March 10, 2015
(Washington, D.C.) – A task force of former senior U.S. military leaders has released a report finding, “[f]uture, and perhaps even ongoing, conflicts will match the U.S. military against adversaries employing Hamas’s unlawful tactics that increase civilian casualties so as to undermine the legitimacy of U.S. military operations, encourage international actors to condemn and pressure the United States and sap its will to continue such campaigns.”
The report, 2014 Gaza War Assessment: The New Face of Conflict, is a culmination of an in-depth study by the JINSA-commissioned Gaza Conflict Task Force on the evolution of Hamas’s strategy and Israel’s response. It is based on primary source research and discussions with senior Israeli, Palestinian and U.N. officials.
Task Force members include General Charles Wald, USAF (ret.), Former Deputy Commander of United States European Command; Lieutenant General William B. Caldwell IV, USA (ret.), Former Commander, U.S. Army North; Lieutenant General Richard Natonski, USMC (ret.), Former Commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Command; Major General Rick Devereaux, USAF (ret.), Former Director of Operational Planning, Policy, and Strategy - Headquarters Air Force; Major General Mike Jones, USA (ret.), Former Chief of Staff, U.S. Central Command
The new report is a broad examination of the strategy and tactics of the Israel Defense Forces and Hamas during the summer 2014 campaign in Gaza (Operation Protective Edge). Based on their experience the five former senior U.S. commanders made observations and recommendations for U.S policy and military leaders, including:
Hamas appears to have pursued “unrestricted warfare,” defined as the ability to blend technologies with military actions and political-influence activities, seeking victory not on the battlefield but through pressure on Israeli decision-makers. Hamas’s focus in the conflict was on the exploitation of the presence of civilians in the combat zone, not just as a passive defense tactic, but through actions intended to place its own civilians in jeopardy.
The IDF’s systematic method of determining a strike’s desired military effect, selecting the required combination of weapons and fusing needed to achieve that effect, assessing potential collateral damage, and weighing that risk against military necessity is similar to that of the U.S. military and reflects good-faith commitment to LOAC compliance. The IDF also executed a number of extraordinary and innovative methods to mitigate civilian risk.
These and other conclusions provide the foundation for a series of recommendations offered by the Task Force to inform U.S. operations in urban environments against “hybrid adversaries,” or non-state actors using concepts and capabilities traditionally associated with states.