Israel Harel
Haaretz (Opinion)
February 7, 2008 - 7:34pm

The main reason given by Defense Minister Ehud Barak for remaining in the government is to contend with the state's grave security threats, from both near and far. To be prepared, he said, our operational capabilities must be restored and a moral change must be implemented.

Barak is thus telling the public he is the right man in the right place, and if he were to step down now there would be no one to carry out these tasks as well as he can.

There is a fairly broad consensus on the military significance of these statements, in contrast to the political significance, which has met mainly negative reactions. He is the man who can rehabilitate the army, even most of his political critics agree.
In the Second Lebanon War, the Israel Defense Forces had two main problems, according to the Winograd Committee: flawed military doctrine and faulty performance, particularly among the field units.

Both of these, the committee emphasized, stemmed from a moral decline in Israeli society that has penetrated enough to cause great concern for the future of the country, as well as for the IDF.

Many people in the military and government believe that under the circumstances created by the war, only Barak can bring about the necessary changes in the IDF's doctrine and moral values.

However a second glance - based on an analysis of Barak's first term as defense minister and of the IDF's current fighting tactics in the South, under Barak?s inspiration - raises doubts as to whether he is really the person who can change the IDF's faulty doctrine, or its spirit (or, in his words, its "moral standards").

The doctrine of containment, which became an object of ridicule after the first Lebanon war, is associated chiefly with Barak.

Barak adhered to it even when soldiers were abducted and when frontline communities near the northern border were bombarded nonstop. This doctrine reached its peak with the hasty flight from southern Lebanon, which undermined Israel's standing in the region, in particular vis-a-vis Iran.

Suicide terrorism, too, which Yasser Arafat began shortly afterward and which has not ended to this day, is the result of the containment doctrine. That has been the claim since the first Lebanon war made by army commanders including then-chief of staff Shaul Mofaz and his deputy, Moshe Ya'alon.

If that is the case, it is worth examining whether Barak learns from his mistakes.

In the war against terror, despite hundreds of deaths in explosions on buses and in public spaces, Barak continued to adhere to the containment strategy. When this doctrine failed to stop terror, he lost the election.
Only the government headed by Ariel Sharon dared to go beyond containment, to launch Operation Defensive Shield and sharply reduce suicide bombings and ambushes by highway snipers.

The army is currently carrying out fairly successful ground and air strikes, but ironically it is these micro-tactical successes that prove the concept's failure.

The fear of using decisive force. Barak, it turns out, refuses to learn the lesson of the flight from Lebanon in 2000 and the failure to launch a comprehensive operation against the suicide terrorists' bases, as well as the main lesson of the Second Lebanon War: To stop the rockets, there is no substitute for a massive infantry operation.

Therefore, all those who fear for the IDF's future − that is, for the future of the state - must conclude that Barak has not changed his erroneous strategic thinking. And, after all, that is the duty of the defense minister.

Barak warns about lost values affecting the motivation of soldiers and commanders.

For that reason, Barak must be asked whether his political conduct, particularly in the past several days, can serve as an example for soldiers and commanders and instill the army with the values that will encourage soldiers to endanger their lives.

After all, as long as the country's soldiers, and particularly the reservists, have no faith in the prime minister, the defense minister and many of their commanders − who along with the politicians refuse to reach personal conclusions about their failures - the army's spirit cannot be rehabilitated.

Barak, very regrettably, is not the person who can bring about a moral change or, as his current behavior proves, a change in the concept of containment, which more than anything else has damaged the ethos of the IDF


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