Thursday, January 31, 2008

Once again, if you're interested in the Winograd report, you should read it yourself. But for those who can't or won't, here is the short version (the long version is 617 pages long):

The first crucial decision made by the panel is that not only would they offer no recommendations regarding individuals, they would not even offer conclusions regarding individuals. So zealous were they in this regard that they do not mention names in the entire report. A reader from Mars could read this report and not know the name of Israel's Prime Minister. They spent an entire chapter explaining why they took this route. In brief, they wished to take the high route, which is how they understood their mandate; they didn't want to waste time dealing with the legal implications; and, most interestingly, they didn't want future Prime Ministers to hesitate to make difficult decisions for fear of commissions' nasty reports (Ch.3, para. 12). They are careful to note, though, that they did reach conclusions regarding individuals in the intermediate report and that they stand by those conclusions.

This approach colors the whole report. However, there is a single code word that they use when they wish to say that somebody screwed up so bad that something ought to be done. That word is "keshel" (failure). They go to some length to distinguish "failure" from simple bad judgment (Ch. 17, para. 25).

And there are failures galore. Many of the failures were at the military level. However, other than a few especially frightening items in that regard that I'll mention below, I will focus here on the political failures.

The central political failure from which almost all the others follow is the government's inability to decide what kind of campaign it wished to run. They faced a choice between two plausible possibilities: a quick and decisive air attack followed by withdrawal or a full-scale war necessitating the use of ground forces. Unable to act decisively, they chose neither and found themselves in a protracted war without ready ground troops and with time working against Israel's interests. (Ch. 16, para. 25; Ch. 17, para. 22, 131). The failure to call up reserves early in the campaign was another failure attributable to indecision and lack of overall strategic thinking (Ch. 17, para. 24; Ch. 16, para. 51). The fact that there was no orderly discussion of any of these issues within the government and between the military and the government is a third failure (Ch. 17, para. 28). This indecision and strategic shallowness led to management of the war lacking in the necessary resolve (Ch. 16, para. 97). All these failures are the responsibility of the heads of the political echelons (Ch. 17, para. 32, 126, 133, 138, 139), which lacked the necessary experience (Ch. 16, para. 101).

A great deal of the report deals with the decision to use ground troops in bloody battles just prior to the implementation of UN Resolution 1701 that ended hostilities. The panel concludes that the decision to go ahead with the battles was belated (Ch. 16, para. 66) but not unreasonable under the circumstances (Ch. 17, para. 103). The main problem was the almost complete chaos in those battles involving a complete breakdown of military discipline in a number of battles (Ch. 16, para. 84).

Among the military failures that are especially alarming was the lack of confidence of some commanders in soldiers in their command and, more significantly, in their commanding officers (Ch. 17, para. 56) that led to insubordination (this is hinted at in the report but not spelled out; there's probably more detail in the secret report). Some commanders lacked the necessary commitment to victory and displayed an inclination to just try to get by (Ch. 17, para. 66).

Of particular interest is the list of "kontzeptziot" (ideological prejudices) that colored strategic thinking for the worse (Ch. 16, para. 99). These include: a habit for protracted "low-intensity" conflicts; the notion that conventional conceptions of battle and victory are passe; over-confidence in the ability to decide wars from the air; over-tolerance for suffering of the home front; assigning great weight to military casualties; an almost mystical fear of conquest and "quagmire".

One major failure was the complete lack of coordination between diplomatic efforts to end the war and military efforts to win the war, especially among those in the Foreign Ministry (Ch. 16, para. 62; Ch. 17, para. 73, 91). The Foreign Ministry also failed to coordinate "hasbara" efforts (Ch. 17, para. 94). In general, the panel felt it did not have time to fully investigate the Foreign Ministry's performance and recommends that this be undertaken (Ch. 17, para. 93).

Finally, the panel notes that it does not believe that the lessons of the war have already been internalized by the political or military echelons (Ch. 18, para. 33).

In short, don't let the press or government spokesmen spin you. This report is high-minded and consequently short on name-calling and finger-pointing. But this should not be mistaken for being any less damning. The gun is on the table for any of the "failures" with enough integrity and intelligence to know what to do with it.

15 Comments:

Anonymous zalman said...

Yikes! You read 617 pages in a few hours?

The English version of the press release is available at: http://www.vaadatwino.org.il/press.html#null

It includes this conclusion:
"Israel cannot survive in this region, and cannot live in it in peace or at least non-war, unless people in Israel itself and in its surroundings believe that Israel has the political and military leadership, military capabilities, and social robustness that will allow her to deter those of its neighbors who wish to harm her, and to prevent them - if necessary through the use of military force - from achieving their goal. These truths do not depend on one's partisan or political views. Israel must - politically and morally - seek peace with its neighbors and make necessary compromises. At the same time, seeking peace or managing the conflict must come from a position of social, political and military strength, and through the ability and willingness to fight for the state, its values and the security of its population even in the absence of peace."

2:32 AM  
Blogger MoChassid said...

integrity? That rules out Olmert.

4:41 AM  
Blogger Ben Bayit said...

