Lawfare as a Means of Defining Military Doctrine in the 21st Century, IDF as an example to the CDF in the Wake of the ITFY in the Hague 

 By dr. Peter Anthony Ercegovac

& Marinko Tomašić


The IDF as an Example for Croatia

The very fact that the Croatian state is placed on trial as a defendant in warcrimes tribunals or itself is a litigent in many cases as has been shown in the previous section of this essay suggests that we have reached Jerusalem. So now lets look at how the Israelis did things to ensure that they at least remained sovereign as a people within their nation-state. For us the answer lies in the tying of military doctrine to that of their national identity forging a coherent national raison d’etre out of their different political and ideological stances; whereby, despite the conflicts within Israeli society the very fact that within the first 25 years of her existence Israel had fought five wars for existence a consensus for the need of sovereignty has become innate thanks in the main to the IDF placing itself as the moral authority of the state’s raison d’etre.

It would be wrong to believe that from the foundation of the IDF that it had an innate sense of self belief and knowledge of its inherent role in the survival of the Israeli state. The same doubts of who we are and what is our identity plagued the IDF as it did many people born and bred in Croatia. Both peoples were either raised with the belief that an independent homeland was a dream or that the identities of the states in which they were raised were of greater importance. Hence it is no surprise that in the mayhem in the foundling years of the Israeli state the single most important person responsible for the formation of IDF identity as a military doctrine based on the premise that it must protect at all costs the Zionist state and Zionism was in fact a Scottish protestant, Orde Wingate[1]. At the core of this new identity would be the need to recognise that nothing could be achieved or maintained without the firm belief in the special mission of the Jewish people.

This in many ways is relevant when looking at Croatia and the role of both the first President of Croatia Franjo Tuđman and the war time Minister of Defence Gojko Šušak. There is little doubt the role of the first President is the more significant. But looking at his role simply in terms of being an ostracised intellectual and political dissident that saw his nation through the period of transition from communism to democracy is a minimalist viewpoint open to subjective criticism from those seeking to downplay the nature in which Croatia attained her independence. Tuđman was Croatia’s Ataturk. First and foremost he was a military leader who led his people through a war that was imposed upon them, and against all odds attained victory. But deeper than this is the fact that he personified the union of two ideological viewpoints in what Croatia was as a political entity, ie, he through his role as the national military leader brought together those who actively worked for the development of Croatia as a sub-unit of the Yugoslav identity with those who fought for her outright independence. Hence the attacks upon him and Minister Šušak are a concerted attack upon the very symbols of homeland and diasporic union. And there is no better way in diminishing this than by relativising the role of the Armed Forces in the modern state, as well as morally belittling them by accusing them of being co-signutures to a doctrine of interethnic conflict. It is because of this we find ourselves in a situation whereby we have the de jure prosecution of our generals in the Hague, and in the sentencing the de facto criminilisation of the personality of the father of the modern Croatian nation-state, President Tuđman.

The question we ask is would other nations allow this to occur? Of course not. And it is here we would like to look at several examples involving Israel whereby the IDF would lead the way in creating Govt national ideology through sending messages to the international community that only the Israeli people in the form of the IDF and state have the right to question and condemn the actions of their national polity.

Israel has always been aware of the IDF’s responsibility toward international law. It understands that within the security zone that is called the Occupied Territory Israel is constantly monitored by the UN through two branches of law: the International Human Law and the International Humanitarian Law. Nonetheless the reality is that due to her precarious position Israel has had two periods of counter-terrorism law, that de facto have merged into one period, that has governed through Defence Emergency Regulations of 1945 that was adopted from the formation of the state in 1948 in the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance through to the end of military rule in 1966 to the Knesset and IDF’s freezing of the amendments to the law in the wake of the 1967 war. This aggressive interpretation of national security would manifest as a form of not just domestic, but the basis for Israel’s international policy, according to Lori Wigbers (2009, pp36-39).

The Political-Military Partnership

What had developed here is what Yoram Peri (2002, pp. 12-13) calls the “political-military partnership” between the state and military. Though all decisions are made at the govt level, and ratified through acts of parliament, under the surface there is a secreted level whereby a professional military officer class is an equal partner to policy decision making processes. Even in a party political organisational sense the policy spectrum is made up of groups of politicians and officers working to keep continuity of development within the defence structures of the state.

This is plausible as up to 10% of the population at any time is in the army whilst no one can hold a position within the Knesset, diplomacy or governemental institutions if they have not completed national service. Yet the army itself is constantly changing as officers move into early retirement and are absorbed into civil structures. Reservists allow civilians to be counter linked to the army creating the notion amongst the populace of the IDF being ideologically and doctrinally a civilian army. What emerges is a symbiotic relationship between population/society and army. A fluid movement between segments of society that allowed for quick decisive action when Israeli citizens are threatened as in the case of the Munich Olympics’ tragedy of 1972.

