Adam L. Silverman, PhD*
On Sunday, the Al-Monitor published a very in depth and timely interview between reporter Laura Rozen and former Mossad Director and Israeli National Security Advisor Ephraim Halevy.** The interview covers many important foreign policy issues, specifically dealing with Iran, how to approach one's adverseries, and the impact of Israel's concerns with Iran on the US presidential campaign and US foreign policy.
Some of the most important take aways were his remarks about how one should deal with one's adversaries:
" Therefore, I realized that dialogue with an enemy is essential. There is nothing to lose. Although the claim was, if you talk to them, you legitimize them But by not talking to them, you don't de-legitimate them. So this convinced me, that we all have been very superficial in dealing with our enemies. [...]
Not everything you try succeeds. But you have to be willing to try. If you fail 10 times, and succeed once, the success outweighs the failures.
What happened: In order to meet public opinion, both Israel and the US governments have tied our own hands. There is a law [...] which prohibits US officials from talking to Hamas [...] In the end, you create an inherent disadvantage for yourself."
He also has some really important thoughts in regards to leadership at the strategic level in regards to operations, such as the one to kill/capture bin Laden:
"I think nobody who has been involved in ordering the use of force can forget the angst, the days and nights of concern, as to what and how it can be done.
Romney has said, Anybody could have decided to finish bin Laden. Even [Jimmy] Carter. This again was a mistaken concept. President Obama didn’t just decide [one day to kill bin Laden]. The operation to end the life of bin Laden necessitated multiple points of decision by him. I know from operations I have been involved with on a smaller scale.
They are very intricate. You don’t just give the order and wait in your office for commanders to come three months later and say it’s done. No. This kind of operation, which is accident prone, hands on operation, one has to make one decision after the other […] It took courage and cool headedness and leadership. Anyone who says it was an easy thing to decide, doesn’t understand what he’s talking about. [Such comments] show a total lack of understanding of what this kind of operation means.
Once I was in charge of an operation and Netanyahu was Prime Minister. One day, because of the intricacy of what we were doing, I talked to him 10 times on the phone […] Ten times. It was a Friday, a day I will not forget.
This kind of operation, every minute, an issue comes up, that sometimes requires a decision on the political level.
The Libya story, the way it’s being used, is a sordid manipulation. […]"
And he discusses something near and dear to my heart, which is trying to understand the identities of those we have to engage with - allies, competitors, and especially adversaries:
"Over the years, both because of personal contact with some key figures on the other side […] I realized, in order to be effective with one’s enemies, you have to have two essential capabilities: To overcome by force if necessary — and/or to withstand their force if necessary. And do everything you can to get into their minds and try to understand how they see things, what their concerns are — their dreams, aspirations, hopes, feelings are. And where if at all there is room for common ground of one kind or another.
I think that what we have had over the years is an abundance of one side, and a dearth of the other. There has been a big emphasis, and rightly so, [on overcoming adversaries by force]. But we have paid little attention [to understanding one’s enemies.] And I have always had the feeling to look for ways and means of creating channels for dialogue. I was involved in channels of dialogue in one way or other, in major and minor roles, as of 1973-1974, when I served here in Washington, D.C., as Mossad station chief."
The whole interview is excellent. Ms. Rozen did a great job, so click on over and read the whole thing! It'll be far more informative on anything at the debate, in the Spin Room, or in the coverage over the next week...
* Adam L. Silverman is the Culture and Foreign Language Advisor at the US Army War College. The views expressed here are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the US Army War College and/or the US Army.