Kissinger & th Yom Kippur War
To the Editor:
I want to comment on the implication in Edward N. Luttwak and Walter Laqueur’s article, “Kissinger and the Yom Kippur War” [September], that the American Jewish community was restrained in its political representations to our government by Secretary of State Kissinger’s “handling” of Simcha Dinitz, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States.
I write from the vantage point of having served as chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations representing the collective political position of almost the entire American Jewish community.
Within several hours of the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War on October 6, as chairman of the Conference, I sent a telegram to Secretary Kissinger calling on the government “to provide all supportive assistance to Israel in this critical hour. . . .”
On Saturday night, the Policy Committee of the Presidents Conference met to plan for the days ahead and on Sunday we brought together at the Plaza Hotel in New York 300 Jewish leaders from across the country to hear Israel Foreign Minister Abba Eban and to advise all present of the need “to communicate by letters and telegrams to the President urging our government to provide supportive assistance to Israel to the extent and of the nature required.”
On Monday, October 8, heads of our member organizations issued statements and addressed communications to their members requesting them to contact Congress and the administration to urge immediate support for Israel.
On Tuesday morning, October 9, we addressed a letter to President Nixon calling for the immediate replacement of all Israel’s military losses and other supportive assistance which might be required. This letter was signed by myself as chairman of the Presidents Conference; Max Fisher, chairman of the Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds; David Blumberg, president of B’nai B’rith; Louis Cole, president of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council; Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg, president of the American Jewish Congress; Mrs. Charlotte Jacobsen, president of the American Section of the World Hadassah; and Rabbi Israel Miller, president of the American Zionist Federation. The letter was hand delivered to the White House by Max Fisher and by Tuesday evening, Mr. Fisher advised us that he had been informed by the White House that Israel would have all military losses replaced.
During the course of Tuesday, October 9, the Presidents Conference assembled 1,000 organizational leaders from across the country to hear Ambassador Dinitz and to hear the first responses of political leaders to the communications which they had been receiving from their Jewish constituents across the country. Among those who responded with expressions of support were Senators Percy, McGovern, Kennedy, and Schweiker. . . .
During this period, Senator Jackson and many others were bringing pressure for the immediate resupply of Israel’s military needs. For the balance of the first week of the war, the leadership of the Presidents Conference and the heads of every member organization were in contact with administration officials, Senators, and Congressmen bringing pressure to begin an immediate military resupply of Israel, with particular emphasis on Phantom aircraft.
On Saturday, October 13, we received official word that a massive resupply airlift was underway.
I present this information in detail to reject and repudiate the impression developed by the authors that the political leadership of the American Jewish community was restrained or muted by Ambassador Dinitz of the Israel Embassy in Washington. . . .
The success of Kissinger in his negotiations with Israel and the Arab countries was due in large measure to his absolute candor. It is difficult to accept the authors’ conclusion, based on a reading of “coins and epigraphs,” that Kissinger practiced duplicity and manipulation; if he had acted in this manner, he would have faced an inevitable loss of his ability to negotiate with the parties and a sorely damaged credibility at home. . . .
In a continuing series of meetings we had with Kissinger revolving about the events of the Yom Kippur War, he spoke to us in total frankness and with candor and sincerity, and we felt fortunate that so able a person was our Secretary of State. We have seen no evidence to question Kissinger’s integrity or to support the authors’ thesis that Ambassador Dinitz was “handled” by Kissinger and manipulated into a conspiracy of silence.
The American Jewish community is proud of the role it played during those critical days, and of its prompt, aggressive, and continued pressure on Congress and the administration for full support of Israel; moreover, we welcomed the response of our government.
We are honored that Israel has sent to the United States an ambassador of such competence, dedication, and human response as Ambassador Dinitz and we believe he conducted his affairs during that critical week in a skillful and effective manner.
