By William Trotter
In 1939, tiny Finland waged war-the type of warfare that spawns legends-against the effective Soviet Union, and but their epic fight has been mostly overlooked. Guerrillas on skis, heroic single-handed assaults on tanks, unfathomable patience, and the charismatic management of 1 of this century's actual military
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He was wary and even sarcastic about a union with Syria before and after the failed experiment of merging the two states in 1958. He always made clear that he should never be blamed for the disappointment – or for that matter, for any other breakdown of Arab unity. At least to his followers, his charisma usually allowed him to rise above mistakes and contradictions. Nasser was certainly capable of precipitous action and errors of judgement, as he proved during the crisis of 1967, but on the whole he was consistently pragmatic and shrewd.
Egyptian airplanes were thus left exposed in 1967. The war in Yemen distracted Nasser from the Sinai front. He again refused to listen to his military advisers, who urged him that Egypt must strike first in a war against Israel. Egyptian forces would not survive an Israeli offensive. Their judgement was vindicated when the Israelis virtually destroyed the Egyptian air force. But there was one positive development for the Egyptians. The sixty thousand troops in Yemen survived intact to fight another day.
But he had no idea of the extent of the impending catastrophe. He apparently knew that American and British aircraft had not assisted the Israelis, but he agreed to broadcast what became known as the “Big Lie,” thus poisoning American and British public sentiment. He correctly believed that the Soviet Union would not come to his rescue, but after the defeat, he became increasingly dependent on Soviet military and economic assistance. Nasser lost the leadership of Arab nationalism. But together with King Hussein, a chastened Nasser pursued a much more moderate policy towards Israel in an attempt to regain the West Bank and Old Jerusalem.
A Frozen Hell: The Russo-Finnish Winter War of 1939-1940 by William Trotter
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