Sunday, September 10, 2017

Is "Conflict Management" working?

From Arutz Sheva, 8 Sept 107, by Martin Sherman:

This week, Israel conducted its largest military exercise for almost two decades code named “Or Hadagan” (“the Light of the Grain”), reportedly in honor of the late Meir Dagan, former director of Mossad.

Far reaching shift in threat perception 

The drill, which took place in the north of the country, and involved tens of thousands of troops from all branches of the IDF, was intended to prepare the Israeli military for a possible future confrontation with Hezbollah.

This, in itself, reflects far-reaching changes in the realities on the ground and the resultant shift in Israeli threat perception and hence in the armed forces’ operational focus and strategic outlook  that have taken place since the end of the 2006 Second Lebanon War.

Thus, while the Syrian army has been almost totally eroded by six-and-a-half years of civil war; Israel now considers Hezbollah as the primary and most immediate threat, and the Lebanese front, the one of most pressing concern.

In many ways, the recognition of the ascendant threat from Hezbollah comprises a grave indictment of the conduct of the 2006 War—and an admission (at least implicitly) of its gross mismanagement.

This is significant, because the calm that has generally prevailed in the North since 2006 has —despite wide acknowledgment of the disappointing IDF performance in that engagement—led numerous pundits to applaud the deterrent effect that the massive damage inflicted on Lebanon at the time, allegedly produced.  In some cases, this prompted suggestions that a more favorable retrospective assessment of the war and its execution might be called for.

Sadly, there is little to support this benign attitude—and emerging realities serve only to underscore the long term detrimental impact, which  that indecisive encounter—and its subsequent political and strategic ramifications—have had (and are still likely to have) on Israel’s security.

“To defeat, not deter…”

But changing threat perception was not the only major shift in military thinking associated with the drill.  For the reported definition of its objectives seem to indicate an emerging awareness that the approach adopted over the last few decades has been both dysfunctional and detrimental.

...veteran commentator Israel Harel wrote:
“For many years, including (or especially) the Second Lebanon War, the IDF did not truly aspire, as an army going to war must aspire, to defeat the enemy once and for all, in other words to neutralize its capacity to further endanger the lives of Israel’s citizens, soldiers and infrastructure.This time the military commentators wrote and broadcast, the “intention” is clear: to finish the enemy.”

... Amos Harel (not to be confused with previously-mentioned Israel Harel):
 “Military says it will no longer settle for deterring Hezbollah, which replaced Syria as No. 1 threat on Israel's borders. The objective [of the “Or Hadagan” drill] is to defeat Hezbollah. This time the talk is not of inflicting significant harm to Hezbollah, to deter it, or to quash its desire to fight until the next round of violence.” 
Conflict management

The conceptual paradigm that forms the basis of the IDF’s aversion to victory-oriented strategies is the idea of “conflict management”. One of the prime proponents of this approach has been the BESA Center for Strategic Studies at Bar Ilan University.

A synopsis  of “months of debate in BESA seminar rooms”  published about a year ago, reported that a consensus  had emerged among the center’s experts that “Conflict management is currently the least-worst option”, and that it  “is wiser for Israel to defer action than to take steps that threaten to make a bad situation worse”.

Arguably, one of the most explicit advocates for the idea of conflict management is Prof. Efraim Inbar, formerly BESA’s longstanding director, who declared: “Israel’s recent governments are left, willy- nilly, with a de facto conflict-management approach, without foreclosing any options.” He conceded that: “there are costs to this wait and- see approach”, but counselled “…this was the approach favored by David Ben-Gurion. He believed in buying time to build a stronger state and in hanging on until opponents yield their radical goals …”

In a 2014 policy paper entitled “Mowing the Grass in Gaza” and coauthored with Eitan Shamir, he set out the essence of this conflict management approach as it pertained to Hamas in Gaza:  “Israel is acting in accordance with a “mowing the grass” strategy. After a period of military restraint, Israel is acting to severely punish Hamas for its aggressive behavior, and degrading its military capabilities…The use of force… is not intended to attain impossible political goals, but rather is a long-term strategy of attrition designed primarily to debilitate the enemy capabilities”.

Clearly, this prescription has failed dismally both with regard to  Hamas and Hezbollah, neither of whom have had their capabilities “debilitated”, nor have forgone their “radical goals.”

