Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Hosni's war sitcom

Hosni's sitcom is actually pretty entertaining. I watched snapshots of the second episode last night, and it wasn't bad. Full of wrong and misleading information about the October war, but it wasn't bad still. Its definetely a shift, having the interviews so casual. They tried so hard actually, and it showed. Was pretty funny. I'm sure it will have the desired effect on many people however. Yesterday's episode was particularly interesting because it was the first time to mention the Deversoir gap so bluntly on an Egyptian public media. Other than the annoying attempts to show that the war was not possible without Hosni Mubarak and his air force. Claiming that the solution to finish off the Israeli gap and presence on the west side of the canal was to retreat is a blatant twist of facts. The solution proposed cannot be considered a retreat in any way. The solution to beat the gap was to take back a single (one) brigade west of the canal to fight the few tanks that started the infiltration. This is not a retreat, this is not armies pulling back, this is not air defence operators abandoning their posts. Give me a break Mr. President, enough lies. Like Saad ElShazly says (who proposed this solution at the beginning of the gap and was let go mostly because of it), this is war, war is dynamic, you have to expect to maneuver your forces, and handle unexpected situations. What was Sadat's response to that solution, "not a single Egyptian soldier will take a step back!" A great military leader indeed!!

I will give Hosni credit for the role of the air force in the war, but by no mean was it the key to the victory as he says and as his media plays it out. The key to our victory, as well as to the turn of events in that war, were the SAM-6 air defence missiles.

I have to say that the October war is one of the very rare things that make me proud that I'm Egyptian. For years as a kid, I was taught that it was a perfect war, was never told about the Deversoir or of how close Sharon was to Cairo. It was a shocker to read about that later on in some of the books that were banned. Was it all a big lie? Did we actually lose that war? For a while I thought that maybe we did. Isn't el3ebra belnehaya, and this is how the war ended. Our Third Army surrounded not capable of even getting food, and Sharon 100Km away from Cairo.

That is not how to measure victory however. It was not a complete victory, but it was a true victory. Our soldiers didn't reach Jerusalem or even Taba, but that was not the plan, nor the intention (not the political nor the military, but maybe it was just our wishful thinking).

A few facts are in order here. The military war plan was not to take over Sinai in the first few days of the war, not even the first weeks of it. It was to cross the canal and take over 10 kilometers (or until the madaye'a) east of the canal were the forces are sufficiently covered by the SAM missiles. The advancement of the forces farther east was not planned until another 6 months later, when the SAM artillary batteries can be moved over and installed east of the canal to cover the advancement of the forces. However, this is not the plan that Sadat communicated with the Syrians. He told them the plan did not involve a halt of advancement of the forces in order to convince them to join in the war. After the awesome blow to the Israeli forces in the first few days of the war, Sadat made the mistake of not sticking to the military plan in order to "save the Syrians" and decided to advance the forces, against the advice of the military leaders. The forces advanced without cover from the SAM missiles, and we started taking losses, and the gap started to open between the Second and Third armies, and cunning Sharon made it through.

Unexpected turn of events. That's war. The infiltration started with less than a handful of tanks, but no forces were on the west side of the canal to battle those tanks, and hence the proposed solution to take a brigade from the east side to deal with the infiltration. I was looking for an answer as to why our air forces never just took those tanks out, which seems a pretty obvious thing to do. The answer I found that it wasn't possible to use our airplanes on the west side resulting in parallelizing the SAM missles, and hence openning our space to the Israeli jets to get into the battle.

Stubborn Sadat wouldn't listen to the sharp solution of pulling a brigade back early on, so the gap widened, more Israeli tanks went through surrounding our Third Army, and Sharon was 100Km away from Cairo. Does that constitute a loss of the war. No.

The initial military plan was indeed perfect. However, the US would've never allowed for a Soviet-armed army to beat a US-armed army. But it would also never allow an Israeli soldier to reach Cairo, where the Nile is. Being in Damascus on the other side, how far would that make them from the Euphrates? Why did the Israelis stop their advancement were they did? How much of the way to Jerusalem can they expose by pushing more of their forces west of the canal?

