War? No way
From now on every government will have to take into account that a substantial and influential part of public opinion does not consider any number of lives lost to be acceptable. In such an atmosphere, with headlines counting the dead each day, every war is a predetermined defeat.
One of the most obvious conclusions of the war and its consequent protest movement is that for a large and influential part of the public, the concept of a war of no choice has ceased to exist. From this perspective, every war that Israel initiates (or at least every war that claims lives) is a war of choice and is illegitimate. And, anyway, there is no calling for a war. So what if most of the public, including residents of the North, thought that the second Lebanon war was an absolutely vital war. War is a harsh thing, painful and dirty, and therefore it is very easy to gnaw at its support. Fact. It happened.
There might have been no other government with a more legitimate casus belli than the junior officers' government of Ehud Olmert and Amir Peretz. Neither is suspected of harboring dreams of conquest and heroics. And if this limited operation has proved to be a size too large on a center-left government, and has led to a protest movement that threatens to overthrow the (newly elected) government, then it is obvious that a rightist government, or a generals' government, would have received much less leeway.
From now on every government will have to take into account that a substantial and influential part of public opinion does not consider any number of lives lost to be acceptable. In such an atmosphere, with headlines counting the dead each day, every war is a predetermined defeat; if not military, then at least moral.
Another conclusion is that every war in Israel will end in a committee of inquiry (or several committees). The only war that will win full public support will be one in which Israel is attacked first. But then again a committee of inquiry will be set up to investigate the intelligence failure to predict it (or to predict it more accurately), and the army's lack of preparedness (or insufficient preparedness). And therefore every war will be conducted under the threat of a committee of inquiry, and every general will conquer a little, mop up, but mainly cover up and brush off responsibility. And perhaps in order to expedite, shorten and improve the procedures, a committee of inquiry should be appointed right at the beginning of a war, starting to gather materials and sending warnings for the failures that have taken place, and those yet to take place.
It is particularly hard to understand the rightists' enthusiasm over the inquiry committee. The ritual of the committee of inquiry is part of the "legalization" of the political establishment. If a problem is not decided in the political arena (and nearly nothing today is decided in the political arena), you turn to the High Court of Justice. And if a problem is not solved at the High Court of Justice, you set up a committee of inquiry.
Therefore it is fitting to congratulate the prime minister for facing off, at least partially, the pressure and appointing investigative bodies with limited authority. Quality of government does not always entail firing the cannons of investigation all at once. On the contrary. Proper governing entails adjusting the intensity of investigation to the intensity of failure. And the problem of probing bodies is not always that they lack teeth, or that their teeth are blunt. Sometimes probing bodies are required only to probe, and not to pass judgment.
The very decision to set up a state committee of inquiry constitutes an admission of failure, even when the case is not so clear. In other words, it is a form of conviction; at least publicly. Such a committee also brings expectations that tend to become self-fulfilling prophecies of personal repercussions, while they are not necessarily needed.
We tend to forget, regarding this war and in general, that not every partial success is a failure, not every deficiency is a blunder and not every military operation demands a state committee of inquiry, and it could be that we mustn't, absolutely mustn't, let heads roll now.
Because if this war topples Olmert's government, there is a very likely possibility that next time there is a need to launch a war, no one will have the guts to say so. And, finally, when war will come knocking at an inconvenient time and circumstance, it might be tenfold more terrible and claim many more lives than a preventive war.
One hopes that Prime Minister Olmert will stand firm against the pressure and not set up a state committee of inquiry. If he folds, it is already foreseeable what the next committee of inquiry will be investigating: the question of why didn't we engage in the next war while it was still small, like the second Lebanon war, and waited for it grow, and become the second Yom Kippur War.