Critical Writing Research Paper

Critical Writing of the Book “Generals in the Cabinet Room”

Abstract
Basically, the paper focuses on the book “Generals in the Cabinet Room” by Yoram Peri and its main ideas. In fact, the author raises a very important problem of the relationship between the military and civilians. In this respect, it should be said that it is extremely important for a democratic country to maintain a civilian control over the military and this fact is recognized by many specialists. In such a situation, the analysis of the book by Yoram Peri is particularly important since it give insight on the development of relationship and mutual impact of the military and civilians and the extent to which the former is under the civilian control that may be viewed as an indicator of the level of democracy in the country. Also, this book is important not only because it provides detailed information about the political system of Israel and complicated relationships within the country but it may be also helpful for better understanding of the position of the military in the national policy of any country and the necessity of establishment of civilian control over the military.

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Introduction
Historically, the military played an extremely important role in the national policy of Israel. In fact, the significance of the military for the country, which was under a permanent threat of a military conflict, could hardly be underestimated. Obviously, in the situation when the country constantly faces a threat of a war, the role of the military increases substantially and it is extremely important to preserve the military from the usurpation of power in the country. Otherwise, the country where the military got the power easily transform in an authoritarian regime violating human rights, limiting democratic liberties and establishing total control over all significant spheres of social life.

This perspective is quite probable for such countries as Israel since the country is practically permanently involved in some military conflicts or is under a threat of attack from the part of other states or terrorist organizations. As a result, the military has a great power in the country but, nevertheless, Israel preserved its loyalty to basic democratic values and, at the moment, the country is still democratic not in the last turn due to the control of civilians over the military.

Nevertheless, such historical development of Israel leading to the increasing significance of the military for the national security could not fail to affect the national politics which may be qualified as quite specific. In fact, it is quite difficult to understand for a foreigner all the subtleties of the national politics and it is even more difficult to adequately perceive the role the military plays in the national politics as well as relationships between the military, especially chiefs of general staff, and Israeli politicians, including leaders of political parties and the leading personalities of the national politics. In this respect, the book “Generals in the Cabinet Room – How the Military shapes Israeli Policy” by Yoram Peri is particularly noteworthy since the author uncovers the relationships between the military and Israeli political elite and the impact of the military on the national politics at large.

The main argument of the book and Peri’s view on military-civilian relationships
Actually, Yoram Peri created a book that may be viewed as a guide to the national politics of Israel, revealing its hidden trends and characteristics. Nevertheless, this book is also noteworthy for the research of military-civilian relationships and interaction. In fact, such interaction is in the focus of the author’s attention since he basically argues that the impact of the military was always and still remains to be very significant on the political life of Israel and, what is probably even more important, the author recognizes the fact that the position of political leaders and military leaders of Israel did not always coincide.

At the same time, one of the central points of his book is the fact that the military produces a significant impact on the politics of Israel. It should be pointed out that the author explains such a position of the military in the country by the fact that Israel was constantly involved in various military conflicts and faced numerous threats that needed the direct involvement of the military for their resolution. As a result, the significant role of the military in Israel is interpreted by the author as the natural result of the specific historical development of the country which literally had to fight for its physical survival since during its fifty eight years history Israel fought eight wars, while the threat of terror attacks was and is practically permanent.

Even though the author basically concentrates on the development of Israel or, to put it more precisely, the development of military-civilian relationships since the beginning of the 1990s and till the present epoch, such an overview of the national politics and trends is very informative and give ample information for the further analysis. In general, the author agrees that the military traditionally interfered in the politics of Israel. In this respect, it is possible to refer to his remark that three out of four Prime Ministers of Israel that took office during the period analyzed were former chief of general staff (CGS). In other words they were the former heads of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) became political leaders of the country occupying the leading position in the executive power of the country. In fact, Peri argues that the military and political elite of the country are closely interlinked and the fact that former CGSs become Prime Ministers of Israel is just another proof of the fact that the military has penetrated deeply in the national politics. In this respect, the author underlines that many top officers of the IDF turn to the political career after their retirement, namely, they join political parties and attempt to take the leading position in them often using their recognition as outstanding military officers and their career was particularly successful if they had really achievements being on their military service.