Operation Spring of Youth  and Operation Wrath of God were more than just instinctive responses to the Black September Orgaanisation (BSO) and Palestinian Liberation Organisation’s (PLO) attack on Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympic Games in 1972. It was a message that after centuries of displacement and persecution a new policy emerged that would “allow” the Israeli Govt to act extraterritorially, even outside the legal definitions of war, in order to ensure the continuation of the Jewish homeland. This establishment of “Committee X” would see the IDF and Mossad placed in major foreign policy formation strategic advisory positions in the name of national security (David, 2002, pp. 3-4). As stated by  Golda Meir , “Wherever a plot is being woven, wherever people are planning to murder Jews and Israelis- that is where we need to strike” (Mapes, 2009, p. 151).

What the world saw as dubious attacks upon the sovereignty of foreign states, ie, Spring of Youth’s  bombing of PLO camps in southern Lebanon, western Syria and Jordan or Wrath of God’s precision assassination program between 1972 and 1979[2] from Norway to Paris, the Israelis saw as a position of aggressive defence. Significantly, many of those involved in the planning and implementation/ground leadership of these teams, including the April 10, 1973 Israeli commando raid and assassination on three PLO leaders in their Beirut homes would become the new wave of political elite schooled in the concept of the need for a militarized national identity such as future Prime Minister and long time Labour leader Ehud Barak (Jonas, 2005, pp. 182-197).

But the IDF itself was able through experience to learn more from potential defeat than victory, an example that would grant Mossad and Israel the luxury of no longer taking certain things for granted. As Rober S. Bolia (2004, pp. 48-53) argues a major shift in consolidating IDF national identity, and hence the need to look at Israeli national identity as a continuum that needs to be continually defended, occurred during the failures of the first 24 hours of the Yom Kippur War in 1973. It was a period whereby Egyptian Forces crossed the Suez Canal into the Sinai losing only 208 soldiers (though estimates were to be 10,000) and Syrians advanced 12.8 kms into Israel via the Golan Heights. In the main this hubris was caused by the four from four victories achieved against a variety of Arab military combinations over a 25 year period that led to an arrogance of superiority amongst certain IDF and Govt leaders that presumed that military superiority was inherent thus making Israel forever safe from foreign incursion. A delusion of invincibility that could lead to a moral laziness, which in turn may undermine the reasons behind the need to protect the nation-state. Bolia points to the fact even if you take von Clausewitz’s defensive strategy being the strongest it was the very same von Clausewitz who mentioned that without moral virtue/belief a victory cannot be achieved. For von Clausewitz in the main it is a question of “Volksgeist” or “national spirit”[3].

Though the IDF had modernised its weaponry it had not its doctrine. Since the Six Day War in 1967 they had attained US Skyhawk and Phantom jets, Hawk surface-to-air missiles, M60 tanks, M113 personnel carriers and M109 self-propelled artillery pieces. Yet they were mistaken in believing that battles were one by armour alone. As Bolia (2004, p. 51) would state it is motivation that is the key to victory and the continuum of military survival. But this survival could not only be built on defense alone. Here the IDF failed in its interpretations of the outcomes of the Six Day War. Building the system of fortified defensive lines named after the then IDF Chief of Staff General Bar Lev was the same mistake the French made between the two world wars and look at that outcome. It was only with a policy of aggressive defense that the IDF has been able to adapt its doctrine in a bid to ensure the continuum of Israeli identity within the defense of the Israeli state. As Bolia (p. 54) states of the 1973 generation:

The Israelis possessed what Clausewitz called Volksgeist, a patriotic or national spirit. Because of the goals of the Arabs in most of their wars with Israel was the eradication of Israel as a nation, the Israelis always felt that they were fighting not simply to win, but also to exist. This was a unifying factor, like the natural camaraderie associated with the common bond of military service. But in the Yom Kippur War, there was more to it than that. Israel was now 25 years old, and those who fought as young men in the War of Independence were still fighting. But this time their sons and daughters were fighting as well.

(Nastavit će se…)

[1] Orde Wingate was a British Army Intelligence Officer assigned to the British Mandate of Palestine who honed his military skills in the Sudan, Ethiopia and Burma and who eventually was recognised by Ze’ev Schiff “as the single most important influence on the military thinking of the Haganah”, whilst Samuel M. Katz would claim “Wingate had a profound impact on the molding of the Israeli military doctrine. Defense, when fighting a numerically superior enemy, meant offense, and offense meant fighting deep inside enemy territory where the opposition was most vulnerable” (Meyer, 2009, p. 1).

[2] Though the final assassination actually occurred in 1996.

[3] Von Clausewitz, Carl Vom Kriege (Berlin: Ullstein, 2002 p. 168)

Dobrodošli na web stranicu Hrvatske družbe povjesničara Dr. Rudolf Horvat