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
New York City
To the Editor:
“Kissinger and the Yom Kippur War” is a genuine tour de force, but I would like to point out an inconsistency. First, Edward N. Luttwak and Walter Laqueur explain that the main reason Kissinger withheld aid from Israel was his hope that the Soviet Union might cooperate with the United States in managing the crisis. Instead of elaborating on this argument, however, Messrs. Luttwak and Laqueur then go on to discuss American Middle East policy and the failure of the various U.S. initiatives to break the Arab-Israeli deadlock. And it is not until the end of the article that they suggest that Kissinger’s haste in responding to Moscow’s summons, on October 20, was “perhaps” due to his hope of salvaging detente.
Let me suggest that Soviet-American relations were indeed Kissinger’s primary concern during the October war, and while the failure of American Middle East diplomacy undoubtedly played its part in determining Kissinger’s behavior, it was his desire to preserve the alleged Soviet-American détente which led Kissinger first to withhold arms from Israel and then to rush to Moscow when the Israelis had gained a decisive military advantage.
Youth Institute for Peace in the Middle East
New York City
To the Editor:
In attempting to uncover the truth about Secretary of State Kissinger’s role in the Yom Kippur War, Edward N. Luttwak and Walter Laqueur resort to the methods of the historians of the Roman Empire when a straightforward exercise in logic and a rational testing of political premises would have taken them much closer to the mark. There is surely more to be learned in a careful analysis of the objective facts, as they occurred and as we know them to be, than in attempting, by speculative deduction, to ascertain who was the hero and who the villain.
First, the outbreak of war was a surprise to both the United States and Israel. Second, in the early hours of the war, Israel assured the United States it would rapidly prevail. Kissinger made clear, consonant with this expectation, that losses of aircraft and other consumable items would be replaced as needed. At this juncture it is fair to conclude that both the State Department and the Pentagon were in harmony on policy, and the need to conceive, much less organize, a difficult operational supply airlift, was remote. In the normal run of things, there would necessarily be some bureaucratic delay in replacing Israeli losses, but nothing to cause alarm.
After forty-eight hours of intensive fighting without a decisive Israeli victory, the reality of the battlefield situation began to impose itself and the need for massive supplies and aircraft from the United States became imperative. This is the crucial turn in the historical narrative. The authors imply that the anti-Kissinger version of events, from this point forward, is the correct one. Kissinger dragged his heels, deceived the Israelis, made of the Israeli ambassador a “patsy,” and only agreed to the “MAC all-the-way” solution on October 13, a full week into the war, when it became clear that Israel was in mortal danger.
But why, one is impelled to query, would Kissinger behave in this fashion? What policy aims of his would be served?
Kissinger’s fundamental policy aim, before and after the war, was to displace the growing Soviet influence in the Middle East and make the United States central to the achievement of peace between the Arabs and Israel. While this policy would dictate a low U.S. profile as long as Israel was in control of the military situation, once the Israeli position on the battle-field became tenuous, the policy would also dictate an immediate American strengthening of the Israeli army. Nothing could have been more harmful to Kissinger’s goals than an Israeli defeat, even a limited one, for then the Russians, and not the Americans, would have emerged as central in the postwar diplomacy. Kissinger may well have desired to limit another spectacular Israeli victory (a policy friends of Israel may reasonably support or contest), but there is no basis on which it can be presumed that he desired an Israeli defeat. Yet the thesis of Messrs. Luttwak and Laqueur (and Tad Szulc) is based on this premise.
The truth, it would seem, is that a surprise war got out of hand, expectations of a quick Israeli victory and concomitant low U.S. profile were thwarted, and an emergency airlift under adverse conditions was required. The authors simply ignore the fact that an extraordinarily difficult exercise was in fact mounted in three days and proved to be totally successful. They harp on what seems to the outside observer to be a minimal amount of confusion within the government in pulling this complicated logistical matter together. One does not doubt that some at the Pentagon had objections to the plan, or pushed other versions of the resupply operation. But this systemic confusion need not give rise to a hero-villain version of history. That, it would seem, is permissible only if the authors could prove that the defeat of Israel on the battlefield was in the interest of U.S. policy, and this they have not even attempted to do.
