Wednesday, July 30, 2014

An Asymmetry of Possibilities

The folks in Stratfor have given us the best strategic analysis of the Israel/Gaza conflict that I've read in a while:

There is accordingly an asymmetry of possibilities. It is difficult to imagine any evolution, technical, political or economic, that would materially improve Israel's already dominant position, but there are many things that could weaken Israel -- some substantially. Each may appear far-fetched at the moment, but everything in the future seems far-fetched. None is inconceivable. 
It is a rule of politics and business to bargain from strength. Israel is now as strong as it is going to be. ...Israel's major problem is that circumstances always change. Predicting the military capabilities of the Arab and Islamic worlds in 50 years is difficult. Most likely, they will not be weaker than they are today, and a strong argument can be made that at least several of their constituents will be stronger. If in 50 years some or all assume a hostile posture against Israel, Israel will be in trouble.  
Time is not on Israel's side. At some point, something will likely happen to weaken its position, while it is unlikely that anything will happen to strengthen its position. 
The other thing that might happen is that the fragmentation of the sovereign nation-state as the nexus for politics, economics and war will continue and possibly accelerate - even with or without a new Caliphate as envisaged by ISIS in their map pictured above. Henry Dampier worries about the ailing ability of the nation state to wage war:
The critical competitive advantage of the state was in the field of war. Because the state was capable of fielding a large, mass army of capable fighters on short notice, it was able to overwhelm small kingdoms, republics, and city-states that were not capable of doing such a thing reliably. This competitive atmosphere was generated in Europe in part by the continual weakening of the nobility and the papacy, combined with over a century of religious warfare between Christian factions. Consolidating war-making power within fewer hands was adaptive.
But in an age of asymmetric warfare:
Owing to its decline, the nation-state now asks for more in terms of material resources while providing less. Its statistics are becoming unreliable (or perhaps just less reliable than they have been in the past). Its standards provided for trade and finance are becoming antiquated, and too expensive to reform. Its critical advantage in warfare has eroded, and many states have become reliant on private security firms to provide physical security, intelligence, and logistics whereas before they were able to rely on nationalist zeal to provide all of those services at an unusually low price.
Israel isn't the only nation-state for whom circumstances will change in the coming years and decades. Ireland's moment of maximum strength may have passed, but it isn't too late to take our future security more seriously than we do at present.

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