Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Exeunt Olmert

Ehud Olmert is stepping down as Israeli Prime Minister, as soon as his Kadina Party picks a new leader. Not before time: he made a hash of the Israel-Hezbollah war of 2006. Mr. Olmert's government dithered over its response to Hezbollah's rocket and prisoner-grab challenge; squandered an opportunity to crush Hezbollah with Israeli ground troops: opting to try to do the job on the cheap with air power and long range guns. The Olmert government turned to its ground option much too late, with much too little, when diplomatic time had expired.
Israel got all the bad press attendant on using any of its military options and suffered a major loss of military and diplomatic prestige. The war revealed major problems with the Israeli military system, but Israel was certainly strong enough to win in the field. That she did not was largely the fault of the national leadership -- in particular Mr. Olmert.
No doubt some caretaker Prime Minister will follow, but whenever the Israelis have elections. . . keep an eye on Benjamin Netanyahu. If he were a stock, he'd be a good buy about now.


louielouie said...

No doubt some caretaker Prime Minister will follow

.....uh, that's not the way i understand it. if livni is elected head of kidima olmert will retain his PM status until elections are held. probably october. then retains his PM status until the new PM forms a new gov't. that could be march/april 2009.

LFC said...

You neglect to mention that the use of Israeli air power in Lebanon in '06 resulted in a high number of civilian casualties, and it was the pictures of destroyed apt blocks and wounded (or dead) children that hurt Israel in p.r. terms, not simply the reflex opprobrium that "always" accompanies use of Israeli military force. (I'm not making any excuses for Hezbollah, they did set the July 06 war in motion, nor am I suggesting that Israel handled the strictly military aspect of the war well.)

El Jefe Maximo said...

Haaretz (my source) quotes Olmert as saying he'll resign as PM when Kadima elects a new chairman " permit them to put together a new government swiftly and effectively," Jerusalem Post says more or less the same thing,, saying he's going to hand in his resignation letter the day after the Kadima primary (17 Sept).

But you still may wind up being quite right, the tricky part is forming a new government -- he's PM till a new government, whatever it is, is informed. The way I read the J Post piece, the Kadima leader will probably try to form a government right after Olmert quits...but if he can't (a good possibility), they've still got Olmert.

I guess the real problem with my post is the "caretaker" word -- I think any government Kadima forms is "caretaker" till the next election, at which time they're likely to get their tails kicked. Their politics are even more wacko than ours.

El Jefe Maximo said...

I do not think it is possible, LFC, to fight a war today in a built up area without lots of civilian casualties. That's simply the nature of modern weapons...despite PGM's and other such things, which mitigate this problem somewhat.

I know of very few conflicts, period, in which there are not massive civilan casualties. The difference now, of course, is video photography and democracy.

Of course the devastation hurt Israel in p.r. terms (and there's been plenty of writing on Hezbollah's understanding this quite well, and positioning itself to use this fact, even to exploit it beforehand. Hezbollah in fact had a political interest in maximizing Lebanese civilian casualties.

I think that, under modern internet video conditions, any nation-state that undertakes to use military force must do it in massive amounts from the outset so as to maximize the possibility of destroying its enemy quickly. This will of course result in the aforementioned civilian casualties, which puts a political timer on the period in which force can be employed before public opinion, the UN, other powers, and lawfare put a stop to matters.

The use of force must be accompanied from the outset by a complete media management, manipulation, and where necessary, supression, campaign to shape the media battlefield long enough for the application of force to accomplish its object. Hezbollah's methods in the 2006 conflict should be studied, along with the Israeli mistakes in that war. Another recent conflict worthy of study, where the victorious side carefully considered its media plan at the outset -- is the Ten Day War of Slovenian Independence.

Mind you, I am not arguing that any of this is moral. I simply think that it is self-evident that any power considering a resort to arms must, to maximize its chances of victory, approach the task in this manner.

Because of the difficulty and political downsides of such a course, I expect more and more conflicts to be "underground" for state actors to find and fund quasi-legal or outright piratical proxies carry on wars by other means.

louielouie said...

the march/april date was what iba news was saying. this was several days ago and i had not heard the haaretz quote. i did not understand the intricacies of the israeli version of parliament but i did pick up on the march/april date. the main reason i would be pessimistic about an early olmert exit and/or a quick formation of a new gov't is the high degree of corruption that is rampant in the kadima party. they and their coalition(s) will be out of power on their keisters(sp). everyone involved i think will be dragging their collective feet.
all that is except bibi.
he is already making deals that remind me of the dole / kemp strange bed fellows match-up.

LFC said...

el jefe,
yr reference to Slovenian 10-day-war is interesting; i will read the wikipedia entry.