Ultima Thule

In ancient times the northernmost region of the habitable world - hence, any distant, unknown or mysterious land.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Looking for the next Sharon

By Aussiegirl

How tragic that Sharon now lies in a coma, unable to fight this last critical battle in the struggle to defend Israel. Olmert is a disaster. He is making the mistakes of craven politicians dating back to the Korean crisis but especially in Vietnam. When politicians tie the hands of their military you can expect defeat and quagmire. This is also what is currently happening in Iraq. The Bush administration has lost its nerve and is busy winning hearts and minds. The only way you win the hearts and minds of your enemy is by defeating them and making sure they know they are defeated utterly and completely. Nothing succeeds like success. Fascinating look at Sharon the warrior.

The Next Sharon - August 10, 2006 - The New York Sun

With Israel's leaders entering the most desperate days of the fight in Lebanon, cashiering generals, moving divisions forward, and maneuvering in the diplomatic arena, we went to the quiet of our study and opened Ariel Sharon's autobiography, "Warrior," to the chapters about the war in the Sinai in 1973. That was when Sharon fought his two-front battle to save the Jewish state. On one flank he had two Egyptian corps. On the other he had a chain of command riddled with generals and politicians who dared not advance. It would be unfair, even to Mr. Sharon, to suggest that he won the battle alone. But the chapters are a reminder of the how important it was for infantry and armor to get into the thick of the fight, to advance as fast and as aggressively as possible, to seize every opportunity for surprise.

"As I tried to grasp what was going on," Sharon wrote in his account, "several unpleasant facts became clear. The first was that the air force was not acting effectively. After the 1970 cease-fire the Egyptians had moved those surface-to-air batteries up to the canal. We had not reacted to them, and now we were paying a terrible price for it." A second problem, he wrote, was that the Sinai task force had not been "concentrated forward." When Israel's armor did attack, in an effort he called "madly courageous but senseless," it was decimated. He called it a "clear sign of panic" reflecting an "inability to read the battlefield." He wrote: "Instead of gathering our forces for a hard, fast counterattack, we were wasting them in hopeless small-unit actions."

At one point Sharon tells of standing on the dunes and stopping some of the armor to talk to the officers and seeing "something strange on their faces — not fear but bewilderment." Suddenly, he wrote, "something was happening to them that had never happened before. These were soldiers who had been brought up on victories — not easy victories maybe, but victories. … Now they were in a state of shock. How could it be that these Egyptians were crossing the canal right in our faces? How was it that they were moving forward and we were defeated?" We would not want to make too much of the analogies here, but neither would we want to make too little of them as Israel today shakes off the surprise of asymmetrical war, with enemy rocket attacks striking deep into the Jewish homeland for a second week.

Sharon spared no one in his memoir of the Sinai. Higher officers maneuvered against him as he maneuvered to get on the offensive and across the canal. He went over their heads. They stymied his access to meetings. When the rightness of his course began to become apparent, Moshe Dayan recommended to the commander in chief, David Elazar, that Sharon and his nemesis, General Gonen, switch jobs, with Sharon being moved up to the Southern Command. Elazar rejected Dayan's suggestion, but neither was Gonen relieved. "I felt like I was in the middle of a ‘ken tsra'ot,' a nest of hornets," Sharon would relate. He told those in his armored personnel carrier of how, as he put it, the Spanish Republic was lost. "With all their infighting and backstabbing, the Republicans gave it away. They had spent themselves fighting each other instead of the enemy."

Eventually, this paralysis was shaken off, and Sharon crossed the canal, trapped the Egyptians, and established a leadership of almost Biblical proportions. He fought some orders and followed some he felt he shouldn't have. His battlefield exploits, his judgment, his leadership will be studied for as long as there are wars. We offer a reprise of the moment not with a sense of dispiritedness but the opposite. When we called a friend in Israel who was with Sharon in the Sinai campaign and asked whether the tale was relevant to today, he exclaimed, though he'd been asleep when we reached him, "Exactly! Exactly!" This, he told us, is the first war since 1956 in which Sharon hasn't held a position of high leadership. He did not mean to suggest that all was lost. On the contrary, from the struggle of a new generation to advance against an old enemy's new tactics, he said, he had no doubt that there would arise the next Sharon.


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