Israel Does Not Understand 4GW

The story du jour.

Having previously failed to break Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza that denies HAMAS war material and economic aid, a coalition of Islamists, Palestinian nationalists and Western Leftists used ships of Turkish registry. The IDF took the bait and blundered into an ambush where the commandos were promptly swarmed by the “peace activists”, overpowered (!) and then had to bloodily shoot their way out of a debacle.

RealClearPolitics has a better video.

Taking stock of this bit of guerrilla theater gone lethal, let’s see what the supporters of HAMAS terrorism gained:

  • The world is hearing a false narrative that Israel massacred unarmed peace activists.
  • Turkey’s ruling, authoritarian, crypto-Islamist Party has a further wedge to downgrade Turkey’s traditional military cooperation with Israel while putting political pressure on Turkish secularists and Army leaders. 
  • Israel’s diplomatic isolation is greatly increased
  • Additional strain is put on the already lukewarm relationship between the Obama administration and the Netanyahu government

On the moral level of war, HAMAS supporters – whose strategic objective is to end Israel’s blockade of Gaza, so that HAMAS can rebuild it’s military strength – have scored a solid triumph while the IDF have acted with all the instinctive propensity for causing self-inflicted wounds of Richard Nixon confronting the Watergate break-in. 

Because Israel is powerful and democratic and its enemies, despite their viciousness and authoritarian politics, are weak, the Israelis are not held to the same moral standards by international observers (many of whom, it must be noted, begin with a strongly anti-Israel or at least, anti-Western, orientation).  In a 4GW paradigm, even acting in self-defense is not enough for a strong state to play the role of “the good guy” in a globalized media environment, unless the weak side does something that is viscerally morally repulsive – ex. Abu Zarqawi ‘s extreme brutality and lust for staging ghoulish beheadings of captives on the internet.

There seems to be a stunning political-strategic tone deafness on the part of Israeli leaders in recent years. Perhaps there is a degradition of IDF tactical excellence as well. Overpowering highly trained, heavily armed, elite commandos by untrained civilians is not possible unless said commandos were sent in poorly briefed, with unworkable ROE (IMHO, this was more likely a prepared ambush than a spontaneous act). There’s no half-way method of seizing a hostile ship by force. Either you do it swiftly, while citing appropriate legal justification or you don’t and employ a different set of responses to turn the ships away in a manner that does not alienate observers.

Military force used ineffectually is as counterproductive as force used excessively. From a Boydian strategic perspective, the initiative is lost, opponents are “pumped up” while one’s own side and sympathizers are demoralized.  Political irritants become inflated into disasters. HAMAS, Hezbollah, al Qaida and similar entities are not the old, state-sponsored, state-centric, PLO and they are not playing the PLO’s game.

ADDENDUM:

Abu Muqawama gives the “peace flotilla” way too much benefit of the doubt here, but his analysis of how poorly the Israelis handled this situation is spot on:

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