Powered by WebAds

Sunday, July 22, 2007


At YNet, Ron Ben Yishai complains about what he claims is the IDF's obsession with avoiding casualties:
The detailed inquiries undertaken by the IDF, some of which have not yet been publicized, present a much less encouraging picture. In reality, in almost any ground battle, the moment our troops encountered resistance, the force's progress stopped, commanders demanded assistance, and the fighting focused on evacuating casualties from the battlefield.

That was the case in Maroun al-Ras, Bint Jbeil, Debel, Aita al-Shaab and other locations. What's particularly frustrating is that most of these clashes involved a handful of Hizbullah fighters numbering no more than 20. In almost all the clashes, IDF forces enjoyed superiority in terms of the number of fighters and firepower.


This was not the IDF way in any of the previous wars, ranging from the War of Independence to the First Lebanon War. Even during desperate battles, such as the Chinese Farm battle in the Yom Kippur War, the tanks charged at the Egyptians in the trenches time after time, even though they were being hit one after the other.

Only thanks to these efforts, the wounded and killed were eventually evacuated and the way was paved for crossing the Suez Canal.
According to Ben Yishai, military doctrine says to complete the mission first and go back for the casualties later:
In every command school in the world officers learn that carrying out the mission comes before rescuing and treating the wounded.

This principle is based on a simple rationale: Dedication to the mission is essential in order to achieve victory in battle (and in the war,) and without quick victory in the battle arena, the effort to evacuate and treat the wounded also exacts casualties and is not being undertaken effectively and quickly.

The abandonment of this principle in the Second Lebanon War made it mostly "the war of evacuating the wounded" rather than a war aimed at curbing Hizbullah's rocket and mortar fire.
He attributes this to a change in the IDF's values:
One of the main reasons for this phenomenon is that in a significant number of the cases, IDF troops did not receive a clear mission definition or one that was worded properly.

This is indeed the senior echelon's fault. In the absence of a clearly understood mission, fighters and field commanders were mostly dealing with urgent matters – treating the killed and wounded, instead of focusing on what's most important – completing the mission.

Another reason is the fighting habits and methods adopted by the IDF during the intifada in the territories, which it tried unsuccessfully to implement in Lebanon against a completely different type of enemy.

Yet the most important and critical reason is the change in the IDF's combat values as a result of a general change in the values within Israeli society. The sacrifice of few for the sake of the collective existence and security of all citizens is no longer taken for granted as it was in the past.
Ben Yishai attributes the change to the belief that we no longer face an existential threat:
The victories of 1967 and 1973, just like the peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan, created the sense among Israeli citizens that we do not face a substantive existential threat, and certainly not on the part of an armed group such as Hizbullah. And if there is no existential threat, there is no point in making a sacrifice in order to carry out a military mission.

The fighting in the territories, which is perceived by many as "the war for settlements and enforcing the occupation" is also consistently eroding the soldiers' motivation. The suicide bombings during the second intifada changed something in this regard, but not enough.

Most importantly, safeguarding the lives and wellbeing of the "children" in uniform has become the ultimate value, which the cultural and social elites consistently nurture with the aid of the media.

This value and the "crybaby culture" that the media nurtures for the sake of high ratings overcome any other value, and certainly values such as sacrificing one's life for the sake of others, which is perceived as an ancient, outdated notion.

This, for example, is the reason why the government doesn't dare do what is needed in order to curb the Qassam rocket fire at the western Negev. A child who lives in fear in the bombarded Sderot or a civilian killed by a rocket in Haifa are worth less than a "kid" in uniform, whose death or capture in battle become a national disaster.

This distorted value system trickles down to the IDF and its commanders, who need to face the constant nightmare of bereaved families and media criticism.
He's right about the values, but he's only partly right about their origin.

Referring to what is going on in the 'territories' as the 'war of the settlements' and 'enforcing the occupation' belies the fact that were the 'settlements' not sitting in the 'territories,' and were the territories not occupied administered, 'Palestinian' terrorists would be parked within shooting range of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Ben Gurion Airport. The leftist Israeli media (of which I cannot say whether Ben Yishai is an exception - I have not read enough of his work) that deludes itself that we will soon live in a 'new Middle East' where the Arab lion will lie down with the Jewish lamb, does more to contribute to the perception that we don't face an existential threat than any other factor.

Successive Israeli governments that continue to delude Israelis that the war with the 'Palestinians' is about land and not an existential war against radical Islam sap the motivation out of our soldiers by calling into question the justice of our cause.

An Israeli political hierarchy that is more concerned about avoiding 'civilian' casualties among those who hide our enemies in their midst than it is concerned about protecting our soldiers' lives by giving them clearly defined missions that have a purpose to benefit our side makes our soldiers wonder (with good reason) why they should give up their lives and their futures to save 'Palestinians' and Shiite Lebanese who are shielding terrorists.

While Ben Yishai is correct about why the government is not 'fixing' Sderot, it is unfair to place the blame on our soldiers. The blame belongs at the leadership level, which has undermined our cause with its delusions of peace. It's not the soldiers and the IDF who are crybabies - it's the political leadership that lacks the vision and the courage to speak the truth.

It is perhaps significant in this regard that the most widely-told tale of heroism from last summer's war involved a commander sacrificing his life to save his own soldiers. I believe that most of our combat soldiers would do the same if God forbid they were in his position. I hope and pray that none of them would sacrifice their lives to save enemy civilians.

When our soldiers can fight wars with both hands instead of having one tied behind their backs, I believe that they will show the same willingness to sacrifice that their parents' generation showed in previous wars. It's unfair to judge the army's actions on the ground on the basis of a 'ground offensive' that started and stopped several times, was too little too late, and had no clear goal other than allowing Prime Minister Ehud K. Olmert to save face.


Post a Comment

<< Home