Reading through the Washington Post on the bus this morning, these paragraphs jumped out at me:
“This is not classic combat, where you see people advancing and you
shoot them,” [Amos] Gilad said. “Because you achieve the opposite results, and
it’s not fitting for a country like ours.”
The Israeli military
has experience in confronting unarmed protests. The first Palestinian
uprising, which erupted in the late 1980s, pitted youthful
stone-throwers against Israeli combat troops, who had to adjust their
tactics and weapons, shifting from the battlefield to riot control.
despite years of experience and acquisition of riot gear, the army
remains fundamentally unaccustomed to confronting civilian
demonstrators, and the prospect that such protests might increase has
become a subject of Israeli concern.
Now this is ironic, since only five years ago people were saying the IDF lost in southern Lebanon because they had spent too much time preparing for stabilization-type operations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and not enough time training for conventional combat. Now we're saying, apparently, that the IDF is too focused on conventional combat and cannot respond non-lethally to unarmed protests. Here's Yossi Peled, speaking to the Associated Press:
Ex-general Yossi Peled, who commanded Israeli troops on the Lebanese
and Syrian borders, said border breaches will likely be attempted again
and must be stopped at any cost — regardless of the political fallout —
because they pose a direct challenge to Israel's sovereignty.
promo leaves us little time to draw the conclusions and come up with a
new method of warfare where Israel will confront unarmed civilians,
children and women," he said.
We can argue with Gen. Peled about whether or not "war" is the appropriate lens through which to view these kinds of unarmed demonstrations. (Was rock-throwing what Clausewitz had in mind when he defined war?) But I think Gilad and the rest of the IDF understand two things: (1) that shooting unarmed protesters, even when they are throwing rocks at you, has a negative strategic effect and (2) that the IDF will continue to be expected to deal with these kinds of demonstrations.
The IDF, in other words, will continue to be expected to be able to respond to every contingency in the book from police operations to high-intensity combat until there is a viable political settlement that allows the IDF to primarily focus on the kinds of high-intensity contingencies for which militaries normally prepare. How the IDF copes in the meantime, with a conscript army and limited time and money for training, will be fascinating to observe for anyone out there trying to identify future spending and training priorities for their own military.
[Note: There is a vocal segment of this blog's readership that gets all bent out of shape when I dispassionately write about the IDF in the same way I would any other military organization. (Because, you know, "Don't Forget Palestine!" etc.) There is another segment of this readership that gets bent out of shape when I dispassionately write about Hizballah or Hamas in the same way I would any other military organization. (Because, you know, Islam! 9/11! Terror! etc.) All of you need to chill. Trying to analyze and write about the performance of military organizations in as value-neutral a way as possible is part of my job.]
Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) got a pretty nice love letter in the mail from Walter Pincus today. All I will say is that getting this kind of public approval from such an experienced and wise observer of intelligence affairs says a lot. Rep. Rogers seems like exactly the kind of person you would want in his job.
Sticking up for your friends, especially when those friends are reviled by everyone else, is admirable. Implying that your friend deserves different treatment in the eyes of the law because he is powerful, though, is repugnant. So too is a lack of empathy for victims of alleged sexual assaults. So too is single-handedly convincing your country to start an open-ended war in Libya that shows no sign of -- oh wait, that's another issue that should be dealt with separately. Let me conclude with a reminder to Bernard-Henri Lévy: aux États-Unis, Dominique Strauss-Kahn est un justiciable comme un autre. Deal with it.