The author draws a lot of examples from real life situations to prove his argument that the military interfered in the politics and often the position was determining in some decisions that were taken by Israel that means that the position of the military could be different from the position of the political authorities and, what is more important, the military could insist and change the decisions taken by Israeli politicians. For instance, one of the most eloquent examples drawn by the author relates to the situation in the West Bank, namely to the Israeli settlements in the West Bank. In fact, the settlement was absolutely illegal and Yitzhak Rabin, the Prime Minister of Israel at the epoch, saw this settlement as “a challenge to his government”. As a result, he demanded that Gur, CGS at the epoch, to disperse the settlers. However, the latter refused to obey to this demand and objected arguing that the use of force, according to the Prime Minister demand, would lead either to the bloodshed or it could also result in soldiers refusing to follow the orders. Eventually, Rabin had to give in and, in such a way, that a perfect demonstration of the power of the military in Israel and the extent to which they could influence the national politics even on the highest level since, normally, CGS should obey to the demand of the Prime Minister and fulfill the order, instead, in the case of Gur, he imposed his own vision and policy to the political leader of the country.

Furthermore, it should be pointed out that the military was influential not only in the domestic policy but they also produced a significant impact on the development of the foreign policy of Israel and traditionally had a distinguishable doctrine which defined the position of Israel in case of any military conflict. In fact, the author argues that the intelligence reports and assessment as well as the position and views of senior military officers often were determinant in setting Israel’s foreign and defense policy. On analyzing the development of the foreign and defense policy of Israel, the author underlines that the position of the military gradually changed and evolved from the efforts to find the peaceful solution to the existing problems threatening to Israel by war and terror attacks to the development of a more strict, hard line position, according to which the use of the military power could be justified and was reasonable in face of threats to Israel national security. For instance, Peri analyzes in depth the changes in views of the military on Yasser Arafat and the extent to which such a shift in the position of the military affected the policy of Israel. To put it more precisely, the author underlines that the military were disillusioned with peaceful efforts of Israel in its relations with Yasser Arafat and, instead, the military viewed him as the active opponent of Israel whom Israel could hardly find a peaceful solution with. As a result, Peri estimates that the military pushed the political authorities of Israel away from negotiations with Yasser Arafat, especially after the failure of the Camp David Summit in 2000, which eventually resulted in the eighth war of Israel, widely known as al-Aqsa intifada.

By the way, the author views Israeli-Palestinian relations and conflict as another domain where the interference or impact of the military on the national politics was particularly sensitive. To put it more precisely, as the recent example proves, the position of the military was often determinant in relation to the policy of Israel in its conflict with Palestine. At the same time, the author underlines that Israeli-Palestinian conflict became the major area where the interaction between the military and political authorities particularly significant and obvious. In fact, Peru argues that this conflict was characterized as a low-intensity conflict (LIC). This means that the conflict lasted for a considerable period of time but it did not always involved active military conflict. In stark contrast, this conflict rather implies clandestine struggle of Palestinians against Israel control over their territories and was accompanied by a series of military operations on the local level which did not involve the IDF at the large scale. This means that Israeli-Palestinian conflict could not be defined as war in its proper sense as an active opposition of two militarized parties. This is why the conflict, being a LIC, could not be resolved solely with the help of the military because the military solution of the conflict was practically impossible. It was obvious that the solution of Israeli-Palestinian conflict should involve political, economic, and social factors, while military factor was just one among others which were not less, if not to say more, significant. As a result, the author underlines that this conflict led to the necessity of the development of the “military-political partnership”, which, according to Peri, is a “symbiotic pattern or joint responsibility” of both the military and political authorities of Israel.

