Monday, December 14, 2009

How Nixon Saved Israel

My pal Jason Maoz, editor of the Jewish Press (where articles by yours truly have proudly appeared from time to time) has a superb piece in Commentary on a subject I've mentioned before - how alleged 'anti-Semite' Richard Nixon saved Israel in its hour of need:

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. {...}

[General Alexander]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.”

Later, informed of yet another delay — this one because of disagreements in the Pentagon over the type of planes to be used for the airlift — an incensed Nixon shouted at Kissinger, “[Expletive] it, use every one we have. Tell them to send everything that can fly.”

Nixon acted despite threats of reprisal by Arab oil producers — indeed, the day after Nixon asked Congress for an emergency appropriation of $2.2 billion for Israel, Saudi Arabia’s King Faisal announced an embargo of oil to the U.S. — not to mention Europe's overwhelming opposition to aiding Israel.

Nixon knew very well that America's Jews didn't support him, and that there was no personal political advantage in this for him. To this day, he's received little credit for what he did to save Israel's Jews when it counted. He did it simply because he knew it was the right thing to do.

That's how a real leader behaves.

Read the whole thing here.


Anonymous said...

Richard Nixon was, without a scintilla of doubt, the strangest & most schizophrenic president in American history. The first thing which leaps to my elderly mind when I reflect on Nixon & his aspects of the good, the bad, & the ugly, is a strange, bizarre, fantastic event which occurred at the Lincoln Memorial in May 1970.

Just a few days prior, on 4th May 1970, the Kent State Massacre had occurred in a nearly vacant car-park/parking lot ( one of the victims was a reserve Army officer ) . The disgust which most of the American people had for Washington, DC's immoral war against Vietnam was crescendoing. The public had understandably thought that, by dumping the war-criminal Lyndon Johnson after the New Hampshire presidential primaries in 1968, they could withdraw from the mess quickly. ( It would take the political Spring Primaries of 1972 to create the right set of politicians to end the war. )But Nixon vacillated, dithered : he badly wanted the George Wallace vote, even though the 1968 elections demonstrated he could win easily minus them. He wanted a ' decent interval ', before the old, mainly French-speaking & Roman-Catholic regime in the southern half of Vietnam collapsed. (The Watergate tapes are profoundly sad. Nixon & Kissinger were at 1 point quietly debating how long the de-facto Washington-DC colonial regime would have to last after American withdrawal in order to absolve Nixon from blame. They agreed on 2 years. I've heard that chilling tape.)

But Nixon was not the same as the war-criminal Lyndon Johnson.
Nixon had been brought up as a Quaker & something of his mother's beliefs still permeated him, was still infused in him. Have you ever seen those wonderful Warner Brothers' cartoons wherein a devil is sitting on 1 shoulder & an angel is sitting on the other shoulder? Both trying to win the support of the cartoon character? That was Nixon : haunted, morally schizophrenic, petty, but capable of greatness. He was a Quaker, but a bad 1 by any definition. Quakers, after all, are anti-governmental pacifists : they can't vote, they can't run for political office, they can't hold office, they can't work in the military, & c. But Nixon had done all of this. & we all know about the un-Quakerish language he used in the tapes.

But there he was, on the 9th May 1970 at 4.15 AM in the morning, at the Lincoln Memorial, trying to reconcile himself with the American people in an outre combination defence & confession. The devil & the angel were in single combat that morning, fighting for Nixon's soul. Unfortunately, on that issue, the devil won. But he, at least, had a conscience which punished him brutally. That is why I can't hate him.

If it weren't for his protracting & prolonging the Vietnam War, coddling Red China in the process, & Watergate, too lengthy & intricate an issue to discuss here, he could have been a magnificent president. He started the process of dissolving the ICC, he privitised the Post Office, he was very liberal on many domestic issues ( pro-ERA, created the EPA, OSHA, a consumer product ministry, clean-air rules ; in fact, I don't think that many current ' social ' conservative Republicans would like the contemporary equivalent. )

( This paragraph has been moved to a part 2 post. )

And his support of Israel. You're spot-on right : he has never been accorded his just credit for that. I think that it was his 1962 gubernatorial run in California which initiated his sad moral decline. So much potential... --dragon/dinosaur

Anonymous said...

