The recent dustup over cuts in the IDF budget is a great opportunity to discuss the present state of the IDF. To put it bluntly, the IDF today is a mess: it’s too big, too unwieldy and horribly inefficient. Far from cutting back the number of officers to be laid off, there are whole *Corps* that have no business existing – from the IDF radio station to various social programs such as the Education Corps.
The same goes for the IDF as an army. Ever since Second Lebanon – perhaps even First Lebanon – the IDF has been turning in mediocre performance after mediocre performance on the battlefield. A massive budget and the pick of Israeli manpower has not translated into corresponding military success.
Why is this?
The main reason is this: the IDF has two competing goals – to be a professional army that effectively protects the State of Israel and a People’s Army (TM) which melds Israeli society together by force of law. The latter vision conflicts with the former almost constantly.
Take the perennial debate on the draft of Haredim. Almost all the arguments revolve around the importance of “sharing the burden” of compulsory military service and of “integrating” Haredim into Israeli society by force.
Yet this mission strongly conflicts with the IDF as an army. It would add tens of thousands of unwilling conscripts who need to be given an immense amount of remedial education in math and English at the taxpayers expense. Money that could be spent on training and improving existing cadres would be wasted in gender segregation battles and increasing kashrut and halachic adherence issues.
There is no reason whatsoever to use the army for social engineering of any kind. Voluntary integration and interaction – in colleges, stores and places of business – are far superior to forced “melting pot strategies” advocated by various politicians.
Rather than force everyone to share the forced burden of conscription, the IDF should be made voluntary (or at least as voluntary as possible). Those who choose to protect this country should be rewarded and feted; those who do not can serve Israel by going out into the economy and making an honest living.
The purpose of the IDF is one – to protect the country and its citizens effectively. Anything which hinders this goal has to go.