May 06, 2007

What Does Winograd Say?

By Noah Pollak

I was going to post something about the Winograd Report, but David Horovitz, the editor in chief of the Jerusalem Post, has written a commentary that is truly worth reading. His piece is thorough and devastating, and it emphasizes not just the headline-making individual incompetence of Ehud Olmert, Amir Peretz, and Dan Halutz, but the collective fecklessness of the Israeli political and defense establishments when it came to post-withdrawal Lebanon. Israelis will be drawing the wrong lesson from the war and from Winograd if they believe that everything would have gone better if only Olmert, Peretz, and Halutz hadn’t been so impossibly inept. The problems are much deeper.

“In its sections on the six years preceding the [2006] conflict," Horovitz writes, "the commission tracks a process in which the IDF concedes sovereignty at the Lebanon border to Hizbullah. Nothing less. An abandonment of the elementary protection of northern Israel in the face of an extremist guerrilla army utterly committed to the defeat of Israel. … Hizbullah amassed its arsenal of missiles and rockets. It deployed along the border. And it gradually created a situation where it was able ‘to act when and how it wished, without any military response from Israel.’”

And not only did the IDF allow Hezbollah to act when and how it wished, but it turns out that the IDF did not have a response ready for the most predictable contingency on the northern border, namely a missile attack and abduction -- which is exactly what happened. And the IDF did not have such a plan in part because of its own hubris and neglect of the northern front, but also because Israel’s political leaders simply had never bothered to ask for one. Horovitz: "[T]he wider appalling picture set out in Winograd [is] the extent of military unreadiness, of misassessment, of absent political-military coordination." Olmert and Peretz are both novices in international and military affairs, but "the degree to which [they] sat, paralyzed, in thrall to the IDF and its chief of General Staff is unthinkable. And yet that was the case.”

Horovitz concludes that Winograd is “a searing indictment of fundamental incompetence at the top.” His strong language is warranted.

Posted by Noah Pollak at May 6, 2007 10:26 AM
Comments

I was in Israel last early June. We heard from more than a couple military advisors (ranging from active-duty Lieutenants and Captains to (Res.)Generals and even a Colonel in MoD) that Hizbullah was well-trained, deeply entrenched, armed with state-of-the-art electronic gear from Iran, Russia, and China, had ten thousand or more rockets they would use against Israel's north, and were gearing up for near-future attack.

If they told a bunch of tourists on a counterterrorism tour all that, how the **** can any Israeli leader say he or she didn't know? How could the IDF have been unprepared, other than (as we were also told) having had training, equipment, and readiness preparations slashed to the bone for years, and resources distributed on the basis of video-game strategery?

Posted by: Pam at May 6, 2007 05:22 PM

Better equipment, training and planning wouldn't necessarily have changed the outcome of the war, Pam.

It would have made the actions of Israel's leaders more defensible, though.

What's a "counterterrorism tour," btw?

Posted by: alphie at May 6, 2007 05:31 PM

Hi, Michael.

While I agree that ineptitude existed in spades up and down the ladder, it should be noted that the IDF cannot define foreign policy or grand strategy. Unlike Hizballah, the IDF cannot project force across Israel's borders unless directed to do so by the Israeli government. Nor can he change budgets and directives or establish sane goals when the ones given to him are perfectly mad.

So to say that the IDF allowed Hizballah to fortify south Lebanon is a mis-statement. The governments of Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert allowed it to happen.

The IDF did fail badly prior to the war. It did not maintain a state of readiness for contingencies that everyone knew were very likely. The commanders of the IDF were directly responsible for THESE failures.

I think that people are reacting so strongly against Olmert and Peretz not because they want to let the IDF off the hook, but rather because it is blindingly obvious that Olmert and Peretz are far more focused on salvaging their own political careers than they are in fixing the incredibly dangerous problems discovered during the war.

At a time when clear sight and a sense of personal responsibility are so deeply essential to the survival of the State of Israel, the defensiveness of the leadership encourages defensiveness all the way down the command chain and poisons the very clarity required to make the required changes.

