Thursday, January 31, 2008

It's the Colonels

Avi Rath follows up on one of the points made by the Vinograd Commission. (Hebrew only, my apologies). Our privates and NCOs are generally fine people, he says, and committed soldiers capable of high heroism when it's required. The young officers and reservists are also great.

The top brass, as we're not particularly surprised to read, are a big part of the problem. He even dug up the statistics whereby the medals of bravery awarded after the last war all went to junior officers and down. (I think there was one full colonel among them, but he and many of the mid-level officers who were cited for bravery were pilots, who have high ranks but are effectively regular combat fighters). So far as I know, this is an unprecedented state of affairs; in any other army I've ever heard of the chance of being cited for bravery rises with rank.

So what's going on? Rath explains that young men are in for their pals, and also (secondarily) for the right reasons such as commitment to country and other such out-dated concepts. It's when the career officers rise to the level of colonel that they change, and deal ever more with politics and ever less with their job. The result, as he puts it, is that we have gigantic soldiers and low-ranking officers, and small high officers.

I have no doubt he's right. The young men and women are in there for the right reasons, and this doesn't change as they begin the climb up. By the time they're colonels they've outgrown the naivety of youth, they're in their mid or late 30s, they know their options to continue upwards are growing limited as the pyramid narrows, they have ever greater contact with politicians, politician-like officials, and journalists, who are of course also a sort of politician. Of course, you might think that if society encouraged its top brass to be as committed as they were in their youth, and rewarded those who remained fresh, committed, innovative and sincere, then that's the model the colonels would persist in. But we don't elect that type of politicians, so how would they know to encourage that type of officers? It's the real world ot there, not some fairy tale. For better and for worse.

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