Book Review: Enduring Arab diplomat’s compelling account of war and peace in Egypt

Ahmed Aboul Gheit witnessed the military preparations to regain Egypt’s pride after its defeat in the Six Day War of June 1967. (Shutterstock)
Updated 09 July 2019
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Book Review: Enduring Arab diplomat’s compelling account of war and peace in Egypt

BEIRUT: Ahmed Aboul Gheit is part of a select group of high-ranking Egyptian diplomats whose career has spanned the end of the monarchy, the 1953 creation of the modern republic of Egypt, and on until today.

He worked closely with Mohamed Hafiz Ismail, the Egyptian national security adviser, from August 1972 to February 1974, and witnessed the military preparations to regain Egypt’s pride after its crushing and humiliating defeat in the Six Day War of June 1967.

His unparalleled knowledge of that historical period provided the information for an article published on Oct. 6, 2009, in Egypt’s Al-Ahram newspaper.

Twelve further articles were to follow in the space of a year and as a result of their popularity “the idea for this book was born,” said Aboul Gheit in the introduction to “Witness to War and Peace: Egypt, the October War, and Beyond.”





The book, which has been translated into English, is an event. An Arab leader rarely writes memoirs during his tenure of office.

US career diplomat Francis J. Ricciardone, in his foreword to the English edition, said: “The past great leaders in modern Egyptian-Israeli-Palestinian and broader Arab affairs, presidents Nasser, Sadat and Mubarak, regrettably have left scholars no published memoirs comparable to the records published by their Israeli or American counterparts and their senior diplomatic and military advisers.”

With a profusion of details and impeccable research, Aboul Gheit shows in the first part of his book how Egypt “regained its strategic balance vis-à-vis Israel both on the battlefield and in the region.”

In the second part, he streamlines Egypt’s efforts to end the Arab-Israeli conflict and find a viable solution to the Palestinian question.

The author concludes with a plea not to repeat the circumstances which led to the bitter defeat of June 1967. “It is not right that this chapter in our history should be closed just like that. All of us in Egypt should be able to learn from what happened, in victory as is defeat.”

Maybe this is the next book that he should write.


What We Are Reading Today: Sorting Out the Mixed Economy by Amy C. Offner

Updated 19 September 2019

What We Are Reading Today: Sorting Out the Mixed Economy by Amy C. Offner

In the years after 1945, a flood of US advisors swept into Latin America with dreams of building a new economic order and lifting the Third World out of poverty. 

These businessmen, economists, community workers, and architects went south with the gospel of the New Deal on their lips, but Latin American realities soon revealed unexpected possibilities within the New Deal itself, says a review on the Princeton University Press website.

 In Colombia, Latin Americans and US advisors ended up decentralizing the state, privatizing public functions, and launching austere social welfare programs. By the 1960s, they had remade the country’s housing projects, river valleys, and universities. 

They had also generated new lessons for the US itself. When the Johnson administration launched the War on Poverty, US social movements, business associations, and government agencies all promised to repatriate the lessons of development, and they did so by multiplying the uses of austerity and for-profit contracting within their own welfare state.