Israel’s long-term security is fragile. There are legitimate differences of view about the means to strengthen that fragility, including a division of opinion both here and in Israel as to the value of a crushing Israeli defeat of her Arab neighbors. In view of the diplomatic gains, albeit small, which followed the October war, friends of Israel are compelled to ask what is to be gained by undermining an American Secretary of State whose bona-fide commitment to disentangling the most deep-seated political conflict of our times has been demonstrated repeatedly. Must the bile that has infected the long Arab-Israeli conflict spill over to destroy his credibility with both sides and thus reduce American diplomacy in the Middle East to ashes?
This is surely one of the probable consequences of Messrs. Luttwak and Laqueur’s irresponsible exercise in pseudo-history.
Rita E. Hauser
New York City
To the Editor:
We know by now that even-handedness is a hoary goddess, at least when applied to the Middle East. But Edward N. Luttwak and Walter Laqueur lay claim to just such detachment about two conflicting accounts of the politics and diplomacy that secured American military aid to Israel last October. Like others who attempt evenhandedness, they too have produced a fractious and tendentious account. . . .
Messrs. Luttwak and Laqueur mislead their readers, I think, on two points: the role of Henry Kissinger and that of Israel Ambassador Simcha Dinitz during the crisis. But of course these are the only points made in the article (the only other one would seem to be to relieve the Pentagon of any responsibility for delays in the shipment of supplies). . . . Much of the case against Kissinger is based on speculations about President Nixon’s private attitudes toward Israel, the Russians, the structure of power in his cabinet, and finally toward the Secretary of State himself. It may suffice, then, simply to raise some questions about the confident assumptions on which these speculations are based. In any case, I am not, as the authors were not, privy to anything like an absolutely reliable informant (could there be one?) on the inter- and intra-agency disputes which figure in the divergent Kalb and Szulc accounts. But as for Ambassador Dinitz and his embassy, the situation is altogether different. I know from my own experience and from that of others, some deeply and some only peripherally involved, that the facts are just not as Messrs. Luttwak and Laqueur recount them. . . .
Perhaps to magnify the culpability of those whom they wish to blame for the time it took to mount a full-scale American resupply operation for Israel, the authors assert that the delay lasted eight days—from Yom Kippur morning, Saturday, October 6, to Saturday, October 13. With 2,500 Israeli dead, it may perhaps seem to be quibbling to suggest that even the somewhat disguised evidence presented in the article indicates a delay not of over a week but of perhaps half that time. For it is tragically true that both Israeli and American intelligence estimates misjudged the capacity of the Egyptian and Syrian armies to inflict losses on Israel and to sustain their offensive thrusts. In Israel, optimistic twists were often put on grim news by seasoned military observers: the tide in the first days was always about to turn or actually had turned. We know from Israeli military sources that they suffered significant casualties simply because of mistakes in evaluating the extent of the Egyptian infantry’s capability with anti-tank missiles and of Israeli reverses. Indeed, it was not really until Tuesday, or Monday night at the very earliest, that anyone appeared to realize that this war was not going to be a casual replay of 1956 and 1967. An understanding of the time perspective is important because what Israel ultimately pressed for and finally received by way of massive military support in a very short period was simply unprecedented for the United States, though unhappily not for the Soviet Union.
Lest anyone minimize the dimensions of Israel’s demands—and the success of her diplomacy on this count—it should be understood, for example, that the air-to-air missiles that were replaced constituted fully one-third of America’s reserves in that category. Moreover, if one wants to appraise from the outside both the magnitude of the obstacles faced by the Israeli ambassador in gaining needed help and the points of resistance to that help, one should also take into account the fact that tanks, planes, and rockets were moved not simply from dead storage but from operational bases whose American officers were scarcely anxious to see their commands denuded. Does this count for nothing in appraising the Defense Department’s posture vis-à-vis Israel? Messrs. Luttwak and Laqueur, for all their pretense at logistical sophistication, seem unaware of even so elementary a factor in bureaucratic behavior as pressure from reluctant underlings; their view of the American political situation as it affected Israel’s requirements is even more shallow. This is critical because Ambassador Dinitz showed himself to be a most deft navigator in these quite dangerous waters—and at a particularly tempestuous moment in national affairs.
