Leadership: Israel and Saddam Have Something in Common

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July 30, 2007: The commander of the Israeli navy, Admiral David Ben Bashat, resigned, as a result of his performance during the war with Hizbollah last year. Bashat took the fall because the navy failed to get information, that other Israeli intelligence agencies had, about Hizbollah possessing Iranian anti-ship missiles. Had the Israeli navy told its ships, off the Lebanese coast, about these missiles, the ships would have turned on their anti-missile systems, and avoided getting hit. One Israeli corvette did get hit, and four sailors were killed. Bashat stayed in his job until a government investigation could be completed, and his actions or, in this case, inaction, could be confirmed.

Israel has traditionally been hard on military commanders who do not perform well. Even after victorious wars, poor performers are usually eased out. This is in sharp contrast to Arab practice, where failed generals often retain their jobs, lest their boss look bad for having hired a loser. One exception to this was Saddam Hussein, who was quick to replace generals who were not getting the job done, or were suspected of disloyalty. This harsh treatment of senior officials was one of the reasons Saddam was so popular at the street level throughout the Arab world. Most Arab leaders never appreciated this angle, or chose to ignore it.

 


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