Part 2 ( paragraph transfer ) :
He also had been able to walk away from the 1960 election muddle & mess. I personally believe that the state of Illinois' popular & electoral college votes had been stolen from him ( the unopened ballot boxes from ' uncooperative ' Chicago wards were literally dumped into the River Calumet, ) & the US popular vote. But that leaves the electoral college vote in limbo, owing to Sen Harry Byrd of Virginia ( not the later Harry Byrd of West Virginia ). That's too complicated an issue to enter into here.

This was a paragraph transfer necessitated by a posting limit. I'm sorry about that. Insomnia & early morning writing just makes me loquacious, & Nixon is too fascinating a character for terseness, curtness, & concision. If you didn't receive part 1, this was just a paragraph hastily extracted from a long post. Apologies.

Freedom Fighter said...

Good Morning, DD.

BTW, apropos your earlier comment on another thread..I'm truly sorry about your daughter.

I think that you ( along with a lot of his fellow Americans) are overly hard on Richard Nixon. The breadth of his accomplishments as president was simply astounding, and it's a pity that his personal traits and stubborn and misplaced loyalty to some of his associates over a third-rate breaking and entering rap that by all the evidence available was done without his direct knowledge has colored what should have been a shining legacy.

When Nixon came into office, the country was in a state of virtual civil war over Vietnam, and as you mention, he had a direct mandate requiring him to end it. In fact,he did so on terms that were relatively honorable to the US and should have preserved South Vietnam's independence, except for the fact that the post-Watergate Dem congress cheerfully abrogated our treaty with South Vietnam and Cambodia, cutting off their military supplies in one of the most shameful episodes in American history and condemning them to genocide and communist Kissinger's memoirs covering his time in the Ford Administration.

Nixon ended the Vietnam War successfully using two tools, both of which were necessary an dtook time. First, he opened relations with China, a masterstroke that completed the split between China and the USSR, outflanked the Soviet Union, led to detente and led to both the Chinese and the Russians essentially downgrading their military and financial support of North Vietnam in fear of the US moving closer to one or the other.

After which he tried diplomacy directly with North Vietnam, and when it failed,proceeded to fight the war the way it should have been fought from the beginning...interdicting the supply/escape routes of the NVA into Cambodia, mining Haiphong Harbor and heavily bombing North Vietnam's infrastructure to the point where they were forced to come to the table and make peace,mostly on Nixon's terms.

When the commies attacked again after we left and Nixon was out of office, Lon Nol in Cambodia and the ARVN's fought them to a standstill and only succumbed when they ran out of ammo and supplies..which by treaty,they were supposed to receive from us.

The opening of relations with China, BTW, also spelled the beginning of the end for the Soviets who were then forced to defend themselves on two fronts. If not for the reprieve they got from Jimmy Carter,the Evil Empire might have fallen a decade earlier than it did.

Aside from his foreign policy accomplishments ( which included kicking the Soviets out of the Middle East through our alliances with Israel and the Shah of Iran) there were his groundbreaking accomplishments in domestic policy, some of which you mentioned.

In short, despite his failings, he was a strong leader and a damned good president IMO. One need only compare him to the last three occupants of the White House including the current one to conclude that.

It's a mark of how respected Nixon was among contemporary politicians that,with the exception of Jimmy Carter, every one of his predecessors made use of his advice, foreign policy contacts and expertise as long as he was alive.


Anonymous said...

1) Thank you for the consolatory note. This was why I was absent for about 6 months. (That, & it took me a long while to recall the site's name : I kept looking under Jerusalem, Jericho, & c. Remembering the name Rob Miller turned out to be of no help as there seem to be literally millions of talented Rob Millers listed on the web! When I found you, though, I read 6 months of posts in 6 hours in order to catch up. I only disagreed with you re Walter Cronkite. Otherwise, I agreed, usually strongly, or was neutral because it related to TV matters outside of my ken.)
2) Vietnam & Red China were & are bitter enemies. Red China stole practically all of the supplies & materiel which the Soviet Union tried to send (geography forced them to try to ship via Mainland China). The USSR was in a post-Stalin, ineptly bureaucratic, non-suicidal phase ; they were dangerous, but pointing a lot of A-bombs at them was effective. Red China was Stalinistic & entering the mass-murder Cultural Revolution phase which was resulting in the deaths of millions. Whether you were pro or anti Saigon, you were going to find yourself on the side of 1 or the other of the Communist superpowers.
A free election, which all parties had agreed, in 1954, was cancelled by Eisenhower because they were going to elect someone which Washington didn't want.
If you look at the hate which Red China had for Vietnam, it was not difficult to envision a 'cordon sanitaire' alliance of Free China (Taiwan/Formosa), Japan, South Korea, the Phillipines, & Vietnam for containment purposes. They all have a common enemy in Peking. Red China had wanted to invade Vietnam & annex her, just as they had poor Tibet. They were thwarted by the colonial French presence & then by the independent Vietnamese. The Vietnam War, with its attendant loss of more than 2 million people & the destruction of infrastructure, allowed COMMUNIST CHINA to install the murderous Khmer Rouge. Vietnam was too weak to prevent this tragic CHINESE coup d'etat, which created another 2 million fatalities. Vietnam finally entered, after the world & UN dithered, & overthrew the Khmer Rouge, &, then, the monarchists & Vietnamese-backed government eventually agreed a formula which holds. For her entrance into Cambodia, Red China invaded Vietnam & illegally seized territories. Taiwan was robbed of her UN Security Council seat, her UN seat, &, later, even diplomatic recognition. Despite this, Red China never misses a chance to threaten her. --dragon/dinosaur