But the authors will have no truck with such complexities: Kissinger functioned, in their view, as “foreign-policy czar,” virtually an unmoved mover, without buts, ifs, ands, or maybes. In a manner reminiscent of the conspiracy hypotheses of Left journalists, they see the United States government as a single rational actor—personified not in a vague class interest but in one very particular person. Perhaps only to expand on Kissinger’s imputed infamy in delaying arms to Israel, Messrs. Laqueur and Luttwak slyly hint that he was also frustrating Nixon’s stated wish to expedite such aid. Given their characterization of Kissinger as possessing near-plenary power, however, they are reluctant to picture Nixon as exercising too much power himself. But they do invoke him in his Presidential grandeur as someone who would not have brooked Pentagon opposition to speedy and adequate aid to Israel. Why then would he brook State Department foot-dragging? And conversely, if he had the capacity to exert himself against either a recalcitrant State or Defense Department, is it so inconceivable that he might—just might—have been a restraint on a policy of immediate assistance to Israel, a constraint in fact on Kissinger himself?
On the record, this would not be so surprising: in 1956, during and after the Sinai campaign, Nixon had teamed up with Dulles in pursuing a hard line against Israel; he sponsored and stood by the Rogers plan which gravely compromised Israel’s security; the Watergate tapes amply prove his primitive enmity toward Jews; and the Jewish constituency was one that—pace Rabbi Korff—was not going to be helpful to him with his own survival problems. Moreover, it was in Nixon’s urgent interest that the aura of detente with Russia not be disturbed by provocative friendship with Israel. Detente was after all his one and only remaining credit.
Now, we do know that on October 10 the President did order a resupply of equipment lost by Israel during the war. No one has claimed, however, that this order was anything but vague as to the details of priorities and timing. Someone as experienced as Nixon must have known that an unspecific directive is an invitation to bureaucratic wrangling and evasions. And these occurred, as every account agrees.
In less than three days, however, the President’s order was made quite concrete and specific, and the airlift went into full swing. But if Kissinger was the undisputed authority Messrs. Luttwak and Laqueur say he was, does he not merit some credit for this—at least for overcoming the traditional Arabist bias in his own Department which he had taken over only a short time earlier? The authors are even willing to concede that some credit may be warranted, though they insist that he timed the resupply, that is, delayed it, to secure America’s maximum leverage for the ensuing diplomacy. But why did this leverage entail delay? The Russians surely could have been counted upon to press for a cease-fire as soon as Israel was close to a decisive military victory. But the Israeli successes on Egyptian territory proper—not in unpopulated Sinai—which Kissinger needed to establish his or America’s own fulcrum position required prompt military aid, and no delay in supplying it. For given the emerging catastrophe, delay could only have resulted in exactly what Kissinger did not want: 1) a situation in which the Russians were pivotally placed behind victorious Arabs, and 2) inevitable demands for a direct American intervention on behalf of Israel.
Fortunately for Israel, its emissary saw more clearly—or at least argued more forcefully—than anyone else that America’s interest lay in a prompt and adequate resupply of Israel’s depleted strength to enable her forces to repel the Egyptian and Syrian armies beyond the pre-1967 boundaries. Otherwise, what could the Americans (and the Israelis) possibly offer the Arabs as an inducement to compromise after the next ceasefire? Dinitz was also shrewd enough to recognize both Kissinger’s centrality in the administration and his limitations. His relationship with the Secretary had to be of singular importance: no one else had comparable access to the President on foreign policy and no one else was likely ever to act as his surrogate on these matters. In this circumstance, Dinitz could cross Kissinger only in the greatest extremity. Given the inner chaos and fears of the Nixon administration, to have sought polemical confrontations might well have endangered Israel’s immediate and overriding interests and created additional and irrational justification for the U.S. government to avoid the hard choices.
