Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Changing Definition of War In The World and in Israel

In Small Wars Journal, Jill Long writes What is War? A New Point of View
War is no longer a discrete action of armed conflict but a continuum of engagement in order to limit the dissonance between a nation’s will and that of other state and non-state actors. In war, nation-states and non-state actors utilize all means available; diplomacy, economic influence (including multi-national corporations and non-governmental organizations), information operations, social influence, and educational influence as well as military force in order to encourage adherence to their will. As such wars do not end; rather imposing one’s will and maintaining harmony between national objectives and those of the international community to the level of acceptable adherence precludes the use of armed conflict.

War is the coherent execution of all means to bring about sufficient adherence to a nation’s will in the international (global) arena; resulting in armed conflict only when all other means fail.
If there is one major implication of the new definition of war that sets it apart from the old one, it is an implication that points to how unsatisfying war has become:

As the proffered definition implies, there is no “end” to the spectrum of war. Therefore, the answer to the question of “how does war end?” would be…they do not; this answer however, would be unsatisfying at best. A more succinct question would be, “how does armed conflict end?” In this case, the resultant response is when sufficient adherence to national will has been achieved. The concept encourages nation-states and non-state actors to clearly define objectives for armed conflict and those actions/events that must occur in order to bring about an end to armed hostility. This is arguably somewhat naïve, but there is potential for tangible benefits by embracing this approach. Internally, this furthers the theory of “one voice” by clarifying the objectives to all entities. Externally, it provides the opposition with a clear path towards peace, while allowing for modifications via negotiations, course of battle, escalation and de-escalation of hostilities.
Long is not the only one who has redefined the meaning of war in the face of the fact that wars no longer seem to just end.

Yaakov Lappin writes that Israel Redefines Victory in the New Middle East:
Once, decisive, unmistakable victories, accompanied by conquests of territory that had been used to stage attacks against Israel, provided all parties concerned with a "knockout" image. Victory was seen by the Israel Defense Forces as a clear-cut event, which ended when the enemy raised a white flag. Today, however, the IDF considers this thinking out of date in the 21st century battle arenas of the region, where a terror organization such as Hamas will continue firing rockets into Israel right up until the last day of a conflict, and claim victory despite absorbing the majority of damages and casualties.

Today, as the main goal of most conflicts, victory has been replaced by deterrence. Deterrence, rather than clear-cut conquest or triumph over the enemy, has formed the goal of Israel's last three conflicts: the Second Lebanon War of 2006; Operation Cast Lead against against Hamas and Islamic Jihad in 2009 and Operation Pillar of Defense against the same entities in Gaza in November.

...The IDF's evolving new doctrine involves short spells of fighting, in which the IDF hits the other side hard – hard enough to ensure that the Israeli home front will enjoy prolonged calm after the fighting ends. As opposed to the mission of utterly destroying Hamas or Hezbollah, such limited goals can be obtained quickly. Hezbollah is fully aware, meanwhile, that should it begin another conflict, it will reap major destruction on Lebanon.
I suppose it makes sense: if Hamas can redefine what it means to be victorious in war (the fact that you're still standing), why shouldn't Israel follow suit.

Israel's definition won't apply everywhere. It depends on the terrorist group being tied to a country. Where that once was solely to the advantage of the terrorists, which use civilians as human shields, those same civilians -- as in Lebanon -- have voiced their concerns, and apply pressure on the terrorists who have set themselves up as part of the governing body.

This won't apply to Al Qaeda, a dispersed terrorist group that faced pressure for killing Muslims along with American soldiers, but merely refined their tactics and kept on killing wherever they are dispersed.

And of course, according to this new definition, victory in war has been replaced with deterrence at best.

The IDF may want to see what Israelis think of this new definition of victory in war.

They can start in Sderot.

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