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Friday, June 08, 2007

Say what?

This one would have slipped by me had it not become a subject for NRO's military blog today. Speaking at a conference on military ethics this week, Professor Asa Kasher, the main draftsman of the IDF Code of Ethics, said that officers were 'too concerned' with their soldiers' lives during this past summer's war in Lebanon.

Say what?
"Missions were not completed because commanders did not want to jeopardize their soldiers' lives," he said at a conference on military ethics Tuesday in Jerusalem.

"Concern about casualties is important," Kasher said. "Soldiers are not robots, they are human beings. But the commander must not underestimate the importance of his mission vis a vis the importance of his soldiers' lives.

"The Hizbullah were shooting hundreds of rockets at population centers in the North, thus endangering Israeli citizens' lives. So risking soldiers' lives to stop those rockets was perfectly justified."


The phenomenon of commanders being overly protective of their soldiers' lives was not a result of a general "softening" of the Israeli soldier, Kasher told The Jerusalem Post after his lecture. Rather it was a symptom of the atmosphere during the Second Lebanon War in which different and often contradictory orders were given by the high command within short periods of time.

"Commanders on the battle field did not want to risk their soldiers' lives to carry out an order that might be changed in the next hour," he said.
Seeing this article, the first thing I did was head for Kasher's resume, where I verified, as I suspected, that he was not a career army officer.

Yes, risking soldiers' lives to stop Hezbullah last summer was undoubtedly morally justified. But in recent years, the IDF has become too worried about 'civilian' casualties on the other side. They tend to ignore the part of the Geneva Convention (Article 28 of the 4th Geneva Convention) that says that the terrorists cannot immunize themselves to military operations by hiding among civilians. Look at the picture at the top of this post. Should we really be risking soldiers' lives to go in and get this crew on the ground to ensure that the 'civilians' among whom they hide are not hit? Our own soldiers are sons, fathers and brothers too. Don't they deserve to have their lives safeguarded at least as much as the 'civilians' who shield terrorists like those in that picture? Whose lives come first?

Under those circumstances, it may well be that officers refused to endanger their soldiers' lives. But those are the kind of officers I would want commanding my sons.

One other point: According to my source who is a senior officer in the IDF, one of the reasons missions were not carried out this summer was that elite units were being asked to operate by day. The elite units NEVER operate by day. According to my source, commanders in the elite units at the field level ignored orders to operate in the daytime because they knew that the results would be disastrous.


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