Monday, April 30, 2007

Bad Olmert

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Readers of this blog may remember that last year I defended Israel for defending itself against Hezbollah and others -- such as Iran, which supports Hezbollah -- who wish its annihilation. They may also remember that I found Israel's heavy-handed military operation in Lebanon not only wanting but deeply troubling.

I am a friend of Israel, but my support was conditional. I opposed the escalation of its ground offensive following initial air strikes, for example, and generally objected to what I found to be excessive use of force. I supported diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict and welcomed the U.N.-sponsored cease-fire.

Well, it seems now that Israel itself has a problem with Israel's actions. Here's Haaretz:

The partial report by a government-appointed committee probing the Second Lebanon War on Monday accused Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of "severe failure" in exercising judgment, responsibility and caution during the outset of the war.

The report, [released today], says Olmert acted hastily in leading the country to war last July 12, without having a comprehensive plan.

The prime minister, the report said, "bears supreme and comprehensive responsibility for the decisions of 'his' government and the operations of the army."

And there's more:

"The prime minister made up his mind hastily, despite the fact that no detailed military plan was submitted to him and without asking for one," the report said. "He made his decision without systematic consultation with others, especially outside the IDF, despite not having experience in external-political and military affairs."

Olmert was also censured for failing to "adapt his plans once it became clear that the assumptions and expectations of Israel's actions were not realistic and were not materializing."

"All of these," the report said, "add up to a serious failure in exercising judgment, responsibility and prudence."

In addition to Olmert's myriad self-defeating failings, Defense Secretary Amir Peretz "did not have knowledge or experience in military, political or governmental matters. He also did not have good knowledge of the basic principles of using military force to achieve political goals". And "he made his decisions during this period without systemic consultations with experienced political and professional experts, including outside the security establishment".

Ouch. Harsh criticism, but fully deserved. For both of them.

Israel has a right to defend itself -- I stand by that -- but it hardly does any good to defend itself so incompetently.

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