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Israel’s Struggle against Hamas: Strategic Culture, Adaptation and War

Gershon Baskin feels that the legitimacy deficit of the Palestinian state profoundly affected the PA’s ability to engage in the peace process and fulfill the Israeli requests for more effective Counter-Terrorism (CT) measures without appearing a puppet who fought its own people for the sake of the enemy.

Niccolò Petrelli

Niccolò Petrelli

Israel’s Struggle against Hamas: Strategic Culture, Adaptation and War’, studies the impact of cultural factors on the Israeli counter-insurgency vis-à-vis Hamas in the period comprised between 1987 and 2005, analyzing to what extent the peculiar traits of the Israeli approach to security and military affairs account for the shaping of a distinct ‘way of war’ and for the successes and failures of the Jewish state in countering the Islamic Resistance Movement’s insurgency.

The concept of ‘counter-insurgency’ is logically contingent on that of ‘insurgency’, to which it applies. Being insurgency a protracted struggle to control a contested political space conducted by one or more popularly based non-state challengers1, ‘counter-insurgency’ could be defined as all those measures through which elements of national power are applied for the purpose of suppressing an insurgency. From this definition it appears clear how the concept constitutes an analytical paradigm through which scholars and practitioners approach asymmetric warfare (or war against ‘irregulars’, ‘partisans’ or ‘guerrillas’), that is struggles between non-state and state actors.

Although old as human civilization, asymmetric warfare rose to prominence after 1945, coming to represent the norm, rather than the exception, of war.

The end of the Cold War and the last two decades seemed to confirm the ascendancy of this specific kind of warfare over ‘conventional’ or ‘symmetric warfare’ and the setting of a pattern that will probably continue for some time.

Counter-insurgency represents therefore a topic worth to study not only by virtue of its prominence in the history of warfare, but also in light of the nature of the conflicts confronting the international community, either currently and possibly also in the near future.

Sir Michael Howard has authoritatively emphasized how the military profession is one of the most demanding, not only in light of the fact that military organizations episodically have the opportunity to practice the business for which they have been established, but even more by virtue of the very nature of the profession of arms.

Of all human endeavors, war confronts men and women with the greatest physical demands and psychological pressures, combining complex material and intellectual challenges of different nature with the constraints of time. Success in war remains inextricably linked to the ability of military organizations to face these challenges to understand the actual conditions of combat and to overcome the tactical, operational and strategic challenges that war presents through a ‘a rapid, complex, and continuous process of competitive adaptation’.

Although war has remained fundamentally unchanged in its nature, the twentieth century, and even more the first years of the 21st, have witnessed an increasing sophistication of this phenomenon.

Successful adaptation to the realities of combat has in fact increasingly required from military organizations more than only physical endurance and mental stamina. The application of sophisticated technologies (especially Information Technologies – IT) to military affairs, the pervasiveness of the media in theatres of war and the consequent descent of political concerns down to the level of actual combat, have rendered mastering of technology, cultural and political awareness essential elements of the effectiveness of military organizations.

Moreover, the expansion and growing multidimensionality of the ‘battlespace’ has posed new daunting intellectual challenges for the military in terms of elaborating sound operational schemes and military strategies as well as adjusting concepts and doctrines to the reality of the strategic environment.

Thus ‘war disciplines militaries’ and forces them to adapt to the complexities of the battlefield,10 to modify organizational structures, abandon proved equipment, techniques, tactical and operational configurations, not to mention shared strategic beliefs, in favor of untested and sometimes risky military and political alternatives.

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