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Aug 7, 2006

Let the IDF win!

During the second Intifiada the slogan “T’nu L’Tzahal L’Natzeach” – Let the IDF win – became a very popular rallying cry. Protesters used it often when suggesting that the government was tying the hands of the army with politics and not allowing it to fight properly. It was a catchphrase used commonly in editorials, articles and by government ministers.

We are facing a similar problem today. The government has sent the army out to battle and wage a war against Hezbollah. The war started as a defensive one, but Israel quickly made it into an offensive battle. This was necessary because it was the only way to clear the southern part of Lebanon of Hezbollah and their stock of weaponry.

The army has been corrupted by politics ever since the disengagement of last year. Army generals and commanders who told their honest opinion of the disengagement when asked by the politicians, we released from the army. This created a situation in which the army commanders staying in position realized that to advance their careers they had to tell the government what they wanted to hear (this is not my assessment - this was widely known and written about many times in the past year in the press and former commanders have come forth more recently and spoken out about the process).

The army was used not to fight the enemy, as an army is meant to, rather it was used to achieve a political goal called the disengagement. They were used to fight against their own brothers and sisters and anybody who claimed it was against their morals and they could not do it was either released (in a good case) or put in jail (more common).

When an army is run by politicians (and by this I mean when the commanders making the decisions are making decisions based on politics), the army is not doing its job. It is setting itself up for failure. The army needs to prepare plans for the defense of the country and for whatever scenario might be imagined for defending and protecting the country. Then the politicians decide which plans to use, which to shelve, etc. When the army uses politics to make its decisions, it is not preparing properly for its own job and it is thereby placing people, either those they are supposed to be defending or those who are participating in the execution of the plans.

We are in a situation today where the government, led by two inexperienced politicians (Defense Minister Amir Peretz and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert), is making serious decisions on how to wage the current war. The problem is they keep changing their minds. They are not allowing the IDF to win. They decided to flatten the land with an aerial assault prior to sending in the ground troops. They did this far too long, and Hezbollah had the opportunity to hide bunker down and retain their power and ability to shoot the Katyushas and other rockets.

It is not a matter of whether or not Israel will subdue Hezbollah. Eventually we will, regardless of all these problems. The problem is that we are not fighting an army or conquering land. A victory is not as clear cut as in the standard type of battle. In the type of war we are fighting, aside from achieving the sought out goals (in this case of getting back the captured soldiers and stopping the Katyushas), a sense of deterrence must be achieved in order to prevent future attacks.

PM Olmert has politicized this battle. He announced that victory will give momentum to the convergence plan. That was a stupid comment. It is clear that the current problems we are having are results of the previous disengagements (from Gaza and Lebanon). Olmert should be reassessing and trying to figure out how to improve the plan (if not scrap it completely). Instead he declared, in other words, that he is sending the boys out to fight with the goal of improving his status for a successful realignment. He is asking young men, many of whom are members of settlements slated for Olmert’s chopping block, to put their lives on the line so that they can go home afterwards and be thrown out of their own houses.

The Yisraeli newspaper has had a series of political cartoons recently in which are depicted expellees from Gaza living in caravans and out of boxes. The husband is putting on his army uniform and leaving the family to go join the war. The various cartoons in the series all show different scenarios, each portraying the same ironic situation; the husband leaving to protect other peoples home while the wife has no real home to sleep in. The husband says we cannot allow these people to be thrown out of their homes by Katyushas, while the wife sits there on her carton having been thrown out. The husband says when I come back from war I will help you pack for the next expulsion, etc..

The idea of these is that Olmert has created an ironic situation in which he is calling on people to go out and push an agenda they are totally against. Nay, they are fighting and risking their lives to bring closer the day when they will be thrown out of their own homes.

The natural result of this is that soldier sin such a position (or even if they themselves will not be thrown out of their homes but are against the disengagement) are now saying why should I fight in this war for that goal. Nobody has yet officially refused to fight (they have found ways to get out of it) but there are murmurings. If soldiers are distracted by such politics they cannot fight properly.

Yes, it is true Olmert apologized for his comments. That means nothing. Everybody already knows those are his goals and intentions. His apology was only because he should not have said it. Anybody who thinks he actually retracted his opinion is sticking his head in the sand like an ostrich and ignoring the obvious.

But this is not only about the disengagement/convergence/realignment.

Olmert has tied the hands of the army in other ways as well. He sends in the ground troops then he stops them. He allows leaks of information from cabinet meetings. He shows his indecisiveness.

You remember the friend of mine I wrote about last night whose son is in Lebanon? He also told me (aside from the story I wrote about) that his sons unit was specifically instructed not to fire upon the enemy at a certain point. I do not know details of the incident, but he was clear they had received orders from the government not to fire, not from army commanders who were concerned they would reveal their positions or be outflanked or whatever. The Prime Minister told them they should not engage the enemy.

Can you imagine this? The government sends troops into hostile territory and tells the soldiers they cannot shoot at the enemy!! They are tying the soldier’s hands behind their backs!! They are putting our soldiers at risk and not letting them fight properly.


Charles Kraughthammer writes in today’s Washington Post a scathing article against Olmert’s handling of this war. To quote just one part of it, “The United States has gone far out on a limb to allow Israel to win and for all this to happen. It has counted on Israel's ability to do the job. It has been disappointed. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has provided unsteady and uncertain leadership. Foolishly relying on air power alone, he denied his generals the ground offensive they wanted, only to reverse himself later. He has allowed his war cabinet meetings to become fully public through the kind of leaks no serious wartime leadership would ever countenance. Divisive cabinet debates are broadcast to the world, as was Olmert's own complaint that "I'm tired. I didn't sleep at all last night" (Haaretz, July 28). Hardly the stuff to instill Churchillian confidence.

His search for victory on the cheap has jeopardized not just the Lebanon operation but America's confidence in Israel as well. That confidence -- and the relationship it reinforces -- is as important to Israel's survival as its own army. The tremulous Olmert seems not to have a clue.”

From here I call out to you - PM Olmert – Let the IDF win!!!




7 comments:

  1. good analysis..unfortunately anyone who lived in jerusalem while olmert was mayor knows how atuned he is to business..just his own i.e. the furtherance of his political career et al ..now it seems he's in over his head..as for peretz they say all he knows how to do is call for a strike..

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  2. Thanks Jack and vicki. Yes Vicki, I lived in Jerusalem part of the time he was mayor and veerybody knew then he was all about pushing his own career and all his deals were about himself getting further while the city went to the crapper.

    To update this post with another point - just this evening I saw a report in Haaretz in which the Reservists being called up for suty are complaining that they are sent out on missions but the missions are not clear and just put them in danger without giving them a clear set of orders. The chain of command is not working properly and the orders are not being passed properly and they are given orders which are then retracted and then changed, etc. This is another example of what I wrote about.

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  3. I appreciate your insights. I'm of the school of thought that since I'm not an Israeli citizen, I don't really comment too much on what the govmt policies are, but it seems like things are not so black and white. Great post.

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  4. I hear you Neil. It is a tough call because on the other hand, Israel belongs to all Jews...

    Anyways, thanks.

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  5. 100% that the country belongs to us. I am all for defending it. I answer "Amen" when the gabbai says a tefillah for our soldiers, and I daven for them.

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