The myth of Israel’s strategic genius

The first Gaza War (aka Operation Cast Lead) took place shortly after I started writing this blog.  I thought that operation was "worse than a crime, it was a blunder," and that underscored what I called the "myth of Israel’s strategic genius." I argued that although Israel’s leaders were often clever tacticians, they had frequently ...

Walt-Steve-foreign-policy-columnist20
Walt-Steve-foreign-policy-columnist20
Stephen M. Walt
By , a columnist at Foreign Policy and the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University.
JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images
JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images
JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images

The first Gaza War (aka Operation Cast Lead) took place shortly after I started writing this blog.  I thought that operation was "worse than a crime, it was a blunder," and that underscored what I called the "myth of Israel's strategic genius." I argued that although Israel's leaders were often clever tacticians, they had frequently engaged in acts of strategic folly that harmed their victims, undermined Israel itself, and harmed U.S. interests too. Interestingly, even some patriotic Israeli experts have recently offered critical appraisals of Israel's lack of strategic acumen.

The latest pummeling of Gaza seems equally foolish, as I argued a few days ago. But it's part of a long pattern rather than an isolated incident. And one obvious lesson is that U.S. leaders shouldn't allow U.S. Middle East policy to be overly influenced by an ally whose strategic judgment is often even worse than our own. 

In any case, if any of you want to re-read my original piece from 2009, you can find it here.

The first Gaza War (aka Operation Cast Lead) took place shortly after I started writing this blog.  I thought that operation was "worse than a crime, it was a blunder," and that underscored what I called the "myth of Israel’s strategic genius." I argued that although Israel’s leaders were often clever tacticians, they had frequently engaged in acts of strategic folly that harmed their victims, undermined Israel itself, and harmed U.S. interests too. Interestingly, even some patriotic Israeli experts have recently offered critical appraisals of Israel’s lack of strategic acumen.

The latest pummeling of Gaza seems equally foolish, as I argued a few days ago. But it’s part of a long pattern rather than an isolated incident. And one obvious lesson is that U.S. leaders shouldn’t allow U.S. Middle East policy to be overly influenced by an ally whose strategic judgment is often even worse than our own. 

In any case, if any of you want to re-read my original piece from 2009, you can find it here.

Stephen M. Walt is a columnist at Foreign Policy and the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University. Twitter: @stephenwalt

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