Therefore, Egypt was prepared and ready. This is the foremost fact of the strategy of Egyptian action during the ten great days . . . events began to move. One calculated step followed another.
Mohamed Heikal, Al-Ahram, May 26, 1967
Our definition of miscalculation, given in the introduction, is "a policy decision which goes awry because those making it did not foresee properly what the results would be." The term implies a weighing of the odds before deciding on a course of action. That it went awry implies that the policy could have worked. It did not do so because the consequences were not, perhaps could not be, thought through as thoroughly as they should have been, or because actors did not perform as expected, or because of some irrational or random factor such as incompetence or a problem of communication. (The random may not be predictable but can always be expected. Military decision makers seem to understand that better than civilians do.)
The decision may have seemed irrational to others at the time, or it may appear to be so in hindsight, but those making it were reasonable and intelligent people who believed that they were making the optimal choice in pursuance of the national and their own interest. The question is: why or where did they go wrong?
The answer differs in each instance, of course. The three cases we have looked at are all different in important respects, but there are common aspects to all of them.
First is the element of avoidability. None of the decisions was imposed by objective imperatives. All could have been avoided. The Soviets did not have to pass their warning to the Egyptians in 1967, and the Egytians did not have to overreact as they did. The Israelis did not have to undertake the deep penetration raids. The United States did not have to dismiss the Soviet warning of January 30, 1970, as a bluff, and it did not have to support the Israeli drive for normalization of relations with Leb