In a detailed assessment of the IDF’s capabilities, Kenneth Brower argues that in many ways it is mightier than many Israelis realize. Through air power alone, Brower contends, Israel could likely cripple the entire Russian expeditionary force in Syria in less than hour. And that’s not all:
Israel can defeat any conceivable Russian expeditionary force, but obviously cannot defeat Russia or reach Moscow. Similarly, Russia cannot defeat Israel or reach Jerusalem. . . . Israel can [also] defeat Iran and its proxies at a relatively acceptable cost—but only if there is decisive Israeli political and military leadership, which is now lacking. If military power has to be used preemptively to neutralize the Iranian nuclear threat, Israel, acting unilaterally, is far more militarily capable than the U.S.
[Indeed], neither the U.S. nor Russia can project meaningful conventional military power into the Middle East unless they are provided with both many months to mobilize and the absence of opposition during the long process of deployment. This conclusion implies that any U.S.-proposed mutual defense treaty offered to Israel would be militarily meaningless. Moreover, . . . any such treaty would actually result in significantly diminished Israeli national security.
Nonetheless, writes Brower, there is no reason for Jerusalem to maintain delusions of invincibility. First, it lacks the ability to mobilize its ground forces as quickly and effectively as it once could. Second, there is the dangerous possibility of Iran attacking both directly and through its proxies from Syria, Lebanon, and Gaza, while also launching missiles directly from its own soil. Such an attack would quickly overwhelm the IDF’s top-notch missile-defense systems. To protect against such a scenario, Jerusalem must be willing to learn the lessons of both the 1967 and the Yom Kippur wars, and be willing to launch a preemptive attack:
If Israel were to hand Iran the initiative and allow it to launch a surprise attack on Israel that combines massive missile and rocket barrages with large-scale infantry raids across its northern and Gaza borders, Israel’s air defenses would be saturated, its vital military and civilian infrastructure would be heavily damaged, the mobilization of Israeli military reserves would be significantly delayed and disrupted, there would be heavy Israeli civilian casualties, and both Israeli civilian and military personnel would become prisoners of war. In short, it would be extremely painful if Israel chose not to preempt its enemies.