columnIsrael at War

Rising from the ruins of a generation of Israeli doctrine

It will take years to correct the damage the generals wrought by reducing the size of the IDF and inducing its total dependence on the United States

U.S.-made MIM-23 Hawk anti-aircraft missiles on display at a military parade in Tel Aviv in 1965. Credit: Avraham Amir via Wikimedia Commons.
U.S.-made MIM-23 Hawk anti-aircraft missiles on display at a military parade in Tel Aviv in 1965. Credit: Avraham Amir via Wikimedia Commons.
Caroline B. Glick
Caroline B. Glick is the senior contributing editor of Jewish News Syndicate and host of the “Caroline Glick Show” on JNS. She is also the diplomatic commentator for Israel’s Channel 14, as well as a columnist for Newsweek. Glick is the senior fellow for Middle Eastern Affairs at the Center for Security Policy in Washington and a lecturer at Israel’s College of Statesmanship.

Two underlying assumptions guided Israel’s security establishment for the past generation. The first asserted that with the end of the Cold War, the era of conventional wars had ended. In the present age, brains, rather than brawn, would rule the roost.

The primary author of the “small and smart IDF” doctrine was Ehud Barak, who served as Chief of General Staff of the Israel Defense Forces when the Berlin Wall crumbled. In later years, the slogan was finessed.

A generation of IDF Chiefs of General Staff organized around the vision of a “small, technological and lethal army.”

As Maj. Gen. Yitzhak Brick, (retired) who served as the IDF ombudsman for 10 years, has documented, operating under the spell of Barak’s doctrine, the IDF shut down multiple reserve divisions. It cut its artillery forces by 50%. Armored brigades were shut down. The reserve force was reduced by 80% between 2003 and 2017. The non-commissioned officer corps was gutted. The bulk of the IDF budget and nearly all the U.S. military aid were diverted to the Air Force—the strategic arm of the “small, technological and lethal” IDF.

The doctrine was repeatedly exposed as a farce, but to no avail. The air force didn’t defeat the Palestinian terror factories in Judea and Samaria in 2002. The ground forces did. The air force never had a response to missiles from Hezbollah to the north and Hamas to the south. Without regional brigades defending the borders, Israel’s “peacetime” borders with Jordan on the east and Egypt at its west became highways for weapons smugglers.

Brick’s warnings fell on deaf ears until the “small, smart army” fallacy was obliterated by Hamas invaders on Oct. 7. Israel’s multi-billion shekel “smart fence” was felled by bulldozers. Its automatic response system was obliterated by RPGs. Hundreds of soldiers manning these worthless technological wonders were slaughtered or kidnapped. Everything failed.

A microcosm of all things oppressive

This brings us to the second underlying assumption that guided Israel’s security establishment for the past generation. This assumption, also championed by Barak, asserted that Israel’s most important strategic asset was the United States.

Leaving aside the obvious fact that a strategy of dependence on an outside actor effectively gutted Israel’s national independence, on the surface, Barak’s dependence concept seemed reasonable.

The Americans rescued Israel with its weapons airlift in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. In 1992, the United States was the sole global superpower. Because Israel was seen as Washington’s “mini-me,” countries worldwide lined up to be friends with Israel, which they perceived as the gateway to Washington. The vast majority of Americans supported Israel. U.S. military aid to Israel enjoyed wide bipartisan support.

Under the spell of Barak’s U.S. dependence doctrine, Israel gutted its domestic military production capabilities. Nearly everything that it had produced domestically—from uniforms to rifles to bullets, to artillery and tank shells—was shut down. Thousands of military industry workers lost their jobs. Knowledge was lost. The contracts moved to the United States. Even projects developed jointly by Israeli engineers financed by America were transferred to the United States for production. So it happened that Israel’s Iron Dome missiles are solely produced in the United States.

Along with Barak, the dependence doctrine’s biggest champions were the air force generals. Under their leadership, Israel’s air force effectively became a U.S. asset. The air force cannot operate without U.S. platforms, spare parts and bombs. All air force ordnance is made in America.

But even during the 1990s and 2000s, the writing was appearing on the walls telling us that things were changing in America. A generation after the United States emerged from the Cold War as the sole global superpower, it struggles to contend with the threat of China, which surpasses it in several key technologies.

Under the spell of globalization, the United States gutted its industrial base. Even if it wanted to, today it is hard-pressed to repeat the 1973 airlift in real time.

Even worse, the end of the Cold War initiated changes in American society that over the past 20 years have exploded in convulsive transformations.

Since the early 2000s, hard-core cultural Marxist progressives have seized control over the U.S. education system at all levels. As a result, young Americans are emerging from high schools and universities with values unlike anything we have ever seen.

The new American values are built around a division of humanity into two classes: oppressor and oppressed. “Oppressors,” young Americans now believe, are evil and must be punished. “Oppressed” are pure and must be empowered. The United States is the chief oppressor. Its social and economic orders must be radically transformed to expiate its sins.

Israel (America’s “mini-me”), and Jews generally, are presented as a microcosm of all things oppressive.

The implications of this progressive indoctrination present America with an existential challenge. If allowed to continue into the next generation, the United States will be destroyed.

For Jews, the threat this indoctrination poses is immediate, as a survey published last week by Harvard-Harris demonstrated.