Understanding this, Dinitz pursued a measured but nonetheless firm strategy of pressure on the Secretary and through him on the President. I cite only a few instances about which Messrs. Luttwak and Laqueur should have known; since they do not allude to them, we can charitably assume that they do not know of them. But then, what credibility can we give their account of the ambassador’s functioning—even remotely—as an instrument of Kissinger’s policy?
Dinitz returned from Israel on Sunday, the day after the war started. On Monday, he met in a private home with Senators Church, Hart, McGee, Mondale, and Symington and perhaps two or three other public figures. On Tuesday, I myself spoke with one of the Senators who had attended the meeting and he recounted the dire report which Dinitz had given. Extrapolating pessimistically from his reading of incomplete but not encouraging reports, Dinitz argued that a military disaster was in the offing and that Israel’s friends in Congress had best mobilize quickly. Anyone in touch with events in Washington during those days knows that this message was repeated in countless briefings and conversations and that these efforts resulted in a continuous outpouring of support for Israel from genuinely influential figures. Since there are also in Washington several journalists whom Dinitz sees regularly, why didn’t Messrs. Luttwak and Laqueur check to see what message he was giving them?
The message, in any event, was not limited to simple exhortation. In the early days of the war, the embassy did not discourage American politicians from saddling the administration with added moral responsibility for what was taking place because of its pressure, that is, Kissinger’s pressure, against a first strike. (This was somewhat irresponsible, it now appears, since we now know that the Israeli cabinet had decided on its own not to attack preemptively.) The authors did not even consult Near East Report, the weekly journal of the registered Israel lobby, to see what line was taken by Jerusalem’s quasi-official spokesmen in America. . . . They would have found there nothing like the pliant temper they try to evoke.
Particularly illuminating also is the argument urged by the ambassador on Israel’s liberal allies in Congress. He pointed out to them that they had a stick to wield over the Secretary, that the war in the Middle East was a test of Kissinger’s European policy and the reliability of the NATO alliance. If the permanent presence of American materiel on American bases in the Mediterranean and in Central Europe would not be a factor in the defense of Israel, and if American support for the most dubious governments in the region would not facilitate aid to Israel at this critical juncture, then that policy and that alliance would have been proved worthless to America and its declared interests. This was a serious challenge to Kissinger, and those who made it assumed responsibility for the charge in connection with that policy and that alliance in the future. Nor is this an argument which would be made by a pliant and timid ambassador.
One of Dinitz’s tasks was to stimulate support from pivotal figures in Congress on very concrete and politically vexing matters. These included, for example, the landing of American pilots in American transport planes in an active combat zone. He also had to persuade Senators who had opposed production of some weapons and aircraft that they now urge the same ones should be sent to Israel. But Dinitz also had every reason to avoid such issues becoming matters of Congressional debate. What mischief Fulbright might have fomented as he mustered McGovern, Aiken, Mansfield, to name only those on the Foreign Relations Committee, to his side—to say nothing of the other “reliable” foes of Israel in the Senate, eager always to evoke the specter of “another Vietnam.” It is difficult to understand how Messrs. Luttwak and Laqueur can be so oblivious to the risks of an indiscriminate popular rally behind specific and technical needs. In any case, they do ignore the fact that by Tuesday there had already been introduced a “Sense of Congress” resolution supporting Israel in general terms and subsequently endorsed by seventy Senators and more than half of the House.
