What Golda Meir Understood That Her Generals Did Not

When Egypt and Syria launched their coordinated attacks on Yom Kippur of 1973, Israel found itself woefully unready, after two years of assurances from military intelligence that neither country would attack under current circumstances, supposedly deterred by the IDF’s apparent superiority. The high command and the storied military leaders of then-Prime Minister Golda Meir’s cabinet—among them Moshe Dayan and Yigal Allon—had been convinced by this faulty assessment. Although Israeli soldiers eventually turned the situation around, the failures of the war’s early days have left an enduring scar on Israel’s collective memory. But Meir, the civilian, knew to be suspicious of complacency, writes Hanan Shai:

Meir apparently did not put her trust in the confidence of the intelligence branch regarding Arab fears of the IDF. During the cabinet discussions, she raised several questions about those ostensible fears. . . . Meir then inquired as to the possibility that “the Egyptians will keep us a little busy when the Syrians want to do something on the Golan,” [which is precisely what occurred]. The response of the intelligence branch to that question was that Hafez al-Assad “knows his limitations, because [his advisers] are aware of Israel’s strategic superiority.”

In answering Meir’s incisive questions, intelligence did not add any facts to substantiate its assessment that the Arabs were deterred. . . . Yet no alarm bells went off for the chief of staff and the many other experienced military men who took part in the discussion.

Meir’s bold questions during the prewar cabinet discussions did not change a thing, [however]. Golda Meir was known as a stubborn and authoritative leader, and apparently the only explanation for her acquiescence to the lack of preparedness that her questions exposed (particularly the lack of an early-warning margin that would enable mobilizing the reserves) was her expectation that spies Israel had recruited deep within the Egyptian government and military would provide such a warning. She was also relying on Dayan, who, until the outbreak of the 1973 war, was a defense minister of mythical stature.

Perhaps then there is some truth to the old adage that “war is too important to be left to the generals.”

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Golda Meir, IDF, Israeli history, Moshe Dayan, Yom Kippur War


How to Save the Universities

To Peter Berkowitz, the rot in American institutions of higher learning exposed by Tuesday’s hearings resembles a disease that in its early stages was easy to cure but difficult to diagnose, and now is so advanced that it is easy to diagnose but difficult to cure. Recent analyses of these problems have now at last made it to the pages of the New York Times but are, he writes, “tardy by several decades,” and their suggested remedies woefully inadequate:

They fail to identify the chief problem. They ignore the principal obstacles to reform. They propose reforms that provide the equivalent of band-aids for gaping wounds and shattered limbs. And they overlook the mainstream media’s complicity in largely ignoring, downplaying, or dismissing repeated warnings extending back a quarter century and more—largely, but not exclusively, from conservatives—that our universities undermine the public interest by attacking free speech, eviscerating due process, and hollowing out and politicizing the curriculum.

The remedy, Berkowitz argues, would be turning universities into places that cultivate, encourage, and teach freedom of thought and speech. But doing so seems unlikely:

Having undermined respect for others and the art of listening by presiding over—or silently acquiescing in—the curtailment of dissenting speech for more than a generation, the current crop of administrators and professors seems ill-suited to fashion and implement free-speech training. Moreover, free speech is best learned not by didactic lectures and seminars but by practicing it in the reasoned consideration of competing ideas with those capable of challenging one’s assumptions and arguments. But where are the professors who can lead such conversations? Which faculty members remain capable of understanding their side of the argument because they understand the other side?

Read more at RealClearPolitics

More about: Academia, Anti-Semitism, Freedom of Speech, Israel on campus