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26 July 2014


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"IT IS no longer anything new to point out that the occupation is destroying the Israeli army.

An army cannot fulfill its mission to defend the state against potential enemies when it has been engaged for decades as a colonial police force. One can give attractive names to a death-squad - Team Mango or Unit Peach - but it remains what it is: an instrument of brutal killing and oppression.

An officer who today plans the Mafia-style killing of a "senior militant" by an undercover action in the Kasbah of Nablus, will not be able tomorrow to lead a tank battalion against a sophisticated enemy. An army that shoots stone-throwers, chases children in the alleys of Balata refugee camp or drops a one-ton bomb on a residential building cannot turn overnight into an efficient force on a modern battlefield in a war of last resort.

IT CANNOT be denied: 40 years of occupation have changed the State of Israel beyond recognition.

That is obvious in all spheres of life. All of them have been contaminated.
18-year old youngsters, most of who have been brought up by decent parents as moral human beings, are drafted into the army, enter the brutal subculture of their units and receive an indoctrination that justifies every act of brutality against Arabs. Only a few rare individuals are able to withstand the pressure. After three years, the majority leave the army as tough men with blunted sensibilities. The brutality in our streets, the routine killings around the discotheques, the proliferation of rape and violence within the family - all these have undoubtedly been influenced by the day-to-day reality of the occupation. After all, it's the same people who are doing it."

Uri Avnery

Cold War Zoomie

Wow. My expectation after the first few paragraphs was that we would learn how the IDF is a pretty good force even though it may not mirror more traditional militaries that are based on the European model, such as our own.

By the end, I had shivers up my spine.

Speaking of military forces in the regions, the current King of Jordan attended Sandhurst...

...[He]entered the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in the United Kingdom as a cadet. He joined the 13th/18th Royal Hussars (Queen Mary's Own) upon commission as a Second Lieutenant the following year. King Abdullah retains close links with the British Army and is the Colonel-in-Chief of The Light Dragoons, a tank regiment and the successor to the 13th/18th Royal Hussars.

I don't have time to unravel Jordan's tangle of relationships in the region. A brief review of the Royal Jordanian Land Forces doesn't show a lot of indisputable success, but that was before King Abdullah II came to power. I would suspect that he is putting his training to work and improving his forces.

And King Abdulla doesn't seem too happy.

Leila Abu-Saba

Reading the full thread is horrifying.

My Lebanese friends and relations have been telling me to believe the worst of the IDF for years. Looks like I was wrong to be skeptical.


I'm not a military man, but I thought most armies did NOT have career NCOs. The British and Australians, I think do, but most other armies don't. Please correct me if I'm mistaken.



IDF sounds like no adult supervision to me...always has.

Still waiting for the Hollywood movie "Remember The Liberty". If this nonsense keeps up it'll be in theaters by this summer.


Hezbollah just enters the fry. Rocket in northern Israel.



I was rather surprised at how similar the internal mechanics that you saw in the IDF sounds like the kind of things that I'd heard took place in many of the "militias" during the Balkan ethnic wars--those that contributed to the conflict there turning increasingly nasty. This explains a lot! Thank you for posting this.


Indiscipline would explain such incidents as UN schools and UN food convoys being hit despite the UN having handed out exact co-ordinates, routes etc. Or the cases of ambulances and medical staff being repeatedly hit.


Probably the above described dilemma, with a general casualty aversion, explains the Israeli propensity for air strikes over ground troops? It's much easier to control a fighter bomber dropping an laser guided bomb than, than say, an armed and organised mob of youths?

Which in return suggests that, when the only really reliable tools in the Israeli arsenal are air power and perhaps the navy and artillery and commando units the capabilities of the military itself are limited to what air force and navy and artillery and commandos can achieve?


