Recent Revisions to the lessons learned in the 1973 Arab-Israeli war

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The above two articles are excellent analyses of lessons unlearned from the Yom Kippur/ Ramadan war (1973) war. There have been tons of lessons learned, many very good ones one should read and digest but these two articles point out some very critical ones that have not been properly covered.

Egyptian soldiers surrendering to Israelis in 1967

Of course a salient one always surfaced is the intelligence failure. Despite numerous warnings the Israeli intelligence just could bring themselves to predict an Egyptian crossing of the canal. Much of that was due to overwhelming Israeli hubris. As George Garaych at the American staff College at Leavenworth Ks. ( Now at Baylor University) presciently warned, next to losing a war, nothing is more dangerous than winning one too easily…as the Israelis did in 1967. See George Gawrych “The Albatross of Decisive Victory; War and Policy between Egypt and Israel in the 1967 and 1973 wars.”

The endless dissection of the near disaster to Israel in the 1973 war by Israelis and outsiders has rarely been replicated by Arabs. When one sees an Arab post mortem on the wars…if they admit they lost…… it is always ascribed to a political or military personality or to an outside power intervening. One of the main reasons their ability to improves so limited. Certainly. with an exception of a few Arab brave souls none would admit that cultural issues including religious ones limit their ability to increase their proficiency.The closest to that I’ve seen to criticism is “Crossing the Suez “by General Saad Shazli ( who was later fired by Sadat)

The first article was by Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen. He is a senior research fellow at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. He served in the IDF ( Israeli Defense Forces) for 42 years. He commanded troops in battles with Egypt and Syria. He was formerly a corps commander and commander of the IDF Military Colleges.

He wrote there are two messages written about on the Israeli view of the 1973 war; One is that there was a massive intelligence failure and the other one promises that the necessary lessons have been learned and corrected. Not so says General Hacohen. As he Writes one the the reasons for the “fiasco” went far beyond the intelligence failure. As he wrote, In fact the “Intelligence failure has been used as a coverup for the “many deficiencies” of the the Israeli Defense forces, particularly their senior leadership. The leadership was unprepared for the war and training for the officers was lacking. One of the prime Politcal-military mistakes was the religious belief in the power of “deterrence”…sort of along the lines …..the Egyptians wouldn’t dare attack etc. He gives number of other reasons. One I wrote about as a student paper at the Staff college, i.e. that the Israelis were so enamored with AirPower that they neglected artillery. Their belief was that they had “flying artillery.” Believe me folks, until now, there is no substitute for adequate artillery firepower.

The second article by Dr Hannah Shai, a lecturer in military thought in the political science Department at Bar-IIlan university takes a different and very interesting tact.

Under Moshe Dayan in 1957, the IDF became a youth camp for commanders. Commanders were expected to retire at 40-42 so they could have a second career in civilian life. Dayan did not see military command as a profession. President Ben Gurion adamantly opposed this but in the end it became part of the IDF ethos…young dashing commanders, energetic, with new ideas, aggressive and ensued with offensive spirit.

President Ben- Gurion adamantly opposed this idea but eventually it became part of IDF Ethos. As he wrote. ”

military service must be a life’s mission. Only then will someone give the best he has. A life’s mission is a mission for one’s whole life…. We cannot suffer a single defeat, because then we are lost. It depends first and foremost on the quality of the commanders, and I view the problem of the quality of the commander as inextricably linked to the fate of the people of Israel rather than a purely military problem…. What suited the Hagana [underground organization] doesn’t suit the IDF…. An army must be an army…. Two [career] cycles are dangerous for an army.

It created turmoil in stability and the officers lacked all around education in staff and command positions. In the Israeli post-mortem of the war the Aganat Commission of Inquiry stated “that that divisional battles were conducted as oof they were company- level battles

We also have those issues in out own army, maybe not as severe, but certainly they are there. The lessons of Vietnam have been hashed and rehashed over and over but as the Iraq mess showed we have not learned much. see my article.

The easy war in 1990, and the easy 2003 conventional part of the war set us up for a difficult insurgency war war in 2004 to………… ?

Moshe Dayan

About Tex

Retired artillery colonel, many years in a number of positions in the Arab world. Graduate of the US Military Academy and the American University of Beirut. MA in Arab studies from the American University in Beirut along with 18 years as Middle East Seminar Director at the JFK Special Warfare Center and School, Served in Vietnam with 1st Inf Division, Assignments in Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt, plus service with Trucial Oman Scouts in the Persian Gulf. Traveled to every Arab country on the map including Iraq, Syria, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco.
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