Do the Arabs acknowledge Israeli military prowess?

There may have been some debate about the plight of the Third Army, but it isn’t really one in which the sides are equally regarded. The vast majority of experts at the time and afterwards were in no doubt: a modern army surrounded in the desert, cut off from any hope of resupply, and now subject to uncontested airpower of its enemy is in deep, deep trouble. Most sources simply state that it was political motives, not military ones, that prevented its complete destruction - if it was war to the knife, they would have been annihilated.

Apparently, this was the Egyptian Commander’s contention, and he ought to know. From the same Wiki article:

Saad el-Shazly was the Egyptian Chief of Staff during the war … if he said “the fate of the Egyptian Third Army was in the hands of Israel”, I’m inclined to believe him, particularly where it accords with common strategic sense. It is highly unusual for an army in its position to successfully break out of encirclement (at least, as an intact army, capable of fighting again).

As for the peace deal - again, it is worth pointing out that the barrier to a deal was on the Egyptian side, not the Israeli: Egypt had signed on to the “Three Nos”, when Israel was willing to trade the Sinai after 1967. The war was, from a rational POV, pointless. The main thing it accomplished was assuaging Egyptian military pride (they had lost, undoubtedly, but ‘with honour’ this time, as opposed to the one-sided humiliation inflicted by their military leaders in 1967).

As for Soviet Military intervention, they were unwilling to risk it in the face of American threats, allegedly.

That Third Army was in a bad position isn’t in question; it’s how bad and how immediately in peril it in fact was that isn’t so certain. That it was able to actually gain ground and improve its position on the east bank of the canal despite being surrounded and facing renewed Israeli air superiority is unusual to say the least if it truly was on the verge of collapse. David Elazar was Chief of Staff of the IDF during the war, and you’d think he’d ought to know as well as his Egyptian counterpart. I think Murphy had a saying in his Laws of Combat: When both sides are convinced they are about to lose, they’re both right. Trevor N. Dupuy was a prolific and highly regarded military historian, the quote comes from Elusive Victory: The Arab-Israeli Wars, 1947–1974, the best and most impartial military history of the conflicts I’ve come across. Personally I tend to take him at his word, or at least don’t take his opinions lightly.

Indeed, were it that the world ran on reason.

My first thought, reading this title, was “Just google it”. Quickly moving on to my second thought: It’s not there. The internet consists not of broad-based knowledge, but of reaffirmation of what our secluded culture already holds to be self evident. The Internet preaches to a choir. What we think of as “knowledge” is a closed vessel of our parochial culture’s dogma, being re-examined like two sides of a Mobius Strip, when it is always the same unchallenged, undisputed side.

Three-quarters of the world’s cultural opinion lies beyond our data horizon, inaccessible to us without cites.

Here’s an idea. Go through your list of Facebook friends, find a Muslim or an Arab, and ask him this thread’s title question. But you don’t have a Muslim Facebook friend, do you? Even on the Internet, you remain completely insulated from any world but your own. Even with the worldwide web, we’re still just Waiting For The Barbarians.

(The above not intended to be a critique of any posts here, but just a commentary on the fact there is such a thread,)

Neither Shazly nor Elazar are exactly the most unbiased of sources either, Shazly has bitterly opposed the decision to move further from the AD umbrella (which led to disaster) and Elazar has opposed Sharon’s counter crossing because of the risks that his force could find itself trapped across the Suez if its bridgehead was threatened something Third Army was trying to do; and facing reinforcements coming in from rest of Egypt.

Both of them have a big reason to say “I told you so”.

This is a little overwrought. How many threads by US posters are of the “what do Brits think about…”

Thing is, look at what they are actually quoted as saying. Dupuy is saying, in effect, that a renewed Israeli offensive may (or may not) have crushed the Egyptian 3rd army (which had established viable defensive positions); Elazar is saying that, as the Egyptian army still existed and could act to improve its defensive posture (despite encirclement), the Israelis can’t claim to have destroyed or overcome it yet.

