Analysis: Why Halutz had to go
Halutz did not fully comprehend the cultural differences between the air force and the ground forces.
By MAJ.-GEN. (RES.) GIORA ROM
January 18, 2007 00:12
3 minute read.
halutz tzeelim 298.88.
(photo credit: IDF)
The resignation of IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz was unavoidable for two reasons. The first is that the aggression and the hostility displayed toward him in recent months was unbearable. I personally do not remember anyone enduring such pressure as a public officer. The second reason is that the war in Lebanon was a failure, and we cannot ignore that. Blame for the failure ultimately lay on Halutz's shoulders.
I want to mention three reasons why Israel failed in the second Lebanon campaign and their connection to Halutz.
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First, embarking on a war without a full picture of what you want to achieve by its end is a recipe for disaster. The unexpected will be taken care of by commanders as a war progresses, but initial war aims need to be clearly defined. The chief of General Staff should have known at the beginning of the war what those goals were. But instead, Israel embarked on an open-ended war, without an exit strategy.
Second, it seems that there are two armies in the Israel Defense Forces: the air force and the ground forces. In the air force, when an order is given, the person who gives it can be pretty sure that it will be carried out, in its spirit and to the letter. In the ground forces, on the other hand, there is no such guarantee. Those who came up through the ranks and know how ground forces operate realize they have to keep watch in order to see an order carried through.
Halutz apparently did not fully comprehend the cultural differences between the air force and the ground forces. He was unaware of a potential gap between orders sent down from the General Staff and the expected performance of the Northern Command during the war.
Third, the war revealed the insufficient operational performance of the ground forces. Even when their orders were well-articulated, the ground forces, in many cases, did not fulfill their mission - sometimes for justified reasons, and sometimes from a lack of determination. Nevertheless, he who takes an army to war needs to know what he has in his battle pack.
I want to believe that if Halutz had been aware of these three issues on July 12, he would have not gone to war. But to think that merely replacing him will remedy everything is a serious mistake.
The next chief of General Staff will have to deal with what he believes are the lessons of the war, while simultaneously having to change the culture of the IDF, if he wants those lessons implemented. By "culture," I mean everything from the inconsistent inclination to fulfill an order to the deteriorating dress codes and behavior of soldiers. The IDF has to close the gap between itself and Israel's civilian society in professionalism, accuracy and reliability.
The next chief of General Staff should not attempt to make the military more suitable for another round with Hizbullah, because history shows that every war is different. The army's general capabilities and its culture need to be overhauled.
Halutz understood the war was not a success. I have known him for more than 30 years; he is an exceptional figure, very different from the image projected by the media. Halutz was the No. 1 general in Israel's military landscape suited to lead both the IDF's cultural revolution and the preparation for a possible conflict with Iran. If he had kept the support of the nation, he could have continued to serve, but there is only so much pressure one can take. He had no alternative but to resign.
Giora Rom, a combat pilot, headed the Israel Air Force's staff and served as military attache in Washington and director-general of the Jewish Agency.