OPT: The "Gaza war" - A strategic analysis
One can argue whether the fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza is a "war", or should be seen as just one more tragic surge in violence in the decades-long struggle between Israel and the Palestinians. It is, however, the first major armed struggle between Israel and Hamas, as distinguished between Israel and the PLO and Fatah. It also is a case study in how Israeli capabilities have changed since the fighting with Hezbollah in 2006, and in the nature of asymmetric war between states and non-state actors.
This report examines the war in terms of the lessons of the fighting, what it says about the changes in Israeli tactics and capabilities and the broader lessons it may provide for asymmetric warfare. It analyzes the fighting on the basis of briefings in Israeli during and immediately after the fighting made possible by a visit sponsored by Project Interchange, and using day-to-day reporting issued by the Israeli Defense Spokesman.
The analysis reveals impressive improvements in the readiness and capability of the Israeli Defense Forces since the fighting against the Hezbollah in 2006. It also indicates that Israel did not violate the laws of war. It did deliberately use decisive force to enhance regional deterrence and demonstrate that it had restored its military edge. These, however, are legitimate military objectives in spite of their very real humanitarian costs.
Hamas has only provided a few details on its view of the fighting, other than ideological and propaganda statements. Any military report has to be written largely from an Israeli perspective; although it is already clear that the IDF did not succeed in deterring Hamas from new rocket strike on Israel or made definitive changes in the political and military situation in Gaza. In fact, the post conflict situation looks strikingly like the situation before the fighting began.
The impact of the "Gaza War" on the Arab world and Israel's neighbors is far clearer. The IDF's success may have enhanced some aspects of Israel's military "edge" and ability to deter, but it also did much to provoke. Reactions built on the anger caused by both the steadily deteriorating situation of the Palestinians and the impact of civilian casualties and collateral damage - not only in the fighting in Gaza but in Lebanon in 2006.
The end result is that it is far from certain that Israel's tactical successes achieved significant strategic and grand strategic benefits. In practice, they seem to have had only a marginal impact on Hamas, and their benefits may well have been offset by the mid and long-term strategic costs of the operation in terms of Arab and other regional reactions. Such conclusions are necessarily uncertain, but Israel does not seem to have been properly prepared for the political dimensions of war, or to have had any clear plan and cohesive leadership for achieving conflict termination. Moreover, it seems to have approached the fighting, and the Arab world, with from a strategic perspective that will increase instability in the region and ultimately weaken Israel's security.
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