The ongoing Seventh Herzliya conference
has generated some intelligent and perceptive lectures, and others that verge on the absurd. Undoubtedly the most alarming proposal to date is that of Yacov Sheinin. In his own words, because otherwise you might not believe it:
I won't speak about an optimal budget, but I will speak about outsourcing. The real question is how to change the structure of the IDF and how to use the business sector to make the IDF more effective.
This is not a parody. Sheinin explains the virtues of his plan thuswise:
We're talking about 8 billion NIS, and if we would outsource we could get up to 25% of that which would be close to 2 billion NIS from the budget. In a world of outsourcing we could move this budget to the business sector and it would work..
Of course, when we're all dead, we will save a lot more money. Mr. Sheinin, we aren't talking about 8 billion NIS. We are talking about the future of the Jewish state, about our lives and those of our children.
Sheinin offers an example to emulate:
The U.S. has excelled in this and the say that you can save between 4%-6% of the defense budget. The U.S. reached the point where 60% of their army's activities are outsourced to private contractors.
Sheinin wants to privatize logistics and transport for example. What a great idea. We know who private contractors always want to hire. In Gaza and the West bank, idle refugees can be hired for $300 a month to kill Israelis or Palestinians or anyone else. Perhaps these are the people who will drive our troops to battle, or maybe they will guard our stockpiles of materiel. Sheinin would then be surprised to learn that entire squads of the Izzedin el Qassam Hamas warriors are equipped with IDF weapons and uniforms, and that whole platoons of Israeli soldiers have been kidnapped and sold to the Hezbollah by industrious and hard working drivers from East Asia. And of course, when our mercenary troops commit wholesale atrocities we will understand, since those are the customs of war in their countries. At least, it will not be Jewish soldiers who are accused of war crimes.
"Saving" money doesn't matter if you lose the war. Throughout most of Israel, our streets are safe, despite one of the most vicious and determined terror campaigns in history, financed by the petrodollars of Saudi princes and mad Iranian would-be Mahdis. In Iraq, the money saving US army has not done quite so well. Only today, about eighty people got blown to bits in Iraq. The US has saved so much money that billions of dollars have disappeared in Iraq into non-existent weapons, non-existent recovery projects, and security firms whose personnel are afraid to travel in the streets of Iraqi cities. We can't afford to save all that money.
Nor are past models of armies for hire any source of encouragement. The use of mercenary troops has bred disaster throughout history, from the city states of ancient Greece, to the Roman Empire, whose German mercenaries ultimately turned on it, to the havoc of the Thirty Years War in Europe and the infamous British Hessians who fought and lost to the US Colonists. No doubt, King George was quite satisfied with this bargain defeat.
The IDF remains the last symbol of Zionist ideals: the realization of Jewish self-defense. The sturdy Jewish agriculturalist, iconic image of the rebirth of the Jewish people, has been replaced by inexpensive labor from East Asia, Africa and Central Europe. Arabs too are employed for menial tasks, but Israeli Arabs are becoming too expensive. Nobody can compete with cheap imported labor. Solel Boneh, the once proud Jewish construction company, employs everyone but Israelis.
The Israeli army has a proud history. Born of necessity and inspired by idealism, Jewish self defense grew from the modest beginnings of the Zion Mule Corps in World War I, to the night squads of Orde Wingate, and the motley underground army of the Haganah. The improbable novelty of Jews bearing arms and winning battles initially shocked the world. The Israeli army. the IDF, demonstrated its ability to win miraculous victory after victory, in the most unlikely circumstances. These miracles were wrought by the will of a determined people. You cannot buy miracels. Israeli military superiority came to be taken for granted. No matter what combination of foes, in what circumstances, came up against our army, the Monday morning quarterbacks insisted that the victory which followed was inevitable, and therefore the Zionists are unfair. In 1948, the IDF met and stopped Egyptian armored columns with mortars and submachine guns. Historians like Ilan Pappe and Avi Shlaim now insist it was an easy victory for the Jews, a trick of Zionist propaganda.
In 1967, mountains of armor, hundreds of the latest model Soviet tanks, and squadrons of advanced Soviet aircraft assembled by Arab states were reduced to junk in 6 days, by pilots flying trainer jets and ancient French transport airplanes. Experts predicted the demise of the Jewish state before the war. After the war, other "experts" scoffed at the trick played by the evil Zionists on unsuspecting Arabs. Again in 1973, the IDF faced huge numbers of troops and tanks assembled for a surprise attack in the Yom Kippur war. Nothing was ready, everything went wrong. In two weeks the enemies were decisively defeated on two fronts despite the advantages of surprise, overwhelming superiority in armor, new weapons, and huge superiority in numbers. The tanks and airplanes were mostly junk, and the Israeli army was camped deep inside Africa and Syria. From their defeat, the Egyptians fashioned a propaganda victory. They built a "6th of October City" and a "6th of October University." We are not a militaristic nation. We have no "5th of June 1967" city and no "5th of June University." No Israeli city comemorates the victory of a few obsolete tanks against the huge Syrian armored force that was within hours of overruning the Galilee in 1973.
