The Vinograd Commission this evening published its final report. The parts that deal with military secrets haven't been published, but the public part is 617 pages long, and you can read it here if you have the urge. Assuming you read Hebrew, and are not put off by the turgid prose. Tho you might want to credit the authors for their poetic streak: On page 1 of the report itself (page 5 of the document) they cite three literary sources regarding the dead, one from the Talmud, one literary allusion, and Rachel's poem "My Dead" in its entirety, and dedicate the report to the dead of the war, "Each of whom was a complete world".
I haven't read the full report, and rather doubt I will. Here are some initial comments, therefore, from an observer who is not more informed than any of his readers nor any of the other pundits, who can be assumed also not to have read the 617 pages in the past 120 minutes (or the next 120 days, for that matter).
1. The commission is pretty withering in its criticism of the way the 2nd Lebanon War was led. It failed to reach most of its goals.
2. The leadership of the army and the government had two main alternatives once they decided to go to war. Either you hit the Hezbollah hard once, and then desist, or you try to achieve larger strategic goals, requiring the use of massive ground forces that temporarily conquer territory and fundamentally change the situation in it. The leadership never really decided which of the alternatives it was pursuing. (Pretty damning, that).
3. The Air Force initially had some resounding successes (destroying the long range Land-to-Land missiles, I assume), but couldn't win the war, and this was not well enough appreciated at the time.
4. The runts, low-ranking officers, and the reservists, fought heroically and well.
5. The top echelons of the army were incompetents. (Well, the commission seems to have used polite language to say this).
6. The leadership screwed up, and muddled through. But they meant well, and were trying their best.
All in all, nothing new, nothing surprising, and nothing to be particularly proud of (except the part about the runts). My reading of history these past 30 years has shown me that most leaderships most of the time in just about every situation mostly screw up, and mostly muddle through, and the final results stem more from the actions of the common people than of the intentions and (well laid?) plans of their leaders. Humans are fallible, and they fallibalize most of the time (What do you mean, there's no such word? How can there not be?)
What happens now? Let me put on my pundit hat here, and pretend I know something the rest of you don't:
A. Olmert's government won't fall, not now, and when it does, not because of this (no matter how it gets spun).
B. Olmert will probably lose the next elections, whenever they are, partly because of this, partly because the Israeli electorate generally throws out whoever is in power, and mostly because he won't do anything from now till then to make us not throw him out.
C. If I were a Hezbollah chief, or a Hamas one, or any other kind of enemy of Israel, I would spend the next three days crowing, and then the following few years cowering. This ability of the Israelis publicly to investigate their mistakes, and then at least partially to learn from them, makes them quite formidable.
D. No one else I can think of has this ability, certainly not the Brits or the Americans, and they're the only other candidates for even trying.
E. Well, there is one other nation that has been studiously, publicly, and openly learning from its mistakes these past 60 years. The Germans. (Hitler came to power today 75 years ago). But that's a different story, tho not totally unrelated.