Canada Should Keep its Fighter Jets in the Middle East: Allan Levine, National Post, Oct. 26, 2015 — Given his busy schedule the past two months, you can forgive prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau for not having had the time to watch the first episode of season 5 of Homeland …
A New Phase to an Old Conflict: Yaakov Lappin, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 15, 2015— The spate of murderous, unorganized Palestinian attacks on Israelis probably won’t end any time soon.
Proactive Redemption in Responding to Palestinian Violence: Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen, BESA, Oct. 11, 2015— The ongoing discourse among Israeli cabinet members and, to a large extent among settler leaders, has been largely over how to provide security to Israelis.
Obama’s Military Policy: Down-Size While Threats Rise: Michael O’Hanlon, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 28, 2015 — The Obama administration’s official policy on U.S. military ground forces is that they should no longer be sized for possible “large-scale prolonged stability operations.”
IDF Prepares for Possible Combined Attack from Iranian-Backed Syrian Forces: Raphael Poch, Breaking Israel News, Nov. 3, 2015
US Military Intensifies Cooperation With Israel: Barbara Opall-Rome, Defense News, Oct. 18, 2015
A Joint Israeli-Arab Attack on Iran?: Ehud Eilam, Israel Defense, Nov. 4, 2015
What Coordination? Russia and Israeli Warplanes Play Cat and Mouse Over Syria: Debka, Nov. 2, 2015
National Post, Oct. 26, 2015
Given his busy schedule the past two months, you can forgive prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau for not having had the time to watch the first episode of season 5 of Homeland, the intense television drama about the CIA and the realities of terrorism. He probably also has not had a chance to read Yale University historian Timothy Snyder’s new book, Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning. Both should be on his to-do list before he carries through with his decision to withdraw Canadian fighter jets from the mission against the Islamic State.
In the new Homeland episode (mild spoilers ahead), CIA operative Peter Quinn (actor Rupert Friend), who has spent two years in Syria including the city of Al-Raqqah, now controlled by the Islamic State, is invited to offer his assessment of the U.S.-led bombing strategy to a room full of American decision-makers. “What strategy?” he poignantly asks them. He explains that ISIL does have a strategy based on its distorted interpretation of the Koran. “They’re gathering right now in Raqqah by the tens of thousands … and they know exactly what to do,” he says. “They call it the ‘end of times.’ What do you think the beheadings are about? The crucifixions and the revival of slavery? Do you think they make this shit up? … They’re there for one reason and one reason only to die for the Caliphate and usher in a world without infidels. That’s their strategy and it’s been that way since the 7th century.” Pressed further as to what he would suggest, he says that the Americans should dispatch 200,000 soldiers for a ground war and the same number of doctors and teachers. The officials tell him that’s not possible. Then, says, Quinn, “Hit reset. Pound Raqqah into a parking lot.”
That may be problematic, but it is probably not overstating the case: That the only way ISIL will be stopped is by a massive allied assault, precisely the same approach the west took with Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. Imagine if one of Trudeau’s Liberal Party predecessors, William Lyon Mackenzie King, had decided that Canadian participation in the Second World War would have consisted only of providing training.
Perhaps this is not an accurate comparison with what is transpiring in Syria and Iraq. Yet, Timothy Snyder’s new book, though far from perfect in its analysis, does provide insight into Hitler’s global strategy to rid the world of Jews and then reshape the planet. The Nazi plan for world domination was broader than ISIL’s quest to re-establish its Caliphate, yet both share an extreme and brutal mindset in which negotiation and diplomacy has no part.
Justin Trudeau may be correct that Canada’s six fighter jets are only minimally effective in the war against ISIL, but at least they are doing some damage. Doing nothing militarily is worse — and on the ground training of Iraqi troops, while helpful, is hardly the answer. It is difficult to figure out Trudeau’s exact thinking or logic on this issue. In an interview last January, London, Ont., radio host Andrew Lawton attempted without success to pin Trudeau down on explaining when he would consider it essential for Canada to participate in a ground war against terrorism. The best Lawton could obtain was Trudeau’s comment that: “I’ve never been against Canada engaging robustly against ISIS. What I have been concerned with is the prime minister’s choice around the way we should best do that.” Lawton had pointed out that a United Nations report had indicated that 8,400 Iraqi civilians had been killed by ISIL up to then.
“Well, I think it is warranted if there is a reasonable chance of success,” Trudeau explained further. “If there’s a way that Canada can offer expertise the rest of the world is unable to provide.” He also added that looking at conflicts in the Middle East that “very few people believe there is a military-only solution to what is going on in the Middle East … there are a lot of different paths that need to be taken by the international community to de-fang and neutralize ISIS.”
