a future.

The precept that Hamas, or any other so-called "modern" guerilla force that is the "4GW entity", must not defend is folly. While I do not disagree with your assessment of the situation at all, or of Lind's, framing analysis through the lens of 4GW, including attempting attribute motivations and tactics of 4GW, will continue to lead to failures and limitations of the theory. Hamas isn't a 4GW org, it is a clever guerilla organization, that (un)intentionally following Mao's dictate to treat the public well (something not followed by the British in colonial America... hence the Third Amendment... somewhat before Mao and before 3GW) won public approval because of clean and safe streets and a proven-to-be highly corrupt incumbant.

Sorry, rant over.
I don't think Hamas is even fighting a 4GW. In a 4GW you fight a mostly political battle using the implicit laws of your enemy against it. If your enemy is for freedom, justice and rule of law, you show the world, and most importantly your enemy, how your enemy is not using these principles. A 4GW is ended when your enemy follows those rules, or a reasonable facsimile. It is up to the 4GW enemies to keep fighting or not, not the 4GW warrior.
Although it would be hard to see a 4GW warrior as meek, I think meekness would be the general rule, or perhaps more accurately passive aggression. You demand that your enemy follow their own rules. If these rules are just, then the 4GW “wins” by being allowed to live under these rules.
But Hamas is fighting a nation-state war from the outside, or globally. The only boundaries are those put there internally (in the PA country) by Israel and not those put there externally by Hamas.
So basically you have two nations at war, one on the outside and one on the inside. If the forces on the outside do not support the one on the outside, PA will die or not. If the one on the inside can no longer support itself on the inside, it will die. Hamas is simply making the world draw the line in the sand.
If what I have outlined are Hamas’s tactics, if Hamas wins or is defeated will be up to the world and the PA, because Israel has few choices, if it really is fighting a conventional war. Israel has to kill as many leaders and solder as it will take to defeat its enemy. This seems to be what is happening.
Hi Matt,

Rant away ;o)

I finally finished Rise & Decline of the State yesterday and I've now read everything on 4GW other than Chet Richard's most recent book. Should have completed all of this earlier but hey, part-time, independent scholars have to earn a living too :o)

The more maximalist a claim for the validity of 4GW, in the sense of being a universal theory, the weaker it is, in my view.

OTOH as a model or a taxonomy it has applications in terms of real-world foreign policy/DIME scenarios; and in complementing the weaknesses of NCW which is best suited for state vs. state warfare or when irregulars have reached Giap's transition point to semi-regular or conventional operations. It is a useful corrective for many institutional flaws in our American technophile national security perspective.

HAMAS seems to have lost even the " clever" part - attrition takes its toll on leadership quality in the territories as it did in Algeria ( with Israel being far less brutal than Algeria's socialist military rulers)

Larry wrote:

"if Hamas wins or is defeated will be up to the world and the PA, because Israel has few choices "

Yes, a conflict between a people with nothing to lose vs. a people with everything to lose.

Not surviving isn't a viable political option for Israel so the conflict is going to continue until someone escalates to an apocalyptic scenario.

Which is why I steer clear of the topic - nobody enjoys my forecast.
Just because the forecast is for rain, doesn't mean we wouldn't like to be told to bring umbrellas.
Any particular 4GW force doesn't hold that all states are illegitimate (just the state they are opposing).

Hammas sees the Israeli state as illegitimate. The future state they seek is legit in their eyes.

Some 4GW organization will be better suited to governing then others.

It seems clear that Hammas was not prepared to be handling the state like functions it now has. This will hurt Hammas and may cause its downfall as the Palestinian Arabs and 4GW fighters look among competing alternatives for new options. It is hard to get credibility back once it is lost.
“part-time, independent scholars have to earn a living too”
Perhaps your earnings record doesn’t reflect it, but I think you can consider yourself a full-time scholar. I suspect your personality keeps you from doing anything “part-time”.

Good points.


Thank you - all too true, my friend.
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