There really were German scientists in Egypt


Back in the 1960’s I read ominous items in the Jewish press about Nazi scientists developing guided missiles–and worse yet, nuclear weapons—in Egypt.  Never seeing the same stories in the Philadelphia Bulletin or Inquirer, and the United States government, supporting both the Arabs and the Israelis, saying nothing, I dismissed these accounts as rumors at best and propaganda at worst.

It turns out the stories were true, as revealed in Operation Damocles by Roger Howard and recently released by Open Road Integrated Media.  Egypt did hire German scientists–some of whom were real Nazis–to develop guided missiles and jet aircraft to be used against Israel.  Operation Damocles was the cloak and dagger campaign to encourage the scientists to quit and discourage others from coming to Egypt.

Howard tells a good spy tale,  The narrative moves quickly and is easy to read.

I always admired the Mossad (Israel’s foreign intelligence agency) as the CIA done right.  It seems that the Mossad had its problems too.  Regretfully, the Mossad engaged in terror (letter bombs, an exploding airplane) to keep German scientists from working on Egyptian military projects.  

Israel’s secret war against the Egyptian military program ended in disaster as spies were caught and placed on public trial in Egypt and Switzerland.  Operation Damocles was a hot button in Israeli politics.  It strained relations between Israel and West Germany, when both nations were seeking full diplomatic relations and military cooperation.

Ultimately, the Egyptian missile program failed.  The German scientists went home–possibly because of the Mossad but also because better opportunities awaited them in booming Europe–and Egypt’s technology was backward.  The threat of the Egyptian missile program was overstated.  Like many covert operations by many powers, Operation Damocles brought little benefit but disastrous results.


A Bad Day on the Romney Campaign: An Insider’s Account


Gabriel Schoenfeld, a senior staff member of Mitt Romney’s late but unlamented campaign for President, gives a superficial, but interesting explanation of why Romney lost.

A Bad Day on the Romney Campaign:  An Insider’s Account (Penguin Group) tells about a campaign that could have been won.  President Obama had a mediocre first term.  An expanding war in Afghanistan and a winding down war in Iraq, high unemployment and a sluggish economy, were issues which could have put the Republicans into the White House.

Romney blew it.  He ran a campaign in which he disgraced himself and created long term damage to the party’s image.

Schoenfeld lays much of the blame on the senior staff, which he says were poorly credentialed and inexperienced.  He describes them as “minor-league policy staffers, playing in a major-league stadium.”

The shortcomings were most obvious in foreign policy.  Romney flubbed a visit to Britain, and blundered by issuing a press release attacking the U.S. Embassy response to riots in Cairo, just as American diplomats were being murdered in Libya.  Romney fell flat, particularly on foreign policy, in the Presidential debates. 

His remarks about the 47 per cent who did not work and would never vote Republican did not help.  As Schoenfeld writes, “To reduce politics to a contest of governmental gift-giving–or governmental bribery of voters–is not only to misjudge the American people, it is to insult them.”

Schoenfeld places proper blame on the campaign consultants, who make their well paid livlihoods in marketing politics. 

Schoenfeld says that “the consultants transformed a man noted for geniality and earnestness into a ‘severe conservative’ who radiated insincerity."   One of the reasons he lost was "that he was often not who he said he was.  Voters could tell that, too—the artificiality of his focus-group-chosen language was often striking—and they did not like it at all."  As Schoenfeld concludes, Romney "attempted to please rather than to lead.”

A Bad Day on the Romney Campaign is an easy read.  It is an extended magazine article, which takes about an hour to finish.  My only regret is that he failed to discuss Romney’s appeals to racism and xenophobia, which may doom Republicans to minority status in an increasingly diverse society.