Two months later, during the debate in the House of Commons on extending and expanding the anti-ISIL mission into Syria, Trudeau asserted that “we are all committed to keeping Canadians safe.” He argued, as he still does, that Canada “does have a role to play in responding to humanitarian crises and security threats in the world” and “that when we deploy the Canadian Forces — especially into combat operations — there must be a clear mission and a clear role for Canada.”
Finally at the end of June, in an interview with Terry Milewski on CBC television’s Power & Politics, Trudeau once more was asked to explain his reasoning about confronting ISIL. “I was very much focused on making sure that Canada’s position is the right one for the long term,” he said. “And that’s where crossing the line from a non-combat mission into a combat mission is a decision that has to be taken very, very carefully and [responsibly]. And to be quite frank about it, the prime minister did not take that aspect of it very seriously. He preferred to play politics … ”
One cannot but get the feeling that it is Justin Trudeau who is now “playing politics.” Having made his promise to end the anti-ISIL air mission, he is stuck with it — even if it does not serve the larger and desperate needs of the thousands of people being terrorized by ISIL, and even if it leaves our allies left in the fight while Canada goes home. Whether Canadian CF-18’s are making a huge difference is not really the point; at least they are doing something pragmatic in a difficult battle that we cannot afford to lose. More talk, training and humanitarian aid are all important, but they are not going to produce the desired result. On this significant issue, Trudeau should try channelling Winston Churchill, not Neville Chamberlain.
Jerusalem Post, Oct. 15, 2015
The spate of murderous, unorganized Palestinian attacks on Israelis probably won’t end any time soon. Despite the complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, this latest phase of terrorism is driven by the same fundamental force that has been behind all previous stages: The rejection by Palestinians of Israel’s existence in this land. As such, Israelis will have to stand firm in the face of the effort to terrorize them as security forces get down to the business of formulating effective ways to minimize the number of attacks.
The IDF is joining forces with the Israel Police, which is stretched to the limit, and has sent 10 companies of soldiers from Training Base One and other units to enable police to beef up their presence in every district. Additionally, the army has made available more than 20 Combat Collection Intelligence units to police in east Jerusalem. The units provide visual intelligence assistance to enable the police to identify in real time the movement of terrorists on their way to try and butcher Israeli civilians.
The IDF understands that if it does not help police reduce the level of attacks in east Jerusalem and Israeli cities, the violence will spread to the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. It is focused on the mission of seeking to improve Israelis’ sense of security and avoiding a situation in which Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Fatah-Tanzim and the Palestinian Authority’s own security forces join in the violence – a development that would dramatically escalate the situation.
Along the border with Gaza, the IDF deployed two additional battalions to cope with the new phenomenon of Palestinian rioters approaching the fence. Wherever rioters approach the border fence in the vicinity of Israeli communities, army units are under orders to respond more aggressively to ensure that civilians are not at risk. In cases where mobs riot near the fence in open areas, a more flexible response, which decreases the chances of casualties and a further escalation, is encouraged.
At the end of 2014, the IDF’s Military Intelligence assessed that the Palestinian arena was the most likely front to erupt. Yet, that does not mean the defense establishment is sure of where things are headed. This phase of terrorism is, despite the claims of terrorist organizations, unorganized, and it is coming from the depths of Palestinian society. This society is deeply radicalized, as polls show 16 percent of Gazans and 13% of West Bank Arabs support Islamic State. In Arab countries around Israel, this support is at between 3% and 4%.
This provides a clue to the depth of the pent-up hatred that is now coming to the fore. Certain triggers have amplified this rage, including PA President Mahmoud Abbas speech at the UN last month, when he transmitted a message of desperation to the General Assembly. According to the military’s assessments, systematic incitement to hate, false claims of a changing status quo at the Temple Mount and incidents like the deadly arson attack on the Duma family home all helped nourish the already-existing hate. A growing number of incidents in which settlers attack Palestinians in Area B of the West Bank could also prove explosive.
This is a new phase of an old conflict in which the spilling of blood and symbols of al-Aksa generate more attacks every day. Yet, away from east Jerusalem, in the West Bank, the IDF and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) are continuing to keep a reasonable level of control over organized terrorism. The IDF maintains more soldiers in Judea and Samaria than all the forces under the Northern and Southern commands put together. It is these security personnel who risk their lives every night to make arrests based on accurate Shin Bet intelligence and stop organized terrorist cells from maturing into imminent threats.
Now, however, the fire is focused in east Jerusalem, and the IDF must adjust its operational and intelligence capabilities to deal with the new threat. A number of key restraining factors still remain in place. Hamas and Islamic Jihad are wary of an open conflict with Israel in Gaza, and are not firing rockets into Israel (though Islamic State-affiliated terrorists are, on occasion). Fatah is restraining its Tanzim militiamen in the West Bank from engaging the IDF in gun battles.