After all, not only is there any sign of either of these organizations moderating their radical rejectionist approach towards Israel, but the periods of inter-bellum calm have been consistently used by both to dramatically upgrade their capabilities.

Thus, when Israel left Gaza (2005), the range of the Palestinian rockets was barely 5 km., and the explosive charge they carried about 5 kg. Now their missiles have a range of over 100 km. and warheads of around 100 kg.

When Israel left Gaza, only the sparse population in its immediate proximity was threatened by missiles. Now well over 5 million Israelis, well beyond Tel Aviv, are menaced by them. To this alarming tally, add the massive array of attack tunnels that Hamas was able to develop since the evacuation while Israel was “mowing the lawn”, making any suggestion that its capabilities have been “debilitated” utterly ludicrous.

This is even more so  in the case of Hezbollah, who, since 2006, has reportedly increased its then-already formidable arsenal in South Lebanon, abandoned to them, courtesy of the hasty 2000 unilateral IDF withdrawal mandated by Ehud Barak, tenfold—to anywhere between 100,000 to 150,000!

Moreover, the improvement has not only been in the quantity of the missiles trained on Israel’s population centers, as well other civilian and military targets, but in the accuracy and the explosive charges of the war-heads. Likewise, the ranks of its fighters has more than doubled, and their operational capabilities greatly enhanced, among other things, due to the combat experience acquired through their participation in the Syrian Civil War.

Mistaking “regrouping” for “deterrence”

In light of all these daunting developments, it is clear that successive bouts of limited fighting have done little to deter either Hamas or Hezbollah in the sense of breaking their will to engage in battle. Rather, after every round, they have been forced to regroup, redeploy and rearm—only to  re-emerge spoiling for a fight, ever bolder, with ever-greater (indeed, once inconceivable) capabilities.

In this regard, a far from implausible claim could be made that it was not the consequences of the 2006 war that dissuaded Hezbollah from entering the fighting in 2014 to support Hamas against the IDF during Operation Protective Edge. Rather the fact that the organization was bogged down in the Syrian civil war, propping up their patron Bashar Assad—a fortuitous outcome that cannot really be ascribed to the efficacy of Israeli deterrence policy.

Accordingly, it is difficult to refute the recent cocky taunts of Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, that “Every time an Israeli official refers to Hezbollah's growing power, he admits Israeli defeat in the summer of 2006”.  Well, at least if not defeat, denial of victory.

Indeed, just how appallingly the Second Lebanon War was conducted can be judged by the fact that, according to Israeli estimates, the number of missiles liable to rain down on Israel in any future confrontation with Hezbollah is somewhere between 1000 to 1500 a day—ten times that which fell in the previous war, and which kept millions of Israelis huddling in shelters for weeks on end.  Now imagine an assault ten-fold larger, factoring in the greater accuracy and greater explosive power of the missiles today—coupled with a possible auxiliary attack from Gaza…

These are the bitter fruits that conflict management has produced.

There but for the grace of God…

Against this grim backdrop in Lebanon, the developing realities in Syria must be taken into consideration: The deployment of Russian forces and the growing dominance of the Iranian presence in the country.

If the ominous developments in Lebanon can, in large measure, be ascribed to the flaccid policies of the Olmert government; in Syria, they are due  to those of the Obama administration.

The former,  shackled to its political doctrine of territorial concession and compromise, could not take the necessary and timely action to bring Hezbollah to its knees in a humiliating defeat—and end the fighting with a white flag of surrender over the Hezbollah positions and Hezbollah combatants being led into Israeli captivity.

The latter, unshackled from a traditional view of American national interest, created a vacuum into which Russia and Iran inserted themselves. Of course, the Iranian activity in Syria (and elsewhere) has been greatly facilitated by the appallingly naïve (or is that nefarious?) agreement orchestrated by the Obama administration in July 2015 over Tehran’s nuclear program, which greatly empowered the Iranian theocracy, enriched it economically and entrenched it politically.

One of the many menacing aspects of this is that the strong Iranian presence in Syria will allow the deployment of its proxies—including Hezbollah—along the border in the Golan, effectively increasing the length of the front along which Israel will have to confront such forces in any future military encounter.