I am not . . . “soft” on Kissinger, though I believe he was rightly the critical focus of Israeli attention. And if, for whatever reason, he may have initially favored logistical nightmares like private charters and island-hopping to transport arms to Israel, this only means that he needed more attention and persuasion. Now it may well be true that he also wanted a low American profile in aid to Israel. But the Defense Department also demanded this. On Wednesday and Thursday, October 10 and 11, for example, El Al aircraft were picking up supplies in Norfolk, Virginia, but they had their distinctive markings painted over at the insistence of the Pentagon. Given such squeamishness at the Pentagon, the ambassador clearly had a rough job ahead of him with Secretary Schlesinger, who must already have been conscious of the oil pressure the Arabs would apply on American bases generally and of the not-so-small American supply commitment to Indochina. But it was difficult for Dinitz even to see the Defense Secretary. His Wednesday appointment was postponed to Thursday, and this one was in turn postponed to Friday. I know of one long-time Senatorial friend of both Israel and the defense establishment who tried unsuccessfully to bring Schlesinger out of hiding while Israel was in peril. When Schlesinger and the ambassador finally met on Friday, Dinitz was told that the American government could send three transports every two days—and that when six planes had left, the arrangement would be reviewed. Messrs. Luttwak and Laqueur apparently do not credit this alto-together inadequate Pentagon maneuver, although on the night it was executed staff members of the Senate Armed Services Committee were already aware of it and were working with some committee members to have its provisions dramatically increased.
The article demonstrates no recognition of the hazardous environment in which Dinitz operated and in which he produced for Israel more equipment than the United States had ever before authorized to be sent anywhere else at one time. An unpredictable, preoccupied, and besieged President sat in the White House; an Arab oil boycott of tremendous consequence was already in the offing; the country was in an isolationist mood, or at least a retrenching one; Congressional support for Israel remained quite broad, but also seemed thin on matters of substance; America’s European allies, including the client Greek dictatorship, were not being cooperative on the matter of transport; even the Portuguese were showing signs of truculence; detente, to an administration desperate that it be sustained, seemed to be imperiled; vast expenditures of funds were expected from a contracting economy; and it was difficult to overcome the “certainty” of an inevitable Israeli victory, even in the face of the most frightful evidence that a defeat was quite possible. All of these obstacles were transcended by the efforts made at the major and only successful propaganda command post of the October war, the Israeli embassy in Washington. The Jewish community was mobilized to provide unprecedented financial support to the UJA and maintain the momentum of carefully orchestrated and pointed political pressure in Washington. The American labor movement, the academy, even most of the churches, were organized into some sort of corporate activity for Israel. And sufficient arms were made available so that the soldiers of Israel could repel the aggressors back to where they started and beyond. For his role in this achievement, Dinitz should be honored and not submitted to the sniping of writers who have not bothered to check even the most self-evident sources. And those who are concerned for Israel’s security should also ponder the implications of having an ambassador with whom the Secretary of State—any Secretary of State—cannot work in harmony.
The New Republic
Edward N. Luttwak and Walter Laqueur write:
It is always encouraging to see how deep and widespread is the concern of the American Jewish community for the security of Israel, and we share this fundamental concern with the correspondents. Our attempt to establish what happened in Washington last October is not, of course, the last word on the subject; even since we wrote new facts have emerged. To give but one example, the role played by President Nixon in the decision-making process turns out to have been even less important than we had assumed. In the years to come the main dramatis personae will no doubt have their say and relevant documents will also be published, and as a result a clearer picture will emerge. Meanwhile, students of history have certain advantages over politicians (or citizens with political ambitions): they have no axe to grind, no special interest to support, and they are uncommitted by political friendships or personal loyalties. In short, although they may not have frequent access to Secretaries of State, Senators, and ambassadors, they are better placed to take a detached look at the evidence precisely because they are not active participants in the political game.
We read with interest Jacob Stein’s letter on the activities of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Organizations. Needless to say, we contest none of his facts, and any doubts we may have about his opinions on the qualities of particular individuals are unimportant. Let us merely note that nowhere in Mr. Stein’s letter is it suggested that Ambassador Dinitz appealed to him to put pressure on the administration at a time when Israel needed help and had not yet received it. As for the rest, no comment is needed. It must be a source of satisfaction to all that a man of Mr. Stein’s dedication is in the service of the Jewish community; our article, however, was not an attempt to analyze the initiatives of Jewish leadership but rather the decision-making process in the higher echelons of government.
