Ron Ben-Yishai

Preparing for past war

Inquiries in wake of Second Lebanon War fail to formulate new security doctrine

There is something hopeful in the manner in which all Israeli government bodies embarked on a process aimed at fixing the flaws that led to the failures of the Second Lebanon War. There is even reason to be proud. Only a genuine, self-assured democracy and an honest and courageous General Staff can engage in a year-long process that is so revealing and painful in order to draw the lessons and make an effort to implement them as soon as possible.


However, it is a pity that this process is being conducted in typical Israeli style: Without any priority, without distinguishing between what's important and what's less so, without demanding that the public make its contribution, but focusing on quickly scoring public opinion points and appeasing the media.


As a result, despite the effort invested by the IDF in fixing the Lebanon flaws, it is doubtful whether the State of Israel is currently prepared any better than it was last summer to address the security threats it faces. This is not the case, heaven forbid, because the IDF does not know what to fix or because of unwillingness on the part of the political leadership. Rather, it is because the IDF, just like the countless committees set up by the government and Knesset, is mostly busy with identifying and fixing the army's technical and tactical flaws.


The political leadership is also busy with fixing decision-making processes and mechanisms. Yet very little thinking and even less action is being dedicated to the next war (or perhaps the next wars.) There is no doubt that the IDF today is already much better prepared to address a threat like the one posed by Hizbullah last summer, as well as similar threats that are already taking shape on the horizon. It is even possible that within a short time, decision-making processes and mechanisms will be improved and enable the government and defense establishment to understand each other and function better during times of crisis.


Yet despite the winds of change, the public must know that the recommendations that called for a return to old combat values, a bolstered training schedule, and even the entrenchment, by law, of training and promotion processes for senior officers and the establishment of a functioning and influential National Security Agency - do not guarantee victory in future wars.


The constantly growing threat against the State of Israel's existence on the part of radical Islam and its allies presents new problems that the State of Israel still has not found a clear recipe for addressing.


In the past, including the first Lebanon War, wars were conducted against regular or semi-regular Arab armies far away from the Israeli home front, which was only marginally hit. In the next war, the home front – the entire State of Israel's territory – will be attacked with missiles and rockets and be the main front, at least in initial fighting stages.


If in the past we were able to see the enemy and its concentration of forces and could aim our fire there, today we are talking about an elusive enemy that learned to disappear and disperse in the field, using small forces equipped with rockets against tanks, aircraft, and ships, launched from every possible direction and in quantities that turn the offensive into a high-quality one.


Hint of things to come

We must of course also make mention of roadside bombs and the terror of suicide bombers and the fact that the fighting against us is conducted from and within civilian population centers. These components of what is characterized as asymmetric warfare will be utilized in future wars in a scope and quality that we have not yet seen before.


The Second Lebanon War and the intifada were merely a hint of things to come. A second component of the new threat is the near-certain possiblity that in a few years Iran and possibly other Mideastern countries will posses nuclear arms.


All of the above requires the State of Israel to redefine its security doctrine. A new strategy must be formulated with its main components being deterrence moves backed by means, the ability to bring about clear military victory, and diplomatic moves. The purpose of the new security doctrine, just like the old doctrine formulated by Ben-Gurion, would be to prevent wars, and if they do break out, end them without any achievements for the enemy and with a minimum of losses and damages to Israeli citizens.


Once the overall security doctrine of the State of Israel is formulated, the IDF would be able to derive from it its doctrine for using force, which includes objectives, principles, methodologies, and combat procedures used by the IDF to utilize its forces in various combat scenarios.


Later, based on this doctrine of using force, a plan for building this force should be formulated. This is the way it should have always been done, but regrettably we prefer to deal with trees without first seeing where we should be planting the forest and thinking as to how to keep away the pyromaniacs.


The problem as it appears now is that in-depth efforts are invested in improving the decision-making process and in putting emergency weapon warehouses in order, before we have decided what we wish to achieve strategically through the decision-making process and what equipment should be found in the weapon warehouses in order to meet these strategic objectives.


With the exception of one commission, headed by Dan Meridor, which debated the issue and submitted its recommendations to former defense minister Amir Peretz, no substantial steps have been taken in a bid to formulate a national security doctrine.


The government has yet to discuss the issue and there is no sign it will be doing so anytime soon. The IDF has not yet formulated a use of force doctrine that would replace the one that failed in Lebanon. And it's a pity. Time is running out and at the current pace we will be perfectly ready within six months, and even five years, for the past war.



פרסום ראשון: 07.08.07, 14:03
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