Friday, August 25, 2006

a new incompetence dodge?

There was wide support among Israelis for the recent war against Lebanon when it first began. Michael Totten interviews two Israeli peace activists who both supported the war early on. Left-leaning Israeli author David Grossman supported it (his son was killed in the fighting). (Totten, on the other hand, “thought it was a mistake right away.”)

Now the consensus in Israel seems to be that the war was necessary, but turned into a disaster because it was prosecuted badly.

The first activist:

“Here was a golden opportunity,” Yehuda said, “that the whole world and half the Arab world gave us on a silver plate. And we blew it. It had to happen quick."

. . .

"But there is also the realization that the whole ethos of the IDF was the lighting quick strike, boom, and finished. As soon as people saw that it wasn’t getting finished, everyone knew what the consequences were. This is also a major intelligence failure as well.”

The second activist continued:
"I think it had to be done differently and cleverly without causing masses of civilian casualties and civilian destruction.”

“How do you do that with a guerilla army, though?” [Totten] said. “There’s no bad guy bullet that just hits Hassan Nasrallah and Hezbollah.”

“It’s very very hard to destroy Hezbollah,” Amichai said. “I don’t think you can destroy it without sending in tens of thousands of Israeli soldiers and suffering hundreds and hundreds of casualties. That’s one possibility. And it would last a very very long time. That’s what many people said should have been done from the very beginning. Other people said – and this was a debate in the cabinet – that after one week when you’ve tried all the things that you’ve tried with the bombing in first week and you didn’t succeed you try to achieve a cease-fire that will force the international community to disarm Hezbollah.”

All of this, except the part about a cease-fire enforced by the international community, sounds very familiar. Let's see, blame mishaps on intelligence failure. Check. Assert that the number of forces used were inadequate to the task. Check. Promote the belief that if there'd been more competent leadership in place, things would have worked out better. Check. Fail to examine original rationale for starting the war. Check.

I don't follow the Israeli media closely enough to know whether any commentator there has retooled the "incompetence dodge" put forward by Rosenfeld and Yglesias last year in a different context. But it would seem to apply as well to Israel's war as it does to ours.

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