Saturday, October 10, 2015

Failure of Israeli military deterrence against lone wolf attacks holds pertinent lessons for Singapore

With one side promising death if deterrence is challenged and the other desiring death by challenging deterrence, you have a tragic confluence of factors that will only see both sides bleed.

This past week, as Israel paused to reflect on the anguish of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, death called on yet more Israeli and Palestinian families as spiraling violence claimed more victims.

As the First Generation Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) modelled its deterrence posture from the Israeli playbook, the situation in the Middle East holds pertinent lessons for us even if the 3rd Gen SAF's playbook has since evolved.

So despite the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Iron Dome anti-missile batteries, Merkava MBTs and a potent air combat force spearheaded by the F-15/F-16 combo, elements bent on causing harm to Israel have not been deterred. These IDF tools of war have stayed silent as violence flared in Israel.

The threat has emerged in the form of lone wolf attacks. These were staged by individuals who made the personal decision of self-sacrifice. Their weapons of choice can be found in your household - kitchen knives for stabbing and keys to automobiles used for ramming pedestrians.

One could argue that the IDF defence posture is not tailored against home spun threats. Indeed, you could say tackling such attacks comes under the firing lane of homeland security agencies and not the military. While such hair-splitting makes great catnip for defence watchers, one should not run away from the fact that a strategy of deterrence that claims to protect one's national interests must evolve as threats evolve and not cherry pick the time, place and circumstances to justify the theoretical. Otherwise as the body count rises, your deterrent value will ring hollow and lose credibility.

With the IDF deterrence posture unchanged and the desire by Palestinians for martyrdom undiminished, closure is unlikely to come anytime soon.

Indeed, some Israeli commentators have even broached the idea of a third Palestinian uprising (Intifada) as violence begets violence.

While peace remains elusive, the lessons from such unsettling times are many and thought-provoking.

The fact that teenage Palestinians have featured prominently in street action indicates that antipathy towards the Israeli has cascaded several generations ever since grandad opposed the formation of the State of Israel in 1948. As teenage Palestinians face off with teenage IDF national servicemen deployed for homeland security duty, the seeds of hostility have been seeded among future leaders from both sides. Without a landmark change in attitudes, this guarantees that the cycle of violence will be perpetuated yet again in the next generation.

The emergence of lone wolves and the IDF's failure to counter this threat red flags the futility of military deterrence in the traditional sense when pitched against actors who ignore the script. While state actors may pull back after recognising warning indicators and calculating loss exchange ratios in a full-on clash between armed forces, this calculus is alien to lone wolves.

Indeed, recognising that their attacks are mostly one-shot affairs, a military unit may be viewed as a target and not a threat by elements bent on extracting maximum damage from their freelance action. The tipping point comes when individuals can be influenced to step forward to undertake what are ultimately one-way trips against the aggressor. For certain 800-series SIRs in the Singapore Army orbat, it is worth pondering the end-game under such scenarios.

The contemporary Israeli solution rests with retaliation against which the perpetrator cannot counter (since such elements would have passed on after the one-way mission). We see this played out during raids which flatten the homes of family members linked to individuals who have attacked Israeli interests.

In many instances, the brutality of such action outweighs any appreciable military or para military advantage because it takes place after the fact. So an attack on Israelis is staged, the attacker is identified and the bulldozers go in. All it does is exacerbate the spiral of violence and seed even more resentment among the community at the receiving end of the sledgehammer.

In an area of operations dominated by high-rise dwellings, the impracticality of razing homes is obvious. And so the shock effect is lost. The alternative, which involves evicting families and housing them elsewhere, echoes the establishment of new villages during the Malayan Emergency when vulnerable elements of the community would be fenced in behind barbed wire and under armed guard.

Such operations require copious manpower to administer because the interned community needs to be fed, watered and cared for. In this digital media age, any semblance of a concentration camp setting would set the internet alight and trigger the loss of the moral high ground.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israelis this week that there is no "magic solution" to the week-long violence by lone wolf attacks.

"We are in the midst of a wave of terror," said Mr Netanyahu."There is no magic solution and the actions (Israel is taking) will not yield instant results, but with methodical determination we will prove that terror does not pay and we will defeat it."

And so, that tragic confluence of factors continues.

1 comment:

西北怪狼 said...

Lone wolves can't change international borders or impose his will unto a strong nation.