With Israel’s worst setback of the war so far today, in which at least 9 soldiers were killed, Haaretz reports disgruntled voices are being raised both in the officer corps and the cabinet:
The prime minister will meet with the security cabinet Thursday morning to discuss the possibility of expanding the IDF operation in southern Lebanon.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert convened a late-night meeting Wednesday with the group of seven ministers who are part of the security cabinet to discuss options and exchange views about the continuation of the operation in view of the rising casualties in battles against Hezbollah and the continued Katyusha rocket attacks against northern Israel.
It appears that the army is gradually moving away from its previous tactic of raids targeting specific positions along the border, in favor of one of capturing and temporarily holding a security zone whose aim would be to push the rocket launchers further north.
This strategy will not completely prevent the rocket attacks, but it will limit the scope of the threat against northern Israel.
Alas, they don’t seem to learning the right lessons from today’s doomed firefight. Instead of reconsidering the entire rationale for the mission, they seem bent on further deepening the quagmire effect by pouring more troops down the sinkhole that is southern Lebanon:
Olmert expressed support for the continuation of the operation in Lebanon, a view that he shares with Peretz and his predecessor at the Defense Ministry, Shaul Mofaz. Others in the security cabinet also support this view.
The prime minister’s stance received a boost Wednesday following the conclusion of the Rome Conference, which dissolved without a call for an immediate cease-fire. This means that Israel has been given additional time to carry on with its military operation in southern Lebanon, while continuing to enjoy American support…
At Thursday’s cabinet meeting, a number of ministers are expected to express bitter criticism of the handling of the war in the north, including its aims and the nature of the ground operations particularly following the heavy casualties in Wednesday’s operations.
Military sources claimed Wednesday that the IDF’s current tactics are having an insufficient impact on the Katyusha rocket launchers and expose the soldiers to excessive danger. The criticism was mostly aimed at the decision not to employ large ground forces in Lebanon, which would give the IDF a significant advantages over a guerrilla force.
The sources also criticized what they described as insufficient utilization of aircraft in ground support operations, because of concerns that they might kill Lebanese civilians that did not evacuate target areas.
Now, that IS a laugh. The IAF is concerned that use of its aircraft might kill Lebanese civilians! Tell it to the 400 odd souls who’ve been pulverized into oblivion by such air bombardment already. The IAF does have a tin ear now doesn’t it?
As for plowing even more infantry, armor and air power into the conflict–doesn’t this remind those of you old enough to remember of how John F. Kennedy got gradually sucked into Vietnam. We sent in a few as advisors. Things didn’t go as well as we’d hoped. We needed more if we were to really turn things around. So we sent in infantry. And the whole damn cycle repeated itself over and over till we had 500,000 troops there and 55,000 dead. And this is almost precisely what happened in the first Lebanon invasion in 1982. To quote Pete Seeger’s memorable lyric: “They’re neck deep in the Big Muddy and the big fool says to push on.” That’s Dan Halutz and Ehud Olmert and Amir Peretz–big fools if they think they can win this thing on their terms.
I’ve just exchanged e mails with Aron Trauring about this development and he’s given me a perspective I’d never considered. That the IDF may not really want peace. It may want a wider war for its own organizations purposes. We’ve heard such criticism about our Pentagon for many years (though perhaps they’ve been sobered a bit by the failures of Iraq). This is what he says:
Your mistake is that you think this [expanding the war] is foolish on their part. If the goal is peace and stability then yes it it foolish. But that’s not the army’s goal. If there is peace and stability the generals lose power. War means more power and more wealth. Peace means someone else gets a cut of the action. So peace and stability are bad for the junta. The military doesn’t give a shit about soldiers dying. If a few more soldiers die – thats what soldiers are for, aren’t they? Olmert isn’t about to stand up to the army leadership either so don’t look to him to end the killing.
The fools are us, the public, who believe the lies and send our children to die to “defend our country” or “fight terrorism” or whatever other bullshit the warlords feed us. In this case, though, the Israeli public may get pissed quicker than the generals like. And then they will be reigned in. But the forecast for the immediate future is more dead.
It pains me to say that I agree with much of what Aron says since I’d like to have a higher opinion of the IDF. I’d also like to belief that the interests of the IDF are allied with those of the nation rather than contradicting them.