Israel, Palestine, and Elementary Counterinsurgency.
Israel is a smart nation full of very smart people, so I can’t help but wonder why they aren’t applying the most basic - and by far most critical - tenant of counterinsurgency doctrine to their relations with Gaza.
Let’s back up for just a second. Insurgents, by their nature, do not fight an open war. They fight in the shadows, attacking and then blending back into the arboreal or urban jungle from which they came. You cannot fight them like you would fight an “ordinary” war - you have to dramatically change your strategy in order to have any real effect. The United States had to learn this lesson the hard way when they invaded Iraq in 2003. For the first several years, casualties were climbing and despite our force’s best efforts, conditions were not improving. Things did not start getting better until 2006 when General Petraeus, under the tutelage of counterinsurgency master David Kilcullen, completely changed the way the military was operating.
Now, Kilcullen has a lot to say about counterinsurgency (abbreviated COIN), and it is all fascinating. But here is the keystone to it all: the way to defeat insurgency is not to attack the enemy, but to protect and win over the people.
If insurgents are fish, the people are a coral reef. If insurgents are snakes, the people are the grass. If there is no grass, no coral reef, then the inhabitants within will have no place to hide.
Back to Iraq. The number of attacks did not decline until Petraeus took command in 2007. Technology did not help. Missiles, bombs, and bullets did not make the situation more stable. Instead, General Petraeus got the troops among the people, protected them, stayed with them, and they began to talk to him and give him much needed information. Petraeus convened a meeting of experts to make a new manual, retraining army officers how to think. The manual adhered to classic tenants of COIN: Minimum firepower and force must be used. Winning over the population is the objective.
What if Israel decided to follow basic COIN in their fight with Hamas? What if instead of enraging the Palestinians and the Arab world, they sought to win over the Palestinians through education, social services, reliable utilities, etc? It has worked in the past and could work in the future. If the Israeli government focused on winning over the Palestinian people, it could do much more for their security than missile strikes ever could.
Another gratuitous self-reblog. But since everything is exactly the same as last time, as this cycle repeats itself to the letter every two to three years, I’ve little to say that I haven’t already said before. Why is Israel ignoring the most basic tenants of counterinsurgency as espoused by David Kilcullen and other experts in the field? There are better ways to defeat terrorists like Hamas - by winning over the people.