A Stupid War
A DETECTIVE trying to solve a crime always asks "cui bono?" (who would profit?) When we try to solve the crime called the Second Lebanon War, this question must head the list.
The day before yesterday, a full year after the war, the Israeli media devoted most of their time to the retrospective analysis of the war. Hour after hour of television time, page after page of print.
When the war broke out, all the media rooted for Olmert. Except for a few lone voices, the media performed like a group of prancing cheerleaders at an American football game. The anti-war demonstrations were hidden away. No wonder, therefore, that this week, too, the anti-war protest was completely ignored, and all the criticism in the media came from the right.
Dozens of penetrating questions: Why was the decision taken in haste? Why wasn't the army ready? Why wasn't the rear prepared for war? But one issue was not considered: why was there a war at all?
QUESTION NO. 1: Who stood to profit?
In order to understand why the war broke out, the question is not who profited from it in practice. The decisive question is: who would have profited from the enterprise if it had succeeded as planned?
The one who stood
to gain the most was the President of the
The Israeli army
was to break Hizbullah, a supposed proxy of the Axis of Evil, and allow the
pro-American client government of Fouad Siniora to take control of all of
This scenario included
a second chapter: the victorious Israeli army was to provoke the Syrian army,
and after a short war, the regime of Bashar al-Assad should have collapsed. The
Axis of Evil would have been smashed, American public
opinion would have been convinced that the "vision" of President Bush
had been realized, "Democracy" in the Middle East would have been triumphantly
on the march, the
The second one to profit would have been Ehud Olmert. The Prime Minister, who by sheer accident had taken over from Ariel Sharon, and who until then had been a bit player, would have been recognized as an outstanding leader, statesman and strategist. Even the trade union hack, whom Olmert had put in charge of the military establishment, would have cashed in.
According to this
scenario, the threat to the North of Israel would have been eliminated, the
arsenal of rockets would have been destroyed, Hizbullah would have been wiped off
the map, an alliance would have been formed between
profiteers would have been the rulers of
Who pushed whom into the war? Did Bush push Olmert, or did Olmert push Bush? Years may pass before we shall know for sure - and it's really not so important.
QUESTION NO. 2: Who has profited in practice?
To everybody's amazement,
the Israeli army failed in its task. Hizbullah was not broken, but stood its
ground against a military machine that is rated the fifth strongest in the
world. The longest war in the annals of
The two captured
Israeli soldiers - who had provided the mendacious justification for the war -
were not freed. True, an international force has been inserted as a buffer
did not gain. True, its steadfast stand against the Israeli army is viewed by
many as an act of heroism that restores the dignity of the entire Arab world.
Hizbullah's losses are in the process of being made good. But Hassan Nasrallah,
who radiates an extraordinary integrity, found it necessary to admit in public
that he would not have carried out the initial incursion into Israeli territory
if he had known what would follow. He apologized to the Lebanese public for
first and foremost a part of the Lebanese scene. The main aim of Nasrallah is
to ensure for Hizbullah - and himself - a dominant position in the political
system of his country. His alliances with
The war has not
weakened the position of Hizbullah in
The conclusion: nobody has gained from this war, from all this death and destruction. By the latest count: in the 34 days of fighting, 119 Israeli soldiers and 39 civilians were killed, and so were 1200 Lebanese civilians and fighters. 2250 Israelis and 4400 Lebanese were injured. 300 thousand Israelis and 1 million Lebanese fled their homes, 200 thousand Lebanese have not yet returned.
QUESTION NO. 3:
For a year now, everybody here has been busy with "drawing conclusions". From the Winograd Commission of Inquiry to the last reporter on TV. E-v-e-r-y-o-n-e.
But this is make-believe. As a result of the conspiracy of silence concerning the basic questions of the war, it is quite impossible to deal with the roots of the problem.
Everybody is dealing, of course, with the rehabilitation of the army. Thank God, everything has changed. Instead of the winged Chief of Staff we now have a commander covered with dust, Gabi Ashkenazi. Every day on TV, we see the brigades training, soldiers crawling among thorns and tanks going through their paces. So the next time (and everybody takes it as self-evident that there will be a next time) the Israeli army will be ready.
Nobody points out the absurdity of this spectacle. The army was not ready for the last war, so it is training now with great determination - for the last war. The conclusions have been drawn from the lack of preparedness for the campaign that was, so everything is now ready for the campaign that was.
If there is anything that can be assumed with certainty about the next war, if there be one, it is that it will not be a repeat of the last. Rockets will play a much bigger role, and will travel much longer distances. The weapons will be more sophisticated. The battlefield will be different.
Much has been said about the inability of the elected government to stand up to the army command in discussion about life and death, starting a war and conducting the campaign. People take comfort in the fact that we now have an "experienced" minister of defense, Ehud Barak, a former army Chief of Staff, prime minister and defense minister. But the change of personalities does not necessarily bring about a change in the balance of powers: in the future, too, a bunch of politicians who happen to be members of the government will not dare to contradict the authoritative and determined view of the military leadership, which always, but always, produces a "professional" intelligence report to support it.
This phenomenon has
That is now finding
its expression in the endless talk about "the next war", "war this
summer", "a miscalculation that may bring about a war with
Almost every war is stupid. The last war was more stupid than most. The next war, if there be one, will be even stupider.