Lessons Learned on Yom Kippur Essay

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Flight operations by Egyptian pilots using these aircraft have begun; approximately 16 Hawker Hunter jet fighters also arrived in Egypt from Iraq with Iraqi pilots. About 10 Lightning jet fighters were expected from Saudi Arabia;

(3) Movement of TU-16 bombers from Aswan to the Cairo area in the latter part of March which are equipped to carry air-to-surface missiles;

(4) A high state of alert imposed on the Egyptian air force since April 20 had been noted with some air force reservists being recalled on the third of May;

(5) Relocation and reactivation of various Egyptian air squadrons with shuffling to accommodate aircraft from Libya and Iraq;

(6) The evidence suggested that additional commando units may have moved closer to the Suez Canal since the middle of March; and (7) A report that the Egyptian staff had been ordered to prepare a detailed plan for an attack across the Canal and to pick optimum dates with full moon nights being chosen by staff and specifically the date of May 19th and June 16th. (National Security Council Archives, 2001, p. 4)

It was also reported that a high-ranking Jordanian military office stated that the "Arab chiefs of staff conference in Cairo, 21-25 April, was permeated with 'despair and foreboding' due to Egyptian determination to go to war regardless of the consequences." (National Security Council Archives, 2001, p.4) Additionally it is stated that there were reports of a reliable nature that the Egyptians were "trying to organize an oil boycott by the Arab oil producers against the U.S. And Western Europe in the even of hostilities with Israel." (National Security Council Archives: Indications of Arab Intentions to Initiate Hostilities, p.1-2) This declassified document concludes by stating that it is believed overall that there will not be an outbreak of hostilities prior to "the next UN debate, and we doubt that Sadat will decide to try a major operation within the next six weeks." (National Security Council Archives, 2001, p.3)

On September 10, 1973 a Memorandum of Conversation of the meeting between Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President, Peter W. Rodman, National Security Council Staff, Simcha Dinitz, Ambassador of Israel, and Mordechai Shalev, Minister, Israel took place in the Military Aide's Office at the White House Kissinger states that he had informed Israel's Prime Minister that the "trend here to do something is getting overwhelming. It can be delayed but it cannot be arrested. The trouble is, the U.S. public doesn't understand what it really is that the Arabs are proposed -- that as a precondition for a negotiation you give up all the territory in an exchange for an 'end to the state of belligerency,' which is indistinguishable from the ceasefire that exists." (National Security Council Archives, 2002, p.2)

Kissinger stated that "there is no immediate pressure...nothing will happen until after your election." (National Security Council Archives, 2002, p.3) During this meeting Kissinger discussed the possibility of attempting to identify a method of splitting off the Saudis.

On October 6, 1973, a memorandum was sent to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger by William Quandt and Donald Stukel and the subject of that memorandum was a WSAG Meeting on the Middle East which was to take place for the purpose of reviewing the situation "as it...developed since Arab-Israeli hostilities began..." that morning and to make a determination of the actions that should be taken by the USG.

The memorandum review of the situation states that fighting broke out at 2:00 P.M. local time "and the weight of evidence suggests that it resulted from a coordinated Egyptian-Syrian initiative." (National Security Council Archives, 1973, p.1) It is stated that the majority of the fighting took place "along the Suez and Golan fronts." (National Security Council Archives, 1973, p.1)

Ten aircraft were confirmed lost by the Egyptians. It was reported that should diplomatic efforts fail in restoration of the cease-fire that the Israelis would like send out a hard hit the next day and questions whether the United States had an interest "in trying to dissuade them?" (National Security Council Archives, 1973, p.2) Other questions addressed in this memorandum were those of:

(1) what position have the Soviets been taking during the crisis?

(2) how are they likely to come out of this in terms of their position in the Middle East? (3) Are there any indications that Arab oil producers have threatened an embargo? And (4) Are there any reports of hostility directed at U.S. citizens in Arab countries, especially Libya, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon or Kuwait? (National Security Council Archives, 1973, p.3)

It is related that the Soviet Union had "evacuated dependents from Egypt and Syria" which is stated to have suggested that they were knowledgeable about the events and that the Soviet media have reported the accusations of the Arab that stated that Israel had launched the attack. There was reported to be only one Soviet naval ship in the Egyptian port and that no Soviet ships were in Syrian ports. (National Security Council Archives, 1973, p.3) The memorandum relates that the Soviet Union, while aware of the possibility of an attack on Israel was not in agreement with this occurrence however, it is also related that Israel was herself contemplating a pre-emptive strike on Egypt and Syria.


The Cold War Policy of Deterrence was theoretically and rationally sound and ideologically this policy is quite appealing however, the Soviet Union and its capacity to control the actions of Syria and Egypt as well as the United States and its capacity to control the actions of Israel, are the factors that serve as inherent flaws in the Cold War Policy of Deterrence.

Rationality is the very backbone of the Cold War policy of Deterrence and this rationality is based upon the assumption that other individuals would view the possibility of mutual total destruction as a price that was far too high to pay for victory however, this rationality was not in the forefront of the considerations of either Syria or Egypt although the Soviet Union was cautious in this area, it could not in reality be expected that the Soviet Union could effectively exercise control over these two countries due to the variations and differential considerations and views that drove the thinking process of those in leadership positions in Syria and Egypt.

Because the Soviet Union and the United States were world Superpowers and because the world looked to the larger more powerful countries to call the tune, the United States and the Soviet Union leadership understood that they were accountable and that the mass populations were depending on their rationality and cognition in matter of war and peace. However, that driving the leadership of the Egyptians and Syrians was based upon other factors that failed to take into account the worst-case scenario of launching such as attack and on a day that was a Jewish holy day.

It is like that this attack was launched on Yom Kippur for the purpose of surprise or as termed by the former President George Bush for the "shock and awe" effect because Syria and Egypt felt that the element of surprise would serve to promote their chances of success and ultimately of victory in the fight against Israel.


Leadership in both the Soviet Union and the United States learned a hard lesson during the Cold War as fighting took place in the Middle East and that lesson specifically was that the Cold War policy of Deterrence, while sounding plausible and rational was based upon a false assumption, and that being that all in leadership positions would consider the overall gains and losses that nuclear war and all its accompanying destruction would result in producing.


Burr, William (2003) The October War and U.S. Policy. National Security Archives. 7 Oct 2003. Online available at: www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB98/

Indications of Arab Intentions to Initiate Hostilities (2001) National Security Council Archives. Declassified. Online available at: http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB98/octwar-01.pdf

Intelligence Memorandum for Secretary Kissinger (1973) National Security Council. From William Quandt and Donald Stukel. WSAG Meeting, Middle East, Saturday October 6, 1973, 3:00 P.M. Online available at: http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB98/octwar-15.pdf

Memorandum of Conversation: Simcha Dinitz, Ambassador of Israel; Mordechai Shalev, Minister; Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President; and Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff. The White House. National Security Council Archives. Online available at: http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB98/octwar-05.pdf

Payne, Keith B. (2003) The Fallacies of Cold War Deterrence and a New Direction. Comparative Strategy, 22:411-429. National Institute for Public Policy. Fairfax, VA. Online available at; http://www.unm.edu/~gleasong/300/su2006/keith_payne_fallacies.pdf

Van Den Bergh, Gottfried van Bentham (2009) The Taming of the Great Nuclear Powers. Carnegie Endowment for…[continue]

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