But this is to miss the larger point: the Israelis didn’t have to attack the 3rd Army. All they had to do, was keep them encircled. Assuming no international pressure, in an actual ‘war to the knife’, all they had to do was wait: the Egyptian army was in short time completely dependent on Israelis allowing essential supplies in. As Shazly notes, the Egyptians were dependent for survival on Israelis: “Once the Third Army was encircled by Israeli troops every bit of bread to be sent to our men was paid for by meeting Israeli demands”.

In short, both sets of commentators can be ‘right’ at the same time: the encircled 3rd Army was not yet ‘destroyed’ (and attacking it may have been more difficult than some Israelis thought); but, by the same token, the Israelis did not have to attack it - the Egyptians had to break out, or die. This, it is alleged, they were totally incapable of doing (and certainly if they could, they would have attempted it).

In this position, the Third Army was totally “checkmated”. It could defend but not break out; and yet, it had to break out in order to survive, let alone defeat the Israelis. Whether or not it was about to ‘imminently collapse’ is indeed debatable and is debated (given a very imminent definition of “imminent” :smiley: - without supplies, its collapse could not be delayed indefinitely, any more than Paulus at Stalingrad), but whether it could win is not; it was lost, and with it, the war. What saved the 3rd Army was the very fact that the war was not, and could not, be a ‘war to the knife’ given (a) the international context, and (b) the actual goals of both combatants.

The notion that ‘both sides were about to lose’ in this situation lacks reality. Only one party was “about to lose”, the Egyptians, and everyone knew it (hence Soviet threats of intervention, etc.).

Heh, no argument there. :smiley:

Nonsense. There’s a Muslim posting quite vocally in this very thread.

I personally know many Muslims: one is married to my best friend; we used to joke that the four of us would comprise a complete UN, if only our kids grew up married Africans and East Asians (I’m Jewish, my wife is Ukrainian Catholic, my friend is Scottish Protestant, and he’s married to an Iranian Muslim). :wink:

The idea that Muslims don’t even exist in out culture can’t really be sustained.

As I said, I had a short discussion of this with our guide and driver in Egypt. Just basic working stiffs, not politically motivated… They believed that the 1973 war pretty much ended in a draw.

After all, in the end everyone pulled back to original lines, and then Egypt got back its Sinai without really giving up anything close to the same cost. All Israel asked was “keep your army away from us, please” somewhat demilitarized zones. Is it any surprise they believe their country’s propaganda?

Also, as I said - whatever the military and leadership say behind closed doors, in that sort of regime, nobody comes out in public (and lives) to say “we suck, we can’t beat the enemy, we shouldn’t even try”.

With respect, I have to disagree. Geography and terrain would have mitigated against that. If Third Army broke out, the Israeli forces in Africa were fucked and they knew it.
it; they were reliant on a line of communication which went through enemy lines and across a major water obstacle, one which was also under attack. This meant that they had to commit large amount of troops to keep Third Army from breaking out, and therefore they could not support their attacks on the West Bank of the canal; they were repelled by inferior forces at Ismailia and also at Suez City. Something like 10 brigades were holed up facing the Egyptian Second and Third Army and four or five were defending the bridgehead. In short, the Israelis could not go deeper in and threaten the Egyptians without getting reinforcements and they could not give reinforcements without finding their whole position in Africa collapsing.

They also faced according to Moshe Dayan’s own estimates

So, with natural obstacles on three sides; and a huge and mostly fresh enemy force on the fourth; Dayan was of the opinion that

I’m not sure how this disagrees with what I’ve said - namely, that it was the Egyptians who had to break out; that they couldn’t do it (they tried and failed); and that if they didn’t, the 3rd Army was history.

Your cite goes on to say as much:


Dayan wanted to end the incursion into Egypt (there had been several Israeli attacks further into Egypt), because Israel had accomplished its objectives and further loss of life was pointless.

