[Marxism] "The most unsuccessful war" - Israel's top military analyst
M. Junaid Alam
alam at lefthook.org
Wed Aug 2 17:58:44 MDT 2006
The most unsuccessful war
_By Ze'ev Sternhell
No situation can continue to exist for long without an ideological
reason. That's how when once it was clear that it was not achieving its
aims, an unsuccessful military campaign was upgraded with the wave of a
magic wand to the level of a war of survival. When everyone understood
that a moral reason had to be found both for the dimensions of the
destruction sowed in Lebanon and the killing of the civilian population
there, and for the Israeli dead and wounded (nobody is even talking
about the exposure of the entire civilian population in the North of
Israel to enemy fire while people are kept in disgraceful conditions in
bomb shelters), a war of survival was invented, which by nature must be
long and exhausting.
That is how a campaign of collective punishment that was begun in haste,
without proper judgment and on the basis of incorrect assessments,
including promises that the army is incapable of fulfilling, turned into
a war of life and death, if not some kind of second War of Independence.
In the press there have even been embarrassing comparisons to the
struggle against Nazism, comparisons that are not only a crude
distortion of history, but disgrace the memory of the Jews who were
The architect of this unsuccessful campaign has outdone himself: In
order to cover up his failures, he delivered a poor man's
pseudo-Churchillian speech, and promised us more "pain, tears and
blood." There really is no limit to shamelessness. It must be said in
favor of the government spokesmen who are in greatest demand on the
foreign stations, from the Israel Defense Forces Spokesman to Tourism
Minister Isaac Herzog and former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu --
that none of them has stooped to propaganda of this kind.
At the same time, the campaign's goals have been reduced and shrunk
during these three weeks. From restoring Israel's power of deterrence,
eliminating Hezbollah, and disarming it immediately -- after three weeks
we have arrived at the present goal, which is the dismantling of the
forward outposts of Hezbollah and the deployment of an international
force to defend the North of Israel from the possibility of a repeat
At this point, the average citizen, who is not working day and night in
the corridors of power and is not sunning himself near the generals'
command rooms, is at a loss. Is this how we are restoring the IDF's
power of deterrence? Haven't we accomplished exactly the opposite?
Hasn't it become clear to the entire world that our "invincible" air
force not only failed for three weeks to end the barrage of rockets, but
also even needs an emergency airlift of war materiel, as during the 1973
Yom Kippur War?
Moreover, the ordinary citizen is asking himself another question: If
several thousand guerrilla fighters do constitute an existential danger
to a country with a strike force and weaponry that are unparalleled in
this part of the world, how is it that during the past five or six years
we heard nothing to that effect from government leaders?
It is true that since 2000 we have not been preoccupied with anything
except the Palestinian issue. Hypnotized by the "Palestinian danger,"
Israel turned its back during the past two years on all national efforts
that preceded the disengagement from Gaza, and then the split in the
Likud and the establishment of Kadima, as a prologue to the second major
campaign, "convergence" behind the separation fence. And when the
present government was formed, a national agenda was formulated for the
next two, if not four, years, whose main component is fulfillment of the
"Sharon legacy": a unilateral drawing of borders in the territories,
pulverizing them into cantons and in effect eliminating the possibility
of establishing a Palestinian state in them. This led citizens to
understand that this is the issue that will determine Israel's future.
The clearest evidence of the national order of priorities is the
situation in which the IDF's fighting units find themselves. It was no
secret that the army almost stopped training in large units and complex
operations, and became totally immersed in the struggle against the
Palestinian uprising. When infantry brigades turn into a police force
specializing in breaking down doors and walls in refugee camps, or in
pursuit of groups of terrorists in olive orchards, when the criterion
for the success of a senior officer is the number of wanted men he has
managed to catch rather than his operational talents and ability to
command large units -- the army deteriorates.
I cannot recall that the reserve divisions that were drafted on Yom
Kippur in 1973, or the Israelis who returned as individuals from abroad
in order to join the fighting, were in need of training and refresher
exercises. Nevertheless, the Agranat Commission of inquiry was
established to investigate, among other things, the level of the forces'
The Six-Day War and Yom Kippur War were wars of survival, and through
them the IDF was revealed in all its greatness. The present war is the
most unsuccessful we have ever had; it is much worse than the first
Lebanon War, which at least was properly prepared, and in which, with
the exception of gaining control over the Beirut-Damascus highway, the
army more or less achieved its goals as determined by then-defense
minister Ariel Sharon.
It is frightening to think that those who decided to embark on the
present war did not even dream of its outcome and its destructive
consequences in almost every possible realm, of the political and
psychological damage, the serious blow to the government's credibility,
and yes -- the killing of children in vain. The cynicism being
demonstrated by government spokesmen, official and otherwise, including
several military correspondents, in the face of the disaster suffered by
the Lebanese, amazes even someone who has long since lost many of his
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