A long time ago, on this blog, I wrote about the amateurishness of Olmert and Halutz. This was before they proved they can’t run a war and an army. Halutz in particular seemed suspect because of small events that hit the IDF before the Second Lebanon War.

What concerned me then and concerns me now is a general Israeli attitude of “Yihyeh B’seder” (it’ll be okay, don’t worry) and “mah ata lachutz” (why are you so high-strung?). When somebody tries to do something conscientiously or address potential pitfalls, they often hear one or both of these remarks. One hears these little phrases thrown out among soldiers in Israel and, of course, among politicians.

It is fair to say that this lackadaisical attitude, together with some third-world-type norms of advancing officers on the basis of their connections, social skills and brown-nosing and then replicating this approach outside the IDF by providing the senior officers who retire with plum jobs for which they may be unequipped (leading a division or battalion does not mean you can run a company or organization in the real world), have led to some serious flaws in Israel’s military and other capabilities.

As if this wasn’t clear before the Second Lebanon War (and I think it was roughly visible to some of us), it became clear during the war. Then, when the war ended in a loss and stupid compromise by the Olmert government, we saw Halutz continue to lead the IDF while promoting the very officers who failed in Lebanon. We saw Olmert succeed in evading responsibility for his poor leadership. In fact, to this day Olmert hasn’t paid the price for his folly while Halutz finally resigned but only when it became clear he was going to be openly blamed for his incompetence.

Israel then appointed a new Chief of Staff, Gabi Ashkenazi and the country was assured that the IDF is doing all in its power to learn from its mistakes and to improve its capabilities, its soldiers fighting knowledge and other factors that were found wanting in the war.

It is with great sadness, but little surprise, that Haa’retz published an article today by one of their better reporters, Amos Harel, covering a public talk by Major General (res.) Moshe Ivri-Sukenik, the man who was commissioned to lead the investigation into what went wrong with the IDF’s preparations for the war.

In this talk, the retired general speaks at length about the IDF’s current and ongoing failure to learn from its wartime mistakes and to prepare for the next war. Ha’aretz often changes their links or removes articles from their site, so I am going to quote at length beyond the break. I recommend you all read it. And if you are someone of fighting age or with a son who is about to serve, I strongly encourage you to find your friends who serve and get them to speak to their friends and those to speak to their friends until you can launch a serious movement to pressure the army and the government to improve their current program for addressing the Second Lebanon War’s failures.

Do it! Don’t hesitate to do it! Fight for it because it is the future of the country and your future that are at stake here. It won’t be “b’seder” if you do nothing – just ask David Grossman who lost his son because of a questionable and faulty maneuver that was launched unnecessarily in the final days of the war. Ask those whose sons and husbands went into battle without proper gear, information or training. Unless you want to be in similar straits next time around, don’t sit around quietly!

And if they won’t fix it, then do what you can to avoid serving or having your son serve. This isn’t a game and in this situation, everybody should be a little “lachutz” until the leaders of Israel truly make it “b’seder.”

Top IDF officer: Israel not prepared for next war
By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent

Major General (res.) Moshe Ivri-Sukenik, who resigned as commander of the Israel Defense Forces’ Northern Corps earlier this year, has sharply criticized the way the army is training. In his first public comments on the matter, Sukenik says the army’s training program is flawed and troops are not being prepared for future challenges.

“We are not training enough,” Sukenik, who led an IDF in-house probe after the Second Lebanon War, said Thursday.

Sukenik served as commander of the IDF’s ground forces several years ago. After the Lebanon war he led the investigation into battles by Division 162. Sukenik was asked to return to the ranks and command the Northern Corps, but he resigned in January, in part to protest what he calls the insufficient allocation of funds for training the land forces.

Sukenik spoke Thursday in Ramat Efal at a conference on the land war in Lebanon.

“After a year at the Corps, I told a forum of the most senior ranks in the army [the General Staff] that it is not taking things seriously. We are not training sufficiently. We are not giving people the minimum means to succeed,” Sukenik said.

Although since the war a major effort has been taken to restore the ground forces’ readiness, this is not enough, he said.

“I did what I could to restore knowledge. It will take time for the IDF to recover from the wounds of the war …. Now they are once more talking about cuts in the defense budget. The easiest thing to do is to cut training budgets, because that is where there is big money. The result is that next year, after the cut, the readiness level will once more be low,” Sukenik said.

Describing the army before the war as having “rusted,” he said about one division: “Would you believe they did not have maps of the Golan Heights? They had no operational plans on a critical front. Their plans were for an entirely different front. This is the sort of vertigo the IDF found itself in.”

Sukenik blames the war’s failures on the conduct of the senior officers, and the confusion in the orders given. “The soldiers in the field heard in the media and in the Knesset that there would not be a ground offensive. ‘We can end this with the air force,’ they said. In the end it trickles down and has an effect. I say with authority: 70 to 80 percent of responsibility for the results [of the war] lie with the command and the General Staff. The gaps in readiness are not a pleasant thing, but in the end these led to only 10 to 15 percent of the final results.”

Sukenik described the results of the war as “embarrassing” and said he accepted the invitation to lead an in-house probe of the performance of a division because he wanted to understand “what had happened to the most skilled group. Why did they behave this way? These are the best people we have.”

He also criticized the decline in the ground forces’ preparedness in the years before the war, and he himself accepted blame because he was a member of the General Staff.

