Kahntentions Abroad: Decision-Making Process

Kahntentions Abroad: Decision-Making Process

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.


I want like to spend some time on bigger themes while travelling and will try to do so, but at the moment current events have become important grist for the daily mill. To wit the report of the Israeli State Comptroller on the Mavi Marmara incident that occurred between Israel and Turkey on May 31, 2010, is the latest.

Certainly, this entire episode presented very challenging political and geo-political problems at the time and it was preceded by weeks of diplomatic maneuvering and anticipation. Now the State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss in his report issued on Wednesday indicated that there were major flaws and errors by numerous participants in the process. He suggested that the lines of communication were convoluted, expectations overran reality, and inadequate attention was given to the implications of a less than completely successful mission, on more than just a public relations level. Most critical, however, was the charge that the Prime Minister employed a seriously flawed decision-making process. The report suggested that after earlier decision-making problems had been delineated by the Winograd Commission after it investigated the 2006 Lebanon War; there was a right to assume that the Netanyahu Government would have avoided similar traps in this instance.

Beyond the extensive substantive comments and criticisms in this 153 page report, two very disturbing conclusions emerge. The first is a very blunt political reality. The Prime Minister is assessed by the Commission to have ignored or disregarded having full national security cabinet meetings during this crisis, a time when his political power was considerably less than it is today. nearly a third more than it had in 2010—it will be more likely to follow a process that seeks precisely to avoid similar problems during similar crises?

Even scarier however, is the question as to what process the Netanyahu Government has in place and is consulting as it weighs its options in the Iranian confrontation. The Israeli people do not need to consider the possibility that it could be forced to endure that through which Americans suffered after December 7, 1941, when there were three independent Congressional investigations of why America was not prepared for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. 

Clearly the Mavi Marmara incident is not analogous to Pearl Harbor.  Democracies may find post factum commissions valuable to express the openness of a political system to accepting criticisms. No country, however, truly needs them and they inevitably suggest systemic flaws or personal arrogance or hubris.

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