Why has nothing happened already? Unfortunately, it is not clear who would take Olmert's place. The "problem behind the problem" right now is a crippling "credibility gap" among Israel's leading politicians and parties. There is simply no credible opposition leader today, and the various Kadima/Labor members and special-interest parties in the Knesset are apparently too selfish and divided to put the needs of the Israeli people before their own personal ambitions. This is an utter disaster for Israel.

So I guess I mostly agree, but I believe that it is absolutely necessary to get rid of Olmert and Peretz, because while they are not the root of every problem, they are doing more damage every single day they remain in office.

Posted by: Zvi at May 6, 2007 06:49 PM

MJT -- from your perspective on Lebanon, what, if anything, do you make of this?


Lebanon searches for its own Winograd

By Yoav Stern

The Winograd Committee's harsh findings on the government's performance in the Second Lebanon War is a source of envy for many people in Lebanon. Several writers and leaders there have published articles calling for the adoption of the Israeli method of public reckoning to break Lebanon's political impasse.

Many criticize Hezbollah's actions and the fact the Lebanese state has allowed the terrorist organization to escape without due payment for its decision to abduct two IDF soldiers last July 12, which provoked Israel to go to war.

Left-wing opposition legislator Elias Atallah spoke for many in his damning editorial in the daily Asharq Al-Awsat called "Where is the Lebanese Winograd Committee?"

"I envied the enemy for their ability to confront their leaders with their errors. They change governments as if they were changing hairstyles, without inflicting damage to their public. Our rulers, by contrast, are not answerable."

Lest he be suspected of pro-Zionism - which in Lebanon can be spell a death sentence - Atallah reiterated that he regarded Israel as Lebanon's bitter enemy. "I nonetheless recognize that in Israel, the government must answer to the public. And so, they learn lessons and learn form experience," he wrote.

Another prominent journalist, Edmond Saab, editor-in-chief of An-Nahar, called for a state inquiry into Hezbollah's accountability for the war and the devastation it has caused in Lebanon. "An investigation of a military and legal nature is an appropriate measure. We must investigate whether Hezbollah erred in miscalculating the Israeli retaliation.

Saab named the lack of public scrutiny in postwar Lebanon as a cause of the political mayhem that engulfed the country in recent months. "Had we launched our own mini-Winograd committee, it would have served to resolve the prolonged and protracted political stalemate that we witnessed between the coalition and Hezbollah," he wrote.

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/855895.html

It's hard to believe that in a country of so many bright, ambitious, accomplished people there aren't some folks a little outside the political center spotlight who'd be decent alternatives to the hasbeens and corrupt hacks dominating the picture. Crank up some of that creative and collaborative problem-solving for which Israelis are rightly known.

Posted by: Pam at May 6, 2007 07:09 PM

I think the myth that Washington and EU pressures are not having a degrading effect on Israel is now obviously nonsense. Israel can do nothing in its own defense and everything it will or may do will be demonized no matter what. The Hezbollah propopgand and Arabic satellite and in the EU propoganda machines are always ready and eager to use, misuse and falsify any Israeli response or pre action.... I'm sure there is corruptiona and ineptness for sure... but I think the main thing is that the entire world is on top of Israel's every move and they can not win no matter what they do... so they try and adopt the fantasy notions of the left that it's all really under Israel's control of they just give up more and more and turn and look the other way as Hezbollah amasses again in Lebanon today....

And btw, Sharon was Prime Minister for most of the years following the Lebanon withdrawal and we know he's no dummy militarily and a shrewd brave guy... so the Hezbollah build up occured on his watch... while Washington sat on top of him, and if you remember pre 9/11 the Bush team was absolutely much colder towards Israel... remember they withheld needed copters from them in March of 01 I believe.. and even in March of 02 forced the IDF to pull back pre Passover even though they had pretty strong intelligence a major attack was likely to occur.

Mike

Posted by: Mike Nargizian at May 6, 2007 08:09 PM

So in conclusion Sharon, in my opinion, a real man with shoulders 'broad' enough to withstand any abuse an Israeli PM is going to get from Washington and the EU is not even strong enough to act what he knows is occuring in Southern Lebanon... bcs he knows he has to act when Washington and the world will 'allow' Israel a small window to address growing problems on its borders... while the Palestinians provide constant problems within...

