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Israeli Military Historian: Condemns Lebanon Evacuation

by Gad Nahshon

"In my opinion, the question is not about leaving Lebanon, we are fleeing Lebanon just like the United States fled from Vietnam... If we retreat from Lebanon, the danger is far greater, for all the Arab nations are watching to see what will happen. Syria, Iraq, Egypt, and Iran are waiting to see how things will work out. If we flee because of the Hizbullah, they will be convinced to advance and then we will have to contend not only with guerilla forces but with organized military might in all out war," said Dr. Uri Milstein, Israel's distinguished non-conformist military historian in an interview for Chabad's publication Beis Moshiach (no. 267).

Dr. Milstein explained that the Israeli policies collapsed because of lack of professionalism of the Israeli army. He believes that the disaster in south-Lebanon demonstrates his concept that since the 'Yom Kippur War,' Israel policies are the wrong ones originated in the victory of defeatism in the world of the political establishment: "The situation in Lebanon deteriorated because of Barak's failure as Chief of Staff. He goes to make 'peace' not because of political attainments or principles, but because of the failure of the military establishment which is not capable of waging a war... The military failures are what makes the people ready to give up their determination to stay strong. For this reason, they ask for withdrawal..." explained Milstein, who has warned the Israeli public time and again that the military establishment does not take lessons and is refusing to integrate professional intellectual thinking into its decision making process. He is willing to suffer because of his original approach to the Israeli world of security and defense. He really believes that even the Camp David Accords and the Oslo Accords stemmed from the Israeli psychological posture of defeatism which is presented by the brainwashing public relation campaigns as steps for salvation in the 'New Middle East.' Dr. Milstein is going to publish a new book in which he will present his philosophy of security-defense issues.

Dr. Milstein is very disturbed by the Israeli withdrawal from south-Lebanon. He is worried about its terrible ramification. Many foreign experts have the same qualms of a coming of a new Middle East war. The situation is going to be tense, also, because of the coming of a new state: The PLO's state in this region. Dr. Milstein views our failure in Lebanon as a proof that we must change our military concepts and way of thinking. We must draw the lessons about our own military leadership from professional and not political points of view.

Our span of mistakes is very narrow. One mistake and our survival might be questioned. Of course, he is against sending soldiers to be killed in south-Lebanon before we radically change our ways of war and combat. Some used to argue that one can challenge guerilla forces only by counter guerilla forces.

Dr. Milstein has called for many years for a structural change in our national concept of security and army. But his confrontations with the security-defense-political establishment only caused him a state of an 'untouchable.' This is not to say that Dr. Milstein is always right but we must follow the eternal rule of free thinking even in military affairs. We must not discriminate against those who are challenging the official norms or dogmas. For a country such as Israel, a 'country in siege', this is a threat to its survival. Our military mind and convictions must always be in a state of dynamic transition in an accelerated stream of ideas, cultivating sense of sophistication and military effectiveness. We must open the windows for new winds to blow in. Why? Dogmas, narrow-minded, inflexible norms and stagnations can condition a collapse into an abyss of our military establishment. The state of ignorance of the above mentioned fallacies was defined by Dr. Milstein many years ago as the dangers and pitfalls of an anti-intellectual military establishment. Since any organization tends to isolate itself from the outside in order to pursue its own egotistic ideas or interests. It is a closed circle of ideas, manpower and mechanism with breeding. Then it develops its own defense mechanism against the outside world. Then their truth becomes a partisan truth. It is not easy to find a solution to these negative tendencies but a linkage to the outside intellectual world might reduce the volume of mistakes.

Dr. Milstein believes that the concept of 'Defeatism' might push Israel to many dangerous acts: "In order to achieve an agreement they might give up even Jerusalem. And who could imagine ten years ago that we will withdraw from the Golan Heights," said Milstein, who is very sad because of this process of 'defeatism.' He explained his optimism with the fact that the state of the armies of our enemies is not that great. But it is sad to assume that our security depends on the weakened state of our Arab enemies.

Dr. Milstein shared his worries recently in a party of his "Survival Institute" (Hebrew: Sridut) in Tel-Aviv. They celebrated Dr. Milstein's 60th birthday. Dr. Milstein is a voice in the Israeli wilderness. It is not easy for any establishment to swallow the new approach of this controversial non-conformist. But he is not lonely. Many ordinary Israelis read his 27 books and learn about the Israeli Independence War. He is a populist intellectual who cares about the life of the masses, the potential soldiers. He wants to dismantle the concept of defeatism for good.


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