Lessons from Israel and the U.S. about the New Way of War

In the past two decades both Israel and America have been involved in a series of conflicts with terrorist and guerrilla groups, sometimes operating independently, sometimes as proxies for hostile states. These conflicts, argue Douglas Feith and Shaul Chorev, necessitate an approach to military matters where perceptions, information warfare, and politics play much more than a secondary role:

In the past, battlefield events were intended to influence international politics only indirectly and in the long run. Combat’s immediate goal was military: to damage the other side’s ability to fight. Now, however, an attack’s immediate purpose is often to produce news reports that will put pressure on enemy decision-makers without actually reducing their ability to fight. The target is the enemy’s will rather than capability. Ironically, battlefield success, if it results in negative news media coverage, may do more harm than good [to the side that achieves it].

Groups that depict themselves as victims of Western powers win automatic support from Western news media. Images that reinforce simple notions—“narratives”—of this kind of victimization can exercise powerful influence. With certain types of audiences, such images cannot be countered quickly and effectively. Explanations about context, history, and other complexities don’t work.

As violent non-state actors wage battles with political rather than military goals—to demoralize their enemies and persuade them to quit fighting and retreat—the other side must also operate politically. . . . Each side in such a conflict has an interest in understanding its adversary’s society—its aspirations, needs, and internal composition. The enemy’s “home front” can be the war’s most important theater.

Read more at National Institute for Public Policy

More about: Israeli Security, Strategy, War on Terror

How to Save the Universities

To Peter Berkowitz, the rot in American institutions of higher learning exposed by Tuesday’s hearings resembles a disease that in its early stages was easy to cure but difficult to diagnose, and now is so advanced that it is easy to diagnose but difficult to cure. Recent analyses of these problems have now at last made it to the pages of the New York Times but are, he writes, “tardy by several decades,” and their suggested remedies woefully inadequate:

They fail to identify the chief problem. They ignore the principal obstacles to reform. They propose reforms that provide the equivalent of band-aids for gaping wounds and shattered limbs. And they overlook the mainstream media’s complicity in largely ignoring, downplaying, or dismissing repeated warnings extending back a quarter century and more—largely, but not exclusively, from conservatives—that our universities undermine the public interest by attacking free speech, eviscerating due process, and hollowing out and politicizing the curriculum.

The remedy, Berkowitz argues, would be turning universities into places that cultivate, encourage, and teach freedom of thought and speech. But doing so seems unlikely:

Having undermined respect for others and the art of listening by presiding over—or silently acquiescing in—the curtailment of dissenting speech for more than a generation, the current crop of administrators and professors seems ill-suited to fashion and implement free-speech training. Moreover, free speech is best learned not by didactic lectures and seminars but by practicing it in the reasoned consideration of competing ideas with those capable of challenging one’s assumptions and arguments. But where are the professors who can lead such conversations? Which faculty members remain capable of understanding their side of the argument because they understand the other side?

Read more at RealClearPolitics

More about: Academia, Anti-Semitism, Freedom of Speech, Israel on campus