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Remedies for Isra-Mess: The Military

3 October 2006

by Yisrael Ne’eman

At the moment the government appointed committee led by judge Vinograd is to review what went wrong on the battlefield, the civilian home front and in political decision making. There are petitions to the Supreme Court challenging the existence of the committee, since it was appointed by those it was mandated to interrogate. Many would prefer and independent investigation committee (like “Agronot” in 1973 or “Kahn” in 1982) instead, and it is unclear as of now which type of committee will prevail. Let us recall that the “Agronot” report is considered by most a major failure and there continue to be demands to cancel its conclusions.

Regardless of what committee is established, a full investigation of the IDF is in order. Ineptitude at the level of northern front command (Gen. Udi Adam) or division (Gen. Gal Hirsh – the 91st) quite possibly demands a revamping of aspects of command and control alongside security concepts. Adam has resigned, Hirsh and others should take the hint. Although middle and junior officers overall proved competency, for sure there is room for improvement. One thing is for sure, never again should full colonels commanding brigades use plasma screens in air conditioned tents to survey battlefields while their men confront the other side. There is a limit to sterility and hi-tech nonsense, even in 2006. Colonels and generals need to be on the battlefield with their men.

Appointing generals should not be left just to the defense minister and chief of staff. It would be best to institute a military committee made up of the above mentioned and ex-generals (several years retired) for major appointments. This will avoid cronyism and political appointments which may be leading the army into mediocrity, if this past war is an indication of a general trend.

The reserves have always been the backbone of Israel’s wartime army and continue to be so. The elitism of the air force as seen by Chief of Staff Halutz or the idea of special forces dealing with Israel’s security problems (former chief of staff and ex-PM Ehud Barak) have proven a dismal failure. Israel still fights ground wars and needs the fighting capabilities of the average combat soldier. And the supposed myth of the “people’s army” is far from finished, but rather it still represents the social cohesion of the nation whether certain “enlightened” and “future thinking” leaders believe so or not.

Good soldiers are not only those who are young enough to charge up hills, operate tanks and fire artillery shells. Reservists with enormous experience make the difference in a war, especially since they help train and train with the younger reservists during maneuvers. On the battlefield they are invaluable for their knowledge. Hence, reserve discharge needs to be reinstated at age 45. Due to the lessening of ideals, capitalization and the materialism affecting Israeli society, reservists need to be paid decently to make up for their loss of economic opportunity in the civilian sector as a result of their call-up status. Finally, there must be week long mandatory annual maneuvers.

Overall there must be full responsibility by every functionary in all situations. One cannot blame the lowest levels for either a military or civil problem, known in Hebrew as “blaming the guard at gate”. But then neither should a general be blamed for a specific failure of a junior officer. If given the correct overall missions (which may not have been) wars are won on the local level from the point of senior sergeants up through lieutenant colonels (battalion commanders). Each of these middle level echelons is responsible for its own success or failure.

We must take the time and effort to pinpoint WHO failed and correct the mistakes – whether conceptual, logical, tactical or personnel. If someone is unredeemable, then they must be fired. The good of the people as a collective and the Jewish State is much more important than the individual. And yes, this must be made clear to the politicians and in the civilian sector, but most of all it needs to be an iron law in the military.

Much of the root cause of the overall problem is values and education – back to Zionist basics. Here we are talking of the mainstream. We should be working for the benefit of our society, no less than our personal advancement. With that as a guiding light, merit would be the main factor in military and civil appointments, helping us avoid all sorts of commissions of inquiry of those too mediocre to stand up to the tasks of national leadership.