The bit you quoted from Dayan, in context:

In short, keeping the 3rd Army “pinned” until its utter destruction would of course have required a lengthy mobilization, and cost Israeli lives; these were important factors, give Israeli sensitivities to such losses - and given that Israel had, in fact, met all of its military goals (namely, defeated Egypt).

Simply put, there was no point to further sacrifice because Israel had won. It is not the case that it was a “draw”. Had there been some sort of point to completely obliterating Egypt’s military, and had it been politically possible given the international situation (neither of which point was true), there was nothing militarily preventing that outcome: certainly there were “weaknesses” in Israel’s position (there always are), but Israel held all the advantages. In morale, there was no question: think what you want of Sharon, as a general his attack was very successful in destroying Egyptian morale. Egypt had begun to suffer the same command problems it suffered in spades in 1967 - namely, the top brass not knowing what was going on.

The 3rd Army attempted to break out and failed, which obviously did their morale no good.

When half your army is surrounded and cannot break out, and begins to surrender en mass, it simply defies reality to claim that you have won a “draw” (much less a “victory”):

That’s not the point I’m making though. The general belief was/is that Third Army was on the very precipice of collapse and would not have been able to put up much of a fight had the war continued and was only saved from imminent and utter destruction by the ceasefire. That isn’t so certain at all. That Third Army was doomed to eventual defeat is certain, how quickly and easily this was going to be accomplished is not as cut and dry. To use your reference to 6th Army at Stalingrad, its defeat was certain but it proved to be much more costly and take a good deal longer to retake Stalingrad from the Germans than the Soviets had anticipated. That it was able to improve its position on the east bank of the canal is one sign of this, that it repulsed Israeli efforts to take Suez on Oct 24/25th and further probes at the city on the 25th and 28th is another.

Murphy’s Law that “When both sides are convinced they are about to lose, they’re both right” is a metaphor about perception and the fog of war; I hadn’t meant it to be taken literally.:smiley:

I was gonna post that article, but since I was beaten to the punch I’ll recommend Kenneth Pollack’s book Arabs at War: Military Effectiveness, 1948-1991. It’s a great analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of various Arab armies. One interesting item that keeps popping up is that logistically, a lot of Arab armies do quite well. They’re good at moving supplies to keep the army going. However, they struggle at the pointy end with command and control and there’s a horrible lack of training.

Sadly (because I was enjoying this), I can find nothing to disagree with there. :frowning: That’s about the size of it.

One can never be sure. :smiley:

That is not what he said; he said that the reason they would withdraw is since they were exposed

You should also consult a map; Third Army was never fully cut off; at least while Suez City held out; which it did. The failure at Ismailia meant that the Second Army was still able to move against the bridgeheads, which they were. In short, if fighting continued, or was restarted; his plan was to withdraw because he was exposed; not because he had “won”

BY the en mass surrender is only being sourced by one writer; Benny Morris; Israeli zionist and therefore not the most reliable of source; while both the Israeli chief of staff and Defence minister say otherwise. Nor was “half of the Army” of Egypt surrounded.

ETA: This is in response to Malthus’s post on the previous page.

Dayan is quoted twice using the same quote in that wiki page. You cited one; I cited the other. My use comes from the section entitled “Final situation on the Egyptian front”.

Actually, the source cited for the mass surrender is Abraham Rabinovich, not Morris. Not sure if this changes anything for you. I don’t see any express denial of the point form … anyone. I did not know it was controversial.

Seems to me that automatically discounting “Israeli Zionists” as sources about a war fought, in part, by Israel isn’t the most rational of steps; I assume the Israeli chief of staff (and indeed most Israeli soldiers) are, likewise, “Zionists”. Yet you quote them.

As for the notion that the 3rd Army wasn’t really encircled, that’s interesting indeed; I’ve never heard anyone else claim it.