ATTRITION, ANNIHILATION AND
THE END OF ISRAEL
By Louis Rene Beres
Military analysts customarily distinguish between wars of attrition and wars of annihilation. Yet, such wars need not be mutually exclusive; they can be complementary parts of a single belligerent strategy. So it is today with respect to present and future aggression against the Jewish State by Israel's multiple Islamic enemies.
Consider Iran and Syria. While these enemy states prepare patiently for an eventual unconventional assault upon Israel, they first weaken the Zionist "cancer" incrementally, bit-by-bit, by sustaining the Hizbullah in south Lebanon. As for the PLO, soon to become the full-fledged enemy state of Palestine, it works hand-in-hand with Hamas and other terrorists, (including Hizbullah), assisting in breaking down Israeli will and preoccupying Israel Defense Force (IDF) attention. Once the Peace Process has "succeeded," Palestine - in concert with Iran, Iraq and Syria among others - will assuredly prepare to shift military orientation from a strategy of attrition to one of annihilation.
What about Egypt and the Gulf States? Because these Islamic countries are not generally considered authentic enemies of Israel, certainly not by the United States, they are now poised to buy a great deal of new weapons from Washington. All of these states are currently aiding, to a greater or lesser extent, one or more of the several different Islamic terror groups now operating against Israel. When these groups have done with their attrition work on Israeli targets, such "peaceful" sponsor states can be expected to join enthusiastically in the Final Battle.
Israel does not face a random set of discrete and wholly separate military threats. Rather, there now exists a general threat environment within which discrete threat components fit. Presently, these components are comprised of surrogate war and direct war, of ongoing low-intensity conflict fought by proxy, and future high-intensity warfare - possibly chemical, biological or nuclear - to be fought by enemy states. Recognizing the synergies between these components, Israel's state and nonstate adversaries have learned that attrition is the optimal staging ground for eventual annihilation of the Jewish State.
In all world politics, but especially in the Middle East, we are present at the gradual unveiling of a secret, but the nucleus of meaning, the essential truth of what is taking place, is what is not said. For the remaining future, the enemies of Israel will continue their preparations for unconventional war, and will regard as an integral part of such preparations the support and sustenance of pertinent guerrilla/terrorist operations. Altogether unaffected by parallel public commitments to a so-called "Peace Process," these preparations will proceed on their own track, culminating, if not suitably obstructed, in a fully existential assault upon the Third Temple Commonwealth. It follows that Israel cannot afford to close its eyes to such enemy plans, or to the associated and interactive dangers of attrition warfare. To survive into the Third Millennium, it will be necessary for Jerusalem first of all to recognize the calculated interactions between attrition and annihilation and then to hit hard against both threat dimensions simultaneously. At a minimum, this implies a readiness to undertake life-saving forms of preemption (most plausibly against selected hard targets in Iraq and/or Iran) and to cease immediately the devastating territorial concessions still being codified by the Oslo Agreements.
There is one last point. Israel must continue to maintain its own nuclear force capabilities at all costs, and must now begin to articulate a more explicit and coherent doctrine of nuclear strategy. For now, the policy of nuclear ambiguity, of keeping the bomb in the "basement," seems still to work. But in the future, especially if Israel's enemies calculate that Jerusalem's nuclear weapons are substantially vulnerable to first-strike attacks (a calculation that would become more plausible with the development of Arab/Islamic nuclear forces), nuclear ambiguity could fail. What this means is that preventing Israel's annihilation requires not only an awareness of preparatory attrition warfare by various enemies, but also observable Israeli preparations for the annihilation of Israel's enemies. Such preparations, if conducted correctly, could greatly enhance deterrence, thereby reducing the risk of regional nuclear war. These preparations, therefore, could circumscribe - finally - a really meaningful "peace process."
LOUIS RENE BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) Professor of International Law, Purdue University is the author of many books and articles dealing with strategy and conflict in the Middle East. His work is well-known to Israel's political, academic, military and intelligence communities. To E-MAIL Professor Beres: BERES@POLSCI.PURDUE.EDU