Analysis: We must restore IDF's fighting spirit

What troubles me most about the Winograd Committee's Final Report is the fear that nothing will come of it.

paratroopers 298  (photo credit: IDF file Photo)
paratroopers 298
(photo credit: IDF file Photo)
What troubles me most about the Winograd Committee's Final Report is the fear that nothing will come of it. I'm not getting into the politics here: plainly, the report calms the political system - Ehud Barak stays, Ehud Olmert doesn't resign and the denouement some had been hoping for doesn't materialize. I'm talking more, first of all, about the government's decision-making process, the IDF's, and the interface between them. Former chief of General Staff Amnon Lipkin-Shahak was appointed to make recommendations about improving this process and he himself has said that's not going to happen. As we saw in Gaza just now, the decision-making process is still terribly flawed. And I'm also talking about the IDF. In terms of anything that can be measured and quantified - days of training, supplies of equipment - there's been a truly significant change for the better in the past 18 months. A multi-year program has been established. Really, the IDF has done its bit. But it's only one bit, of a crucial larger whole. I don't know if the IDF's internal decision-making process has been similarly overhauled, and this is something criticized by Winograd no less than, say, deficient training. And I don't know if the fighting spirit of the IDF has been restored. As [former OC Manpower Maj.-Gen. (res.)] Yoram Yair has said, commanders of every rank in the generation that fought in the Yom Kippur War were guided by the ethos that they simply had to win, with whatever equipment and capabilities they had, in whatever circumstances. The principle was, "We cannot fail. This is what we've got, and we'd better make the best of it and win." The Second Lebanon War saw the reverse of this: commanders from the bottom to the very top complaining that the equipment was inadequate, the orders were unclear, that "it's not my fault." I've personally seen how much has changed for the better in terms of training and preparations and logistics. But it would be wrong and dangerous to assume that the decision-making process and the fighting spirit have also been overhauled, as they must be. Winograd also highlighted the dismal fact that the government didn't have a clue before the war about the IDF's capabilities - what it could and couldn't do. What's needed is legislation setting out the authority and the obligations of the government, of the defense minister, and of the IDF. The directors of public companies are obligated to check the financial reports every three months. They can't say, when things go wrong, that they didn't know. The same obligations must be introduced in that vital triangle of government, defense minister and IDF. Finally, I strongly endorse the committee's critical conclusion that to survive, Israel must be able to deter its enemies and defeat them where necessary. The IDF needs to be the Middle East's strongest army, yet it couldn't decisively defeat Hizbullah. That needs to be fixed. And the other side needs to know that it has been fixed. Maj.-Gen (res.) Eiland is Israel's former national security adviser.