Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Update: IDF Revisiting standards?

Today's Haaretz article by Amos Harel is a great follow-on to yesterday's post about counter-insurgency policy in the IDF. The story reveals that Israeli Maj. General Amos Yadlin, chief of Military Intelligence, and Tel Aviv University Professor Asa Kasher wrote an IDF code of ethics for asymmetric conflict. Regardless of whether or not the code is adopted, the proposal is an indication of a change in Israeli military strategic thinking.

The idea that different moral standards are required in asymmetric conflicts is an important distinction. It indicates that Maj. General Yadlin understands the increased risk to civilians and intends to integrate this risk as a "ground condition" into Israeli strategic planning. Rather than the status quo in which Israel seems to be consistently be caught off guard by the impact of civilian casualties, the proposal indicates that the IDF may be learning to accept it as a part of asymmetric warfare.

On the other hand, Kasher asserts that Operation Cast Lead was carried out in the spirit of the new proposed code. While heartening that the IDF is committed to high ethical standards, this assertion illustrates the way in which Kasher and Yadlin miss the mark in a more general sense. Limiting civilian casualty in counter-insurgency is not only about morality. The IDF has still not made the link between better human rights treatment and improved strategic efficacy. Efficacy can be achieved not in spite of respecting moral principles, but because of them. Respect for civilians will not only spell a higher standard of morality, but an improved capability for victory in an asymmetric conflict.

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