Sat 09 Dec 2023 8:21 am - Jerusalem Time
How does "tactical victory" turn into "strategic defeat"?
“The owners of the land usually have the last word in any conflict with foreign occupation, because holding on to the land is the last option for any people, and abandoning it means annihilation, displacement, annihilation as one nation, and dissolution into other peoples.”
“Israel risks exchanging a tactical victory for a strategic defeat,” this is the most serious warning issued by the highest-ranking military official in the US administration, represented by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, to the government of Benjamin Netanyahu.
The United States, which is considered the most powerful military power in the world, has had harsh experiences in fighting losing wars despite the massive scale of destruction it caused in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, and the number of its deaths hardly compares to the huge numbers of casualties among its enemies. However, it lost its three wars despite “Military victories” achieved on the ground.
Strategic victory is not measured by the number of dead, wounded, and prisoners among the enemy’s ranks, but it has been known since ancient times that it breaks the will of your enemy, to the point where he despairs of achieving victory over you.
- A struggle of wills
When you force your enemy to surrender without firing a single bullet or causing a single casualty, you have achieved a strategic victory. However, if your enemy continues to resist despite the difference in strength and the gap in the number of casualties, then the war becomes a “battle of wills.” Who has the longest breath and the ability to endure? The unity of the internal front and its lack of division is what will achieve strategic victory.
The owners of the land usually have the last word in any conflict with foreign occupation, because holding on to the land is the last option for any people, and abandoning it means annihilation, displacement, annihilation as a single nation, and dissolution into other peoples, while the invaders will return to where they came from.
Here lies the complexity of the Arab-Palestinian conflict because both parties face the diaspora if one of them loses the “battle of will.”
This explains Israel's insistence on displacing and exterminating the residents of Gaza, which is the fate that awaits the residents of the West Bank and East Jerusalem at a later stage, while preserving a weak, willless minority that can be dissolved or at least contained, in a way that does not pose an existential threat to its "state."
But the widespread and barbaric killing of civilians, especially children, with an open roof, has a profound effect on shifting a sector of world public opinion from sympathy with Israel to condemning its crimes.
This is evident in the escalation of demonstrations in cities around the world against “Israeli massacres,” and the increasing criticism of international organizations for the killing of children, women, and journalists in an unprecedented manner in terms of daily and monthly rates, even compared to the First and Second World Wars, and even during the American occupation of Iraq.
Thousands of lawyers and human rights bodies around the world moved with the support of several countries and state leaders, led by the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and the Algerian President, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, to try Israeli war criminals in the International Criminal Court, although it still lacks courage and impartiality, especially since most of its funding comes from From European and Western countries supportive of Tel Aviv.
Israel is not only losing the battle of world public opinion, but it is also losing the moral battle, and despite its attempts in every way to distort the Hamas movement, the way the Israeli prisoners bid farewell to members of the movement with great affection, love and respect, confirmed the falsity of these accusations.
The Hamas movement’s retention of the military prisoners’ card as part of its vision of ending the war “all for all,” divided Israeli society between demands to liberate the prisoners and pay the price by releasing Palestinian detainees, and those who were strict about the necessity of continuing the war and bombing, even if this led to the death of the Israeli prisoners.
Regardless of which side Israel leans toward, this would deepen the rift and division among members of its society even after the end of the war, which would weaken it even more, make it lose prestige and awe in its regional surroundings, and thus lose its “deterrence power,” which represents the most dangerous type. "Strategic defeat", because it will make it under constant threat and the possibility of repeating the "October 7, 2023" scenario.
Vietnam... Washington's first strategic defeat
One of the most important lessons the United States has learned in its history about wars that are “tactically won and strategically lost” is the Vietnam War, which it entered in 1964 to fight the communist “National Liberation Front of South Vietnam,” known as the “Viet Cong,” who were supported by the North Vietnamese army led by Ho Chi Minh. From it, with the aim of preventing the expansion of communism to the southern part of the country, which was divided into two parts.
The United States threw its weight into this war, rejoicing in its victory in World War II against the Axis forces led by the German Nazis, and also in preventing the communists in North Korea, supported by China and the Soviet Union, from controlling South Korea.
Although the number of American soldiers in Vietnam was doubling until the total number of those sent to the war from its beginning in 1964 until its end in 1973 reached about 2.7 million soldiers, according to the American “Stripes” website, this did not force the “Viet Cong” fighters to surrender. .
The US Army used internationally banned weapons, heavy bombers, and bombs with widespread destruction, and the war caused the deaths of more than a million Vietnamese, compared to about 58,000 Americans, in addition to 304,000 wounded, according to Stripes.
Although the losses of the Vietnamese were much greater than the losses of the Americans, both humanly and materially, the United States was forced to throw in the towel and withdraw from Vietnam instead of continuing a war of attrition with no prospect of victory, especially since American public opinion began to turn against its government, with the increasing number of deaths and coffins arriving from the country. Vietnam.
Although Washington tried to form the largest Vietnamese puppet army, which included many prisoners and criminals released within the framework of the "Vietnamization of the war," this army, which numbered more than a million armed men, collapsed with the withdrawal of the last American soldier from the country.
- Afghanistan.. Washington has not learned its lesson
It is ironic that the most powerful military force in the world, supported by an international and local coalition (the Northern Alliance), faced a modestly armed force (the Taliban) and was able to overthrow its nascent state in Kabul and Kandahar in a short period in 2001, but after 20 years the US army was forced to withdraw.
The same scene was repeated in Saigon, Vietnam, in Kabul, Afghanistan. The American army left, leaving its collaborators hanging on the edges of a helicopter (Vietnam) or a military transport plane (Afghanistan), for fear of revenge from the new rulers.
Just as the communist fighters in South Vietnam took shelter in underground tunnel networks from the bombs of heavy American bombers, the Taliban fighters took refuge in caves and caves in the mountains, which had long been fortresses around which several empires collapsed, whether Indian, British, Soviet, and finally the American.
The indiscriminate killing of civilians makes the revolutionaries “heroes of freedom” in the eyes of their people, and provides them with logistical and human support. This is a lesson that Washington has learned, and the US Secretary of Defense wishes to convey to the Israelis.
The Israeli army's killing of about 16,000 Palestinians will not eliminate Hamas (and this is the main goal it set for the war), just as the American army did not eliminate the "Viet Cong" in Vietnam or the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Rather, the Israeli army's massacres will make the Palestinian people rally more around Hamas, and instead of eliminating it, it will give it greater legitimacy and popularity, and this is a "strategic defeat."