All this should cause us to shudder with dread at the thought that, had the “enlightened” voices of moderation, reason and understanding of the “Other”, carried the day, and Israel had withdrawn from the Golan, all these perils would be perched on the heights overlooking the Sea of Galilee, the city of Tiberias and much of northern Israel.There but for the grace of God…

Backing away vs. backing into confrontations

For several years now I have been warning against clear and present dangers inherent in conflict management—cautioning that it is little more than “kicking the can down the road” into a risk fraught future.  I expressed growing concern that by adopting a policy of avoiding confrontations. which Israel could win, the government  may well back the nation  into a confrontation so severe that it may not—or only do so at devastating cost.

Now, faced with a prospect of thousands of rockets (many accurate and high explosive) being launched daily against Israel  along two possible fronts – an extended one in the north and one in the south; faced with the threat of an array of yet to be discovered terror tunnels—both in the north and the south; with these forces operating under the auspices of near-by Iranian troops and with the possibly inhibiting presence of Russia in the region,  we can only hope that such a crucial confrontation is not upon us.

But  should such a conflict erupt, our fervent wish must  be that the  IDF is not tempted to attempt to “manage” it, but be true to the declared aims of the “Or Hadagan” drill--and strive for unequivocal victory in it.

Al Jazeera: Blood Libels, Defamation and Lies

Jews and other Israel supporters around the world work for the IDF in the same manner as fighters in the Syrian civil war: committing war crimes, both as volunteers and paid mercenaries on behalf of the Jewish state.


That’s the underlying message of an Al Jazeera “documentary” (it’s actually closer to a work of fiction) that skews context, overtly mistranslates statements, and even repeats outright lies in order to create this illusion.

Outright lies from the Ukraine
The documentary begins with Elena Zakusilo, a Ukrainian Jewish woman who claimed on a local television game show that she served in a combat role in the IDF, including being forced by the IDF to murder innocent children: a form of blood libel that has served as an excuse for violence against Jews throughout history.

The IDF and Ukrainian security services investigated: It turns out the woman had blatantly lied. In fact, the show’s producers had scripted her entire speech in a ploy to increase ratings, even though they apparently knew that Zakusilo’s role in the IDF had been low ranking, administrative and non-combat.

Al Jazeera then misleads audiences with a segment on an unrelated group called “Caliber 3,” a private firm that mostly trains civilian security contractors who work with the Israeli police. Caliber 3 also offers basic self-defense classes for private individuals, a minority of their work.

Yet Al Jazeera portrayed Caliber-3  as a military unit, and its civilian self-defense classes as a military activity. It’s like saying a person who takes a CPR class at the hospital is a surgeon. It’s just simply untrue...

Not just bad journalism: defamation.
...In these cases, volunteers were indeed portrayed falsely in a manner that definitely harmed their reputations and produced hostility against them. In short, Al Jazeera’s documentary isn’t just bad journalism, it is defamation: at least a civil, and possibly even a criminal offense.

To this end, the documentary includes offhand references to Brits who illegally fight for Islamic State (ISIS) and discusses two British nationals who were convicted and sentenced to prison for activities in the civil war in Syria.

Al Jazeera then indicates that Grete Kvelland Skaara and other Norwegian volunteers may have acted improperly or even violated their country’s laws: they accomplish this by blatantly mistranslating a statement from a local mayor Arvid Grundekjøn:
I have served in the Norwegian defense, so I can’t wear the uniform of another country.
HonestReporting obtained a correct translation, and learned what Grundekjøn had actually said:
For me who has served in the Norwegian defense, it seems strange to wear uniform for another country…but I will not criticize Grete Kvelland Skaara for helping the Israeli military.
…dozens of armies recruit volunteer soldiers, including Great Britain, the US, France, Spain, Denmark, the UAE, New Zealand and Serbia [and some] accept non-military volunteers, like Britain’s Army Cadets.

Once a reader sees past the outright lies, mistranslations and misleading editing, it becomes clear that Israel’s volunteer and recruiting programs are not only legal and ethical, but similar to the practices of most countries in the Western world.

The Israel Defense Forces
The IDF’s code of ethics states in part:
The IDF and its soldiers are obligated to protect human dignity. Every human being is of value regardless of his or her origin, religion, nationality, gender, status or position. IDF soldiers will not use their weapons and force to harm human beings who are not combatants or prisoners of war, and will do all in their power to avoid causing harm to their lives, bodies, dignity and property.
The IDF is a modern, professional army with a high dedication to ethics in warfare and to upholding international laws.  It is therefore utterly absurd to even imply a comparison between the IDF and groups such as Syrian rebels or Islamic State (ISIS).

