Robb refers to the damage an attack causes as its “return on investment”: Spend $2,000 to attack a pipeline, and get a “return” of $50 million in lost revenue to Shell. But this isn’t really a return on investment as the term is used in economics, because the attackers don’t have $50 million when they’re done. Shell has lost $50 million and the insurgents clearly have increased their utility somewhat; they obviously wanted to destroy that pipeline more than they wanted the $2,000. But it seems implausible to value their increased utility at anything close to $50 million. It’s a perfect illustration of the Australian economist John Quiggin’s dictum that war is a negative-sum game. The combined attacker/Shell system is worth a lot less after the exercise than it was worth before.Take Hamas government in Gaza. The unattractiveness of this kind of warfare may prove more limiting than anything Israel can do to combat it. Hamas has proven it can keep the South of Israel from functioning but not that it can forge a functioning state of its own. Hamas is harming not just the people of Shderot and Ashkelon, but they are depriving themselves of education, fuel, electricity and potable water.
In this framework, Israel is trying to make them understand that it is not worth doing what they are doing, that the harm done to themselves is larger.
Reflecting ahead, Hamas may understand that the equation works against them and decide to save the day for another fight in some indefinite future. As the Egyptians and Syrians, they are dreaming of the day when they will take revenge on Israel, but acting as they were resigned to live in peace. We call that situation Peace, they call it truce. That is OK with us because it is the best we can achieve.
Another way of taking Israeli strategy is behavioural. For each Kassam rocket of theirs we hit back immediately, disproportionally, so they feel pain. At some point they will be conditioned to avoid attacking Israel. It is a learning process, it can be modelled and tested to verify its progress at field level. I hope someone is doing it.