In such a way, on the basis of the analysis of Israeli-Palestinian conflict as well as the major trends in the relationship between the military and political authorities of Israel in its domestic and foreign policy, the author arrives to the conclusion that it is necessary to develop closer cooperation between the military and political elite of the country. To put it more precisely, he stands on the ground that in the process of its historical development Israel could hardly avoid the interference and the special position of the military in Israeli political life. On the other hand, Peri argues that the interference of the military in the political life of the country should not be excessive. Instead, he underlines that it is necessary to strengthen the public and civilian control over the military in order to prevent the possible growth of the influence and role of the military in Israel since it threatens to the survival of democracy in the country through the threat of the establishment of the authoritarian militarist regime. The latter threat is quite probable, taking into consideration the experience of other countries where the impact of the military went out of the civilian control that resulted in military juntas taking power in such countries. This is why Peri states that Israel should be more careful in the relationships of the military and political authorities and avoid the growing impact of the military by means of strengthening the civilian control.

Actually, the author estimates that Israel lacks a “clear strategic directive” in military-civilian relationships and, therefore, “the military is sometimes forced to determine its own… and the policy it adopts does not always correspond to the wishes of the elected government”. Peri is conscious of the potential danger hidden in such a trend in the national politics of Israel. This is why he warns that the “ongoing occupation and counterinsurgency warfare will increase fiction between the military and civilian society, and the IDF will sink deeper in the political mire”. Naturally, such a perspective is a great threat to the future of Israel as a democratic country and, instead, the perspective of its transforming into an authoritarian state where the power is concentrated in hands of the military junta becomes quite real. This is why the author eventually concludes that as long as “a democratic Israel rules over the Palestinian people, Israeli civilian society will remain split over the future of the territories”.

Taking into consideration the perspective of the growth of the impact of the military on Isreali politics, Peri argues that it is extremely important to start reforms which could guarantee the maintenance of democracy in Israel and preservation of the existing basic values and norms of the civilian society. In this respect, he views the strengthening of the civilian control over the military as one of the major points in the development of the civilian and not the military state in Israel.

The critical evaluation of the major ideas of the book
Obviously, the author of the book attempts to convey to readers the essence of the military-civilian relationship in Israel. At the same time, one of the major ideas of the entire book is the impact of the military on politics of Israel and the necessity of the minimization of the impact of the military on other spheres of life in the country. In other words, Peri stands on the ground that the growth of the role of the military in Israel threatens to the future development of Israel as a democratic country. This is why he pedals the idea that it is necessary to strengthen the public control over the military.

It should be said that the idea of the establishment of the civil control over the military in order to prevent possible threats to democracy is not new. Many other specialists also support this idea. For instance, Richard Kohn also indicates to the necessity of the civilian control over the military to maintain and develop democracy. Speaking about Israel, it is necessary to underline that this country has strong traditions of the military exercising significant power since the military was historically extremely important for the survival of the country. Richard Kohn views this historical trend as one of the major challenges to the civilian control over the military. As the Israeli military are formally focused on the external defense they naturally have the great authority in Israeli society.

In this respect, it is worthy to take into consideration the fact that “when the military enjoys great prestige, possesses advanced bureaucratic skills, believes that its fulfill its mission may be at risk, or comes to doubt the civilian leadership, civilians can face great obstacles in exercising their authority” (Kohn, 1997, p.141). In fact, such a perspective is quite probable. As it has been already mentioned above, Peri warns that the military influence can grow stronger, if the military tension and conflicts Israel is involved in continues to grow. As a result, this may lead to the strengthening of the military, while the position of the civilian leaders, as well as opportunities to establish a thorough civilian control over the military may decrease.

At this point, it is possible to speak about similarities in views of Peri and Kohn. At the same time, it should be said that the idea of the civilian control over the military is quite simple and, therefore, can be implemented without any serious problems. Basically, the civilian control implies that all important decisions, including those related to the national security and the use of the military force, are taken by the civilian authorities. In other words, the civilian control does not admit situations when a CGS can disobey or dissuade the Prime Minister, for instance, to launch a military operation, as it was in the case of Gur and Rabin described above. In practice, this means that, ideally, Gur should obey to the demand of Rabin, while the refusal to obey had demonstrated the power of the military and the lack of the civilian control over the military. Potentially, a CGS, it could be not only Gur but any other CGS, could disobey to other orders of the Prime Minister and political authorities of the country to the extent that the military could simply take the power in the hands on the pretext of the defense of Israel or protection of its national interests.