The Security Services faced the deceptively weak "David" of Palestinian terrorism, and managed to reduce deaths from terrorist attacks from over hundred a month in 2002 to isolated incidents. In every month of "truce" with the Palestinians, the security forces foil numerous attempted terrorist attacks. In Iraq, the money saving US army faced a smaller and less organized insurgent army, yet the US is facing defeat in Iraq. How many terrorist attacks did the money saving US army foil in Iraq this month? Did they stop one? How many suicide bombers were stopped at checkpoints? How many terrorist leaders were arrested by the mercenary security firms hired by the United States, or the US troops or the Iraqi troops?
The failures of the late Lebanese war were not failures of individual soldiers, who displayed courage, determination and resourcefulness. Elite units performed feats in Baalbek and Tyre which Americans might imagine their troops do - pinpoint helicopter raids and parachute born commando invasions on terrorist hideouts, gunbattles against overwhelming odds in the dead of night, and escape with no casualties.
The raids were often fruitless because of faulty intelligence and planning, lack of nerve at the civilian level, and poor leadership. The protest of the soldiers was not the whine of laggards and cowards who want to go home, but the bitter cry of patriots who want to ensure the best possible defense of their country. There is no Israeli "Black Hawk Down" about combat duty, though soldiers may protest dehumanizing duty as an occupation force. This is the devotion that Sheinin wants to get at a bargain price. This is the army that Sheinin wants to sell to his masters for thirty pieces of silver.
The realization of Jewish self defense was bought at a very expensive price. It was bought in the slave labor factories of the Messerschmidt aircraft company where our aircraft industry was born and in the Warsaw Ghetto as well as in the fields of Kibbutz Negba, the gullies of Latrun and the dunes of Sinai. It cost more than all the billions that Sheinin wants to save or siphon off to his sponsors. All these forged the spirit of the IDF, our most precious defense asset. If we lose it, we shall lose our state, and more important for Mr. Sheinin, his sponsors will lose their precious money.
Perhaps we are back where we started, in the Zion Mule Corps, but this time the mules are leading our society.
Aptly enough Prof. Gabriel Ben-Dor observed at the same Herzliya conference:
The society is healthy, but the leadership and elite are sick. This is an improper situation. However, it would be worse if people didn't believe in one another. A healthy society can heal its leadership, but a sick society can't rehabilitate itself. Israeli resilience is great, and the society is resilient and healthy...[T]he State of Israel is in a paradoxical situation in which the leadership has a better nation and society than it deserves, and the people have leadership and institutions much less worthy than they deserve. From this comes the sense that we must switch the elite, not because there is a better ideology, but because they themselves are no good.
In our hearts, the ordinary people of Israel still believe in the ideals that founded the state, and in each other. Without a belief in those ideals, few people of excellence would stay in a state that is almost constantly at war. The leaders of our society, apparently, believe in bargain price wars and penny ante politics.
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Replies: 2 Comments
The US was very successful in developing its Defense Logistic Community, and its open approach (under Clinton at least) had the effect of up-skilling SME's to the point where they could access contracts. This initiative occurred in conjunction with a massive overhaul of the US Armed Forces leadership and command philosophy which was desperately needed in light of the serious inter-service failing at the time of the Balkan wars.
The key to successful logistics is not exclusively by outsourcing but by the establishment of effective management standards. The UK & US have parallelled each other in developing these standards - an these have subsequently been adopted by the private sector. Examples are Prince2, PPM, MoR, OGC Gateway Review, ISO9000 (aka DefStan0375 from WW2 era).
Outsourcing only works when government operations divest themselves of elements which functionally detract from their ability to deliver core objectives and where the private / voluntary sector can do equally well or better.
There is a very real danger as happens in UK that public sector management undervalue themselves and their skills, believing that the glossy private sector must be better. This is made worse by constant media harping about public sector failings. In reality few private sector organisations can actually deliver public sector services to the same standard or price, and despite the "Wall St" tough guy posturing common amongst private sector executives, few are actually tough enough to deal with the day to day business of the public sector.
Rod Davies, Tuesday, January 23rd
RE Orde Wingate -- the Plymouth Brethren obscure?
My guess is that this same early and austere British Protestant sect, who were followers of James Tyndall, arrived in the New World on the Mayflower and established the original 13 colonies that were later to become the US. Following the war between the US and "British North America" aka Canada, some of these same early British colonists chose to leave the US for Canada and became part of the United Empire Loyalist movement.
Lynne T, Tuesday, January 23rd
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