Assigned Reading: 36 Years Ago Today, Nixon Saved Israel — but Got No Credit
(FROM: Commentary Magazine)
A few excerpts:
Precise details of what transpired in Washington during the first week of the Yom Kippur War, launched by Egypt and Syria on October 6, 1973, are hard to come by, in no small measure owing to conflicting accounts given by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger regarding their respective roles.
What is clear, from the preponderance of information provided by those directly involved in the unfolding events, is that President Richard Nixon — overriding inter-administration objections and bureaucratic inertia — implemented a breathtaking transfer of arms, code-named Operation Nickel Grass, that over a four-week period involved hundreds of jumbo U.S. military aircraft delivering more than 22,000 tons of armaments.
“It was Nixon who did it,” recalled Nixon’s acting special counsel, Leonard Garment. “I was there. As [bureaucratic bickering between the State and Defense departments] was going back and forth, Nixon said, this is insane. . . . He just ordered Kissinger, “Get your ass out of here and tell those people to move.”
When Schlesinger initially wanted to send just three transports to Israel because he feared anything more would alarm the Arabs and the Soviets, Nixon snapped: “We are going to get blamed just as much for three as for 300. . . . Get them in the air, now.”
Haig, in his memoir Inner Circles, wrote that Nixon, frustrated with the initial delays in implementing the airlift and aware that the Soviets had begun airlifting supplies to Egypt and Syria, summoned Kissinger and Schlesinger to the Oval Office on October 12 and “banished all excuses.”
The president asked Kissinger for a precise accounting of Israel’s military needs, and Kissinger proceeded to read aloud from an itemized list.
“Double it,” Nixon ordered. “Now get the hell out of here and get the job done.”
An absolutely fascinating article, even more so for me because I’ve been meaning for some time now to learn what I was never told about former President Richard Nixon. I’m a product of public schooling, albeit great public schooling, but having attended elementary, middle and high school throughout the 1980s and 1990s, I’ve grown up with a bit of a revisionist view of Nixon’s presidency. I’ve learned a bit since then, but hardly enough.
This makes me want to go out a get a few biographies, and as for how it relates to today’s political and foreign policy picture, it sure puts the current administration’s waffling and wavering about support for the war in Afghanistan in perspective. The Nixon White House was reeling from Vietnam and from Watergate, and still managed to save a nation. We can’t even provide reinforcements to American servicemen and women being overrun by Taliban insurgents.