Thursday, August 24, 2006 E-Mail this article to a friend Printer Friendly Version
WASHINGTON DIARY: A Lebanon war lesson —Dr Manzur Ejaz
The lessons that result from the failure of the Israeli army are obvious. If a military organisation defines its function as policing the civilian population, it will easily be corrupted and become devoid of fighting skills
The war in Lebanon, like any big historical event, has some new lessons for historians. It has also reiterated an old lesson. The war clearly showed, irrespective of whether or not one believes that Israel was defeated, that its military has lost the fighting edge due to its oppressive but easy policing of Palestinians. Further, it has been proved that the most powerful colonial powers on earth can diminish nationalists but not finish nationalism: in the end, the people’s power prevails. Lastly, the war highlighted the fact that a democratic society has certain strengths that keep it going.
It is probably for the first time that the weakness of the Israeli military has been exposed. While soldiers in most armies fight till the end, it is often the officers that cause a military to be defeated or disillusioned. According to an Israeli soldier his unit “was hindered by a lack of information, poor training, and untested equipment. In one instance, Israeli troops occupying two houses inadvertently fired at each other because of the poor communication between their commanders... We almost killed each other. We shot like blind people... We shot sheep and goats.”
The soldier’s complaint sounds familiar. Published Indian accounts of the 1965 war with Pakistan showed that both Indian and Pakistan soldiers fought bravely for their respective sides. It was only some of their officers who proved incompetent and cowardly. Such officers, in both armies, were unable to take initiative or risk. Thus the armies were unable to achieve their potential. Many critics believe that armies stratified on class basis corrupt the official class. In addition, all militaries become complacent and corrupt if they are mostly deployed for civil policing.
Uri Avnery, a famous Israeli peace activist, has touched upon the core causes of the deterioration of the Israeli army. In his view, “... an army that has been acting for many years as a colonial police force against the Palestinian population — ‘terrorists’, women and children, and spending its time running after stone-throwing boys, cannot remain an efficient army. The test of results confirms this.”
The legendary Israeli intelligence agency, Mossad also failed miserably in this war. It remained clueless regarding Hezbollah’s strength and its tactics. Again, Mossad’s downfall has been induced by its colonialist functioning in Palestine. Avnery summarised this well by saying that the Israeli “intelligence community has also been corrupted by the long occupation of the Palestinian territories. They have got used to relying on the thousands of collaborators that have been recruited in the course of 39 years by torture, bribery and extortion (junkies needing drugs, someone begging to be allowed to visit his dying mother, someone desiring a chunk from the cake of corruption, etc.).”
The lessons that result from the failure of the Israeli army are obvious. If a military organisation defines its function as policing the civilian population, it will easily be corrupted and become devoid of fighting skills. Although it has not been accused of any economic gains, the Israeli army degenerated by fighting against a helpless population. How about the armies that have acted as corrupt economic oppressive forces colonising their own populations? If Mossad was corrupted because it got used to easy and vulnerable targets, how will the intelligence agencies — whose sole function is manipulating a greedy and spineless class of politicians — fare? It is obvious that such armies and their intelligences services are incapable of fighting any war against a foreign enemy.
The Lebanon war has also exhibited the limits of sophisticated weapons. Its most advanced weapons — the kind that many countries cannot even dream of acquiring — and its large stockpile of nuclear bombs did not bail out Israel. In the end the fighting skills of its army mattered. A corrupt military organisation banking too much on its destructive weapons would therefore do well to think twice. At the end of the day, if a military has been reduced to a parasitic economic force, it will get destroyed one way or the other.
In the war in Lebanon, Hezbollah has shown that the most powerful and oppressive forces cannot obliterate the will of the people. They can destroy a class of nationalists but they cannot eliminate the nationalism of the oppressed: it will re-emerge in myriad of forms — wrapped up, sometimes, in strange ideologies. The key factor is: if a force loves its people and participates in all aspects of their well-being, like Hezbollah does, it becomes an indomitable force. Only such a force can defend its people, not those bent on squeezing them dry.
Random musing: Israeli state is the most oppressive colonial force as for as Arabs are concerned. However, for its own population, it is sufficiently democratic. Peace activists have been demonstrating against the Lebanon war in Tel Aviv and columnists have been taking the army to task. Unfortunately, such freedom is not available in any Arab country or in Pakistan. If Pakistan goes to war with India will it allow criticism of the military?
The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default...4-8-2006_pg3_5