Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Right to Strike

Something very interesting from haaretz.com regarding the U.S.'s secret plan to attack Israel in 1967 to prevent Israel from expanding westward, into the Sinai, or eastward, into the West Bank.

Oh, what a different world we would be in had they implemented the plan...and what a different life I would have had...in my home in Jerusalem!!
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The right to strike

By Amir Oren

The end of the story is known: During the Six-Day War, no battles were waged between the Israel Defense Forces and the United States. True, the American spy ship "Liberty" was attacked by mistake, but neither side initiated exchanges of fire. What is not known - and because of it, the story is riveting nevertheless - took place in the background. For some time, the United States had had an emergency plan to attack Israel. In May 1967, one of the U.S. commands was charged with the task of removing the plan from the safe, refreshing it and preparing for an order to go into action. However, the preparations lagged behind the developments in the diplomatic arena, and even further behind the successes of Israel's air force and armored divisions in Sinai. The general who was planning to attack Israel made do with extricating frightened American citizens and a panic-stricken ambassador from Jordan. This unknown aspect of the war was revealed in what was originally a top-secret study conducted by the Institute for Defense Analyses in Washington. In February 1968, an institute expert, L. Weinstein, wrote an article called "Critical Incident No. 14," about the U.S. involvement in the Middle East crisis of May-June 1967. Only 30 copies of his study were printed for distribution. Years later the material was declassified and can now be read by everyone, although details that are liable to give away sources' identities and operational ideas have remained censored. Strike Command, the entity that was to have launched the attack on Israel, no longer exists. It was annulled in 1971 for domestic American reasons and superseded by Readiness Command, which was abolished in the 1980s in favor of Central Command (CENTCOM) - which today includes forces in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and Afghanistan - and the Special Operations Command (SOCOM).

The general who oversaw the planning in 1967 was Theodore John ("Ted") Conway. In Israeli terms, taking into consideration all the relevant differences, he can be likened to Avraham Tamir and Yuval Ne'eman, Aharon Yariv and Giora Eiland. Conway was a talented but forgotten officer, who did not leave a powerful impression on the history of the army that made use mainly of his brain; he did more participating than actual fighting in his generation's wars. His qualities as a curious and intelligent planner, a quick study who was creative in his solutions, led his commanders to assign him to headquarters and deprived him of the prospect of leading fighting forces. That didn't stop Conway from advancing through the ranks. In the last decade of his service he moved up quickly to the highest level - that of four-star general - at the age of 56, as head of Strike Command. It was in this last post, ahead of his retirement, that he served as the crisis of May 1967 unfolded. It was his last opportunity to see whether what he had conceptualized could truly be realized. 'Subway' soldiers Conway, who hailed from Indianapolis, described himself jestingly as one of the "subway" soldiers, as New Yorkers who enlisted to serve in World War II were sometimes described: short men, whose dimensions suited the crowding on the underground trains. He was a small, coiled spring, a physical fitness zealot. Every New Year's Day he made his officers take part in a 16-kilometer run, so that they would not spend the holiday watching television in a beer-induced stupor on the couch. In the 1930s he was sent to Paris to study France, its language and culture, in order to return to West Point and teach the cadets about them. His exposure to Europe peeled away the provinciality that characterized the American officer corps at that time. During World War II, in the course of his service in North Africa, Italy and France - sometimes as an interpreter and liaison between the U.S. and British forces, and between both of them and the French forces - Conway acquired expertise and an understanding of the complexities of security and diplomacy on both shores of the Mediterranean. If the U.S. Army was going to have to act in the Middle East, there was no officer more suited than him to command the forces in the period of the Six-Day War. As a 30-year-old captain at the start of the American involvement in the world war, Conway volunteered for the paratroops, but was disqualified because of his age. A decade later, after two years in military colleges, he discovered that the only way to avoid being assigned to a desk job in the Pentagon was to volunteer for the paratroops. He tried again, and this time, as a colonel of 40, he was given command of a brigade. In October 1961, when President John Kennedy paid a visit to Fort Bragg, the headquarters of the paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division and of the Special Forces, the then 50-year-old Conway was already the commander of the division, had parachuted with his troops and marched back to base with them in a trek of 135 kilometers. His deputy, Ed Rowny, later recalled the presentation Conway prepared for Kennedy: He divided the division into five units and dressed each of them in a different uniform, in order to demonstrate the division's flexibility to carry out missions anywhere in the world. One group was in standard battle fatigues, ready to be airlifted to Europe; a second was in jungle camouflage fatigues, ready to deploy to Vietnam; a third wore desert camouflage fatigues; a fourth wore winter uniforms of the Korean War type; and the fifth, equipped with skis and wearing white ski suits, was available for Arctic operations. Within a few months, Conway's clever presentation of worldwide readiness sparked an imitation. At MacDill Air Force Base, near Tampa, Florida, the headquarters of Strike Command, an officer demonstrated for the camera of the ground forces monthly journal Army just how ready every soldier there was for any mission anywhere: They had not one duffle bag and not two, but three: one Arctic, one tropic, one miscellaneous. more...

1 comment:

RUBA said...

nice blog,I'm from Jerusalem too :)

seems there weren't enough Jews n the American lobby at the time,no?