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Keep it simple, stupid

 

On a visit to lecture at the US Military Academy at West Point, I heard from the Professor and Colonel who was my host that one of the important lessons being taught was given the acronym of KISS. Keep it simple, stupid.

 
As I've reflect on that since then, it tells me that the US military viewed the officers being trained at the Military Academy as a cut above the men they were destined to command. 
 
From all that I know about the US military, it's a fair assessment. The raw material recruited to West Point differs from that which walks into the local recruiting office, especially during an era when military service is far from universal.
 
The point of KISS is that operational plans must be kept simple in order to be implemented in anything close to what is desired.
 
I heard a similar expression years later, in Hebrew, from then Commanding General and now Knesset Member Shaul Mofaz. One of the IDF operations had gone bad. It did not achieve its objectives, and injured some of the soldiers involved. A substantial percentage of military casualties, for the US, Israel, and other armies are due to accidents on the road and elsewhere, and mistaken friendly fire. Armies are dangerous places, with heavy equipment and things that go bang in the night and day.
 
The IDF incident was traced to planning that was too complex for the several units involved. It led Mofaz to say, "If it is not simple, it simply will not be."
 
Unlike the US army, the IDF is based on near total recruitment of each male, Jewish, and non-ultra-Orthodox age cohort. As a result, a lot of the privates are brighter than the officers who lead them. Nonetheless, simplicity is the key to a successful operation. To be sure, not all can be simple, but plans should be reviewed and changed to the extent that they are comprehensible to all involved, and feasible with respect to implementation in the hostile environments anticipated.
 
KISS is widely applicable, at all levels of armies, governments and other large organizations.
 
Now to some current policy issues where the lesson of simplicity applies.
 
There are two of them, both involving messages being conveyed by Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu.
 
And while both appear simple to me, they seem to evade too many of the worthies currently running the US government, the European Union, and various other national governments.
 
Message #1: 
 
Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish state, or the state of the Jewish people.
 
Israelis quarrel about everything. It's part of our democracy, which is as democratic and as healthy as democracy anywhere. Moreover, our quarrels about this should convince Israeli Arabs that Netanyahu's device is not meant to deprive them of their political rights.
 
Need anyone be reminded, the rights of Israeli Arabs are as substantial as those for anyone throughout the Middle East, and do not fall below those of ethnic or religious minorities in any democracy.
 
I can already hear the shouts from American naysayers, who pride themselves  on simplistic notions of American morality while avoiding any approach to a big city ghetto.
 
The argument heard from numerous Israeli Jews, some of them leaders of political parties represented in the Knesset, is that Netanyahu's demand is superfluous, and meant only to frustrate John Kerry's efforts to bring Israelis and Palestinians to an agreement. Israel does not require the acceptance by Palestinians of its nature as a Jewish state, or the state of the Jewish people.
 
That may be true. Netanyahu's demand is more a test of the Palestinians than a sine qua non for Israel's existence. 
 
Yet, it is a fair test. It examines the willingness of the Palestinian leadership to accept Israel as a legitimate neighbor, in the way Israel has defined itself since its Declaration of Independence, as a state for the Jewish people, with equal rights for all inhabitants without reference to race, religious, or sex. The failure of the Palestinian leadership to accept Netanyahus's formulation--on Israel's books since 1948--should tell us that Palestine is not ready for elevation to a state, with anything like the rights and powers of other states claiming sovereignty.
 
Message #2:
 
The munitions seized from the ship on the way from Iran to Sudan, for apparent transshipment to Gaza or somewhere in the Sinai, testifies to the lack of reliability of the Iranian government. The shipment itself violates sanctions in place against the transfer of arms to or from Iran, and should reinforce the recognition of Iran as a major source for financing, equipping, and training terrorists for attacks against civilians.
 
The simple lesson is that Iran is not an appropriate partner for the political maneuvers underway that are meant to protect others from the catastrophe of a nuclear attack, or the threat of such an attack.
 
To Barack Obama, John Kerry, Catherine Ashton and others expressing themselves about Palestine and Iran, the messages should be simple enough to comprehend:
 
The signs are not positive. 
 
Currently Ashton is being pictured in newspapers, wearing the head covering required of Iranian women while discussing the nuclear deal with her Iranian counterpart.
 
We can expect Prime Minister Netanyahu to repeat himself a few more times, perhaps giving another performance like that at the UN, with a simple drawing to reinforce the simple message he has tried time and again to convey.
 
The timing is not ideal. The world's media are more interested in the Ukraine, and the search for the missing Malaysian airliner. 
 
One also suspects that overseas commentators and observers, and not a few Israelis, have tired of the Prime Minister's campaign. Those who haven't gotten the message by now, probably do not want to hear it. Other places have their national interests for soothing relations with Iran and supporting Palestine, which override what they see as the national interests of Israel and--in the case of Iran--the national interests of Sunni Arab countries concerned for the growing power of the Shi'ite center.
 
KISS is a great idea, but has its limitations.
 

 
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