It's pretty obvious that Olmert & Co. will stay on. This is "good for the Jews" b/c they are basically discredited and a weak government lacking popular support will not be abl eto make any major moves. Of course they will try, but nothing will come of it. Should Bibi get elected he will give away the store......

12:45 PM  
Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Olmert's spin doctors have been spinning this report as a the greatest thing to happen to them yet, and the mood in the Prime Minister's office last night was reported to be "euphoric."

The media is concentrating almost exclusively on the issue whether Olmert's decision for the final 60 hour battle was justified (and it was) and not solely based on Olmert's desire to have some sort of face saving "win." We can therefore conclude that the media is ignoring the seemingly countless labeling of Olmert as a "serious failure", for the purpose of Citrofying (Etrogifying?) Olmert so he can continue negotiating away...

12:53 PM  
Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Ben Bayit: a weak government lacking popular support will not be able to make any major moves.

The weaker the government, the more brutal their treatement of the population (re; Amona, Zo Artzeinu, etc.) Unfortunately, weak govenments destroy the country just as effectively as the strong ones (ie, Olso 1 amd 2, etc.)

1:12 PM  
Anonymous bar_kochba132 said...

Jameel-I agree with Ben Bayit on this one....the Prime Ministers who did the most damage to the country were the "strong, bitchonist" men who managed to get their followers to say "We have to support him, he MUST know what he is doing, he would NEVER do ANYTHING to damage Israel's security". This includes Begin, Sharon, Rabin (who wasn't strong but was viewed as a big bitchonist) and Barak. The worst was Sharon who plowed under Gush Katif with almost no opposition from the Gush Emunim/Judea-Samaria crowd because this was "their Arik", hero of Unit 101-Yom Kippur War doing it-how can we oppose such a saint?". When Olmert tried a replay at Amona, thinking that gratuitis violence would make him popular like Sharon, it was finally decided to oppose him and his actions were a disaster for him and Kadim.
The bottom line was that at one time "strong Prime Ministers" like Ben-Gurion were builders, today, now that the leaders of Israel view themselves as being stooges for the American President, strong leaders destroy.
If Netanyahu were elected head of a "right-wing" gov't, the first thing he would be forced to do is to knock down all the Judea/Samaria "outposts", something Olmert has not done (as of today). Thus, he can stay in power as far as I am concerned, as long as he doesn't throw any Jews out of YESHA.

1:49 PM  
Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Bar Kochba: I'm not disagreeing with you; but just because someone is a strong "bitchonist" doesn't mean he doesn't have a weak government. Rabin is the perfect example of that.

I also share your distaste for Netanyahu, and I'm well aware of his negative potential.

The fact is; Olmert is going to start destroying outposts soon. In your opinion, does that count as a reason to see him deposed?

2:00 PM  
Anonymous Moshe said...

Jameel, Ben Bayit and Bar Kochba,

I find the discussion of "who is better for the Jews" quite amusing - as in reality, this is just a way for us to ignore the harsh reality in our faces:
No matter who is prime minister, we are screwed.

I don't know how else to put it, but that's the truth. Left wing - no good. Right wing, no good.

Arguing over who is better for us - because PM #1 will only cut off our left hand, whereas PM #2 will cut off our legs as well, is a vary sad situation to be in. I think that our efforts should be put into figuring out where we went wrong, and trying to fix that up.

My opinion on that matter is that there are basically 4 distinct goups of people in Israel that don't have much to do with each other:
1) Chareidim
2) arabs
3) Dati Leumi (messianic)
4) everyone else

Yes, you can break down group 4 even more, but these are the main groups. The problem is that group 3 - instead of trying to have a strong effect on group 4, has been trying to strengthen themselves at the expense of their effect on others. Instead of integrating with the rest of society - yet holding on to their distinct and morally superior position - they have cocooned into themselves. A more Torah-im-D"E approach would have worked far better, but it was not done. Instead of living in neighborhoods with all types of people, the majority of D"L moved to closed Yishuvim that shuttered them from the outside world. I'm not saying that I would have done differently (it's easy to be a Monday morning QB), but in hindsight, I think that was the biggest mistake. Leaving the academia for the non religious or semi religious (whose only sign of religion is a tiny kippa on their heads) was a big mistake.

If group #3 would have integrated with group #4, it would have been much harder to do the atrocities that were done to them. As they can be thought of as a faceless mass (basically dehumanizing them) - because of their lack of integration - they were (and are) being treated inhumanely by Israeli society.

In reality, group #3 is becoming hated - just like Haredim and arabs...

How to stop this? I don't know. It cannot be stopped on an individual level - it needs to be solved on a much higher level.

2:59 PM  
Anonymous ariel said...

Moshe:

The fact that exclusively dati-leumi yishuvim are now being built within the green line indicates that they care not more about eretz yisrael, but less about the the destiny of their fellow Jews.

Over the last generation they chose to disengage from the rest of Israeli society. Once Israeli society decided to return the favor, the events of the last few years were inevitable.

3:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, yes... the perennial Jewish tendency to blame ourselves....

Guess what? Israel was a very hostile place for religious people up until fairly recently.

