As we speak, Treasury and Defense Ministry officials are haggling over next year's defense budget. How should the post-Lebanon-war increase to the budget be used?
There are two principal approaches that can be followed to prepare the armed forces for future wars. They are based on differing assumptions about the character of those wars, the structure of the IDF, and how to rebuild the military.
The first approach, based on modern principles, starts with a thorough assessment of recent wars such as the two Gulf Wars, the wars in Afghanistan and Kosovo, and the recent Lebanon campaign. The chief conclusion is that both revolutionary and evolutionary changes are required in how wars are characterized, force structure, power projection, strategy and operational doctrine.
A new set of priorities should be prepared and implemented for the allocation of resources. This is required to manage an increased budget for research and development of essential advanced systems, to complete projects that were interrupted due to lack of resources and to initiate new, promising programs. This approach would help ensure the acquisition of the systems most suited to meeting existing and future threats, at the expense of "more of the same."
The modern approach emphasizes elite units capable of handling any challenge. It would also strengthen Israel's military industries and enhance their competitiveness in internal markets.
The second approach, conservative, calls to rebuild a huge, traditional military. Old generals would base it on their battlefield experience. Budget increases would be used to refill empty warehouses with hundreds of thousands of useless artillery shells, spare parts for old vehicles, and assorted other equipment for obsolete units.
It would be a great mistake to buy tanks and ammunition instead of developing offensive and defensive weapons against Katyushas and surface-to-surface missiles. It would be foolish to add another armored division at the expense of systems for gathering, analyzing, and conveying real-time information to those who can use it most effectively.
The advanced approach opens new horizons and provides opportunities to successfully meet future challenges. The conservative one assures the defeat of liberal-democratic civilization in the global war against fundamentalism and terrorism.
Israel, at the forefront of this struggle, can't afford to make wrong decisions about its defense priorities.
Dr. Shmuel L. Gordon, a retired IAF colonel, is head of the Technology and National Security program at the Holon Institute of Technology, and an expert on national security, air warfare and counterterrorism. He is also the author of 'The Vulture and the Snake: Counter-Guerrilla Air Warfare: The War in Southern Lebanon.'