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Re-evaluating the Yom Kippur ‘intelligence failure’: the cultural lens in crisis

Rezk, D. (2017) Re-evaluating the Yom Kippur ‘intelligence failure’: the cultural lens in crisis. International History Review, 39 (3). pp. 470-495. ISSN 1949-6540

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1080/07075332.2016.1230766


Henry Kissinger famously explained the ‘intelligence failure’ of Yom Kippur in cultural terms, asserting that Western analysts were unable to understand Arab rationality in ‘starting an unwinnable war to restore self-respect.’ This article fundamentally challenges this conventional understanding of the 1973 surprise attack. Drawing on recently declassified material and interviews with veteran diplomats and intelligence professionals it will show that both the British and American intelligence communities had an excellent sense of Egyptian President Sadat’s intentions in waging war against Israel. Rather the evidence suggests that misconceptions about Egyptian military capability were more important. These misconceptions derived from particular ideas about Arab culture and Soviet-Egyptian relations following the expulsion of Soviet advisors in 1972. The article thereby illuminates wider questions about how we define ‘failure’ in intelligence and the role of cultural ideas in international history.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Humanities > History
ID Code:67304
Publisher:Taylor & Francis


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