Sunday, July 02, 2006

Not Born for Wars Alone ...

Lt. Colonel Yonatan Netanyahu, in a message to his men only hours before his death on July 4th, 1976:

I believe in the responsibility of commanders: a good commander is one who feels a sense of full responsibility for everything done under his command.

I believe in going into details. Anyone who doesn't do it, and who tries to save himself work, will miss the main objective of preparing the unit for war.

I believe that there can be no compromise with results. Never compromise with results that are less than the best possible, and even then look for improvements.

I believe, with absolute faith, in our ability to carry out any military task entrusted to us, and I believe in you.

I believe in Israel and in the general sense of responsibility that must accompany every man who fights for the future of his homeland.

The basic assumption in our work is to prepare for war in the best possible fashion, in order to stand quietly on the day of judgment, when it comes, in the knowledge that we did everything we could in the time that we had.
The time that Yoni Netanyahu had on this distracted globe was not long; just over thirty years. In that short time he fought in two major wars, one minor war, and participated in at least three decisive operations with the elite Sayeret Matkal special forces unit. All that plus the endless day to day warfare of the professional Israeli soldier.

Death is the special companion - the shadow wife - of the military professional. At age 17, Netanyahu wrote:
Death — that's the only thing that disturbs me. It doesn't frighten me; it arouses my curiosity. It is a puzzle that I, like many others, have tried to solve without success. I do not fear it because I attribute little value to a life without a purpose. And if I should have to sacrifice my life to attain its goal, I'll do so willingly.
Maybe that's as much philosophy as a soldier can afford, and all that he needs. It's the difference between a soldier and a fanatic. To the fanatic the world is meaningless, life has no value, and the only purposeful action is to destroy as much as possible before you yourself evaporate - either to mix your atoms with the void or to greet a bloody grinning god of death. What the difference? But a soldier fights precisely because he recognizes the meaning in things that thoughtless and superficial people cannot understand.
In another week I'll be 23. On me, on us, the young men of Israel, rests the duty of keeping our country safe. This is a heavy responsibility, which matures us early. I do not regret what I have done and what I'm about to do. I'm convinced that what I am doing is right. I believe in myself, in my country and in my future.
There is no self-pity in these words, only a note of understandable regret - again, the mark of the humane man who must grow up fast and live a soldier's life. The nihilist wants nothing better than the struggle he throws himself into; he is precisely struggling against everything that is or might be better. He has nothing to lose and nothing to give. The bloody revolutionary is celebrated as a tragic and romantic figure, when he is nothing except an aberration. The tragedy belongs to the civilized men who must dream of peace while standing endless guard against its enemies.
Not a day passes, literally, without a border incident, sabotage, mine explosion, murder, ambushes, shootings and setting fire to fields. During all the years of my service and of my living here the situation has never been so tense. In the army, everyone is impatient — when are we finally going to strike back?!! We have complete confidence in our strength. We are capable of anything.
That was written in the months before the Six Day War. Unfortunately too many of Israel's civilian leaders, including the great David Ben Gurion, did not share the confidence of her soldiers. They clung to the belief that Israel must survive by alliance and negotiation, because they were afraid that the world would not tolerate Jews who defended themselves by force of arms.
The Wars of the Jews are always the ugliest and hardest of all. These are the wars of apologetics and futile bickering, suppression or distortion of facts, and procrastination in making decisions. There is no doubt that what's called for is new leadership, a more correct perception of the realities, a sound recognition of the enemy's aims, and clear, definitive strategic-political planning. There must be no fumbling in the dark and no more tactical expedients, for these will get us nowhere.
It's the great obscenity of modern history that the mantle of "peace" is worn by those those murder peace inch by inch, either deliberately or by neglect. Those who would act decisively in defense of peaceful society must wear the "pro-war" label, while so-called pacifism demands that the endless attrition of terrorism, tyranny and murder be tolerated and tolerated and tolerated. Maybe the human race will wake up and maybe it won't, but Yonatan Netanyahu will stand quietly on the day of judgment, with nothing to apologize for.
The real cause is the sense of helplessness in the face of a war that has no end. For the war has not ended, and it seems to me that it will go on and on… This is the 'quiet' before the next storm. I've no doubt that war will come. Nor do I doubt that we will win. But for how long? Until when?

We're young, and we were not born for wars alone.