Anonymous said...

Lon Nol reference. I spotted your Lon Nol reference in a quick re-read. I was pro-Lon Nol then & now. I recognised him as the only effective way to prevent Red China (through her Khmer Rouge stooges & disciples) from creating a murderous Maoist puppet state ; however, the American people were exhausted, the far right were still mesmerised myopically by Vietnam proper, & the far left had lost the ability to examine critically anything called left or socialist or communist.

With some notable exceptions : Joan Baez, the singer & anti-Vietnam War activist, very far-left in many respects ( way too much so for my liking then & now ) was ostracised by the Left when she campaigned against the Khmer Rouge & their activities. She started petitions against the Khmer Rouge. And I distinctly recall that she made some very public enemies as a result of some articles she wrote denouncing the atrocities there.

My point, in sum, is that the old maxim ' the enemy of my enemies is my friend ' is dangerous & oftentimes completely false. Oft, the enemy of my enemy is also my enemy. The Soviet Union was the enemy of National Socialist Germany after June of 1941. But we can't infer from that we had anything other than a common enemy. That the Khmer Rouge (standing in for Red China) was a bitter enemy of the Vietnamese was no excuse for keeping the UN Cambodia seat in the Khmer Rouges's hands for more than a dozen years after the Khmer Rouge had been deposed.

There were those of us which were quite capable of differentiating Cambodia from Vietnam. It was simply a matter of critically examining the evidence & understanding that Vietnam & the Soviet Union were on 1 side, & that Red China & the Khmer Rouge were on the other.

But we obviously interpret matters from that era differently. By the standards of ca 1965 or 1966, I'd definitely be a liberal. (anti-Vietnam War, pro-INDIVIDUAL rights) If I'm not a liberal (other than in a libertarian sense) in this era, it is NOT because my political views have changed, it is because the Left in the mid-1970s migrated into ' identity politics ' (if you belong to a specific race or gender then you must have certain assigned views, you must be a ' victim ', reverse discrimination, group rights, & all that despicable pc tripe). By the mid-1970s, some people were actually calling me a fascist! The term liberal ca 2009 has nothing in common with a liberal ca 1965 or 1966. --dragon/dinosaur

Freedom Fighter said...

Mornin' DD,
Six months of posts...I'm indeed flattered.

I agree with a great deal of what you have to say here, except for the following points:

1) There's no way to cordon off a nation as large and populous as China, especially if they're nuclear armed.Engagement with them was inevitable, and Nixon was smart enough to realize it and use it to America's advantage.

2) While there was no love lost between China and Vietnam ( which the Chinese have always considered part of their barbarian 'outlands')they allowed a significant amount of supplies in for the same reason China allows North Korea to function today - because it was a diversion and problem for America.

3) Russia's biggest fear was never the West , but the East.Few people realize today that the Russians colonized and occupied Siberia and their western territories, including large tracts of land that were historically part of China. Much of the population in these areas is Asiatic,and that was even more true in the 1960's than today.

As long as there was an alliance between the Soviets and China, however tenuous, the USSR was free to concentrate its subversion and aggression entirely in areas away from the borders of its empire.

Once Nixon engaged with China,the Russians once again had to worry about a US/China alliance against them and devote manpower and resources to their southern and eastern borders which they could ill afford. It was the beginning of the end of their empire.

And for their part, the Chinese then had to be wary of an alliance of the US and USSR against them,particularly after detente.

The classic ploy of playing both ends against the middle, and as I said, a master stroke.

4)Nixon inherited a situation not of his making, and did pretty well with it IMO. He deserves credit for that.