In stark contrast, the strengthening of the civilian control over the military would lead to the opposite results, i.e. political authorities, elected by people, totally control the military that means that the military acts in accordance with the national policy which is defined by politicians and not by the military. At the same time, it is necessary to underline that in the case of Israel such a sort of the civilian control can hardly be realizable. At any rate, Israel needs some transitional period to decrease the impact of the military. In fact, the role of the military will remain quite significant as long as there are threats to Israel from the part of other states and terrorist organizations.

In such as situations, the reforms suggested by Peri may be quite useful but still it is also possible to attempt to find some alternative solution, a kind of concordance between the military and civilians. In this respect, it is possible to refer to the Theory of Concordance, promoted by Rebecca Schiff, according to which “the military, the political, and the citizenry should aim for a cooperative relationship that may or may not involve separation but not require it” (1995). In practice, this means that the separation of the military from the political life of the country is not obligatory, instead, the author suggest the close cooperation and interaction between the military and civilians. In such a way, it is possible to maintain the balance of power in the country, when the military do not threaten to the democracy because of the civilian involvement in the process of decision making, while the military basically focuses on the professional questions, such as the system of defense, in this process.

In such a way, the development of interaction between the military and civilians accompanied by the strengthening of the civilian control over the military can contribute consistently to the overcoming of one of the major military-civilian challenge, which Richard Wells defines as the challenge “to reconcile a military strong enough to do anything the civilians ask them to with a military subordinate enough to do only what civilians authorize them to do” (1996, p.269). In such a way, the major goal of the civilian control over the military in Israel that may be a part of the reform, which Peri insists on, should be the achievement of the obedience of the military to the civilians and the supremacy of the latter in relation to the former. To put it in simple words, the military should remain the military and do not interfere in political processes even though they are strong enough to influence the national politics.

In this respect, it is possible to refer to Kenneth Kemp and Charles Hudlin who agree that the obedience of the military to the civilians is of a paramount importance and is one of the major conditions of the democracy, but, still, they argue that there are certain limits to the military obedience. Basically, they admit the possibility of disobedience in case of the violation of the basic legal and moral norms by the political authorities that give orders to the subordinated military. In such a context, the refusal of Gur to obey to the order of Rabin discussed above seems to be permissible since, in a way, the demand of the Prime Minister was morally arguable since it targeted at the military operation against Israeli citizens, which actually elect the political authorities of Israel.

Finally, it should be said that the book by Peri is not only a valuable source of information about the political life of Israel but a subject of profound reflections on the relationships between the military and civilians. In fact, it is possible to enlarge the problems discussed by the author and extrapolate them on other countries since the problem of the growing impact of the military on the national politics may be traced in other countries, including the most developed ones, such as the US, for instance. In this respect, it is possible to refer to Peter Feaver, who researched the problem of civilian-military relations in the US and, which, in fact, are similar to the trends discussed by Peri. In such a situation, it is quite noteworthy that Feaver underlines that the conflict between the military and civilians and the growth of the power of the former may spring out in the process of establishment of the stronger civilian control over the military. To put it more precisely, he states that conflicts result when “civilians have incentives to monitor intrusively and the military has incentives to shirk” (Fever).

Conclusion
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that the problem of the military-civilian interaction and the problem of the strengthening of the civilian control over the military raised by Peri in his book are really important. In fact, these problems are important not only for Israel but for all other democratic countries which military has a significant power and opportunities to influence the national political elite. In general, the civilian control over the military is one of the major conditions of the preservation and development of democracy. Otherwise, the lack of civilian control may lead to the threat of the establishment of undemocratic regime controlled by a military junta.

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