Over 90 days have passed since October 7th, 2023. The vagaries and program of academic publishing mean that nothing contained in this issue of Military Strategy Magazine, while excellent and demonstrative of the standard we wish to maintain, addresses the strategic elephant in the room in terms of October 7th.
It is hard to equate anything done on October the 7th as “strategic.” Apologists for Hamas and the Palestinians will no doubt seek to gift the action with some strategic value, but that will always rely on altering the true meaning of the word “Strategy” to meaning nothing more than “I really want to Tweet or Blog about this.” If we take Clausewitz’s definition of Strategy as the use of engagements for the object of the war, then October 7th could be characterised as hammering nails into Jewish women’s vaginas to create an Islamic Caliphate called Palestine. As Strategy can only be done as tactics, then what was the consequence of such tactics? Suppose the post-modern tendency wishes to assert that Hamas’s success was in “the information space” or was primarily an “information operation” as in “propaganda”. In that case, you can supposedly ascribe the same success quality to any event, including similar methods. The UK Ministry of Defence characterised Information Operations as “operationalising the truth,” so here, the truth was available for all to see, recorded on Palestinian cell phones.
In one of his lesser-known utterances, Clausewitz asserted that the true purpose of warfare was to render the enemy powerless. To quote, “That aim takes the place of the object, discarding it as something not actually part of war itself.”
October the 7th was not strategic in any way we should understand the use of the word. Hamas’s actions had political consequences, not strategic ones. They conducted a massacre of Israelis, mostly Jewish, but also Israeli Arab-Muslims and Israeli Arab-Druze, as well as foreign nationals, for the same reasons as people have always massacred Jewish people because they cannot blame themselves for their societal failures. Hamas was becoming irrelevant, thus frustrated, thus lashed out with no understanding of what the consequences would be. If you look at Gaza today in terms of the devastation inherent to the normal conduct of military operations under such conditions, then it must be assumed that Hamas knew this would occur. They planned to massacre and kidnap thousands of Israeli civilians, so they must have assumed that Israel would react in the way it did. No sane person could not have seen this response. In 2006, the Secretary-General of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, was surprised by the Israeli military response to what he thought was a minor raid, literally 50m across the border fence. Nasrallah was clearly not a student of history.
The warning here to every student of Strategy should be obvious, but to be clear do not assume all violent action with a supposedly political motive is somehow “strategic”. Sometimes it’s just stupid.
William F. Owen
Editor, Military Strategy Magazine