At the beginning of every June, Israelis mark the anniversaries of the outbreaks of two major wars: the Six-Day War and the first Lebanon war. The 30th anniversary of the latter was marked this week. The three-decade mark shunts aside somewhat the memory of the earlier war, but the two - like the Yom Kippur War that fell between them - are intertwined.
It should be recalled that one of the first Lebanon war's amorphous goals, according to then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin, was to heal the trauma of the Yom Kippur War. Even the date on which the 1982 war of choice started - almost the exact day of the month that the Six-Day War began - seemed to be linked, consciously or unconsciously, to that great, redeeming victory. It was a victory "fast, strong and elegant" that since 1967 has never ceased to mesmerize Israel and its leaders and cause them to long for its return.
It goes without saying that that same sweeping victory was never recreated in any of the operations or wars that came afterward. Moreover, films and recordings from the first Lebanon war that are now being released provide further documentation of that grand march of folly: a march that went on for 18 years and brought about another war, the Second Lebanon War, at the end of which we found ourselves in a worse diplomatic, military and strategic situation than before it began, with a pro-Iranian organization sitting in Lebanon and all of Israel within range of its missiles.
It suffices to recall the long-term failures and complications of the first Lebanon war, and the damage from the operations and wars that came afterward, to wean us from the longing for a lightning-quick operation, a glorious military campaign that would solve all our problems in one fell swoop.
Israel needs all the military power it can muster, but the use of force must be wise and cautious, and a last resort. Experience proves that Israel was severely burned every time it got trigger-happy. But the deliberate diplomatic freeze and our demonstrative readiness for war even today, along with the almost messianic longings for an "attack on Iran," shows that we have not yet been weaned from this old, bad habit.
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