Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Price Israel Pays for Its Poor National-Security Decision Making

My piece in The Atlantic explores the politics and pathologies that influence national security decision-making in Israel, leading to a lack of comprehensive analysis. This, in turn, makes it harder for Israel to plan for the consequences of its foreign policies.

The country's National Security Council (or, more properly, the National Security Staff), headed by a National Security Advisor (NSA), was created as a way to mitigate these pathologies. First established in 1999, it was given concrete form and legal standing with the 2008 National Security Law. A body composed of representatives of different ministries and agencies, the NSC is supposed to provide an array of options -- as opposed to specific recommendations -- regarding both the general security situations and specific developments as they crop up. It is, as Chuck Freilich has suggested, the best hope for making decision-making more structured, formal, and effective.

Unfortunately, longstanding patterns of decision-making, based on Israel's history, threat environment, and politics, have proved difficult to change. Israeli security decision-making is informal, secret (though sometimes punctured by leaks), and typically dependent on only a few individuals, particularly at the strategic level (tactical and operational decisions coming out of the security establishment tend to be more formal and systematic).

Follow the link for the full piece.

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