Fri., May 04, 2007
Waiting for the next war
By Shuki Mairovich
The countdown to the next war has begun. Not as a result of the strengthening of the Hezbollah, nor as a result of the fact that it has moved south of the Litani, but rather as a result of the Winograd Committee report. Paradoxically, but in accordance with the history and mood of Israeli society, it is precisely the severity of the report that will bring about the next war.
This is not the first time that Israeli society is repairing the blunders of a past war by means of a new war. People remember Menachem Begin's observation that the first Lebanon War came to heal the trauma of the Yom Kippur War. That will be the case this time, too. The third Lebanon War will be declared as a correction of the Second Lebanon War. The ink on the Winograd report has not yet dried and the psychological preparations for the next war have already begun. The first sign of this appeared in the wake of proliferating complaints that the lack of experience on the part of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz, as stated in the panel's conclusions, was a crucial factor in the decision to go to war. Israeli society is characterized by an historical tendency to solve political problems by military means - i.e., via war - and public discourse is preparing for the demand that will come, sooner or later, to bring former generals back to steer the ship of state.
Even before the start of the war in June, 1967, the General Staff threatened the government, which surrendered and went to war. And also at the government meeting on the eve of the start of the first Lebanon War, the military people convinced the government to go to war. This time, the chief of staff did not need to force himself on the government; the government itself was chomping at the bit. These examples testify that the civilian level is incapable of standing up to the military establishment.
The civilian leadership is not capable of thinking in a civilian way, and it accepts the tendency to go to war absolutely and uncritically. The Winograd Committee's criticism that the government did not examine alternatives to military confrontation shows that this option, in fact, does not exist in our society's lexicon.
Correction of the flaws that the report enumerates will be carried out, to one extent or another, but the important question is what the social mood is which will impel this process. Even now we are seeing the first signs of it: the strengthening of the army and the weakening of alternative civilian thinking. The meaning of further strengthening the army is the start of another war, because military thinking in its very essence negates solutions that are not military. This is the worldview of military people, these are the glasses through which they see reality, and public discourse in Israel adopts this mode of thinking. Just as it was when the Second Lebanon War broke out - when the Israeli public, like its leaders, warmly adopted the military option.
Israel's problem has never been a lack of military preparedness, a lack of leadership or a lack of judgment. Even if there is a leadership, even if the army is prepared and even if the considerations will be military in nature - the army will again determine the agenda, the leadership will accept it and the Israeli public will scurry after it. The only obvious conclusion - to strengthen civilian culture and to lessen the dominance of military culture - will again not be drawn by Israeli society, for the next war is already at the gates.
The author is a lecturer at the Ruppin Academic Center.