Krauthammer’s History Woes: 1967

Mr. Krauthammer, in your article, can we get a few things straight about Israeli history?

First, yes, the Israeli public was quite fearful in May 1967. But inside the Israeli government, Israel had intel it could win in a relatively short war. On June 1, 1967, Maj. General Meir Amit, director of the Mossad, told Robert McNamara, U.S. Secretary of Defense, the war would be over in two days (see Oren, Six Days of War, p. 147), though perhaps he only meant the Egyptian front. In 1992, Amit said at a conference that he told McNamara at that meeting that the war would last seven days. Also, as the U.S. notetaker recorded in 1967, Amit “informed the Secretary that there were no differences between the U.S. and the Israelis on the military intelligence picture or its interpretation.” [Aside: note that the web version of document #124 contains a formatting error where a note is included in the body of the text. This error becomes clear if one looks at the scan of the actual page from the paper version of this FRUS volume. I have linked to both and emailed State to suggest that the historians correct the formatting error.]

The next day, June 2, 1967, at a high-level Anglo-American meeting, McNamara spoke: “the Israelis think they can win in 3–4 days; but he [McNamara] thinks it would be longer—7 to 10 days.” The British response: “Both sides agreed that an Israeli military success would take more than a few days and possibly a week plus. Certainly it would take longer than it took in 1956 and it would be bloodier.” (This still classified memo from the CIA director to LBJ might also help with this discussion. But on May 23, the CIA reported Egypt had improved since 1956 but, “Nevertheless, we consider that the Israeli forces have retained an over-all superiority.”)(Here is a detailed NSC analysis of the war and its likely outcome, an Israeli victory.)

Second, the military mobilization did create pressure on Israel. Military mobilizations often affect the national political clock. But I think it is a huge leap to go from there to, “The country was dying.” Israel’s mobilization would have been psychologically and financially difficult to sustain (which lends credence to the idea that Israel would not let various diplomatic fishing expeditions run their course), but it could have done so for longer. Dying suggests capitulation, surrender, starvation, suicide, and/or impending Arab victory. None was in the offing. Or if it was, can you please make that case?

Third, you cannot say that today for Israelis “it is May ’67” and then proceed to undercut your argument by pointing out all the differences between 1967 and 2012: “The dread is not quite as acute: The mood is not despair, just foreboding. Time is running out, but not quite as fast. War is not four days away, but it looms.” So less dread + less despair + different time clock + war not four days away somehow still equals 1967? It makes no sense.

I’ll leave more on Krauthammer’s faulty Iran comparison to Matt Duss.

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