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Saturday, April 6, 2024
Weekly Commentary: Ex-Brass Dominance In War Cabinet Handicaps Decision Making

Weekly Commentary: Ex-Brass Dominance In War Cabinet Handicaps Decision
Dr. Aaron Lerner 6 April 2024

I find no comfort When I read that all the top brass agreed on a certain
critical policy issue.

Instead, it causes me great concern,

Because it tells us that all the people sitting around the table have the
same mindset.

And that's the absolutely wrong way to be sure that policy decisions are
based on a thorough consideration of the matter.

Let's not forget that the top brass thought:

1. We could trade gizmos for the Golan with the idea that on "judgement day"
we would race up the Golan and everything would be OK.

2. Leaving the Gaza Strip would improve our security.

And there's a lot more examples.

These days the brass and other security officials openly show their contempt
for pesky questions from ministers and MKs who didn't serve as senior
officers in the IDF.

They are joined by talking heads who ridicule these mere "civilians" for
having the temerity to ask questions and the chutzpah to demand to seriously
participate in the decision making process rather than attend formal
meetings as part of an Amen choir.

But the truth is that Israeli civilians have frequently made better
decisions than the brass on military matters.

Consider a few examples:

Brass opposed building spy satellites:

Ehud Barak and others senior brass strongly opposed Israel building its own
spy satellites - this even though it was already clear that the US could not
be relied upon to fill the gap. Civilian Menachem Begin overruled the brass.
The brass only truly understood why this critical equipment was needed when
the first satellite photograph flashed up on the screen.

Brass opposed acquiring second strike capability:

Ehud Barak took the lead in quashing plans to purchase German subs featuring
launch tubes with an extra large diameter for Jericho missiles. Israel only
received this strategic capability when Germany supplied the first subs for
FREE after German equipment played a key role in the Iraqi missile attacks
against the Jewish State.

Brass opposed opening the Second Lebanon War by destroying Hezbollah's long
range missiles:

The brass wanted to first punish Lebanon by destroying infrastructure but
civilian DM Amir Peretz insisted that the IAF take out the long range
missiles before they began hitting Tel Aviv. This move was essentially the
only correct Israeli decision in the entire war. To hear Peretz describe his
battle with the brass in his own words: http://youtu.be/SM_LMb10qsQ .

Civilian DM Liberman pushed through arming the IDF with precision ground to
ground missiles of various ranges to dramatically enhance our ability to
address many challenges without relying on piloted platforms. This included
top of the line systems that Israel was already supplying to other armies
but the local brass wasn't interested in.

And there are more examples.

In each case civilian "common sense" trumped decades of military training
and experience.

Today the defense establishment is doing everything in its power to skirt
around the military budget policy review committee which Minister of Finance
Bezalel Smotrich insists meet before we lock a huge chunk of our defense
budget on additional F-35s and other jets.

Is there a chance that Smotrich has something to contribute to defense
related matters?

His critics note that Smotrich finessed his time in the hesder program to
get a law degree when he was ostensibly studying in yeshiva but this is not
a reflection on his skills today.

When Smotrich became minister of transportation no one expected him to come
close to filling the boots of "Mr. Herod" - Yisrael Katz.

But it turned out that Smotrich was actually better at the job. And he was
better in part because when he sat at a meeting he did not accept
conventional wisdom and asked a lot of great questions no one in the room
had thought about. Thanks to the implementation of his thinking out of box,
the pace of transportation infrastructure construction took off.

I don't know if he will have the same success studying defense matters.

But I do know that with all the challenges we are facing that it pays to
have a civilian play a key role rather than just a fellow traveler of the
Chief of the General Staff.

The same goes, of course for the very serious and critical decisions which
the Jewish State is facing in the Gaza Strip, North and beyond.

I can appreciate how annoying it is for generals used to giving orders
without getting flak find themselves having to deal with people who
challenge their recommendations and ask uncomfortable questions.

But that is the benefit - not cost - of a democracy.

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

Since 1992 providing news and analysis on the Middle East with a focus on
Arab-Israeli relations

Website: www.imra.org.il

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