- - Wednesday, June 20, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

President Donald Trump, like everyone alive today, never met Prussian military theorist Carl Von Clausewitz, but the author of “Vom Kriege” (“On War”) would have found pleasant company with the man who inspired “The Art of the Deal.” For Clausewitz, war involved politics in addition to “other means” to arrive at a “deal”; in other words to obtain the objectives of a nation at war.

For Mr. Trump, it’s about maximizing one’s leverage in obtaining the “deal,” one of his 11 tenets in the art of deal-making. And in that regard, Mr. Trump has demonstrated that he understands both the Clausewitzian concept of the “center of gravity” — the basis of an opponent’s power at the operational, strategic or political level — and the art of leveraging national power. Three examples are instructive: North Korea, Iran and ISIS.

North Korea’s center of gravity is the survival of the regime of Kim Jong-un. It’s a criminal cartel, but worse yet, one whose sidearms are a host of conventional artillery keenly aimed at South Korea and a nuclear threat recklessly pointed at the world. Which is why the president wasted no time putting “Little Rocket Man” in a very hot seat by ratcheting up the tough talk in response to Mr. Kim’s verbal threats and missile-launch intimidation.

Moreover he jettisoned the effete “strategic patience” approach of previous administrations and imposed “maximum pressure” on the Hermit Kingdom. That story is playing out now following the Singapore summit. Mr. Kim knows his regime is at stake. Mr. Trump does, too. Mr. Kim would be wise not to trifle with him.

In Iran that center of gravity is its economy, which is nearing collapse. President Barack Obama foolishly provided some economic breathing space for Iran’s terror-mullahs when he agreed to unleash billions of dollars to them pursuant to the Iran nuclear deal along with the prospect of lucrative economic ventures with Europe.

That’s now on hold with Mr. Trump’s undoing of the agreement. Sanctions are on the way, those European deals in much question, and the mullahs are pondering how to respond. Inevitably, they will return to the negotiating table and dial back their terror behavior or face certain economic collapse and a possible second popular revolution in 40 years. It truly is about leverage, isn’t it?

And what is the center of gravity for ISIS? It was its military capability. In short order, Mr. Trump crushed it and set ISIS on a path to political obliteration. That leverage was manifested in brute force coupled with the will of a commander-in-chief to put an ax to the root of terror.

As the source of power that “provides moral or physical strength, freedom of action, or will to act” — as the military describes it — dealing with an opponent’s center of gravity is vital if a nation is to maximize its leverage in international affairs. The president clearly understands this. He should take the same approach with the primary obstacle to peace between Israel and its Arab neighbor, Hamas, the terror organization that rules the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian territory lying between Egypt and Israel along the Mediterranean Sea.

Founded in 1987 after the uprising against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, Hamas is implacably opposed to Israel. To this day, it inspires attacks on Israel with rockets, suicide bombers, and public knife attacks on innocent civilians. In 2007, the militant Hamas actually took control of the Palestinian government from the long-ruling Fatah party in both the West Bank and Gaza.

That experiment collapsed resulting in violent clashes between both factions. Hamas seized control of Gaza, and its iron grip continues until today, posing a violent threat to Israel while making the lives of Palestinians there worse. Moreover, they are an indefatigable obstacle to the peace process, refusing to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist and insisting that Israel return to a 1948 configuration. As long as Hamas is in the picture, there will be no portrait of peace that includes Israel and the Palestinians.

Mr. Trump’s Clausewitzian approach can be efficacious here also. Hamas’ center of gravity is its ability to control the Gaza territory. In recent years its ability to provide basic services to the 1.8 million residents greatly diminished when sanctions were placed on them by the West. Once robustly supported by Iran, they also lost much of that support when they allied with the Syrian opposition against Iranian-backed Bashar Assad.

The conditions are ripe to further tighten the grip on Hamas, whose legitimacy could be further strained by even tighter sanctions against any government that lets a single dollar flow to this terrorist organization that is a de facto government. By doing that, Mr. Trump will be showing once again why he may be the most formidable, no-nonsense peacemaker in the world in gravitating nations toward peace.

• L. Scott Lingamfelter is a retired U.S. Army colonel, combat veteran and Middle East Foreign Area Officer. He also served in the Virginia General Assembly for 16 years.


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