Currently, in the land called by some Israel, and others Palestine, a terribly cruel war is occurring. Ferocious military operations on a genocidal scale are being inflicted upon Palestinians in the Gaza Strip by the IDF (the Israeli Defense Forces). Israeli soldiers are conducting the military operations; so, it’s Israel’s war?
Wrong, and this note explains why. The explanation involves a rethinking of the nature of contemporary warfare; one judging that even though the Israelis are doing the fighting, it is an American war. The rethinking argues a ‘necessary and sufficient condition’ approach to understanding who is conducting a war. To make this argument, let’s explicate the difference between necessary and sufficient conditions
A necessary condition for an event is something that must be there for the event to happen. Seeds are a necessary condition for plant growth. A sufficient condition for an event is a condition, or conditions, that produce the event. Satisfactory levels of water, soil fertility, temperature in addition to seeds are sufficient conditions of plant growth. Necessary conditions must be there for an event to happen, but they alone do not make it occur. No seeds, no plant growth, but seeds alone not sufficient for it.
War is a lamentable type of event: The greatest butchery of an opponent’s military and non-military population for the least cost, so that the opponent is no longer able to be an opponent. For those involved it is all terror, all the time. The resources used when conducting war are its necessary conditions. There are three major necessary conditions of warring. Weapons -instruments used to butcher opposing soldiers and civilians; actors -soldiers who wield the weapons to do the butchery; and finance -the money used to supply the weapons and soldiers necessary for the butchery. Certain levels of weapons, soldiers, and finance are the sufficient conditions of warfare. Without these levels being attained the war does not occur, or quickly peters out. A warring state, then, is a state, or non-state, actor that provides sufficient conditions for a war. Other parties may join in the conflict in the sense of providing resources necessary for it, but in so far as they are not necessary and sufficient conditions for the war they are merely participants.
Now consider the current war in Gaza. Since World War II the US has given Israel $260 billion dollars in combined military and economic assistance. Additionally, it has provided $10 billion dollars for a missile defense system (Wolf 2023). In the current conflict, Washington had sent 230 cargo plans and 20 ships loaded with military equipment to Israel by Christmas 2023. The U.S. refuses to be transparent about what weaponry it has sent. However, there are reports of the supply of 16 different types of military equipment by the end of 2023–ranging from 2000-pound bunker-buster bombs to aircraft, missiles, and artillery (Lysik et. al 2023). As of January 31, 2024, the IDF had killed an estimated 27,000 Gazans, of which 70% are women and children. An estimated 66,000 people were wounded. Much of the remainder of the Gazan population was starving and/or ill. Incontrovertibly, Israel was a participant in the butchery. Arguably, the US is the warring state in the conflict.
The point at issue here is a general one. The are many states that participate in wars -provide troops or supply weapons and funding. Currently, Israel is one; Ukraine another. But they are not warring states useless they supply the sufficient conditions for the violence to occur. Rather, they are useful idiots in another state’s designs; in this case, US global supremacy. The importance of this position is twofold. First, it helps distinguish who truly makes war from those who are merely participants. Second, it makes it possible to more accurately attribute legal and moral responsibility to those who perpetrate it. The world needs to know if the US is the warring state in the current Palestinian conflict. If so, though Netanyahu’s buddies may desire genocide, it is the US that makes it possible for them to gratify their desires.
Lysik, Tory, A. Amer, S. Gordon. 2023. Charted: U.S. Has Provided Israel with More Than 70,000 Weapons Since 1950. Axios. https://www.axios.com/2023/11/29/us-weapons-provided-israel-aircraft-missiles-bombs.
Wolf, Christopher. 2023. How Much Aid Does the U.S. Give to Israel. U.S. News and World Report.https://www.usnews.com/news/best-countries/articles/2023-10-10/how-much-aid-does-the-u-s-give-to-israel
 Reyna is the author of Deadly Contradictions: The New American Empire and Global Warring (2016. New York Berghahn Books)