Good Morning, Elijahu
by Uri Avnery
AND THE ground troops? Were they prepared for this war?The recent experience of the Israeli armed forces in Lebanon seems to confirm Martin van Creveld's critique of the IDF in The Sword and the Olive, written almost 10 years ago.
For 39 years now they have been compelled to carry our the jobs of a colonial police force: to run after children throwing stones and Molotov cocktails, to drag away women trying to protect their sons from arrest, to capture people sleeping at home. To stand for hours at the checkpoints and decide whether to let a pregnant woman reach the hospital or send back a sick old man. At the worst, they have to invade a casbah, to face untrained "terrorists" who have nothing but Kalashnikovs to fight against the tanks and airplanes of their occupiers, as well as courage and an unbelievable determination.
Suddenly these soldiers were sent to Lebanon to confront tough, well trained and highly motivated guerilla fighters who are ready to die while carrying out their mission. Fighters who have learned to appear from an unexpected direction, to disappear into well-prepared bunkers, to use advanced and effective weapons.
"We were not trained for this war!" the reserve soldiers now complain. They are right. Where could they have been trained? In the alleys of Jabalieh refugee camp? In the well-rehearsed scenes of embraces and tears, while removing pampered settlers with "sensitivity and determination"? Clearly it was easier to blockade Yasser Arafat and his few untrained bodyguards in the Mukata'ah compound in Ramallah than to conquer Bint Jbeil over and over again.
That applies even more to the tanks. It is easy to drive a tank along the main street of Gaza or over a row of houses in a refugee camp, facing only stone-throwing boys, when the opponent has no trained fighters or half-way modern weapons. It's a hell of a difference driving the same tank in a built-up area in Lebanon, when a trained guerilla with an effective anti-tank weapon can lurk behind every corner. That's a different story altogether. The more so as our army's most modern tank is not immune from missiles.The deepest rot appeared in the logistics system. It just did not function. And why should it? There is no need for complex logistics to bring water and food to the soldiers at the Kalandia checkpoint.