Spot on! During my 2 plus years as an US Army officer assigned as an unarmed military observer with UNTSO in South Lebanon, I got up close and rather personal with the IDF many times. My collective take away was much the same as your analysis but with a slightly different slant as we UN-types were often viewed as adversarial at best or on occasion, the enemy. Their mobile patrols out of the wire were rough affairs to the local population and often reckless toward the UN. We knew to stay away as they cleared a road or rumbled thru the villages within the security zone. Their tactical behavior of suspicion and high guard was probably as it should have been given the insidious nature of their enemy, but, often by my count, their reckless acts certainly didn’t endear them to the locals and probably assisted in the recruiting of their foes. After a day patrol or combat action, the IDF always pulled back into heavily defended well prepared fixed base camps for the night. The IDF, to my knowledge seldom established a night defensive position (NDP) in the countryside.
After the earlier 2 years as a field observer, I returned to Israel with my family for a 2 year stint as the chief operations officer at the UN headquarters in Jerusalem-Government House- and gained another perspective of the IDF. Vice monitoring their field actions in the mud while avoiding their tanks on the road, I worked frequently with their liaison staffs in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. I even donned my dress blues half a dozen times and attended their social events with my wife. My impressions of this contact contrasted incongruously with my field exposure. The IDF at the staff level were accommodating, polite and methodical in their plans. Many of their mid-level officers were excellent.
In sum, in the field the IDF was pretty good-far from great- but it’s hard by my exposure to truly gauge their field craft acumen. I did quickly tire of their reckless often unnecessary field antics. Again, I’d been an infantry platoon leader and advisor to local forces in Vietnam and knew how these actions would have been done in ‘my war’. I concur with the rather shabby status of their equipment and their slip-shod approach to personal appearance and apparent military discipline. But for years in South Lebanon, they were seldom bested by an amorphous foe and well able to execute a very difficult defense policy. Got to give them their due. Gaza, a whole different ball of wax.

William Ruscoe


For what it is worth, back in the Highlands of Vietnam in 1967, we artillery folk acting as FAOs used to routinely tell new infantry people that if they "messed with the Yards" we would blow them away.

One infantry lieutenant reported this to one of our Majors who replied that he had gotten good advise. Finished.

It is a common, universal problem and not just Israel. In no way do I support what Israel is doing.

I wish we had more awareness of the "tail wagging the dog" problem with Israel and the US.

Patrick Lang

cwz - You need to read a bit more. The Jordanian army has a long record of victory. The only instance of their defeat was at the hands of the IDF in 1967. In that case the IDF air force destroyed their armored forces, specifically the 40th Armored Brigade under Zeid bin Shakir. The Jordanians had no adequate anti-air defenses. In 1948 the Palmach lost 800 odd dead trying to take the Latrun police fort from the Jordanians. The Jordanians had one infantry company in the fort.


I presume that you have little or no military experience. Only a civilian would believe that career sergeants are somehow inferior to the children of privilege whom you think are too good to be led or supervised by people not of their "class." Your precious budding lawyers and doctors would benefit greatly by having their asses kicked by the rough men you disdain.

I am equally critical of American forces, but their defects are different. Actually, much of my "career of distinguished service," consisted of similar critiques of other foreign armkes, many of them allies of the United States.


You are mistaken. Most armies have career NCOs. Some are just better than others.

kao ***

The SS had career NCOs. The SS had different itles for the same ranks. pl


On a positive note, Turkey might be getting a little nervous about its ties to Zion. See http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/jan/08/israel-gaza-turkey

Tom S

Col. Lang,

A fascinating post. It builds upon impressions I have had of how singularly poorly the IDF is trained and equipped to deal with what amounts to civil disturbances in the occupied territories.

Perhaps it is time for Israel to create a highly trained and well-equipped constabulary force, while deploying a smaller IDF to defend Israel against conventional external threats.


That is a good and thorough analysis of the IDF, particularly the organizational structure in regard to the absence of an effective NCO corps. I'm of the opinion that the behavior of the army toward the population in the occupied territories can also be explained by the evident antipathy of much of the population toward Arabs, whether they are Muslim or Christian.

The development of the "NCO", from the serjeants of feudal days to the sergeants of today, in the armies of western Europe and their organizational descendants might be worth a book by someone.

One last thought, given Israeli targeting practices, it might not be wise to seek refuge in U.N. facilities.


Patrick Lang


I consider your response to be official in nature. Which ministry do you work for? pl


The genius of Lincoln was that he recognized that the true Spirit of this great Country lay in the Declaration of Independence and not in the Constitution. The Constitution recognized slavery and the inequality of men. The Supreme Court in the Dred Scott case found under the Constitution that a Negro could never be a citizen even though he was born free in a free state. Dred Scott, though never overturned was made moot by the thirteenth and fourteenth amendments.

The trouble with Israel is not its IDF or IAF or Navy. The trouble with Israel is that it has no written constitution comparable to our own embodying the principles of our Declaration of Independence. It is a racist state pure and simple.