It is equally absurd to accuse international Israel supporters of improper or even criminal behavior for activities that are both legal and common in countries around the world.

It is for this very reason that in order to make its case, Al Jazeera relies on dramatic music, misleading editing, mistranslations and outright lies.

What happens next?
Israel’s Government Press Office (GPO) has been considering whether to become the latest in a long line of countries to remove Al Jazeera’s local news bureau for committing incitement to violence. Incitement is not legal in any country, including in those that value free speech.

As part of this process the GPO recently revoked press credentials of one particularly problematic Al Jazeera journalist: Elias Karam. Yet even though Karam described his work as “resistance to the occupation” (effectively admitting that it is not actually journalism) the GPO nonetheless is now leaning in favor of reinstating his credentials.

However, Al Jazeera is now putting Jews, and Israel supporters around the world in direct personal danger through an act of illegal defamation. Perhaps the GPO should indeed move forward with their original plans: both for Karam and for the entire Al Jazeera bureau.

Defamation and incitement to violence is not “journalism” and it is not “free speech.”

It is just plain wrong.

Lithuania confronts its Holocaust History

From Politico, 30 Aug 2017, by BENAS GERDZIUNAS:

Attempts to lift the fog of war are met with accusations of rewriting patriotic history, but that hasn’t stopped some from trying to confront the country’s complicity.

A Soviet-built memorial sits adjacent to a World War I-era fort where thousands of Jews from Lithuania and elsewhere were executed. The monument was originally dedicated to the murdered “citizens of the Soviet Union.”

VILNIUS — The Soviets swept through Lithuania in 1940. The Nazis did the same in 1941, only to be pushed back once again by the Soviets in 1944. In the turmoil of shifting frontlines, Lithuania’s interim rulers gambled, collaborating with the Nazis in the hope of post-war independence.

They failed, and 80 percent of Lithuanian Jews, the Litvaks, were murdered during the first six months of Nazi occupation. And after the war, the Soviets stayed.

Five decades of atrocities followed. Some 5-10 percent of Lithuanians were exiled to Siberia, more than 50,000 perishing in the inhospitable Russian hinterland; many of these victims were also Jewish.

Lithuania’s painful post-war history became the nucleus of patriotic resistance to Moscow’s post-Cold War posturing, as the Kremlin repeatedly described Baltic independence as “illegal.”

It has also overshadowed any effort to confront the country’s own demons — or to acknowledge the complicity of many of Lithuania’s lionized resistance fighters in crimes against humanity.

In the years following Lithuanian independence in 1991, a succession of governments have offered a narrative of history connecting the modern state to the World War II effort to win independence at the cost of collaboration.

...Textbooks in Lithuanian schools offer only fleeting mentions of the Litvaks, an integral part of Lithuanian society for more than 500 years. And the history of the Holocaust moves swiftly on to the stories of the many Lithuanians who saved Jews.

The failure to cast a critical look back at its past has played into the hands of Russian propagandists, who have seized on the opportunity to accuse the Baltic state of ongoing “fascism” — propaganda that was deployed to devastating effect in Ukraine during Russia’s seizure of Crimea.

...“A large percentage of teachers educated during the Soviet occupation have a problem telling the truth,” says Richard Schofield, who heads the NGO Litvak Photography Center and travels to Lithuanian schools for education projects.

“Everybody knows thousands of Litvaks were exiled to Siberia under Stalin,” he adds, “and everybody knows there were ethnic Lithuanians in the KGB arresting and murdering their own people.” But few know the history of what happened during the country’s brief alliance with the Nazis.

“The same history teachers are more often than not relieved when I tell their students that the Holocaust didn’t happen because the Jews were communists,” he says. “It seems to me that almost everyone wants the truth to be told, but nobody has the courage to tell it.”

...Slowly, efforts to document and disseminate knowledge about the Holocaust are bearing fruit, as a growing number of Lithuanians acknowledge their country’s troubling history.

“The Soviet generation has a strange sense of anti-Semitism ingrained in them, whereas the new generation simply doesn’t know the history,” says Marius Janulevicius, a literature teacher who produced a Holocaust documentary, “The Forgotten,” together with a small group of students from the school where he works. “So, it’s important to start with them.”

Lithuania remains one of the most prejudiced countries in the EU. Any effort to tackle the history of the Holocaust can only accelerate the belated post-Soviet reawakening....