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Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East.

by Michael B. Oren. Oxford University Press (, 198 Madison Avenue, New York, New York 10016, 2002, 480 pages, $30.00.

Michael Oren has written what will undoubtedly be a required text on the Arab-Israeli wars in general and the Six-Day Way of 1967 in particular. Many people think of the latter conflict in terms of the lightning air strike the Israelis conducted as an opening gambit to the tense situation in the Middle East. Oren takes readers beyond this perspective and into the pressures on the Egyptian, Jordanian, and Israeli sides regarding making a decision to engage in war. He devotes one chapter to each day of the struggle, from 5 to 10 June 1967, describing the tactics, counterstrikes, and troop exhaustion on a]l three fronts. The author a]so pieces together the political conditions that led to Israel's spectacular victory. Unlike many Israeli writers who focus on Israel's triumph, he delves into the competence of the Jordanian Arab Legion and the aftermath of the victory on Arab psychology, which contributed to a coordinated surprise attack on Israel by Egypt and Syria on 6 October 1973--the beginning of the Yom Kippur Way.

Part of the book reveals the strange relationship between Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser and Abd al-Hakim Amer, his commander in chief. Egypt's strongman tolerated Amer's corruption, overlooked his dismal performance in the Yemen War (1962-67), and refused to acknowledge how he had ruined the union between Syria and Egypt. Amer had run the Egyptian armed forces as his personal fiefdom, appointing officers not on the basis of military competence but on their entertainment value and loyalty to him. The result was an officer corps distant from the troops it commanded. One of the keys to Israeli success lay in Amer's indecisiveness on the eve of battle, issuing counterorders and completely ignoring battle plans drawn up by the general chiefs of staff. Nasser and his generals placed too much faith in their Soviet arms and not enough in the training, morale, and logistical support of the basic Egyptian fighting soldier.

Oren also delves into the enormous pressure felt by Israeli prime minister Levi Eshkol and his generals, led by Itzhak Rabin and Moshe Dayan, to counter Egyptian and Syrian mobilizations and military bravado. Nasser had expelled United Nations observers from the demilitarized zone imposed by the Suez crisis of 1956, dispatched his navy to blockade the Straits of Tiran, and initiated a program to divert the headwaters of the Jordan River to Israel's disadvantage. This very readable book has my highest recommendation.

Lt Comdr Youssef H. Aboul-Enein, MSC, USN

Washington, D. C.
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Author:Aboul-Enein, Youssef H.
Publication:Air & Space Power Journal
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 22, 2003
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