Why the Arab/Israeli Wars?

In document Strategic logic and ability: revisiting the Arab-Israeli wars (Page 54-59)

The Arab-Israeli Wars were chosen as the applied field for my research for various reasons: personal, general and methodological.

Personally, the researcher had a previous knowledge of different phases of the conflict across many dimensions: cultural, social, political and military. Also, the researcher‟s mother tongue is Arabic which enables him to go through Arabic sources which are mostly unavailable in English. Regarding the Israeli resources, although the researcher is learning Hebrew, it is difficult to gain a strong grip on reviewing the complex literature available in the years allowed for a PhD. Nevertheless, the Israeli academic works on military matters have a high rate of translation to English or were written in English in the first place.141

Generally, the Arab Israeli conflict, especially the events and outcomes of the 1967 and 1973 wars,142 has been the triggering point of regional, and sometimes international, conflicts for decades. In the post-Cold War world, this has continued to be the case. Gulf War II, the Second Intifada, the rise of Al-Qaeda, and the Global

140 Dani Asher, The Egyptian Strategy for Yom Kippur: An Analysis (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 2009). 141 Z. A. Maman Rozenhek and E. Ben-Ari, “The Study of War and the Military in Israel: An Empirical

Investigation and a Reflective Critique”, International Journal of Middle East Studies, 35 (2003), pp. 461-484.


Oren, Michael, Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002); Abraham Rabinovich, The Yom Kippur War: The Epic Encounter that Transformed the


War on Terror,143 the Lebanon War and ongoing Middle East political and social problems can be linked, at least partially, to this conflict.

However, personal and general factors are not the most important motivations. Methodologically, the three wars chosen fulfil the methodological requirements of this research.

As this research aspires to add something to the general theory, this “act to generalize” is compatible with studying a conflict which has different phases, actors and types of war. Theory is all about defining the causal links and making a distinction between independent and confounding variables. Isolation (in an experimental sense), which aims to isolate the confounding variables from independent variables, is easy to undertake in the physical sciences. However, in the social and political sciences, isolation is not applicable but its effects can be achieved to some extent, albeit not completely or assertively, by studying different types and presentations of the phenomenon under research where the competing theories can be silenced on-off in cases.144

The case studies, as indicated, are the best candidates for using the method of difference. Also, competing theories were more prone to be silenced or be shown to be incongruous in the Conclusion.

The military victories and strategic winning alternate among the selected study cases. In the 1948 War, Israel achieved a strategic success due to a high strategic ability in spite her inferiority in the terms of battlefield outcomes, the state‟s power means and fighting power, at least for the first half of war. In the 1967 war, there was


Analysis of Al Qaeda founders Bin Laden and Abdullah Azzam’s discourses, elaborates how central the issue of Palestine and Jerusalem was. Azzam was famous for his maxim “The road to Jerusalem passes through Kabul”. Alia Brahimi, Jihad and Just War in the War on Terror (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010) pp.125- 131; Gwynne Dyer, Don’t Panic! ISIS, Terror, and Today’s Middle East (London: Periscope, 2015). Caroline Kennedy-Pipe, “IEDs, Martyrs, Civil Wars and Terrorists” in Kennedy-Pipe et al, Terrorism and Political Violence (London: Sage, 2015) p.163.


a paradox between an outstanding Israeli military decisiveness and low political gain. A more complex pattern occurred in 1973 when the initial military breakthrough for Egypt did not lead to a strategic success; rather, poor strategic performance led to operational and strategic difficulties. Israel, on the other hand, suffered from operational difficulties and a far lesser military advantage in 1973 in comparison to 1967. However, due to the earlier devastating Egyptian strategic advantage and prevailing super power dynamics, Egypt managed finally to gain a calculated strategic advantage, and Israel achieved the best grand strategic advantage in her record by achieving a peace agreement with Egypt, albeit not until 1979.

Patterns were completely non-linear in asymmetric wars as well. Israel managed its war well with the PLO, but faced great strategic dilemmas with Hezbollah. The war with Hamas was mixed.

These multiple cases with different patterns145 are an excellent research ground for cross comparison and developing a rich typological theory.

Having studied both regular and irregular wars, the study also offers an ample opportunity to compare strategic logic and ability, operational art, or peculiarities of political-military relations between them. One of the main themes of this study is to clarify what is contestant and variable in the theory of strategy and operational art. Lastly, the primary question is related to the inability of some actors to achieve winning in war in spite of an ample military edge. This is dealt with extensively by studying the Arab/Israeli Wars where the Israelis‟ military power edge is incontestable for most of the conflict. Approaching the conflict as a whole is suitable as a single case study to shed some light on how long and protracted conflicts are, or


As Van Evera indicated, case studies are best chosen for extreme values in their dependent and independent variables as well as with variances inside the case. Moreover the 1948 War was a war with more different dependent variables than others, allowing strategic success for Israel, showing methodological strength and avoiding common methodological faults. Van Evera, Guide to Methods, pp.63-66.


are not, concluded by manipulating the strategic dimensions or considering the conflict insoluble.


This study represents an endeavour at the level of general strategic theory. It also attempts to locate the inquiry into the strategic weakness of actors with significant military prowess within the major lines of strategic thought.

To answer this inquiry, the thesis developed a theoretical pathway which did not stop at the reformulation of general strategic theory, but had to resolve major theoretical disputes in conceptualizing the levels of war, the nature and strategic orientation of the operational art and efficient settings of political-military relations. The study also developed a framework for estimating war outcome strategically (strategic success, strategic advantage and relative success). It emphasises that the share of military outcome in achieving political success in the short and long term should be acknowledged in a reasonable sense, without amplification or diminution, and should be considered contextual.

More importantly, the study has developed the concept of “strategic logic in war” and laid out its internal structure, and introduced the framework of “strategic ability in war”. The thesis differentiated strictly between the latter and the “fighting power”, the concept that embodied western doctrines and dealt with the sub- strategic level of war.

Methodologically, it adopts a compound and more rigorous method than that which has dominated traditional strategic thinking, without being, as Clausewitz says, “dragged down to a state of dreary pedantry”. 146

At the level of applied research, the study tries to fill in the gaps in the literature of the Arab-Israeli wars – in as fair and non-partisan a way as possible – since the

146 Clausewitz, On War, p. 222.


existing literature is mostly focused either on operational or political concerns and only a few exceptions deal with the link between military conduct and political aims. The study looks at seven Arab-Israeli Wars and uses their richness and heterogeneity to test different theoretical propositions which confuse the eternal “nature” of strategy with its evolving and changing “characters”.


The study will move after this introduction to enrich the theoretical foundations of strategic logic in war (Chapter Two).

Chapters Three and Four examine the Wars of 1967 and 1973 respectively (the southern front between Egypt and Israel), with a brief discussion of the 1948 War and the War of Attrition. Each chapter starts by giving the political background of the war, and then the strategic ability with its three layers will be examined for each side in order to reach a comparative assessment. Finally, the outcome of war is measured on the adopted scale. Chapter Five includes short case studies; the irregular wars between Israel and three irregular Arab movements (the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), Hezbollah and Hamas).

The Conclusion in the final chapter sums up the fruits of studying the Arab Israeli wars, performing cross comparisons and reaching concluding points and answering the research questions at the levels of theory and the applied research area.


In document Strategic logic and ability: revisiting the Arab-Israeli wars (Page 54-59)