When an Israeli Army officer says, "Follow me!", the soldiers under his command may be confused whether he means Facebook or firefight.
According to an Israeli general, some officers have started issuing military orders to their men by email and text message. Even more incredibly, soldiers frequently ignore those orders, a development the general warned could have dire consequences in time of war.
The problem of virtual reality sapping the ability to deal with the actual reality of battle was raised by Army ombudsman Maj. Gen. Yitzhak Brik in testimony to the Israeli Parliament buried on the inside pages of the newspaper Yisrael Ha'yom (Israel Today) and excerpted in part in a news roundup by the online publication Tablet.
In the original Hebrew piece in Yisrael Ha'yom, an outraged Brik paints a picture of officers who send emails or text messages to soldiers who are in the room next door or even in the same room. According to Brik, 40 percent of those commands are not being carried out. Worse still, he adds, the e-mailers and text messagers are undermining the Army's vaunted culture of personal responsibility and accountability, which "could lead to defeat in the next war." The problem, says Brik, is that officers are failing to go out into the field, see first-hand what is happening and share in the same hardships as their men.
"There are some commands that you need to give while looking the soldier in the eyes, otherwise the soldiers won't follow the commanders into battle," Brik said.
Brik may be fighting a rear-guard action. Later this summer, the Israeli Army is issuing a new uniform that boasts an interior pocket for soldiers to carry their cell phone.