And the PA, despite its public rhetoric, continues to coordinate security with the IDF, which is a key Israeli interest (as well as serving the PA). PA forces are instrumental in holding back large Palestinian riots. The livelihoods of some 100,000 Palestinians continue to rely on Israel, a fact that prevents workers from swelling the ranks of the rioters. Given all of these factors, the IDF has not begun calling up its reserves. If this changes, it will mean the current efforts to contain and reduce the terrorist attacks have failed.
Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen
BESA, Oct. 11, 2015
The ongoing discourse among Israeli cabinet members and, to a large extent among settler leaders, has been largely over how to provide security to Israelis. While this is obviously a valid objective, it has nevertheless locked Israel into a defensive posture.
Israel's defense doctrine, devised by Israel's first prime minster, David Ben-Gurion, seeks to transfer the battlefield into enemy territory, in part because Israel's narrow borders makes defensive maneuvering difficult. But the main reason why Ben-Gurion favored this approach was his belief that to win a war, even a defensive war, Israel had to seize the initiative. In other words: Israel must be proactive, rather than, reactive.
It is not enough to arrest those who killed Israelis after they perpetrated their crime. When you call such crimes terrorism, it blurs the need to figure out what the terrorists tried to achieve. Even if it is hard to pinpoint exactly who the masterminds are, the attacks create a trend that undermines Israel's strategic and vital interests and its very sovereignty in its capital.
Under the government's defensive strategy, the Israel Defense Forces is tasked with providing security. The government expects the IDF to take a series to steps to respond to the situation, with the expectation that the overall operational effect would lead to the ebbing of violence. But reality is more complex. When the Palestinians create a reality in which certain areas are essentially off bounds for Jews – as has been the case in the current reality we live in – they consider it an accomplishment.
Helping a derailed train get back on track is a technical solution that restores order. The job is done when the train resumes normal operation. But when it comes to the complex relations between human beings, even when calm is restored, a new reality is created. In this part of the world, to reshape reality according to one's preference, a proactive and strategic initiative is necessary. It is incumbent upon us to subscribe to a new modus operandi to effect the desired change by departing from the reactive pattern of behavior.
But what kind of proactive action would serve Israel in the current state of affairs? This question puts Israel (in) a critical crossroad that could define the very essence of our presence on this land: Do we want Israel to be a homeland where Jerusalem serves as the linchpin of statehood, with all the religious and national implications; or do we simply want a country that serves as a safe haven for persecuted Jews and is recognized by the international community?
At the height of the War of Independence, in 1948, Ben-Gurion explained why he set the capture of Jerusalem as a primary objective in the war. Speaking before the Zionist General Council, he said, "I don't need to tell you what value Jerusalem has had in the history of the Jewish people and the land of Israel and world. … If a land has a soul, then Jerusalem is the soul of the land of Israel, and the battle for Jerusalem is paramount, not just in a military sense. … We are duty bound to stand by Jerusalem, and it deserves it. The pledge we took on the rivers of Babylon is binding now as it was binding then, otherwise we would no longer be able to call ourselves the people of Israel."
Indeed, that pledge is recited by every Jewish groom: "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning." Jerusalem is a point in the universe that encapsulates the Jews' religion, nationhood and polity. The Palestinians also consider it as their national focal point. That is why the city has fueled this current conflagration.
In light of this reality, the government should do more than just approve the security establishment's operational plans. Proactive measures are required that go beyond the authority of security authorities. At the strategic level, the situation calls for increased construction in Judea and Samaria and in Jerusalem. Such action will serve the national interest, not just a narrow sectarian interest. At this critical juncture, those who view this land and country as a stepping stone for redemption and as a national homeland will act differently than those who view Israel merely as a safe haven. We have to make fateful choices that will shape our future here, and our decision should be clear.
Wall Street Journal, Oct. 28, 2015
The Obama administration’s official policy on U.S. military ground forces is that they should no longer be sized for possible “large-scale prolonged stability operations.” The policy was stated in the administration’s 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance, and dutifully reasserted last year in the Pentagon’s signature planning document known as the Quadrennial Defense Review.
“Stabilization operations” can include the range of missions spanning counterinsurgency, state-building, large-scale counterterrorism, and large-scale relief activities conducted in anarchic conditions. Though constraints like sequestration have limited the money available for the U.S. military, the Obama policy calling for a smaller standing ground army reflects a deliberate strategy shift and not just a response to cost-cutting, since some other parts of the military are not being reduced.
It is understandable that in the aftermath of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, President Obama would want the military to avoid messy ground operations in the future and rely instead on drones, commandos and other specialized capabilities. But as a guide to long-term force planning, the order to end America’s ability to mount such large-scale missions is dangerous. It should be corrected by the next president before it does real harm to the nation’s military.
