Asking the Right Questions

The Winograd Committee should behave as the Roman Senate did in the case of military defeats, carefully weighing the options before meting out punishment.

The inquiry committee headed by retired judge Eliyahu Winograd is now working on its conclusions, to be published in an interim or final report, on the management of the second Lebanon war. We can only hope that the committee does not regard itself as a punitive body, which is what some politicians, and especially those who want their political opponents punished, are anticipating. The Winograd Committee should behave as the Roman Senate did in the case of military defeats, carefully weighing the options before meting out punishment, and avoiding humiliation.

Machiavelli explained that this was important because no minister of war would be able to make decisions if he feared the consequences of reaching the wrong one. Why would anyone agree to be chief of staff if the appointment came together with a warning that he might end up facing a tribunal? Or maybe the idea is to appoint people who will not make risky decisions to begin with.

Instead of focusing on whose head should roll, the Winograd Committee should focus on reporting the most important angles of what happened in the war. What were the principal failings, and what caused them? The committee's job is to pinpoint the strategic shortcomings and key operational problems, looking at them with foresight, from the perspective of a country that sits in a region suffused with violence.

What are the major questions that need to be asked? Question number one is how the defense of the home front was neglected for so many years. If Israel knew about the network of Katyusha rocket launchers the Iranians and Syrians built for Hezbollah, why was nothing done to safeguard the population? Is this not a long-term national failure (of both the government and the army), further evidenced by the inability to halt the Qassam rockets fired by the Palestinians?

Secondly, the Israel Defense Forces has been tangling with the Palestinians and the terror organizations in the territories for many years. The impression is that this entanglement has harmed its ability to conduct itself as a sophisticated fighting force. Certain operational problems that surfaced in Lebanon were clearly a product of this deterioration. The IDF, with its reputation as an outstanding army, has become a force that deals mainly in routine security. The question is whether this has also affected the senior command.

Third, it is important for the public to know how the decision to go to war was reached, what role the political echelon played, and what the nature of its relations were with the military top brass. What were the objectives of the war? How were they meant to be achieved, and over what length of time? Did Israel have an "exit strategy" when it went to war? Did the powers-that-be understand that victory, or defeat, is also psychological?

With regard to Syria, should Israel have maintained such a low profile, considering its military provocations against us? The committee needs to establish whether Israel acted properly in not taking any real action, in the six years since the IDF's withdrawal from Lebanon, against the installation of Iranian-Syrian rocket launchers.

Hopefully an explanation will be forthcoming about the incompetence of the Northern Command. Complaints about the head of the command were submitted to the prime minister during the war, and there were even consultations on which general to send to the North as an emergency replacement.

The committee might consider enlightening the public as to why the Supreme Headquarters was not operating during the war. Perhaps that will explain why it took so long for the reserves to be called up. Military Intelligence continues to insist that it made no critical mistakes, and if anything went wrong, the problem lay elsewhere. If that is true, then why, for example, did the troops receive no information on the Hezbollah's anti-tank capabilities?

The Winograd Committee, we can only hope, will not end like the Agranat Commission, which investigated the Yom Kippur War. The Agranat Commission deepened the existing rift in this country. It meted out different treatment to the political echelon and the military echelon, and ultimately kept Israel from learning the lessons of this war.