I am trying to imagine the physiological distortions the members of the Winograd wound themselves up into when they issued this crazed judgment on the decisionmaking in the last days of the 33-day war, and have been unable to:
- Winograd assailed the final, large-scale ground operation launched in the final 60 hours of the war in which dozens of IDF soldiers were killed, saying it “did not achieve any military objectives nor did it fulfill its potential.”
“The ground operation did not reduce the Katyusha fire nor did it achieve significant accomplishments, and its role in accelerating or improving the political settlement is unclear,” said Winograd. “Also unclear is how it affected the Lebanese government and Hezbollah regarding the cease-fire.”
“The manner in which the ground operation was conducted raises the most difficult of questions,” he continued.
However, the panel found that the decisions that motivated the political echelons to approve the offensive were acceptable.
This is a nonsense conclusion.
That last ground assault on Lebanon not only did not realize any objectives on the ground– it also was launched after the terms of the final ceasefire had been agreed by Israel on August 11, so it did not affect the terms of the ceasefire. In addition, because it was such a tactical fiasco, it ended up delivering far from the intended final, “uber-deterrent” message. Instead it showed that the ground forces’ readiness and planning were garbage. Remember all those news pictures of the exhausted, ill-equipped, and defeated Israeli ground force troops staggering back south across the border on August 14 and 15? And it had led to those 33 quite avoidable deaths of Israeli soldiers.
Until recently, Israel has had a fairly solid reputation among the western democracies for, at least, being able to establish serious national commissions charged with investigating past mistakes. For all its shortcomings, the Kahan Commission into the the Sabra and Shatila massacres was one such body.
Now, with the recent final findings of the Or Commission into the October 2000 killings by the police of 10 or 11 Palestinian Israelis, and this latest report form the Winograd Commission, we see that even this once strong feature of Israel’s governance system has become badly degraded.
In US military and political circles, people like to talk about the importance of doing “lessons learned” exercises. In Britain, more realistically, they tend to call them “lessons identified”– since learning is yet another stage, that requires some active intelligence going in.
But in the Israel of the Winograd Commission, they don’t even want to identify the lessons to be learned from the past? Interesting, indeed.