This book is a product of professional experiences, academic scholarship,
and personal reection. In many ways my interest in the topic of geopoli-
tics and international security dates back to my childhood when Foreign
Affairs arrived regularly at my parents’ house. Although I was initially
drawn by the distinct quality of the page (readers of my generation will
recall its unique feel), I found myself increasingly reading the articles.
My parents had subscriptions to other magazines (Newsweek, New Yorker,
Commentary) and I had the obligatory subscription to Sports Illustrated;
however, there was something different about Foreign Affairs. Whether a
direct or indirect result of Foreign Affairs is unclear but for as long as I can
recall, foreign affairs have captivated me.
My interest in foreign affairs became professionally relevant when I
was assigned to the Middle East desk while working in the ofce of U.S.
Congressman Howard Wolpe (D-Michigan). I never pursued a career
directly related to foreign affairs, however, various postings during the
nineteen years I served in the Israel Defense Forces were directly related
to foreign affairs and geopolitics. Two experiences in particular are an
important background to this book: the ve years (1994–1999) I was
directly involved in on-the-ground implementation of the Oslo Peace
Process in the Gaza Strip and my direct experience in targeted killing
decision making.
Those two experiences formed much of my thought
regarding state power, particularly determining its effectiveness and rec-
ognizing its limits.
Based on that dilemma—the limits of power—I accepted the sugges-
tion of my friend and colleague, Professor James Holbrook regarding the
subtitle for this book. It was neither randomly offered nor chosen for it
captures one of the most important dilemmas in contemporary geopol-
itics. The transformation from traditional war between nation-states to
While serving as the Legal Advisor to the Gaza Strip (19941997).
conict between nation-states and nonstate actors requires decision mak-
ers, policy analysts, military commanders, intelligence ofcials, jurists,
and legislators to answer the question of whether there is a strategy for
an unwinnable conict. The question is both theoretical and practical. It
takes on particular urgency given the extraordinary number of conict
points that dene the current state of international relations.
As discussed in the pages that follow, the contemporary geopolitical
dilemma is enormously complicated and fraught with danger for a num-
ber of reasons including:
The “lack of rules” that largely dene the relationship between
the nation-state and the nonstate actor
The number of players with signicant weaponry at their dis-
posal who are not a part of the traditional world order
The economic crises
Dwindling natural resources
Profound uncertainty regarding the limits of sovereignty and
borders, as traditionally understood, because of the remarkable
impact and penetration of the Internet
An essay I wrote previously regarding the 2012 Israeli lm, The
Gatekeepers, highlights two questions: whether there is a strategy for an
unwinnable conict and what the strategic ramications are regarding
the use of force. To that end, the movie addresses the twin tensions that
reect contemporary geopolitics: the use of force in a nontraditional set-
ting and the imperative for negotiated settlement of conict. In focusing
on both, separately and together, the lm sets the stage for much of this
book’s discussion.
The Israeli movie, The Gatekeepers, nominated for an Oscar award earlier
this year, serves as extraordinary background for a discussion of critical
issues—and not just with respect to the Israel–Palestine conict. What
makes the movie compelling is the direct, unapologetic and reective
manner in which the limits of power are addressed. What makes the
movie even more compelling is that six retired heads of the Israeli intel-
ligence agency, the Shin Bet, address the subject. Speaking frankly, with-
out pathos and devoid of undue emotion, the six look directly into the
camera to say there is a limit to the effectiveness of power.
Their frankness is particularly noteworthy because all six autho-
rized the use of force against suspected Palestinian terrorists. The sec-
ond part of their message is that Israel must negotiate directly with the

Get Modern Geopolitics and Security now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.