We have no quarrel with Joseph Shattan’s interpretation of events. One merely hesitates to go very far in imputing motives when it is already so difficult even to determine the course of events.
Rita E. Hauser appears to have misinterpreted what we were trying to say. We made it perfectly clear that we were not engaged in a search for “heroes” and “villains.” We did not call the Israeli ambassador a “patsy.” We did not argue that Secretary of State Kissinger’s goal was an Israeli defeat, and it is ridiculous to suggest that the article was based on this premise. The point is that Kissinger did not want another major Israeli victory, as Mrs. Hauser herself suggests, or, to put it another way, he did not want another crushing Arab defeat—hence his hasty departure to Moscow once the Israelis had crossed the Canal. This position was, by the way, perfectly consistent with a proper concern for Israel’s ultimate security.
Martin Peretz moves perilously close to accepting some of our basic arguments (the “logistical nightmares” and the “low profile in aid to Israel”). Elsewhere, like Mrs. Hauser, he deals not with what we wrote but what he infers from it (“culpability,” the “wish to blame,” “sniping,” etc., etc.). We have no reason to doubt that Mr. Peretz is well-informed about the activities of the Israeli embassy during the war; sections of his letter, by coincidence no doubt, are almost identical with an interview given by Ambassador Dinitz in the Israeli daily, Yediot Ahronot, last October. One should note at this point that Mr. Peretz himself points out, quite correctly, that there is no such thing as an absolutely reliable informant. In any case, the focus of our article was not on the operations of the Israeli embassy during the war.
Mr. Peretz’s letter contains a number of gross errors which must cast doubt on his broader conclusions. For example, where he writes of air-to-air missiles he must mean air-to-ground missiles: U.S. inventories of AAM’s are much larger than those of air-to-ground missiles and their supply was not a probem. Mr. Peretz speaks of “pressure from reluctant underlings,” meaning, no doubt, resistance. (After accusing us of thinking in terms of the “rational-actor” model, he himself exhibits an implicit belief in a rather crude bureaucratic-analysis model.) As a matter of fact, Israel enjoyed—and still enjoys—a great deal of support inside the U.S. services and certainly in the air force. Without going into details of a somewhat delicate nature, it should suffice to point out that once the decision to initiate the airlift was finally made at the political level, the airlift began almost immediately. This was not unconnected to the fact that at the service level opportune action had been taken before the order was given. (What, incidentally, has “logistical sophistication” got to do with bureaucratic behavior and our understanding thereof?)
Among other errors of substance is Mr. Peretz’s version of the Kalb brothers’ tale of the one-and-a-half aircraft a day. In Mr. Peretz’s account the one-and-a-half aircraft become transports instead of F-4 fighters, thus making nonsense of the whole story. The fact is that El Al alone could have flown much more material to Israel than Mr. Peretz’s mythical six transports—so that Secretary Schlesinger’s purported offer of six “planes” would have been ridiculous as well as inadequate. No such offer was made. (Incidentally, the Kalbs wrote of C-130′s, medium transports, where they should have written C-141′s, full-size jet transports. The C-130′s could not carry a useful payload on the long Azores-Israel flight. Some were sent, but as supply items, to serve as intra-theater transports.)
Mr. Peretz draws our attention to the fact that the situation in Washington was complicated, that Kissinger faced difficulties, that there was a failure of American and Israeli intelligence, that Fulbright is not a staunch supporter of the State of Israel, that Dinitz had to operate in a “hazardous environment,” that an oil embargo was feared, that it is important for Israel to have an ambassador with whom the Secretary of State can work in harmony. There may be no harm in repeating what everyone knows, but it does not serve to advance our understanding of complex issues. Mr. Peretz’s letter leaves off where the real problems start.