Harvard-Harris asked their respondents’ views on the Israel-Hamas war, and more broadly, about Jews and Jew-hatred. The answers showed that unlike their parents and grandparents, young Americans have embraced a comprehensive, internally consistent and genocidal hatred for Israel and Jews.

Two-thirds of Americans aged 18 to 24 believe that Jews are oppressors and should be treated as such. Around 70% in that same age bracket believe that antisemitism is rising in the United States generally and on university campuses specifically. They believe that calls for genocide of Jews are hate speech and a form of harassment.

At the same time, 53% of them think this harassment and hate speech should go unpunished.

Similarly, 66% of 18- to 24-year-olds agree that Hamas’s attack on Oct. 7 was genocidal. All the same, 60% believe it was justified.

Logically flowing from these sentiments, 51% of young Americans believe that the proper end of the Palestinian-Israel conflict is the destruction of the Jewish state and its replacement with a Hamas-controlled Palestinian entity. That is, the majority of young Americans support the annihilation of the Jewish people.

Unlike the generals’ “small, smart army” doctrine, it took several weeks for the public to see the devastating consequences of their “America-dependence doctrine.”

America in a holding pattern

In the immediate aftermath of Oct. 7, their faith in American support seemed to be borne out. President Joe Biden and his top advisers pledged their total support for Israel. Biden deployed U.S. aircraft carrier groups to the Eastern Mediterranean and promised $14.3 billion in supplemental military aid to Israel to ensure that Israel has what it needs to successfully win the war.

But in recent weeks, particularly since Israel resumed its operation in Gaza at the end of November after the 10-day hostages-for-terrorists ceasefire, that assessment has changed dramatically. The public has realized that friendliness and declarations of solidarity aside, the United States does not share—and in some areas opposes—Israel’s war aims. To win the war, Israel must eradicate Hamas in Gaza and remove the threat Hezbollah poses to northern Israel. It must also take action to prevent the Houthis from maintaining their effective maritime blockade of the Port of Eilat.

On all of these fronts, Biden and his top aides have made clear that their goals are not the same as Israel’s. They do not seek the eradication of Hamas and the return of the hostages. They seek the end of the war and the return of the hostages. And at the end of the war, they want to rebuild Gaza. They want to use the war’s end as a means to compel Israel into a “peace process.” The goal of that process is to establish a Palestinian state in Gaza, and Judea and Samaria, led by terrorists from the Palestinian Authority which, like Hamas, seeks the annihilation of the Jewish state.

In Lebanon, the administration seeks to prevent war, even though doing so will leave Hezbollah with its capacity to invade the Galilee and destroy strategic targets all over Israel with its massive missile arsenal.

As for Yemen, the United States has demanded that Israel take no offensive action against either the Houthis or the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ overlords directing Houthi operations from their spy ship in the Red Sea.

Instead, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has formed a multinational task force from which Israel has been excluded. While its purpose is subject still to speculation, to many U.S. and Israeli observers, it appears that America intends to use its coalition to beef up its efforts to intercept Houthi missiles and drones launched against merchant vessels in the Red Sea. That is, as with Hezbollah, the U.S. goal vis-à-vis the Houthis seems to be to end Houthi assaults on merchant ships without diminishing their capacity to carry them out.

As for military supplies, the $14.3 billion is still languishing in Congress. It won’t be considered until Congress reconvenes on Jan. 9 after the Christmas and New Year recess.

It will take years to correct the damage the generals wrought by reducing the size of the IDF and inducing its total dependence on the United States.

‘The IDF is changing its view’

But this week, the Defense Ministry let it be known that it is moving to correct the situation. On Tuesday, Ynet reported that the Defense Ministry is initiating what it refers to as “Independence Project.”

According to the report, the Defense Ministry is launching a crash program with Israel’s military industries and major industrialists to make Israel independent in everything related to ordnance. In the initial phase, Israel will begin producing bombs for its aircraft. Jerusalem also intends to expand its production of tank and artillery shells, as well as assault rifles and bullets. Separately, there is increased discussion regarding the establishment of a missile force as an independent arm of the IDF. The force would reduce reliance on the air force and develop more versatile, more easily defended missile launch platforms and massively expand Israel’s missile and drone arsenals.

After meeting with Defense Ministry Director General Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir, Ron Tomer, the head of Israel’s Industrialists Union, told Ynet, “The war demonstrates our need for a powerful and advanced industrial base to ensure Israel’s national strength and independent capabilities. The IDF is changing its view of how it arms its forces, enlarging domestic production lines in order to be less dependent on ordnance from abroad. The ideal of a small high-tech military did not prove itself.”

Brick and others argue that had Hezbollah joined Hamas in invading and bombing Israel on Oct. 7, Israel may well have been destroyed that day. A combination of Hezbollah’s 10,000-man Radwan Brigades perched at the border and capable of invading the Galilee, and a barrage of up to 4,000 missiles with various payloads targeting Israel’s air bases, and other strategic sites and civilian population centers every day for weeks, would have caused irreparable damage equal in force to a nuclear bomb.

Iran’s decision not to involve Hezbollah on Oct. 7 has given Israel the opportunity to reorganize its forces and prepare for the multi-front war that awaits us. We don’t have a moment to lose. 

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