Monday, April 30, 2007

Nobody Remembers How to Fight a Real War

Israel's Winograd Committee looking in to the Second Lebanon War has released it interim report, and as expected it damns pretty much the entire Israeli leadership for both the strategic and tactical errors of the war. It is puts primary blame however on Prime Minister Olmert, Defense Minister Peretz and ex Chief of Staff Halutz. Any one who follows Israeli news will be aware of all this, and of the fact that Olmert and Peretz - despite bing singled out as at fault and incompetent by the report have no intention of resigning voluntarily. (Halutz had the decency to resign last fall)

Click here for the full unclassified report.

One section of the report caught my eye in particular.

18. Let us add a few final comments: It took the government till March 2007 to name the events of the summer of 2006 "The Second Lebanon War". After 25 years without a war, Israel experienced a war of a different kind. The war thus brought back to center stage some critical questions that parts of Israeli society preferred to avoid.

19. The IDF was not ready for this war. Among the many reasons for this we can mention a few: Some of the political and military elites in Israel have reached the conclusion that Israel is beyond the era of wars. It had enough military might and superiority to deter others from declaring war against her; these would also be sufficient to send a painful reminder to anyone who seemed to be undeterred; since Israel did not intend to initiate a war, the conclusion was that the main challenge facing the land forces would be low intensity asymmetrical conflicts.

20. Given these assumptions, the IDF did not need to be prepared for 'real' war. There was also no urgent need to update in a systematic and sophisticated way Israel\s overall security strategy and to consider how to mobilize and combine all its resources and sources of strength - political, economic, social, military, spiritual. cultural and scientific - to address the totality of the challenges it face.

In other words, nobody in the Israeli Army remembers how to fight a real war !! The last classic war Israel fought - capturing or defending territory against a "real" enemy army - was the 1982 First Lebanon War. Since most career Israeli Army officers retire from the IDF at about age 50 - in order to still have time to pursue a lucrative private career - there are few remaining officers who where much older than 30 during the First Lebanon War. At that point the most senior would not have commanded more than a brigade - perhaps 500 men. None would have had experience coordinating larger forces, worrying about major logistic issues, or dealing with strategy as opposed to tactics. Furthermore the IDF has been so concerned with its occupation duties these past 20 years, that it has not found time to seriously study or practice for a "real war".

One may be tempted to think that the real justification for the Second Lebanon War was to give the IDF practice. But that is too cynical, even for the most jaded.

On a more serious note however, Israel still lives in a rough neck of the woods, and this news should worry anyone who cares for Israel's future.

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