So does anyone expect Olmert is actually going to do a thing for Israel without the strings attached to him jerking him around? And Bibi likes to talk tough, but his bite isn't half what Sharon's was...

Posted by: Mike Nargizian at May 6, 2007 08:14 PM

Mike N, you've put your finger on the important point that the USA, through the State Dept and other agencies, as well as the EU, work hard to stymie Israeli self-defense actions. Now, about Sharon. He was a smart military mind. But one of the things that happened while he was prime minister, besides USA-EU intervention on Arafat's behalf, was that he was getting hit by minor strokes. I discussed this with my cardiologist. These strokes probably started in 2001 or 2002. In a May 2002 interview with Blitzer of CNN, Sharon was mumbling in English and could not express what he wanted to say. Now, I have heard Sharon speak in very good English. Yet, here he was mumbling and Blitzer easily shut him up. So these small strokes must have started before that interview. I see these strokes as the source of several mistakes of political judgement that he made while prime minister. BTW, another sign of his impaired thinking was that he made very few statements or speeches in public, especially as he came closer to his two major strokes in December 2005.

Posted by: Eliyahu at May 7, 2007 12:22 AM

There's an old rule, that if you met two Israeli's, you'd hear 3 arguments.

And, there are political realities. Ben Gurion put his faith in the communist system of kibutzim. Sharing the wealth of a community; where no one owns the pot. (It's worn off its luster by now.) And, it left capitalism go begging.

On top of this? Well, in Israel, there are arabs all over the place. I asked a cousin of mine, "why doesn't Israel allow district representation in the Knesset?" And, her reply was that the arabs are intermingled. So every district would get polluted. And, the Jews would get tossed. That's why you hear about "Central Committees."

And, you also hear about the idea that it's time to "disengage." Only the extremists of the religious right, eschew this. They want it all. As a community also willing to accept despots. Like King David is coming back.

So, you have to consider the political upheaval caused by Arik Sharon. Who got FURIOUS with the Likud's dictatorial powers. He put an end to that.

I'd say the average Israeli is well aware of facts, most people outside of Israel hardly bother to consider. In other words? In Israel, Bibi is "not the savior." While in America's right, the GOP keeps thinking Bibi will be elected back to prominance. You just have to prod the Israelis into wanting another election QUICK.

Well, it didn't happen! Bush has been looking at Olmert surviving. And, he stands a chance to do so, even with the Winograd "indictment." Where on NO PAGE AT ALL, does James Baker's name "pop up."

Or the fact that James Baker has been handing the Saud's American goodies, since Ronald Reagan's 2nd term in office. (Oh, and the Saud's don't even come to the table to gamble, until OPEC. 1974.)

And, yes. Bin Laden is the SECOND FAMILY within the SAUD's inheritance tent. Strong enough, that 140 of them flew out of America on 9/11 or 9/12. When no planes at all were being allowed in. Or out. And, on 9/13? Bandar met with Bush, on the Truman Balcony. 2nd floor of the White House. For a "chit-chat." Cohiba cigars lit up. And, then? Bush defending Islam as "the religion of peace."

Today? Israelis see the Saud's 1992 "cut Israel in half, plan. And, then we'll talk." On the table, again.

They've heard from Bush that he envisions a "palestinian state," while terror is allowed to co-exist. Because the Jews have land that's not there's; per the UN. And, the Europeans.

On the bright side of things? Sarkozy is a JEW. So I'm pleased as punch to see he took a 6% lead against his very attractive female oponent.

And, that's what politics is like.

You can blather away, until people go out to vote.

And, then? Well, france saw it's biggest turnout in 40 years. While the left is as deflated in Israel as the right.

Will Labor pull out of Olmert's government? You mean after they tore down Arik Sharon's first government, they learned no lessons?

Posted by: Carol Herman at May 7, 2007 11:45 AM

Noah Pollak, albeit from a very different perspective, is echoing something of what I was just saying in the last thread. But he, and David Horowitz before him, are leaving something out - through tactical omissions, they're emphasizing the Hizballah problems created by passivity, creating the rather false impression that more aggression would have made the problem go away.

If Israeli passivity created the Hizballah buildup of 2000-2006, then, we must ask, what created the Hizballah buildup of 1983-2000?