Here is what is lacking in Israel- a little humanity (basic principles of human rights-what our nation established through a cataclysmic war and much bloodshed, i.e. our Civil War)

Human Rights in a Nutshell

United States Declaration of Independence We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
United States

Constitution Amendment XIV Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.


your post provided a useful insight into the structure of the israeli defense force and the vulnerability that results from their ad hoc mission - as though they are always an emergency response to a situation

also helpful for the post that reacted to your observations and described the structure of the IDF from another angle

it contained this statement

" The IDF isn't just a military force; it's the prime integrative institution of the state. Its egalitarian ethos has some operational costs, but also some huge societal payoffs"

this was a new thought to me

i had never thought about the "socializing" role of the IDF and the common perceptions and thinking patterns it would foster
among the nation's leaders


"And King Abdulla doesn't seem too happy."

If you are implying that Jordan is going to blitz throught Israel, forget about it. They probably were the best force around in 1948 but nowadays they are too small and defense focused to entertain such though.
The syrians haven't got new conventional weapons shipments since the USSR fell.
The egyptians are a somewhat better equipped but their personnel issues would make the israeli ones described here pale in comparison (that applies to the syrians too).

Bottom line the israelis may not be the military gods often made out to be in the past but the arabs national militaries are even more inefficient.
That is due to social/political/economicalissues which haven't changed much.


"… would be well advised to grow some real sergeants" Now that made me proud to have been an nco. The post seems to have struck a nerve with others, though. It will be interesting to see what happens to the Lebanese and Palestinians in the future with their own police and defense force development.



I see the trolls have finally made it past the Colonels filtering process.

I note you compare the actions of the IDF to the American forces in Iraq, forces whose occupation I am no fan of and whose actions in Haditha, Falluja, Abu ghraib and others are as you say, equally deplorable to what the IDF has done.

The difference, sir, is that in the IDF that kind of murderous, gangster attitude is not the exception- Your evidence that it is is that the casulty figures are low- is mendacious. The casulty figures are low because the IDF kills only enough to keep the worlds govts. from stopping it from doing any more. It knows what quota it is "allowed" and will use up that quota happily.

The murder of civilians is the norm in the IDF and always has been.


Col. and all senior Officer in this forum, are four brigades are not enough to take Gaza?

Especially, without an NCO corps to run operations?

Officer can lead, staff, or command, but hardly fit to run operations...


Regarding the Arab Legion (Jordanian Army) in 1948. They were on the verge of securing Jerusalem and a substantial victory when a pause in the fighting was negotiated by U.N. representatives. During this time, Britain, which was the source of Ammunition for the legion, declared an embargoe. I understand this was as a result of a threat from the U.S. to cancel Marshall Plan aid. Also, those British officers who had been seconded to the Legion were withdrawn. After the resumption of the fighting, the Arabs were out-numbered and out-gunned, but managed to hold the West Bank and part of Jerusalem until the final armistice.



Certain posters tell us how Israel's propaganda war is an all-out effort on YouTube and in the blogosphere. I wondered for half a second how your blog stayed immune before remembering that here the moderator must approve all comments. Then I read your exchange with Observer. Hm. Are you being flooded with pro-Israeli comments that you aren't posting, or have they given up on you? And if they are sending you such material, can you share some examples so we can see what you're being subjected to?

Sidney O. Smith III

Just my civilian opinion…

Without sergeants, then odds increase a platoon will fragment under sustained combat. And once a military fragments, then so will its society. A type of collective paranoid schizophrenia may very well set in -- a zillion different voices screaming at each other and with nowhere to go.

And I would like to add a civilian observation made while in Old Jerusalem back in 05. Make of it what you will. But apparently the IDF, as part of its training, takes the troops on a tour of the Old City. Makes sense.

And while watching them from afar I applied a civilian observation. At least from what I can tell, not one person in uniform I saw would have survived a brawl at a bar in Phenix City, Ala. Or Pittsburg. Or Seattle. I mean, they looked like a good group of kids, but no magnificent brawler types. Don’t know the relevance but there it is.

Disclosure: not saying I would survive such a brawl either. But, then again, I am not claiming I am super soldier or whatever. And I just think you need sergeant types if the fighting is close to the belt or whatever Vietnam vets would called it.

No sergeant, no warrior soul.

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