It is said that war is too important to be left to the generals. This is not to prevent the military from performing its professional duties and guarding the homeland. Rather, it is because they operate within a society and a state. Firstly, the political leadership must define what the national security issue is that requires the use of armed force. Secondly, define the red lines that no other nation can cross. Thirdly, mobilise the human and material resources to achieve the above.
This is no easy feat because of the dilemmas of bread versus arms, the strength of our forces compared to those of the enemy, and the size of the sacrifices the nation must endure in order to achieve its goals. This is all part of the political process in democratic states.
Traditionally, the new administration begins by writing a “strategic assessment” that outlines all of the above. It explains to legislators the consequences of war to make it a joint responsibility of the president, military leaders and elected representatives. They are not the ones who prepare the forces, draft emergency plans, decide on the type of weapons required, or the priorities required to improve the capabilities of the armed forces. However, they do decide what society expects of its armed forces, which are always prepared to defend the country, even if they pay for it with their lives.
Surprisingly, although more than a year has passed since the revolution, and despite the emergence of a considerable number of “potential” president candidates, an elected parliament, and a plethora of television channels, none of these points are being discussed. It is as if the issue of national security does not need clarification, definition, evaluation, a price or resources.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is not the job of the military – although it does have a say. Neither is it the job of an intellectual to speculate about it on Al-Jazeera or in the press, where wars are defined according to whims, inclinations, animosity and desire for revenge. It is, in fact, the job of society to keep all of the above in its heart and mind.