Israel sadly provides the unimpeachably ultimate illustration for Barbara Tuchman's The March of Folly. Ours is a folly so extreme as to jeopardize this nation's very survivability.
For more than 13 years Israel's leaders have made folly their yardstick for sanity and prudence. The more their strategy negates the most basic self-preservation instincts and elementary common sense, the more it's hyped as nothing less than the hallmark of sound-mindedness and wisdom.
Tuchman defined folly as policy which is plainly inimical to the self-interest of the collective pursuing it. Moreover, it has to be implemented over time, not just in one extraordinary flash of irrationality. The folly must be espoused by more than a single misguided figurehead and constitute groupthink. Most significantly, Tuchman's definition hinges on the delivery in advance of cogent warnings against the foreseen impending calamitous consequences of the given folly.
Everything that has happened to Israel since Oslo introduced into our midst the incipient Palestinian state (Tuchman's Trojan horse counterpart), fully measures up to Tuchman's folly criteria (and then some). Indeed the initial folly keeps spawning spin-off follies and the offshoot misguided leadership then begets even more irresponsible fantasy-addicted, consensus-skewing successors.
Ehud Olmert's slipshod and bamboozling ways are Oslo's predictable derivatives. They're evolutions of Osloite delusions - colossally grotesque progressions of the folly Tuchman identified. Were this suicide-scale folly stopped now, Israelis might heave a united sigh of relief at having barely dodged the fatal bullet. But to read our headlines, this is wishful thinking. If the polls are borne out, we may yet acutely miss Olmert - unreal as that sounds.
Said polls, for instance, show that the one Kadima character still incomprehensibly popular is Tzipi Livni (notwithstanding, obviously, the dire inadequacy of her foreign policy and abysmally bungled advocacy of Israel's cause). So if the rug is irretrievably pulled from under Olmert's wobbly feet (by, say, the Winograd Commission), Kadima's council of sages may opt to avoid elections by crowning Livni instead. Theoretically - especially given our parliamentarians' penchant for sleaze - they may actually pull this travesty off.
It's, therefore, not inconceivable that Livni - after a mere few kowtowing years in public life - will be meteorically catapulted to the top, with even fewer qualifications than Olmert, and fewer principles (if that's possible).
In other words, the folly as delineated by Tuchman might yet be even more mind-bogglingly exacerbated. We seem inexorably bound to deteriorate from bad to worse, to beyond-belief worse.
During her junket to Tokyo last week, Livni offered insight into her ethical makeup when taking time (from apparently pitching Israel's case) to laud Dan Halutz for "bringing a high standard of values as an army officer, and we can learn from that, and like that our soldiers too, about taking responsibility. I think his action is worth admiring. I have much respect for the chief of General Staff."
The above - it need be noted - was uttered in Livni's native Hebrew, so the jumbled sentence-structure cannot be ascribed to the encumbrances (for her) of English syntax. That said, her supercilious gibberish is most telling. With patronizing self-conferred moral authority, she presumes to enlighten us, and "our soldiers too," that it's above and beyond one's obligation to quit in the wake of failure.
Should Halutz - by her norms - have done everything to evade accountability? Does one resign only when no other choice remains (just before the inquiry commission lowers its ax)? Is this intrinsically commendable or deplorable? Why does Livni exude such esteem for a commander who did so much harm (or failed to prevent it) to Israel's military deterrence? Wouldn't it have been more honorable to have stepped down sooner, rather than wait it out as a lame duck with a bunch of lame excuses, hoping against hope to limp through a loophole?
Livni, as Ariel Sharon's fawning accomplice, knows better than the plebeians how Halutz became chief of General Staff and why. She knows his predecessor, Moshe Ya'alon, was kicked out on the eve of disengagement because he wasn't a yes-man and couldn't be absolutely trusted to collaborate in perpetrating Israel's single most tragic folly since Oslo.
But Halutz was Omri Sharon's bosom-bud, a Sharon-family crony and a reliable accessory. He indeed performed the task assigned him to perfection and expelled more than 9,000 compatriots from their homes. He excelled at confronting Jews, but, alas, didn't equally excel at confronting the Jewish state's genocidal enemies.
His appointment and record in office are products of the ideological breakdown that, particularly since Oslo, pollutes this land - and perniciously so the IDF. Folly marketed as pragmatism took over. That's why Livni conveniently shed her convictions. That's why the IDF was run like a business enterprise, where career and personal advancement matter most.
Thus managerial superficiality, accommodating mediocrity and covering rear ends became indispensable in order not to compromise promotion prospects. Halutz isn't the sacrificial offering. This stock-portfolio ditcher (during combat) epitomizes the malaise.
Livni, disengagement's co-conspirator, does as well. Hence, though she admitted that "disengagement was a mistake" - one for which she too is liable - her ministry continues to draw blueprints for another whopping unilateral withdrawal. A team she appointed is currently busy reviving and promoting plans to remove at least 100,000 Israelis from Judea and Samaria. Olmert pleads the same ignorance he did regarding Livni's other recent freelance initiatives.
It's hard to let go of folly and Livni isn't about to, especially when for her folly proved so profitable. Where would she be if she hadn't abandoned her once-professed ideals and enlisted enthusiastically in Zion's lucrative march of folly? In our cynical state, folly may yet take her farther than she dreams and others dread.