5 years, 5 months ago
In early 2009 the USS San Antonio interdicted and boarded an Iranian ship bound or Gaza, and it was found to be transporting weapons for waging war with Israel. I supported this move, and in fact even more exhaustive measures to contain rogue states and ensure American security (or the security of our allies). So support of Israel’s right to ensure its own national security is not in question.
But immediately upon hearing about the Israeli flotilla raid, my reaction was the same as it is now. Without rehearsing the gory details, Israeli Marines fast-roped onto the boat bound for Gaza, one at a time, in broad daylight, armed only with nonlethal weapons, to a group prepared to beat them over the head and throw them overboard.
Joe Klein is preening over Israel having learned its lesson, pressing for more traditional ship-boarding measures in lieu of this method. Well, there are various tactics to be taken under various circumstances. If there had been reason to believe that there would be kinetic operations, then heavier tactics are in order. But not the ones we witnessed in the recent raid.
If there had been reason to expect kinetic operations, then fast-roping is not done one at a time. Furthermore, it should not have been done in broad daylight. The Israeli Marines should have owned the night. Night vision gear, the element of surprise, quick Marine presence on board the ship due to proper implementation of fast-roping techniques, inundation with tear gas, and the ship could have been secured within seconds and without incident.
The Israeli Navy has said they will do it differently next time. Let’s hope so, but that’s not quite the point. There may be the need for softer tactics, or not, depending upon the situation. The real question is why this operation was ever approved in the first place? The raid was a tactical disaster. What kind of tactical malaise has descended upon the IDF that they would have even thought up something like this? Who was in charge of this, and will he be held responsible for his lack of tactical ingenuity? What does this say about the state of tactics in the IDF generally? The hard questions remain, and the larger issue of the state of the IDF is the real story out of this event.