We would've never been allowed to have a complete victory in that war, and that is what Sadat realized --and that is what scared him to hell, making him want to end the war immediately. The initial plan was damn good, but it would've not worked politically I believe. So were is the victory? The whole war was a victory regardless of the stalemate at the end, the war plan was a victory, the cunning surprise attack was a victory, crossing the canal was a victory, the engineering ingenuity and destroying the Barlev line was a victory, the battles led by Egyptian soldiers was a victory, beating the Israeli myth was a victory, and even the decision to go to war was a victory.

If there is one thing that I'll give credit to Sadat for, its the decision to go to war. And if there is one thing that I'll shoot Nasser for, its the 1967 war loss, but I'll give him credit for the pre-73 estinzaf war. The only thing I'll give Mubarak credit for however, is last night's funny episode of his new sitcom.

Oh, and I thought it was pretty funny that he called Saad ElShazly, esmo eih dah ("what's his name").


Twosret said...
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praktike said...

Good post. I think the key turn of phrase you're looking for is that for Egypt, the 1973 War was a strategic victory. Sadat understood the constraints under which he was operating. The war showed that the military had been professionalised and stripped of cronyism, and proved to the Israelis that they weren't invincible. And of course, Sadat got the Sinai back for Egypt, which was the big prize.

Anonymous said...

You and the previous commentators know much more than I do about the Yom Kippur War, as Americans generally call it. Just a couple of remarks.

The US-USSR interaction was murky. I think Nixon claimed that the USSR threatened Israel, if Sharon's drive did something like either capture 3rd Army or take Cairo. Nixon claimed that he made some reply to the threat. He raised the US Defense level (DEFCON) to the level right below all-out war. Democrats claimed that there was no crisis and he was only trying to distract US attention from Watergate. The superpower interaction played a role in the cease-fire and the rescue of 3rd Army.

Long-term results included Sharon's fame. This may have been one of the few wars which both sides won. The only effective threats to Israel's survival were Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. This war led to (cold) peace between Egypt and Jordan. So, Israel won, too. Syria alone is not a threat to Israel's survival, so Syria lost. The Palestinians won because the Camp David agreement has committed the US and Israel to finding some solution to the Palestinian problem.

Did this war lead to the Lebanon civil war?

Michael in Framingham

Mohamed said...

I think we probably all did win on the long term like you say Michael. Israel did win that cold peace. To many Egyptians however, Camp David is not considered a victory, but a loss. The way this whole peace treaty was played out is considered a big loss by many. In my view, the long term victory from this war was also not the peace treaty, rather, was putting Egypt on par with Israel, and having Egyptians believe in themselves again.

What I know, is that we've been making quite a number of losses since that peace treaty however. How can we keep proclaiming that the '73 was our last war and expect to be respected!

The Palestinians aren't winning yet. I don't think finding "some solution" can be considered winning.

Haal said...

Naiive question: what was our other alternative had we not reached for Camp David, and the peace treaty?

Are the palestinians or syrians wining anything?

In my simple mind, I think Sadat was very shrewd, had a vision, and did what the arabs are, till now, trying to do. It doesn't help if you want to be another Jivara(sp?) with no clear strategy. And this is what 'arafat did. Wanted to be Jivara to his people, and Sadat in the international sphere.

Mohamed said...

My question is, what exactly did we win with Camp David? A few dollars from the tourism business in Sinai + 2 billion in USAID?!!

Sadat was not shrewed, that is what our media likes to play him out as, and the Americans like him so much because he was their doll, and Kissinger was almost his shrink moving him around at will.

Having the Arabs trying to do what Sadat did, does not mean that Sadat was shrewed in any way. All it means is that the Arabs are damn weak and are giving in. Claiming that this proves that Sadat is shrewed is also another message sold by our media.

I disagree strongly with what Arafat did, but I respect him, especially that he didn't give in during his last years. I respect him for not selling out the Palestinians in Camp David II, regardless of all the attacks he withtook because of it, and all the Israeli propaganda claiming that they offered him 95% of the land. He has become a symbol that is for sure, and he is loved by the Palestinians. So regardless of the wrong he did, overall, I respect him. I didn't think I would, but I did mourn him.

Haal said...

Could very well be. But should we give the guy some credit for being 'realistic' and realized how weak we are? Political manouever?

But the question remains, at least in my head, what was our alternative?

re/ arafat. I too respect the guy. But, what did he do for his people, this is the question?

Mohamed said...

The only credit I'll give Sadat is what I've mentioned in the post.

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