Is Israel’s Military Ready for Future Challenges?

In a detailed study of the Israel Defense Force’s size, structure, and capabilities, Kenneth Brower traces its development from the underequipped fledgling army of 1948 to the technologically sophisticated and much-feared military of today. But, Brower argues, in the past decade the IDF has become too focused on counterterrorism and urban warfare and too reliant on defensive, high-tech systems—like its Iron Dome air defenses—at the expense of conventional capabilities, and it thus may not be ready for the what lies ahead:

It seems evident that the IDF general staff believes that Israel does not currently face the immediate threat of large-scale conventional warfare with its Arab neighbors but rather the threat of limited warfare by non-state actors in the Palestinian-controlled territories and the neighboring states. . . . It is also obvious that the general staff has concluded that Israel must maintain a significant capability to strike remote enemy states and non-state groups. . . .

As a result of meeting [such] near-term priorities on a limited budget, the general staff has significantly downsized the order of battle of its armored corps and tube artillery and reduced training in large-scale maneuver warfare. It has also unacceptably reduced the combat readiness of its reserve ground units. Unfortunately, what the general staff has done today to meet current priorities will inevitably and irretrievably impact the Israeli . . . order of battle and military capability for up to two decades from now.

No one can possibly predict the future threats that Israel might then face. Some of today’s Arab “friends” will almost certainly face political upheaval and become tomorrow’s enemies. Moreover, Israel today enjoys decisive technological superiority because of its unique ability to exploit evolving digital technology; but there is no assurance of its ability continuously to achieve such superiority in the future. In fact, what the IDF can uniquely deploy today will surely be readily available from the future international arms bazaar.

This [problem] is compounded by the huge procurements by the rich Arab Persian Gulf regimes, which are many times larger than the current annual IDF procurement budget. What fires east can just as easily fire west. A missile system that can intercept Iranian ballistic missiles can also intercept Israeli ballistic missiles. Because of these massive Arab investments in advanced technology, it is doubtful that Israel can continue to sustain it current advantage of overwhelming technological superiority.

[In other words], the Israeli general staff may well have inappropriately overadjusted its priorities to reflect what exists today but which will almost certainly no longer be the case tomorrow. Most importantly, it has simultaneously neglected preparations for large-scale offensive maneuver warfare that might be necessary in the future. The impact of the general staff’s mistakes has been magnified by the decisions of the Israeli political leadership. Their [desire] to construct expensive, brittle border fences and to prioritize ground-based air-defense systems are, no doubt, politically popular, but may well represent a huge misallocation of Israel’s limited financial resources. . . . High-readiness offensively oriented ground forces can be a far better deterrent than . . . fences and air-defense systems that can easily be saturated and that are catastrophically vulnerable to the weapons of the future.

You have 2 free articles left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at BESA Center

More about: IDF, Israel & Zionism, Israeli grand strategy, Israeli Security

A Better Syria Strategy Can Help Achieve the U.S. Goal of Countering Iran

While the Trump administration has reversed much of its predecessor’s effort to realign Washington with Tehran, and has effectively used sanctions to exert economic pressure on the Islamic Republic, Omar Hassino argues that these measures might not be enough:

Iran and its militias control more territory and natural resources in Syria and Iraq than before President Trump took office. . . . The U.S. should back the low-cost insurgency approach that has already shown potential in southwest Syria to bleed the Iranian forces and increase the costs of their expansion and [of Tehran’s] support for the Assad regime. It makes no sense that Iran can fund low-cost insurgencies to bleed American allies in the region, but the United States cannot counter with the same. The administration should also consider expanding support to the proxy forces that it currently works with—such as the Revolution Commandos near the [U.S.] al-Tanf garrison in southwest Syria—for the purpose of fighting and eliminating Iranian-backed militias. This limited escalation can curb Iranian expansion and put pressure on the Assad regime in the long term.

Furthermore, in this vein, the U.S. should empower peaceful Syrian civil-society groups and local councils operating outside Assad-regime control. Last year, the Trump administration eliminated assistance for stabilization in Syria, including funding going to secular anti-Assad civil-society groups that were also combating al-Qaeda’s ideology, as well as the Syrian [medical and civil-defense group known as] the White Helmets, before quickly [restoring] some of this funding. Yet the funding has still not completely been resumed, and if this administration takes an approach similar to its predecessor’s in relying on regional powers such as Turkey, these powers will instead fund groups aligned ideologically with Muslim Brotherhood. This is already happening in Idlib.

The United States must [also] jettison the Obama-era [strategy of establishing] “de-escalation zones.” These zones were from the start largely a Russian ruse to help the Assad regime conquer opposition areas, and they succeeded. Now that the regime controls most of Syria and Iranian proxies are dominant within the regime side, support for de-escalation is tantamount to support for Iranian expansion. The United States must [instead] prevent further expansion by the Assad regime and Iran in parts of the country that they still do not control.

You have 1 free article left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Tablet

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy