That was the Six-Day War, begun by Israel on June 5, 1967. It ended by its occupation of Sinai (Egypt), the Golan (Syria), the West Bank (Jordan), Gaza (Egyptian administration), and East Jerusalem (Jordan and the Muslim world). Israel was the aggressor; Nasser was the unwitting creator of those circumstances. Thus in mere 6 days, Israeli administered-territories quadrupled.
Yet there has never been an Egyptian commission of inquiry into Nasser's huge miscalculations whose disastrous consequences are still plaguing the Arab world. Nasser's leadership, though still perceived as gaining honor for the Arab homeland, gained that homeland neither muscle nor relevance to the world community or to regional or universal institutions.
In a historical summary, Nasser was largely about Nasser being seen as the Arab world leader. It was a fake leadership: The Egyptian-Sudanese unity collapsed as Nasser pushed President Naguib (of Sudanese parentage) out; the cozying up with Russia translated into anti-west; the union with Syria into a United Arab Republic lasted only for 3 years (1958-1961). Then came the intrusion into the civil war in Yemen (1962-1967) causing a rupture with Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Gulf; the enthusiasm for the 1969 Qaddafi rise to power in Libya was mere empty optics; and the coddling of Arafat of the PLO was at the expense of both Jordan and Lebanon.
There is no doubt that internally in Egypt, Nasser caused the re-start of Egyptian industrialization; the construction of the Aswan dam; the launching of agrarian reform; the moving forward with the Egyptian nuclear program for energy; and the inclusion of the peasants and workers into parliament.
There is also no doubt that Nasser did not steal from the public treasury; stimulated free university education for all; and garnered respect for Egypt as a player in African unity, and in the non-aligned movement.
These are achievements whose roots were mostly planted prior to his military coup of July 23, 1952 (65 years ago). And the price for whatever was achieved under his leadership internally was inordinate: the the abrogation of the historic Egyptian Constitution of 1923; the muzzling of all voices of dissent; the disbanding of the vestiges of Egyptian democracy (1922-1952).
There was also the encouragement of the Islamists in order to counter the influence of the communists; the break-up of viable agricultural land holdings in favor of micro-agricultural land holdings of 5 acres or less; the improper ascertainment of the adverse effects of stopping the silt from the Nile water behind the Aswan dam.
Under Nasser, Egypt with its vast and underused human intellectual resources, became a one-man show. The show was called "the struggle," and was given a cliche by the Nasser mouth-piece, Mohamed HassanainHaikal, in the propagandistic words: "No voice is above the voice of the struggle."
And officially, the propagator was Abdel-QadirHatem who refashioned the Egyptian Information Department in the model of a Goebbels Nazi operation. Lies by Ahmed Saeed of the "Voice of the Arabs" were given credence. Calling Saudi King Faisal, Jordan's King Hussein, and Tunisian President Bourguiba "traitors" was common currency as a Nasser means of intimidation of whoever in the Arab world dared to say, "Gorilla!! Your Eyes are Red" -an Egyptian saying.
As the only dinner guest to dinner hosted by Haikal in Cairo on a Friday 1969, my host asked for my opinion of his weekly column in Al-Ahram newspaper.It was entitled "Frankly Speaking" (Bissarahah). Its heading in that particular issue was "The Four Traitors."
I have cited above three of those four, but the name of the fourth escapes me. My response was: "How do you measure treachery? There is no agreed pan-Arab definition, as each Arab sovereign State pursues its policies guided only by its national interest."
Measuring Nasser's achievements against Nasser's blunders, I find the scales tipping heavily on the side of blunders. For those affected a whole region, and decided the history of hundreds of millions for years to come. Nasser was not a very educated man. He was ill-fated by a conspiratorial mind. That mind dictated his preference for persons whom he trusted over persons who possessed experience.
Haikal is a prime example: a high school graduate; with no university education; but with self-education focused only on copying (Naql),translation, and plagiarism (no attribution to original sources). A story teller in the mode of "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves." The author of Nasser's "The Philosophy of the Revolution."
In it, there is a vacuous blueprint consisting of aspirational generalities. A BlaBlaBla that glitters but does not educate. Its real companion, though more in the superlatives, is Qaddafi's "Green Book." Two books considered by their die hard fans historic, yet you find them today in the dustpan of history.
More strategically located beside Nasser was General Abdel-Hakim Amer, commanding ill-equipped large armed forces. Amer's education in military strategy and military intelligence could not be compared to that of his Israeli counterparts. The latter were methodically sent for specialized education at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA.
That is while Amer was dispatched by Nasser to the Northern Region (Syria)during the short-lived United Arab Republic. (Egypt was the Southern Region). As Amer in Syria (1958-1961), assisted by the then Syrian Interior Minister, Abdel-Halim Al-Sarrag, was turning Syria into a security State, Israel was innovating militarily.
The flow of US armaments into Israel was the price which Ben Gurion as Prime Minister had extracted from President Eisenhower for withdrawal from Sinai in 1957. Israel had, at that crucial junction, shifted away from France and refocused on the innovative American military technology. By comparison, Egypt was reliant on Soviet weaponry: simpler to use, but technologically inferior to the American arsenal.
The stage was set for the Israeli historic strike of June 5, 1967 against all its Arab neighbors. Nasser was preoccupied with his war in Yemen where napalm was used by Egypt against opposing Arab forces; Amer of Egypt was no match for General Moshe Dayan; the Baath Party of Syria which collapsed the union with Egypt was taunting Nasser as a paper tiger because of the stationing of the UN Blue Helmets on the Egyptian side of the line of demarcation with Israel.
With Nasser's ego being nearly the size of the Giza pyramids, and against the quiet advice of the experienced Egyptian Foreign Ministry, he forced the withdrawal of the UN forces from the scene. And with the Nasser megaphone, false Egyptian claims of having closed the Gulf of Aqaba, were magnified. That played well in the hands of Israel. At the UN, Aba Eban, Israel's then Foreign Minister declaimed. "Israel is besieged."
American President Lyndon Johnson, together with UN Representative, Ambassador Goldberg, must have known that a big push by Israel against the Arabs was in the making. The USSR could only give lip service to their Arab allies. Russian global strength was receding; American hegemony was on the rise; and Israel was a willing strategic American ally. New American war weapons were tested in Israel held territories.\
And on June 5, 1967, the Israeli air force struck all Egyptian airfields destroying Egypt's aircraft as they slept on their tarmacs. By noon, Nasser's Egypt had no air cover, and that great country laid defenseless. But Nasser had an obtuse explanation: "We expected the enemy to come from the east; it came from the west!!" DA!! Our Arab forebears have counselled: "War is trickery."
But Nasser had little education in culture. His education was in how to pretend that the Arab calamity could be repackaged to the Egyptians as only "a set-back" (Naksah).
Has the October War of 1973 which was astutely planned by Sadat, Nasser's successor, mitigated that Arab disaster of 1967? Not really!! It led to Egyptian recovery of its territory through the Peace Treaty of 1979 with Israel. But other Arab territories are still under Israeli suzerainty.
That 1973 war also led to a later treaty of peace between Jordan and Israel. These peace moves, combined with the absence of a meaningful Palestinian leadership, have drastically redrawn the Middle East map for a long time to come.
Nasser, in effect, was a phantom leader. "Eternally-Remembered?" How misleading!! Nasser was nearly all throat and imagery. Substance was not his substance
Note: New blog postings will resume on a weekly basis after my new book is ready for the press this Fall. Its title: "War on JihadismBy Ideology: The New Islamic Religious Revolution"