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    Israeli army doing its homework

    Nihat Ali Özcan, PhD07 July 2011 - Okunma Sayısı: 1136


    Statistics show the number of inter-state conflicts after the end of the Cold War has considerably decreased. Nevertheless, the role of soldiers in security issues has not diminished. It changed character, diversified and got more sophisticated. Politicians and the public want the army to both respond to symmetric threats and deal with terrorism, insurgency, civil wars and peace-building. Generals are not able to quickly adapt to the demands of such hybrid missions, which subsequently leads to an uneasy transition.

    In this context, two events that were experienced by the Israeli army offer important lessons. First was the war with Hezbollah in 2006. Back then, Israel faced unexpected resistance in Lebanon. The war had dramatic effects on the Israeli army, nation and media. The other is the Mavi Marmara flotilla case that produced a political crisis.

    These two events show Israel is doing its homework by seeking different ways of responding to similar future events. Both events can be analyzed from highly different perspectives, such as that of international law, internal/foreign affairs or from a moral viewpoint. In this brief article, I'd like to focus on the manner in which Israel responded to these developments.

    Expert opinion concurs that, in terms of intelligence, civil-military relations, public opinion management and the lack of clear political objectives, Israel's war with Hezbollah was a complete debacle. The number of casualties suffered by the Israeli army was way beyond what was expected and was received by the public as a total shock. In order to avoid a similar fiasco, Israel transformed the Gaza Strip into a "laboratory" of operation techniques. With maximum technology, sensitive intelligence and minimum casualties, the army invaded and bombed Gaza for days. What was unexpected was that this very same laboratory also produced the crisis with Turkey while the real objective was to get ready for a new war with Hezbollah.

    In the Mavi Marmara case, the biggest mistake of the Israeli army was to make a wrong assessment on the passengers. It seems Israeli intelligence confused the passengers and organizers on the flotilla with the definitions of "civil society," "democracy," "liberty" and "humanitarian aid" found in Western textbooks. They thought this was something like Greenpeace. They should have known concepts carry different meanings and ideologies in different cultures. The motivation of the flotilla passengers was not accurately analyzed. This was another Hezbollah fiasco. Israel thought the passengers would act like Greenpeace activists trying to save whales. Consequently, the operation produced complicated outcomes.

    Despite all the setbacks, Israel is still doing its homework. I'm sure when the time is right we will see how the "discoveries" made in the Gaza laboratory can be applied in action. New flotillas could not start their journey due to "malfunctions" caused by an "invisible hand." Some organizers declared that they will opt for "softer initiatives." It seems, then, that everybody is doing their homework.


    This commentary was published in Hürriyet Daily News on 07.07.2011