Academic journal article Middle East Review of International Affairs (Online)

Theory, Doctrine and Policy: Core Recommendations for Israel's Strategic Future

Academic journal article Middle East Review of International Affairs (Online)

Theory, Doctrine and Policy: Core Recommendations for Israel's Strategic Future

Article excerpt


" - by which I mean the entire body of knowledge about things, whether corporeal or spiritual - is as much a work of imagination as it is of observation....the latter is not possible without the former...."

- José Ortega y Gasset, Man and Crisis

Far too often, even for experienced military planners and strategists, the core importance of strategic theory is minimized or disregarded. Whenever this happens, no matter how savvy and sophisticated the individual planners' résumés, investigative conclusions (tactical and operational) will turn out to be too narrow or too limited. There is, of course, always a residual chance that these results might somehow still lead the determined analyst in productive policy directions, but there is plainly no good reason for inquiry to be "backward" in the first place.

Thus, we must ask: Why would Israel intentionally choose to operate with manifestly reduced chances of achieving any meaningful success?

There is considerable irony here. Today's Israeli military planners and strategists are impressively familiar with myriad and complex technical and technological aspects of war and defense, yet they are simultaneously lacking in certain prerequisite philosophical skills. This vital deficiency has absolutely nothing to do with any notable methodological shortcomings-on the contrary, Israel's relevant thinkers are visibly talented in every conceivable element of data collection, data manipulation, and analytic assessment-but it does reflect a tangible lack of acquaintance with philosophy of science.

More precisely, this epistemological shortcoming has to do with a willful scholarly detachment from elementary "rules" of concept formation, hypothesis creation, the so-called "problem of 1 2 induction," and also an assortment of closely-related expectations.

Going forward, the actual consequences of this epistemological detachment, however unwitting, could range from entirely trivial to palpably catastrophic.

For example, in any purportedly scientific study of strategic military issues, inquiry must begin 3 with an appropriate hypothesis. Thereafter, pursuant to what we have learned from Karl Popper, 4 Carl Hempel, and others, this critical hypothesis, with its readily-identifiable linkages between independent and dependent variables, would need to undergo suitable deductive elaboration,5 followed (wherever possible) by empirical testing of all the logically "entailed" propositions.

The hoped-for result of this systematic intellectual effort must be a detailed network of deductively interrelated propositions; that is, an intellectual construct more generally known as theory.

In principle, for Israeli military planners-especially those with prospectively nuclear responsibilities-theory derived in this fashion could have inestimable practical value. Indeed, in all sectors of human knowledge, theory provides the investigator with an indispensable "safety net." Only those who carefully plan to "cast," can then expect to "catch."6


There is more. To optimize their difficult work, Israeli strategists will need to begin at the beginning, acknowledging that regional anarchy, which represents the unchanging structural context of all their subsequent inquiries, is never just a distressing or idiosyncratic function of the moment. Rather, as they must soon learn to recognize, it is deeply rooted in the authoritatively codified and 7 customary foundations of modern world politics.

More than anything else, these legal and geopolitical structures - namely authoritative international law and national state preferences - now point to still-expanding conditions of chaotic regional disintegration.8 Yet, even in chaos, which is not the same as anarchy, there may be certain discernible regularities, a sort of fixed "geometry,"9 which needs to be properly identified and studied. …

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