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September 11, 2015  RSS feed
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Ex-general: Gaza war shines light on U.S. threat

Jewish Press

Retired Army Maj. Gen. Michael Jones with Lauren Weiner, who introduced Jones to the audience. Weiner, a member of Congregation Beth Am in Tampa, is CEO of Wittenberg Weiner Consulting, which specializes in military and foreign policy. Retired Army Maj. Gen. Michael Jones with Lauren Weiner, who introduced Jones to the audience. Weiner, a member of Congregation Beth Am in Tampa, is CEO of Wittenberg Weiner Consulting, which specializes in military and foreign policy. A military expert who served on a panel studying the 2014 Gaza War told members of the local Jewish community that if the U.S. does not learn lessons from that war and from America’s own conflicts, “some day, we are going to wake up and have 10,000 ISIS people in our country.”

Retired Maj. Gen. Michael Jones, one of the five retired ranking U.S. military officials commissioned to study the Gaza War, shared major findings of the study during a presentation at the Tampa JCC & Federation last month. The event, put on by the JCC & Federation and Congregation Beth Am, drew a crowd of about 140.

Jones is the former chief of staff of the U.S. Central Command, CENTCOM, headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa.

Jones spotlighted the major findings of the study, commissioned by Jewish Institute of National Security Affairs (JINSA), reminding the audience that while it drew conclusions about the moral rightness or wrongness of how Israel and Hamas fought the war, the purpose of the study was to find lessons that apply to the U.S. military. The study was commissioned when questions arose about tactics used in the war.

Among the points examined in the study were:

• The changing nature of conflict

• The new techniques Hamas is using on the battlefield

• Information operations

Based on what they have seen with Hamas and other terrorist organizations, they are displaying certain capabilities that used to be only available to nation-states.

“It has a no-kidding, ready-tofight army,” he said. “They are very well trained and very well equipped. I would defy you to go look at a Hamas fighter, or a Hamas Special Forces soldier, and look at the body armor and the equipment they have, and go off and find more than a dozen and a half countries in the world that have better equipment.”

Jones also highlighted new techniques and new adaptations Hamas has made on the battlefield. These include tunneling, specifically the variety of ways Hamas could use tunnels and how quickly they are built. Not only was the war fought on the ground, but there also was a real battle to sway public opinion about the war, something Jones called information operations.

“It was very clear to us that there was certainly a deliberate and systematic effort by the IDF to comply with the ‘Law of Armed Conflict.’ It is equally just as obvious to us that Hamas violated the ‘Law of Armed Conflict,’ habitually and systematically.”

The study team spoke to participants involved in the war, including IDF fighters, Palestinian leaders and the United Nations. Though they did not speak directly with Hamas, Jones said the team could tell their intentions and actions based on Hamas’ public media and published reports.

Jones said the study panel found Hamas manuals that instructed fighters to purposefully locate themselves among civilians. He said these findings were strange compared to what was being reported throughout the media at the time of the conflict; one would have thought the exact opposite was true.

“The fact is, Hamas executed a very good information campaign,” Jones said. “The first way was by controlling the public media, the reporters, and where they could go and what they could see. They made sure what they saw and the images of what they sent back were things that supported the narrative that Hamas wanted to be in the media.”

Secondarily, Jones said, Hamas executed “a very successful social media campaign. They used tailored messages, depending on the type of social media and the audience.”

Jones shed light on why Israel was not very effective in the arena of public opinion on Israel’s actions in the war. He explained that IDF analysts said the responsibility of controlling misinformation fell to the Foreign Ministry and IDF’s responsibility was to make sure their soldiers had proper intelligence. When asked, the Foreign Ministry agreed with IDF analysts but said they didn’t have the capability to control information.

“We have the exact same problem, but it’s worse,” said Jones.

Why is it worse? While the U.S. has strong intelligence capabilities, it is limited to using that technology against enemy combatants and there is disagreement about who those combatants are. Most ominously for Jones is the fact that intelligence is limited within the domestic population.

“I hate to be so depressing,” he told the audience. “The reality is, if the enemy is uncountered and they continue to be allowed to use social media to further propaganda and to train people, some day, we are going to wake up and have 10,000 ISIS people in our country. You know how much one person can do. We have to come to grips with this issue.”

Jones opened the floor to questions and Diane Lott, a recent Stetson University graduate who wants to work for the State Department, asked what her generation would be able to do in light of the issues with policing social media for misinformation.

“This is the country that took a rock, put it in a cardboard box, marketed it, got people to pay $10 a piece for it,” said Jones. “But we can’t convince people that these groups of people, who kill innocents, who enslave women, who cut people’s heads off, are the bad guys and we’re the good guys?”

Jones said that without finding a way to reestablish a trust that our government officials won’t twist words around for political purposes, handling information will be challenging.

The five retired U.S. officers that were commissioned for the study were Jones, Air Force Gen. Charles Wald, Army Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell, Marine Corp. Lt. Gen Richard Nanonski, and Air Force Director of Operational Planning, Policy and Strategy Maj. Gen. Rick Fevereaux. The 75-page report of the study team can also be found at gaza-assessment.

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