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Winograd's Blessing in Disguise: Last Wake up Call for Israel - by David Eshel

According to Professor Martin van Creveld, of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the final report released last week by the government-appointed Winograd Commission, on Israel's conduct of the so-called 2nd Lebanon War 2006, consisted of little but failures. For this the political leadership, the top military brass were to blame. Much of the criticism, by the Israeli public, is well founded. The war was indeed marked by a long series of failures. Van Creveld: Failures in planning, failures in intelligence and counterintelligence, failures in command, failures in mobilization, failures in execution, failures in logistics, failures in properly protecting the rear, and perhaps a failure to terminate hostilities earlier and at the cost of fewer Israeli casualties.

the 2nd Lebanon War a last, indispensable, wake-up call to arouse the State of Israel from years of slumber and ignorance in matters of top national security

Since the unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000, repeated attempts to kidnap Israeli soldiers continued to take place on average every three or four months, with Israel retaliating with minor reactions. However, on July 12, 2006, in response to just one of such incident, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, with almost the entire Knesset as well as public opinion behind him, launched the 2006 offensive, much to the surprise of Hassan Nasrallah and his Tehran bosses. The offensive did not go nearly as well as it should have and demonstrated numerous deficiencies in the Israeli military.

However, it is a fact, that Hezbollah, judging by its leader’s repeated statements, was shocked by the violence of Israel’s reaction, while the Iranians were totally dismayed by the loss of their investment, which went up in flames, in 24 hours. Moreover, when the fighting ceased, hundreds of Hezbollah fighters had been killed. The organization was forced out of southern Lebanon, and a fairly effective United Nations peacekeeping force was deployed, together with the Lebanese Army, for the first time in decades.

Hezbollah, while having restocked its arsenal with even more efficient rockets perhaps, does not seem to relish another round, with Israel, which having learnt a sharp and painful lesson, is already reshaping into a different armed force.

The IDF is and always was basically a land forces Army. General Dan Halutz, an air force officer, wanted to reorganize the IDF into a three-service force, comprising virtually independent Army Air Force and Navy, depicting the armed forces structures common worldwide. In this concept, which was opposed by many of the ground forces leadership, but firmly overruled, Halutz made a deadly mistake, which backfired already on the first day of the war. Moreover, his warfighting doctrine, which was based on stand-off fire, primarily led by the air force and, to a lesser extent, on artillery fire, could not diminish Hezbollah's short-range rocket offensive, which kept nearly a million Israelis in shelters for over a month.

In a democracy, the political leadership is solely responsible to give the army clear and specific directives, how to conduct the war, in order to meet the nation's strategic aims. For decision makers being capable of giving such directives, a crisis management team must be created, rendering professional assistance to the civilian leadership. This is normally provided by the National Security Council (NSC), which unfortunately, was not involved in the decision-making process. Without a clear directive, the army can, even unintentionally, misinterpret some of the top decisions, resulting in serious disorder, confusion and misunderstanding of orders issued along the chain of command. The lack of clear and unmistakable directives caused most of the failures throughout the warfighting conduct of the entire war. For example, the political leadership never really issued direct orders to the army to stop the rocket offensive against the civilian population, which lasted incessantly until the very last day of the war!

You may also refer to our earlier feature "Israel's Postwar Commission Urges: Crisis Management Imperative", published May 2007, covering the preliminary findings of the the Winograd report.



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