There are lots of reasons to worry about the effect of the edict. As a direct result of it, during the 2013 government shutdown standoff, Pentagon internal budget reviews contemplated an active-duty army of only 380,000 soldiers. That would have been less than half Reagan-era levels and almost 200,000 fewer than in the George W. Bush and early Obama years. Such a figure would also have been 100,000 fewer than in the Clinton years, when the world seemed somewhat safer than it does today.
Nonetheless, people such as former Chief of Naval Operations Gary Roughead have advocated an army of less than 300,000 full-time soldiers which, at least in terms of size, would barely leave it in the world’s top 10. The U.S. Army is already smaller than those of China, North Korea and India—even if one adds the Marine Corps’s 180,000 active-duty forces.
Such small-is-enough thinking echoes a romantic part of America’s past. For most of its first 150 years, the U.S. had a very modest standing army. Until the Civil War, the figure hovered around 15,000 soldiers, and after the war it declined to similar levels. At the turn of the 20th century, U.S. ground forces barely ranked in the top 20 in the world in size. After World War I they were cut back to a comparable standing, as America consciously sought to avoid the ways and mores of the European nation-states and their permanent militarization.
After World War II, the U.S. disbanded its armed forces so fast that five years later, in 1950, the nation that had recently wielded the greatest military machine in history was unable to fend off North Korean communists attacking the South. By Vietnam the U.S. had forgotten so much about the innate character of war that it wound up waging a counterinsurgency campaign that overemphasized tanks, artillery, B-52s and napalm.
After Vietnam, the national revulsion against messy ground war, combined with a fascination with precision-strike technology after Operation Desert Storm in 1990-91, persuaded us that traditional ground conflicts would not be repeated. As a result, the U.S. was caught off guard by the tactical requirements of counterinsurgency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
With defense budgets declining, China rising, and high-tech frontiers beckoning, the temptation is again to put all of our strategic eggs in the baskets of cyber operations, high-tech air and sea operations, robotics, space technologies and special forces. All are important and should be pursued in certain ways. But history suggests they will not be enough.
To protect core national security interests, the U.S. must anticipate a range of possible large-scale ground operations. Some—like scenarios involving Russia’s President Putin and aggression against the Baltic states, or conflict between the Koreas—have more the character of classic preparation for war. Others range from stabilization and relief missions after a massive tragedy or Indo-Pakistani war in South Asia, to a peace enforcement mission after a future peace deal in Syria, to a complex counterinsurgency alongside an Ebola outbreak in a place like northern Nigeria.
In every case, deterrence would be better than having to fight. But deterrence may fail. Each crisis could directly threaten the U.S. and its security, and could require American forces as part of a multinational coalition. This suggests that while the Army may not need to grow significantly, it should not be cut further.
It is one thing for President Obama to try to avoid more Mideast quagmires on his watch. It is quite another to direct the Army not to be ready for the plausible range of missions that history, as well as ongoing trends in demographics and technology and global politics, counsels us to anticipate. In our future defense planning, we should remember the old Bolshevik saw: You may not have an interest in war, but war may have an interest in you.
IDF Prepares for Possible Combined Attack from Iranian-Backed Syrian Forces: Raphael Poch, Breaking Israel News, Nov. 3, 2015 — A senior source in the IDF told Israeli media outlets that the Mount Hermon Brigade, the IDF brigade which sits closest to the Syrian border, is preparing to counter combined terrorist attacks from Iranian-backed forces in Syria.
Read more at https://www.breakingisraelnews.com/52843/idf-prepares-for-possible-combined-attack-from-iranian-backed-syrian-forces-idf/#zQ4Vu4SlGS7PfAhk.99
US Military Intensifies Cooperation With Israel: Barbara Opall-Rome, Defense News, Oct. 18, 2015—The US and Israel are marking a jam-packed week of military-to-military cooperation that cuts across all services and command echelons, from America’s top-ranked officer – USMC Gen. Joseph Dunford – to members of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), who are winding up a five-month deployment with rest and relaxation here in this Red Sea resort town.
A Joint Israeli-Arab Attack on Iran?: Ehud Eilam, Israel Defense, Nov. 4, 2015 —Israel and Sunni-led Arab states are worried that Iran might produce nuclear weapon, i.e. "the Bomb".
What Coordination? Russia and Israeli Warplanes Play Cat and Mouse Over Syria: Debka, Nov. 2, 2015—Syrian media reported an Israeli air force attack Sunday, Nov. 1, after two sorties Friday night against Syrian army and Hizballah bases in the Qalamoun Mountains on the Lebanese border.