Analysis: Winograd's dire warning

Report makes appallingly clear how absent the fundamental qualities of leadership were.

winograd 88 (photo credit: )
winograd 88
(photo credit: )
Anticipation among critics of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that the Final Report of the Winograd Committee would hold him personally responsible for the deaths of 33 soldiers in the ground offensive during the last 60 hours of the Second Lebanon War has proved ungrounded. Indeed, the committee concluded that the cabinet's decision to approve that offensive was not merely "legitimate," but was "almost inevitable, giving the Israeli government necessary military and political flexibility." This conclusion means that Olmert, so nearly brought down by the Interim Report into the war last April, will likely overcome pressure for his resignation this time, too. The thrust of the report, however, was focused more on Israel's survival than on Olmert's. In one of its central assertions, it noted that Israel "cannot survive in this region" without "the political and military leadership, military capabilities and social robustness" to deter and, if necessary, overcome its enemies. And in its withering depiction of the capabilities of the government and the IDF senior command that oversaw the Second Lebanon War, the committee made appallingly clear how absent those fundamental, existential qualities were. The notion that senior political and military figures who held decision-making posts in the summer of 2006 and still retain those central roles today might consider this report to constitute any kind of vindication is frankly unsustainable. The meticulous depiction of the deficient understanding among our political and military leaders, "from the [war's] very beginning," of the "basic principles of using military power to achieve a political and diplomatic goal" constitutes a damning and inescapable indictment. Israel cannot afford to ignore the proposed remedy. What is necessary, the committee finds, is nothing less than a complete overhaul of the governing of Israel: remaking the entire flawed political and military decision-making hierarchies, establishing an effective relationship between them where none exists today, and setting up the staff (perhaps under a revamped National Security Council) to produce the necessary information on which decisions are based. "Systemic and deep changes" are needed "in the modalities of thinking and acting of the political and military echelons and their interface, in both routine and emergency, including war. These are deep and critical processes," the committee stresses. "Their significance should not be obscured by current affairs, local successes or initial repairs. A persistent and prolonged effort, on many levels, will be needed." The danger is that the imperative for this systemic overhaul will be marginalized amid the personal and political battling of the coming days. It is critical to Israel's very survival that this not happen. We have been warned.