I go to shiva calls for my Israeli neighbors' parents and hear the old timers talking about how you couldn't get a factory job (the equivalent of a hi-tech job nowadays) unless you had a blue Labor Party membership booklet.

Academia wasn't "ceded" to the secular - it was the secular who did their best to exclude the religious. That's why Bar-Ilan was founded - remember?

My generation of Israelis (40-somethings) were the first generation to be able to serve in a Hesder program. It was an innovation - and they still had to run a gauntlet.

The tendency to build stable, insular communities in the first flush of material success is entirely understandable - and the best thing that could have happened.

Because the religious national community THEN was not what it is NOW. And coexistence in mixed neighborhoods THEN spelled assimilation for many.

Can we please stop beating ourselves up?

In human time, it took a generation to raise the current crop of self-confident Religious Zionist youth. And it is precisely their "insular" experience that makes them seem eminently more qualified to engage in the cultural struggle than their parents - who sometimes still cower before the secular establishment of their youth, which is now a memory.

It takes a generation - or more - to go from the careful-not-to-offend Hesder pioneers to the current crop of "I'll learn a year in yeshiva, then serve in an elite unit - and maybe be mekarev a hiloni".

9:54 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

Anonymous,

That was a perceptive enough comment to put your name on.

10:37 PM  
Anonymous moshe said...

Anonymous:

It's called introspection, and it is truly what makes us Jewish. We tend to constantly critique ourselves to improve and perfect ourselves - generally by pointing out deep character flaws that we have.

Your points are well taken - the way I am understanding them is that the DL community is having a difficult time finding a happy medium, and as such is swinging from being influenced by the Hilonim on one side of the spectrum to having nothing to do with them on the other side of the spectrum. That may be the case - and I bemoan the fact that the middle road has net been found and adopted.

Do you have any ideas as to why this happened, or is it simply "fate", "min hashamayim", 'hatred of the Hilonim to those who are so obviously more moral than them' or some other superficial reason? The goal of critique is self improvement, and I'd be curious to hear what you say.

11:32 PM  
Anonymous bar_kochba132 said...

I would like to clarify what I said above about saying it is preferable that Olmert stay in power as long as he leaves YESHA alone....I do not claim that he is a good Prime Minister, far from it, he is a disaster, but I fear that if a right-wing gov't were to come to power it would be hamstrung, just like the last one under Netanyahu 1996-1999. The fact is that the ruling oligarchs of the country (who by and large are post-Zionists) who control the media and apparatus of coercion of the state (SHABAK, Supreme Court, State Prosecutor's Office, media, etc) simply will not let the nationalist/religious elements of the country effectively rule it, even though they are the majority. The endless harrassment in the media and opening up fraudulent "criminal" investigations (recall the 5 ministers who were indicted immediate after Netanyahu came to power-all of whom were eventually acquitted) has eaten away at the political fabric of the country, even the Left. Note how the two most principled opponents of the Gush Katif disaster (Sharansky and Uzi Landau) dropped out of politics entirely. Good people simply don't want to go into politics any more, both on the Right and the Left, and so we are left with the gutless group of self-centered politicians that are in power today.
Only when the people of the country say "ENOUGH" will there be a change, and I see no evidence of this happening. Everyone tells me "grass-roots political activity like that found in the US is not possible in Israel".
So this sums up our current predicament.

8:56 AM  
Anonymous Ben-David said...

Moshe: my point is that there is a human-time progression going on.

It took generations to get from Egyptian slaves, to "manna eaters", to confusedly triumphant Israelites with inferiority complexes vis-a-vis Canaanite culture, to.... malchut bet david.

In our times: takes generations to get from people who found Bnei Akiva high schools and feel grateful to just be grudgingly included in the Zionist pantheon (and are politically constrained by that sense of being second-class) to people who are confident enough of their place in society to critique, challenge, and offer an alternative to the secular elite's projection of inevitability and power.

We are not the only ones who are learning and growing: this thread began with criticism of Olmert and Bibi - tacitly admitting that the secular Right has its own inferiority complex to grow out of. Bibi especially exemplifies the right-winger who gets knock-kneed when voters finally place him in the corridors of power.

So: now there is a generation that is competent - and confident - enough to do things like "garinim torani'im" in the major cities.

AND there is a generation of secularists that have been humbled enough, and are curious enough, to really listen.

These programs would not have been possible, or have met with success, a generation ago.

One can trace a closely parallel trajectory in Orthodox/secular relationships in North American Jewry: the ba'al teshuva movement was not fueled by immigrants or their children - who had their own psychological knots to untie: it was spearheaded by Jews comfortable enough in America to re-examine their Jewish heritage, who encountered the equally Americanized products of a Jewish education system that took 2 generations to build.

That's why it happened in the 60s and 70s, instead of in the 50s - the heyday of the Reform and Conservative movements.

The problem is not, not, NOT that the RZ camp "doesn't care enough".

Can we please stop beating ourselves up over this?

10:15 AM  
Anonymous moshe said...

Ben-

I think it is time for a new post analyzing the latest developments and the comments of Prof. Dror....

10:34 AM  

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