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Exercising the Non-Military Option:

Exercising the Non-Military Option:

Assessing Today’s Challenge Requires New Understandings

Dr. Richard L. Benkin writes from US

This is the first in a multi-part series by Weekly Blitz’s US Correspondent, Dr. Richard L. Benkin.  After receiving and reviewing hundreds of intelligence reports, and comparing them to political, public, and media analyses of the current global conflict, Benkin has concluded that such analyses suffer by applying outdated understandings to the new realities of today.

In 1967, it took Israel six days to utterly defeat the combined militaries of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Iraq.  They accomplished this despite the fact that those nations also received extensive—and open—military and other support from a range of Arab states and the Soviet Union, while Israel fought alone.  It has been well-documented that the nation most closely identified as Israel’s greatest ally, the United States, refused to ship any arms or other support to the Jewish state at that time.  Previously, the administration of President John F. Kennedy had sent a small amount of military support to the Israelis, but other than that aberration, the first US President to send any significant aid to Israel was Richard Nixon.  In 1973, Israel repeated its thrashing of multinational Arab militaries, even though the latter launched an unprovoked attack on the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur, and caught the Israelis by surprise.  It took a direct threat of Soviet intervention and the potential for a nuclear war as the United States would have then intervened as well to stop the Israeli juggernaut.  At the time they did stop, the Israelis were marching unimpeded toward both Cairo and Damascus, and both capitals would have been forced quickly to surrender to Israeli forces had not the Soviets intervened.

Though their military efforts were preposterously incompetent, the Arabs certainly were not stupid.  The events of 1967 and 1973 made it clear to them that neither their 30 to one advantage in men nor their oil wealth would ever bring them a military advantage over the Jewish state, which they had been sworn to destroy since the day it came into being.  For even if they did get their military acts together, the Israelis would continue to advance and get even better, leaving the Arabs at a perpetual disadvantage militarily.  At about the same time, it was becoming clear that the world’s greatest military force was suffering an unexpected defeat at the hands of the militarily disadvantaged Viet Cong and North Vietnamese.  Clearly, had they attacked the US military in Vietnam with a frontal assault, the results for them would have been a disaster.  While the situations in Vietnam and the Middle East differed in numerous ways, the overall strategic lesson was the same:  a militarily inferior force had a chance to defeat a militarily superior one by exercising the non-military option.  It must be understood that this non-military option does not refer to standard diplomacy or similar means intended to result in peaceful co-existence and the end of conflict among adversaries.  This non-military option is equally deadly to any military one, and its practitioners utilize it in pursuit of military goals, goals of conquest and domination, and of murder as opposed to peace.

The surprising success of the Viet Cong and their North Vietnamese allies came from the general application of three principles:  (1) Use the United States’ might against it, in particular tapping into a strong undercurrent of envy and anti-American sentiment; (2) Weaken the resolve of the US population and thereby force non-military (that is, political) considerations to drive military decisions; (3) Cast the battle as one between their David against their opponent’s Goliath, and build ideological momentum worldwide.  That strong ideological base, beginning with elites and opinion makers, will define them as freedom fighters and their opponents as a force trying to thwart their “legitimate rights.”  That the Arabs adopted that strategy can be seen most glaringly in their abrupt change of tactics.  From 1948 through 1973, they launched four wars against Israel, an average of one about every four years.  Since then, they have not done so even once.  Something changed, but what?  It is apparent even today that they have not given up their goal of destroying the Jewish state; nor has the anti-Israeli drumbeat died down at all.  This series will explain with what non-military military means they have replaced their straightforward military ones.

The first thing the Arabs had to do was to change their rhetoric, even while maintaining the same goals.  Many people today think of the Arab position in terms of the so-called Saudi peace proposal; specifically, that in exchange for an Israeli withdrawal from all lands gained in the 1967 war, including the eastern part of Jerusalem, all Arab nations will end their state of hostilities with Israel and establish full diplomatic relations with her.  They might assume that it always has been the Arabs who wanted a two-state solution of a Jewish and Arab Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace; and that Israeli refusal is the root cause of the Middle East conflict.  It likely would surprise them to learn that even the pretext of such a position is rather new in the Arab world and not at all generally accepted among Arabs.  Their media, universities, “think tanks,” and mosques often give vent to and reflect that rejectionist position.

On November 29, 1947, the United Nations voted to partition British mandatory Palestine into Jewish and Arab states.  The Jewish state would be about 14,200 square kilometers; the Arab state would be about 11,600 square kilometers.  Jerusalem would be placed under UN administration.  Though neither side got what they wanted, the Jews accepted the partition; the Arabs rejected it.  Not only did a multinational Arab military force invade the new Jewish state, with the expressed goal of destroying it; but the Arabs refused Israeli offers reunite separated families, release refugee accounts frozen in Israeli banks, and to repatriate 100,000 refugees.  This because they refused to take any action that might be construed as recognition of Israel. Typical of Arab rhetoric was the threat by Egypt’s President Gamal Nasser in 1957 to “drive the Jews into the sea and wipe them out as a nation.”  Ten years later he told cheering crowds, “We are going to grind them into the ground. We are going to push them into the sea. We're going to wipe out Israel--no one will ever remember them again.” Just before the 1967 War (that is, before the so-called occupation), the head of an Egyptian-Syrian military delegation proclaimed, “We are confident that we are making fast strides towards the realization of our common goal—the elimination of Israel.”  In 1964—again prior to the occupation—the PLO was formed with the expressed purpose of destroying Israel and making no claims on Egypt and Jordan for their holdings of Gaza and the West Bank respectively.  Even after the 1967 Six-Day War, when Israel offered to return the land it captured in exchange for direct negotiations and peace, the Arab position was epitomized by the famous three no’s of the Khartoum conference:  “no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it.”  Today, few Arab leaders would say that there is no room for a negotiated peace with Israel.  Today, only the most radical Arabs, personified by Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad voice that position publicly.

Things have changed.

However, a change of rhetoric alone with no goal would make no sense.  The Arabs had to select the proper audience.  The Soviet Union was already unequivocally pro-Arab, and the United States was largely pro-Israel; moreover, the Arabs could not find its Achilles’ heel.  But the 1973 revealed their best target to them:  Europe.  It became clear rather as soon as Israel recovered from the initial setbacks of the Arabs’ surprise Yom Kippur attack in 1973, that the latter’s offensive was doomed.  Soon enough (and it ended up taking just 20 days), the Israelis would be even further into Arab territory than they were in 1967.  So, the Arabs turned to a new strategy: the oil weapon.  They also realized that the key to a successful strategy was Europe, not the United States.  Europe was militarily weak, but economically strong.  Its post-World War II culture favored social programs and what the Germans call gemutlikeit, or the good life, while allowing the United States to shoulder any military threats, particularly from the Soviets.  Moreover, Europe was not only weak, it was also vulnerable.  While the United States was the world’s largest oil consumer, it maintained its own production, various sources worldwide, strategic reserves, and significant influence in the Saudi and other oil industries.  Clearly, Europe was the logical target for this new initiative.

Next installment:  Targeting Europe. 

Posted on 11 Aug 2006 by root

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