This week the IDF distributed ribbons to its soldiers and officers for their service in the war with Hizbullah in 2006. The ribbons were a source of embarrassment. Soldiers and officers, who like the general public view the war as Israel’s greatest military defeat, are loath to pin them on their uniforms.A perfect lesson why legal issues cannot be allowed to dictate the outcome of battle. And Mazuz should be ashamed of himself if he's upholding the whole notion.
While the soldiers and general public view the war as a failure, one sector of Israeli society sees the war as a great triumph. For Israel’s legal establishment, the war was a great victory. It was a war in which its members asserted their dominance over Israel’s political and military leadership.
The legal establishment’s ardor for the Second Lebanon War was exposed on Tuesday with the publication of the testimonies of Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz and Military Advocate-General Avichai Mandelblit before the Winograd Committee which the Olmert government established to research the war’s failures. In their testimonies both men shared their perception of the war as a great victory of lawyers in their campaign to “lawyerize” - or assert their control - over Israeli society.
In his opening statement, Mazuz extolled the war as “the most ‘lawyerly’ in the history of the State of Israel, and perhaps ever.” He explained, “The process didn’t begin in Lebanon 2006. It… is a gradual process of ‘lawyerizing’ life in Israel.”
Mazuz responded negatively to the question of whether legal considerations superseded operational and strategic goals during the war. He claimed that the government and the IDF restricted their plans from the beginning to conform with perceived legal restrictions.
As he put it, that preemptive limitation of goals was “the result of a sort of education and internalization that have taken place over the years. I remember periods where there was a great deal of friction with the senior military level regarding what is allowed and what is prohibited. But today I think that there is more or less an understanding of the rules of the game and I can’t identify any confrontation... or ... demands to ‘Let the IDF win.’”
Mandelblit and Mazuz testified that legal advisers were present at all levels of command in all the relevant service arms and in the security cabinet. At each level the lawyers were asked to judge the legality of all the proposed targets and planned operations before they were carried out. And as the two explained, in their decisions, these lawyers were informed not by the goal of winning the war, but by their interpretation of international law.
From both men’s perspectives, international law takes precedence over the national interests in wartime war. Mazuz argued, “Today international law controls our lives, no less … than domestic law. In all spheres - not just in the sphere of the laws of war… the sovereignty of states is diminishing and international law is becoming the tip of the pyramid of norms. It is becoming a substitute for the constitutions of states.”
Monday, December 24, 2007
While I'm personally not an expert on law, I can say that there is what to learn about why lawyerizing war is very ill-advised (Hat tip: Patterico's Pontifications and Instapundit):