Posted by: glasnost at May 7, 2007 01:41 PM

Hey, Zvi, did you, once upon a time, post on plastic.com under this name? You sound familiar.

You'd rememeber me.

Posted by: glasnost at May 7, 2007 01:42 PM

Yes, Noah, Horovitz concludes that there is fundamental incompetence at the top. And you are right that protesters against incompetence don't have to agree on who is better, to sometimes force change -- look at 1979 Iran and the huge anti-Shah protests.

But isn't the lack of any alternative leader an indication of fundamental disagreement ... at the bottom? That the voters really don't know what should be done -- or that no majority agrees on what path?

The election in France means most French are ready to try something new, and Sarkozy is offering a vision of more Anglo-American style dynamic growth, but with a FRENCH face. Who in Israel is offering a plan for what to do in the next attack?

In fact, just as the Iraq muddle is pushing Iraqs to shoulder the heavy burden of freedom with responsibility, possibly the Israeli non-victory is the best pressure to make Lebannon change.

But as Michael says, Olmert cut pressure on Syria, so he's happy to support Hezbollah (or do you prefer Hizbollah) killers.

I'd like to see Israel remind the world that it is still at war / not peace with Lebannon, and will therefore resume search flights in 30 days if the soldiers are not returned, unharmed.

The "right of return" should be accepted -- all Palestinian refugees should be accepted into the new Palestinian state, either in Gaza or the West Bank. However, those people born in another country, like (some 700 000?) in Lebannon, should also be given citizenship of the country they are born in.

On the key issue of leadership, so beloved by journalists (the WHO part), it's more important that there be agreement in some Israeli majority on what to do. Then some leader will emerge who articulates that view, while shaping it.

I would dearly like to know what view is.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at May 7, 2007 06:27 PM

Just a reminder about James Baker. He was sitting at a dinner party table in France, when he blurted out that "Israel was that shitty little country."

And, the man is not without power! He's THE go-to lawyer for the Saud's. With his own offices in Riyadh. Never built a thing in Israel, either. Because he's a power player. And, he doesn't want the Israelis at the table.

In 1998, Dubya went to Bandar, seeking permission to run for the presidency in 2000. It's a very tight arrangement. Not dependent on State. But, yes. With total collusion from the CIA. Not just under George Tenet, but CASEY. When there really were big super-duper deals going on under the table. And, away from view.

Some of these things have now gone awry. So, eventually the stuff that got done will come out in the open. Not because of Israel. But because of Iraq.

Now, there's a very interesting story about Arik Sharon and James Baker. Arik HATED the man! And, every time, during Bush #41's term; when James Baker tried to "diddle" Israel, Arik went in and put down another settlement on the West Bank. I think 21 of them got built.

Again, diplomacy is about words. But it's now how the really strong go about defending territory.

It's hard to think that there's a segment in power today, in Dubya's White House, who is not what he seems to be. Perhaps, you've heard him say "He's a friend of Israel." But then? As the Saud's Realtor, and without any diminishment in terror from the PA, there ya go.

He tells ya he has a dream. And, it involves Israel giving up space. And, then letting map lines form a terrorist entity on two sides of Israel. A "pincer" state.

Up to now? Well, we had better luck than the Russians! So, I can see how some of this underhanded, secret, CIA stuff got moving. But for the results? Iraq's a mess. Made worse by the CIA blunders. And, Paul Bremer's rediculously bad year. I have no idea how Bush gets anything out of Iraq, ahead, except a lousy reputation.

James Baker? Grows richer.

And, at some point? Enough of Israel's voting public wil figure it out. Just like they will figure out that Katzav is not a rapist. And, Haim Ramon's tongue shouldn't have cost him his seat in the Knesset. Bad lawyers. Worse judges. And, "committees" that want to un-do elections. Perhaps, this once worked better? But now there's the Internet. And, there's more information available.

Posted by: Carol Herman at May 7, 2007 10:21 PM

Just a reminder about James Baker. He was sitting at a dinner party table in France, when he blurted out that "Israel was that shitty little country."

Ah, no, that was a French diplomat by the name of Daniel Bernard, at a buffet in London.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/1721172.stm

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