After that first post, I had in mind to apply “war is nothing but the continuation of policy with other means” to what Israel is doing in Gaza. But Anthony Cordesman beat me to it. Looks like he’s studied Clausewitz.
This raises a question that every Israeli and its supporters now needs to ask. What is the strategic purpose behind the present fighting? After two weeks of combat Olmert, Livni, and Barak have still not said a word that indicates that Israel will gain strategic or grand strategic benefits, or tactical benefits much larger than the gains it made from selectively striking key Hamas facilities early in the war. In fact, their silence raises haunting questions about whether they will repeat the same massive failures made by Israel’s top political leadership during the Israeli-Hezbollah War in 2006. Has Israel somehow blundered into a steadily escalating war without a clear strategic goal or at least one it can credibly achieve? Will Israel end in empowering an enemy in political terms that it defeated in tactical terms? Will Israel’s actions seriously damage the US position in the region, any hope of peace, as well as moderate Arab regimes and voices in the process?
Cordesman says that the answer is yes, although he acknowledges that Israel has made tactical gains against Hamas.
If war is the continuation of policy with other means, we have to ask which policy? At what level?
The answers that members of the Israeli government have been putting forth so far have to do with stopping the Hamas rocket attacks. That’s tactical, and Israel may well succeed in these goals. Cordesman asks the strategic questions. Israel’s tactical actions may be in conflict with the strategic goals.
So it looks like policy, as well as war, has both strategy and tactics. A government needs to know which kind of policy they’re following, if the other kind is important, and how their actions promote or undermine both.