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Early warning versus concept: the case of the Yom Kippur War 1973

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This article begins with a definition of the terms 'early warning' and 'surprise', and examines whether the failure of Israeli Intelligence to warn Israeli decision-makers in 1973 conforms to these definitions. After examining the conventions of Israeli military intelligence regarding anticipating a surprise, and the conceptions on which these were based, the article demonstrates how events in late 1973 indicated a possible Arab attack on Israel, but also the manner in which the Concept used to measure these warnings proved more resilient than the warnings. Discussions in the few days preceding war, when information was accumulating, are subjected to particular attention. The development of a sub-conception, with the original framework allowed and changed the forecast from 'no war' to 'low probability' of war. The persistence of the Concept is attributed to both strategic intelligence and also to the doctrine of deterrence. Like deterrence, intelligence success is hard to measure. One can never be sure that a surprise attack has been prevented as a result of early warning.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2002-06-01

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