The Winograd Commission report on the Second Lebanon War has been officially released. As expected, it primarily blames PM Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz, and former Chief of Staff Dan Halutz for the poor outcome.
Olmert, to his credit, said that he “accepts responsibility”. But not so much to his credit, he does not offer to resign — as many Israelis, both to his right and to his left, have demanded.
More important than the assignment of blame to particular individuals is this, from the report:
The IDF was not ready for this war. Among the many reasons for this we can mention a few: Some of the political and military elites in Israel have reached the conclusion that Israel is beyond the era of wars. It had enough military might and superiority to deter others from declaring war against her; these would also be sufficient to send a painful reminder to anyone who seemed to be undeterred; since Israel did not intend to initiate a war, the conclusion was that the main challenge facing the land forces would be low intensity asymmetrical conflicts.
Given these assumptions, the IDF did not need to be prepared for ‘real’ war. There was also no urgent need to update in a systematic and sophisticated way Israel’s overall security strategy and to consider how to mobilize and combine all its resources and sources of strength – political, economic, social, military, spiritual. cultural and scientific – to address the totality of the challenges it faces. [my emphasis]
A number of Israeli voices have explained in detail the cultural phenomenon that lies behind this failure: the wishful thinking by many, especially the academic and political elite, that because Israel seemed so like the US or a European country, it was possible to forget the dangerous neighborhood in which she lives. For example, see Ari Shavit: A Spirit of Absolute Folly, published last August in Ha’aretz.
I’m uncharacteristically optimistic that this war has really served the function of the proverbial “wakeup call”, and that now not only the IDF but Israeli society in general is coming to understand that the time to relax their guard and be a ‘normal’ nation has not yet arrived.