“People did not understand what a mountainous passage means. An armored battalion goes into a mountainous passage [during the war] without an engineers APC [armored personnel carrier], without bulldozers – and they think that’s okay. Things that used to be maxims evaporated. In the air force there is a someone leading a flight of aircraft. If he does not practice twice a month, he is not ready,” Sukenik said.

“Everything is written in orders. In the ground forces the company commander is always ready, even if he has not trained all his life. This is not something you learn on the Web …. A battalion goes on a three-week training session in a year – and they trained for deployment in the Gaza Strip or Nablus, not for a major war. Unfortunately this is still not sufficiently understood. A battalion commander needs to know how to defend and attack on the Golan heights.”

Sukenik said one of the biggest lessons of the war is that the IDF must deal with short-range rockets. “Since the war we made this part of our orders: The mission of every force is to end the indirect fire from its area of operations. This is a problem the commander must deal with, no one else.”

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  • Article in Haaretz: Israel will ceases to exist soon (again, this time for real). News at seven.

  • David, you can’t dismiss this article and its reporter. He’s not one of their loony doves and this general could sit quietly without criticizing his former colleagues.

  • In fact, I’ll add to those points. What the article points out rings all too true. There was something fishy before Lebanon Two – fishy enough that I, living in the US, was able to sense it and write about it. The war revealed numerous glaring flaws in the IDF’s readiness and fighting capabilities. All of us who know Israelis or who have spent some time there are familiar with the “yihyeh b’seder” approach and the unscientific manner that people manage to get promoted or to find jobs, often through social networking. To go from there to General Ivri-Sukenik’s remarks that the IDF isn’t doing enough to fix the problems isn’t that much of a stretch. This isn’t about being disloyal to Israel, it’s exactly the opposite. You have to be critical and you have to be forceful about it in order to force governments and senior soldiers to take notice. And the time isn’t in some post-mortem to a lost war. The time is now.

  • TM, these have been our sentiments for years already, even from the times Mofaz and Ya’alon were the COSs.

    Our oldest boy is scheduled to enter the IDF next year and we are convinving him not to make himeslef cannon fodder for the irresponsible leadership the IDF is still under, both political and military.

    If it weren’t for the absurdity of the situation, we would leave our son to his own decisions.

    Looking forward to the day when Israel remembers who it is and why we’re here.

  • TM, a big problem in the IDF is low morale among the soldiers. By discouraging soldiers from enlisting, you only serve to WORSEN morale. Furthermore, at the end of the recent Lebanon War, it was Hezbullah that begged for a cease fire, and our secretary of state Rice that insisted on Israel’s withdrawal. The only failure was that Olmert called off the war too soon. In other words, Israel’s failure was political, not military. The dovish Olmert was too weak to stand up to Bush/Rice.

  • Yes, Roddy. I hope to make it a problem that somebody addresses. Otherwise you keep getting more of the status quo and the status quo doesn’t appear to be good enough.

    With respect to the analysis of the conclusion of the Second Lebanon War, you’ll have to accept that we differ on the outcome. You don’t have to take my word for it, just read the Winograd reports and the numerous editorials and articles by people who participated in the war. Prior to the war, Israel had soldiers near the border, no hostages, Samir Kuntar, a force that could enter Lebanon at will to fight, relatively good intimidating presence that served to prevent wars, and no opposing forces’ doctrines on how to beat Israel.

    After the war, you had the original dead soldiers in the Northern outpost, you had the dead hostages returned but in a humiliating exchange for the murderer Kuntar, you ended up with another 140 dead soldiers, another 40 dead civilians, no more intimidating presence because everybody perceived Israel’s weakness in fighting, tactical and strategic capabilities, a foreign force blocking Israel’s path should it need to re-enter Lebanon, a UN Security Council resolution that is willfully ignored by both sides but places Israel at a disadvantage because it is a state and Hizbullah is an organization, a new fighting doctrine against Israel that includes rocket barrages against civilian centers and fighting from sophisticated bunker systems, etc. etc.

    In other words, it’s hard to spin this as a victory. When you lose, you have to lick your wounds, debrief like crazy, figure out what went wrong and then do everything in your power to fix the problems. It is well within the power of the IDF to do this. If a former major general whose job it was to evaluate the army’s failures stands up and says that two years after the fact the IDF still hasn’t and isn’t implementing the changes needed to improve the situation, then what can people do to get the army’s attention?

    People protesting individually will get nowhere. You need a loud voice coming from those whose husbands and sons are or will be in harm’s way. You can be sure that if a meaningful number protests this issue, the army will address it.

  • The outcome of the war was disgraceful. The trading of terrorists for corpses was disgraceful. The forced evacuation of Gaza was disgraceful. Negotiating “peace” with the former financier of the Munich Massacre is disgraceful. All of these failures are not military, they are political. The solution lies, likewise, not in overhauling the Israeli military. It lies in overhauling the current Israeli government. Israeli soldiers should be commended, and not used as scapegoats.

  • No, Roddy, there were significant military failures. For example, a navy ship turning off its electronic protection leaving itself vulnerable to a rocket attack by a rocket in the Hizbullah arsenal about which Israel may not have had full intelligence. Reservists and non-reservists going hungry on the battlefield or going to the battlefield without equipment also counts as a failure. I could go on, but what’s the point if you haven’t read the Winograd reports?

    The IDF needs to fix itself.