Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Roundup of opinion in the wake of Winograd

From » Opinion » May. 2, 2007 1, by CAMERON BROWN, deputy director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center of the IDC in Herzliya ...

We knew the Winograd Report investigating the failures during last summer's war with Hizbullah would be critical of the political and military leadership. But no one expected a political earthquake of this magnitude.

In his brief presentation on Monday committee chair, retired Judge Eliahu Winograd, was lethal in his remarks....

....the atmosphere in the country following the report has become electrified. ...our disgust derives not only from the actions of Olmert and Peretz; it lies in a deeper revulsion against our present political establishment. With the president accused of sexual assault, the finance minister accused of embezzlement, other politicians still under investigation in previous corruption scandals (and even soccer players being accused of throwing games), it is clear that, as Shakespeare put it, "something is rotten in the state of Denmark."

YET FOR ALL these scandals, none of the country's politicians has had the basic decency or dignity to resign. Even Halutz did not exactly resign of his own free will; he simply had the foresight to see that his end was nigh. This dogged determination to hold onto the reigns of power - regardless of the will of the people or the damage it causes the country - must make us wonder what exactly our politicians are doing in politics in the first place. What is clear is that, as a whole, they lack the genuine dedication to serving the public good that has defined the generations that led this country since its foundation....

From the JPost Editorial, 2/5/07 ....

Apart from essential personnel changes at the national helm, as all but explicitly mandated by the Winograd Report, a no less critical transformation is one of mind-set and organization in the upper echelons, both military and political.

Alongside the failures of leadership, the report makes plain that glaring conceptual and organizational dysfunction contributed crucially to what went wrong in the Second Lebanon War. These flaws appear to be endemic to the IDF and the civilian defense establishment.

..... even after this prime minister and defense minister have gone, an organizational overhaul is imperative to prevent future breakdowns.

The Winograd Committee exposed the IDF top command as running with the pack, regardless of any skepticism members of the General Staff might have had about their chief's judgment. Land forces commanders didn't challenge Dan Halutz's contention that the air force alone could take care of the Hizbullah rocket threat. The same is true of the government, where post factum there were dissenting murmurs about misguided tactics, but not in real time, not when it mattered. The ministers preferred to follow the prime minister's lead, and he followed Halutz.

This docility is at least partly rooted in the systemic absurdity that sees the government, any government, denied effective tools to evaluate whatever the IDF top brass advocates..... it would make a major difference if the premier employed professional staffers to help make sense of what's happening, to explore options, to assess alternatives. This is vital not only when conflict appears imminent, but on a continuing basis. By the time a crisis looms, it may be too late.

In Israel's threatened reality, ministers cannot serve the public effectively without educating themselves. The current ministers' failure in this regard is highlighted by Winograd. They, too, share culpability for the war's grave failings, because, in their ignorance and/or temerity, they did not fulfill their responsibilities when it came to the fateful decisions.

Among the many consequences of too little proper discussion within the political and military hierarchies, and between them, was that IDF units that had trained precisely to take out Hizbullah Katyusha batteries by conquering the territory from which they barraged Israeli civilians were not deployed. Blueprints drawn up specifically to handle contingencies such as the abductions that triggered hostilities were not employed. And often, underdrilled reservists were sent in and out of locales like Bint Jbail and Maroun-a-Ras, seemingly without rhyme or reason, paying a bloody toll each time.....

From Haaretz, 2/5/07, by Ze'ev Segal...

It's not just personal

... The main thrust of the Winograd report is the necessity of formulating suitable ways of making decisions, at least on issues of existential importance, so that what happened last summer will not happen again - namely, so that the state of Israel will not go to war again without, as the report said, a contingency plan or even an orderly discussion that included examining existing plans and considering their advantages and disadvantages.

The Winograd report devoted considerable space to the government, which decided to go to war after a discussion that lasted for about an hour and a half - during which cabinet ministers were presented with brief and concise surveys devoid of details that might have indicated the complexity of the picture. The government, said the report, made its decision unanimously, with no abstentions, acting as a political body expressing support for the prime minister. It "did not explore and seek adequate response for various reservations that were raised" by ministers who had considerable diplomatic and security experience.

...The commission's observations about the government and its responsibilities are an important element of the report, which deals at considerable length with the key and disturbing question of decision-making processes.....

.... it is no longer possible to leave the commission's demand - for urgent action to create the background conditions that would enable meaningful discussions in the cabinet and other governmental bodies, at least on issues of war and peace - without a serious response.

... The committee recommended establishing a procedure for presenting the government and other official bodies with background material and recommendations that would include situation assessments, aims and alternatives. It proposed "improving the knowledge base of all members of the government on core issues of Israel's challenges" by means of workshops, symposia and in-depth discussions.

... it underscored the need to establish clear lines of responsibility and a clear timetable, as well as a procedure to monitor implementation in order "to change and improve matters which are essential for the security and the flourishing of state and society in Israel." Such a decision needs to be made now, as a lesson from the past for the sake of the future - both immediate and distant.

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