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Gaza COA Decision Brief
If you are just now jumping in, this is Part III of a four part series. Here are the links to the first two parts:
Tuesday’s Part II: Prelude to Slaughter
Part IV: Lessons for Israel will be published tomorrow.
This isn’t going to make anyone happy. It doesn’t matter if you are on the “cease fire and deescalate” left or the “Linebacker III” right - none of my COAs will be quite what you are looking for … though the Linebacker III crowd might be OK with COA-B and COA-C … but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Cut this ‘ole Operational Planner some slack, and a few caveats:
I’ve had to rewrite 85% of this from its first draft over the weekend as we now have Commander’s Intent (CI) and higher Direction and Guidance (D&G). That had me discard two of my three Courses of Action (COA).
I am quite sure the Israeli Defense Forces had appropriate draft Operational Plans (OPLANS) on the shelf with all sorts of Branch Plans and Sequels waiting to be updated and providing enough once dusted off to get things in to Phase I.
I don’t have a Planning Staff or even a Core Planning Group, intel support, or even some Italian colleagues to remind me to take my 10:00 and 15:00 coffee breaks, but I’ll do my best anyway. As anyone in crisis response planning can tell you - as opposed to advanced plans types - you have to be comfortable enough to accept that you don’t have enough time, staff, or information to produce a great OPLAN, but you’ll come up with a good enough plan anyway. You’re happy to be wrong about a detail or two, and are open-minded enough, secure in your ego, and content to change what you thought was perfect - some or all of your plan - the moment you get better information, changes in CI or D&G, or the situation develops in unexpected ways … as they do.
If you are looking for a detailed Tactical OPLAN or a sweeping Strategic OPLAN, you’re at the wrong substack. I’m an Operational Planner and what I am about to do is an “elevator speech” level Preliminary COA Decision Brief with the principals (J2, J3, J4, J5, and the Chief of Staff) where they get to weigh in and refine what the Planning Group I am the Chair of has produced (OK, I’m a Planning Group of one and I made myself Chair … I don’t care, it’s going on my FITREP anyway). Following the Principals’ input - especially from the Chief of Staff who has had better one on one time with the Commander and as such has the nuance no one else does - I’ll beg for a day and will be told I have two hours to make changes and then well brief the Commander.
<insert non-existent draft OPLANS, Planning Process with full Planning Staff, wargaming COAs etc>
Working from open-ource information, we have CI and D&G from the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defense.
If you go to YouTube you can get the script, but we’ll use this statement from the weekend as a close approximation of POLMIL-level guidance from Prime Minister Netanyahu;
As a Planning Staff, what do I need to take away from this?
Israel is at war.
Israel will finish it.
We will exact a price that will be remembered by them (Hamas) and Israel’s other enemies for decades to come.
From Defense Minister Yoav Gallant we have:
Gaza won’t return to what it was before.
We started the offensive from the air, later will also from the ground, and that’s how it will end.
Gaza will never return to what it was.
Like I said … that had me ditch two of the my three COA from this weekend. If you wanted to know how it shifted, my most dovish COA is gone, and my most harsh COA is now the center of my Overton Window. A planner must try to align with CI and D&G as it is understood - not how he wishes it to be.
When heading into a decision brief, I prefer the three-COA approach and so will present it here. These are short of details - as I have a paying gig dontchaknow - but have enough for you to get the general idea. If I had a Planning Group, we would have at least three slides each to explain more Operational Level details. Hey, relax, no death by PPT today … I’ll cut you some slack.
Before we get to the three COAs, I owe you my top four Planning Assumptions. Remember the thing about Planning Assumptions, you need to be ready for a Branch Plan if any of them become invalid.
No significant supporting second or third front will be opened by Hezbollah from Lebanon or Fatah in the West Bank.
US assistance, military, financial, and diplomatic, will continue.
Israeli War Cabinet remains intact.
Gazan civilians will be allowed to leave for other Arabic nations.
COA-A: Germany 1945
The Gaza Strip will be segmented and block by block, field be field, be demilitarized. Person by person will be identified biometrically with the primary goal to “de-Hamas” the entire population. Responsible leaders will be found to administer civil requirements. Zero tolerance for breaking the peace. Peaceful civilians can stay. Violence will result in non-subsidized exile or imprisonment followed by exile. (NB: the voluntary or involuntary exile of Gazans is a problem in all COA. If you look from London, to Sydney, to NYC, the West does not need to import any more of those who want to bring their sectarianism to the West. Any of these highlighted nations will suffice.) After appropriate security environment is achieved, transition to home rule for all but military or diplomatic areas can continue.
COA-B: Danzig 1945
As with COA-A, the Gaza Strip will be segmented, etc. The exception here is the humane (as opposed to the rather brutal 45-47 depopulation of Danzig (now Gdansk)) depopulation of the Gaza Strip. As German Danzig is now Polish Gdansk - and Danzig will never be the same as it was - so too could Gaza no longer be non-Israeli. As German excesses (understatement) in WWII opened the window for otherwise unacceptable exile of an entire population, Hamas Gaza’s beheading of infants and Einsatzgruppen LARPing through neighboring kibbutzim has opened that window for Gaza. Israel suffered for decades terror from Gaza and in 2005 gave them a chance to be self-governing. Instead, they became a nest of death squads. An Israeli annexed Gaza would not have that problem. COA-B is the entry level response if you want to make a statement to enemies that will last generations, while still maintaining humanity - especially if exile is subsidized. Per capita income in Gaza is $2,764. Upon exile with no right for return, each will receive $3,000 in three installments over three years; $9,000 total. Cost: ~$6 billion a year for three years, $18 billion total.
Segmentation and subsidized exile as per COA-B, but no immediate Israeli settlement for 50-years. Inventory World Heritage Sites, religions sites that existed prior to 1950, and cemeteries. Protect and preserve. Level every other building in the Gaza Strip except for needed infrastructure and national security related locations. Allow the strip to rewild and turned to a nature preserve. Allow for a reevaluation of Gaza’s status in 2073. Want the lesson to be remembered? Want to make sure the threat does not return? Want to make Gaza unlike it was? That will do it, yet allow the nation of Israel to maintain its humanity.
Final reminder: sometimes it happens that you are told that none of your COAs are good and to start over. Sometimes you are told one is almost there, but adjust this or that. Sometimes you are told to merge two COA. Rarely are you told “Your COAs are so wonderful, I don’t know which one to pick.” You have to have a thick skin and a secure ego as a planner … as such it is with the above.