By Gilad Atzmon
Ynet’s headline yesterday acknowledged what has been obvious to many Middle East commentators: Israel can’t win the next war. The most respected Israeli military correspondent Ron Ben Yishai’s headline reads as follows: “Why won’t we win the next war?” Though most of Ben Yishai’s Hebrew articles are reprinted in Ynet’s English edition, this article is yet to be translated and for obvious reasons. It is probably too upsetting for Diaspora Jews.
Ben Yishai’s rationale is clear and sound: Israel can’t deal with military casualties. Israeli security matters have been politicised. Field commanders are regularly subject to legal proceedings that lead to heavy penalties including suspensions. Consequently, many of them have lost their motivation. Israeli society is too sensitive to kidnappings and hijackings and finally, parents are too involved in IDF matters.
Ben Yishai concludes that Israel is too weak “whether it is a war against Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria or all of them, we will not win!”
Ben Yishai is honest enough to admit publicly that Israel’s enemies understand the psychological, spiritual, cultural and political fabric of Israeli society. They are aware of Israel’s weaknesses and the IDF’s paralysis and they act upon these. According to Ben Yishai, the Shiite axis, Hamas and the Salafi-Jihadists all understood that they “could not destroy Israel with one or two violent military moves, therefore they went on to wage a war of strategic attrition against us.” Any violent round or war whose results are inconclusive in favour of Israel, Ben Yishai says, are going to be seen as another nail in the Zionist’s coffin.
“They see the public hysteria over losses on our side. They notice the media frenzy that weakens the confidence of Israeli citizens, they see the national probing committees punishing Israeli commanders after each round of violence which leads to mistrust in the political class and its decision-making process.” Ben Yishai points out that Israel’s enemies seem to believe that when “Iran achieves a credible capability to threaten Israel with nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles,” the Israeli society will collapse into itself. The Jews who seek a better life and are ‘spoiled enough’ to act upon it will be scattered over the world to look for a quieter and safer place under the sun.
None of these observations are new to me. Already in the 1980s, in the wake of the first Intifada, I heard Israeli generals admitting in the open that ‘for the Palestinians to win all they need is to survive.’ Palestinian analysts have been commenting for years that ‘Israel may have many lethal bombs but the Palestinians have one bomb, the demographic bomb.’ I have repeatedly argued in my writings that Israel hasn’t won a single war since 1967. Even when it won on the battlefield (like in 1973), it failed to achieve its military objectives. Bizarrely enough, Israel’s greatest military victory in 1967 inflicted on the country some political, strategic and demographic problems that have made the future survival of the Jewish State in its current form an unrealistic scenario. Like Ron Ben Yishai (yet way ahead of him), I have been arguing that Israel lives on borrowed time.
But Israel and the IDF are not alone. The American, British and French armies, alongside NATO in general, are also incapable of winning wars. The Soviet army was literally defeated in Afghanistan for the same reasons. Modern armies do not win wars, they are good in spreading collateral damage. It may even be possible that modern armies are not supposed to win wars. Their real task is to sustain the military-industrial complex by means of constant conflict.
A clash with Hamas, for instance, leads to a growing demand for the Israeli Iron Dome. Britain, America and France launch one criminal war after the other, they never win but they clearly sustain the production of killing machines. Russia actually won a war recently together with Iran. This translated immediately into weapon-buying.
But it goes further. Western armies are set to follow military objectives that are defined by democratically elected governments. In the post-political era, the entire political class is disturbingly dysfunctional and totally unique in its inability to produce educated decisions, let alone set military objectives.
President Trump’s belligerent rants against Syria, Iran and North Korea are perfect examples of the above. Trump threatens to launch wars as often as he changes his socks, but he never provides his generals with an adequate set of objectives. Obama, Cameron and Sarkozy weren’t any better. They didn’t manage to set the objectives for Libya’s invasion or any other criminal Neocon conflict they launched.
Interestingly enough, I allow myself to suggest that one of the only state leaders who is fully aware of the inability of modern armies to win wars is Benjamin Netanyahu. The Israeli PM is aware of the fact that his army is weak and the Israelis are even weaker. Unlike his predecessors, Netanyahu actually tries to avoid large-scale conflicts with Gaza, Syria or Hezbollah as much as he can. Netanyahu is not a ‘lover of peace’ or a ‘humanist.’ He is happy to deploy snipers against civilians and ‘lets them’ shoot kids who get too close to the border. Netanyahu sends drones to attack Iranian targets in Syria . But he is very careful not to pull the region into a total war. Benjamin Netanyahu didn’t really need Ron Ben Yishai, he gathered many years ago that the IDF and Israeli society can’t win wars. He is buying time instead.