The Unthinkable: Snakes and ladders

Defense Ministry briefing, in the office of the minister of defense, 14th floor, Kirya HQ, Tel Aviv. Sometime in early June.

Amir column image 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Amir column image 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Defense Ministry briefing, in the office of the minister of defense, 14th floor, Kirya HQ, Tel Aviv, sometime in early June.

In attendance: prime minister, minister of defense, minister of strategic affairs.

Agenda: Practical steps to dealing with regional strategic threats.

Situation assessment presented by head of political security department, MOD.
The next four years pose critical political and security threats, challenges and opportunities; you might say that we are entering the most fateful period in this country’s geostrategic situation since 1948. Gentlemen, the decisions we take today will set the course for our beleaguered nation’s future in this complex region. I suggest we jump straight into the most critical issues.
Please remember, this is a closed briefing whose contents must not be allowed to leak to anyone in the press, and especially not to anyone in this building. If, on the off chance you do see a copy of the contents of this meeting – or a document resembling anything said here – floating around this building, please, I implore you to tell me, and only me, straight away. Nobody else in this building is to be trusted.
And now, on to the task at hand: I present you with a detailed assessment of the current situation and offer some very smart suggestions for defining our security policy for the next four years.
At this critical juncture, we are perceived by our very vicious enemies to be weak, and weakness in this region invites attack. In particular, our defense establishment is perceived as weak and in disarray – especially our defense chief. In truth, the defense minister’s (from now on called #14) political weakness strengthens the radicals and the extremists against the moderates in this building. The minister’s conception is that the second most important man in this building (from now on called #19) is at the core of the extremist forces.
If you allow me, with all due respect and with no disrespect intended – we all know how important respect is in this field – 14 is terrified of 19’s power projection. Not only is 14 afraid of 19’s current power, he’s extremely worried about 19’s potential power if and when 19 decides to enter national politics, most probably into 14’s own faltering party. That is obviously a strategic, even existential threat to 14’s position as head of the party. The popular 19 is not expected to suffer the same fate as #16, who is having to constantly play #2 to a woman who didn’t even get onto the first floor of this building. And with #18 seemingly charging into Kadima at the speed of sound, 16 is going to have to watch his six lest he end up playing third fiddle in an opposition party.
An interesting lesson to keep in mind is the political career of the honorable strategic affairs minister (from now on #17) which has, with all due respect Sir, not really taken off yet. If 17 wants to advance up the ladder in the #1 party, he will need to learn how to win at snakes and ladders; he’ll need to pull up his socks, it won’t be enough just to wear tall boots.
The fact that 14, and the rest of the potential numbers in this building, especially the ones in the offices closest to the 14th floor, are keenly aware of their own rapidly deflating power projection, is driving them to look for alliances and deals that will shore up their future security. This opens up opportunities for us to manipulate their ambitions, play one against the other and make sure these officers are all beholden to our good offices. Since they figure that 14’s star is waning, they’re all looking to ally themselves with someone who is on the way up.
Gentlemen, we will need to decide, today, who is on his way up, and who is on his way down. What’s most important is to identify soldiers we can work with, men with good connections and a solid track record of following orders. No loose cannons, no bulldozers, no lone wolves. Furthermore, 14 is advised to shore up his deterrence and find new ways to increase his power projection. I suggest 14 conduct an immediate and comprehensive reshuffling of the top military deck, and as is his way, take no prisoners.
Enough crawling and stalking through this building with a knife between his teeth looking for individual targets to quietly dispatch. What is needed now is for 14 to shake this building so hard that anyone who isn’t holding on for dear life simply falls out the windows. But for this he’ll need support. To this end, the prime minister (from now on called #1) is advised to stay on the sidelines and not interfere in or overrule anything 14 decides to say or do. Obviously it is up to 1 to decide if he wants to intervene, but our suggestion is that he do so only after he is left with no other choice.
WHILE THERE are concrete threats that might erupt at any moment, there are also opportunities, especially on the southern and northern arenas. Getting the current deputy chief of General Staff (from now on called #19.1) out of the axis of fighting in this building could greatly impact the position of the current, very impressive southern general, who, if as is planned by 14, is appointed #20, will lack the critical experience amassed by 19.1 over years of solid command. A cease-fire agreement between a new 20 and 19.1 will strengthen 20, and toward this aim I suggest giving 19.1 (despite his poor political performance in this building) a plum position, something along the lines of chief of spies.
The current chief of spies (from now on called D9) is not in a position to resist this move, and our suggestion is to hook him up with someone big in the private sector, or open a chair for him at a local university. Not a foreign school, mind you, he can’t travel far in the current passport climate. As the new chief of spies, 19.1 can hone his political skills in the “other building” without all the distractions that an army field position has.
The northern arena is the most tricky and most likely to cause us trouble in the near future. It is imperative that we keep the current northern general (from now on called 21 < 20) in the building, and to this end we suggest appointing him as 20’s deputy (if appointed he would become 20.1). 21 < 20’s power projection, deterrence and political maneuvering have so far kept his enemies at bay, and for this acumen and skill he must be rewarded. As a bonus, he is also a good soldier.
As a replacement for 21 < 20 in the northern sector, we recommend our current representative in Washington (from now on USA 51) due to his strong contacts with our most important ally and benefactor. When the chips are down, we can count on USA 51 to make sure we are inseparable from America, and are thus assured victory (or at least a cease-fire on favorable terms).
The big question before us now is what to do with 19. Since he is at the core of the forces arranged against us, my suggestion is to outflank 19 in a sophisticated and decisive maneuver. To do this we first inflate his popularity in the newspaper polls; secondly we dangle the possibility of his entrance into the 19th Knesset, and deliver a final blow by legislating a reduced cooling-off period for security men before they can enter politics. If 19 leaves the army tomorrow, he will have enough time to run for the 19th Knesset, and he is sure to take the bait. We’ll be rid of him, he’ll be happy, and the country will be safer.
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