Mother Night

We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be.

~ Kurt Vonnegut



The Nukes of October“:

Codenamed Giant Lance, Nixon’s plan was the culmination of a strategy of premeditated madness he had developed with national security adviser Henry Kissinger.

Now, thanks to documents released through the Freedom of Information Act, it’s clear that Giant Lance was the leading example of what historians came to call the “madman theory”: Nixon’s notion that faked, finger-on-the-button rage could bring the Soviets to heel.

Nixon’s madman pose and Giant Lance were based on game theory, a branch of mathematics that uses simple calculations and rigorous logic to help understand how people make choices — like whether to surge ahead in traffic or whether to respond to a military provocation with a strike of one’s own.

The madman theory was an extension of that doctrine.
The sudden conclusion reinforced the madman pose.

Denying that there was ever a madman theory in operation, he emphasized that Giant Lance was designed to be a warning, not a provocation to war.

Author: Sam Koritz

I like cheese.

47 thoughts on “Madness”

  1. So John Nash published his Phd thesis in 1951; went insane; actually overcame his paranoic schizophrenic delusions; and was awarded a Nobel in Economics in 1997, the only great mathematician to ever receive that controversial prize.

    Can it matter where in that timeline Giant Lance occurred? Maybe not. Can it matter that Kissinger remains at Harvard? Most assuredly.

    1. There is no Nobel Prize in mathematics, and awarding it to mathematicians for work applicable to economics, is not only a fraud but a fraud that has twisted the view of many in the world both about both mathematics and economics, and not for the better.

      On the other hand, the mathematicians, and especially the great pure mathematicians, are some of them very grateful to stand unrecognized by a jury of Swedish academic mediocrities of doubtful judgment, suspect motive, and consistently bad taste.

        1. You said a mouthful, Eugene, thank you for expressing it better than I ever have.

        2. Oh, except I believe John Nash is the only GREAT mathematician who’s ever stood at that podium, before or after 1967.

  2. This is not as preposterous as it seems. Reagan used a variation of same to intimidate the Soviet Union. Andropov was convinced a full scale thermonuclear attack was coming.

    But what is good for the goose is good for the gander. If Russia now can muster the political will to play the same card, you will see The Hegemon back pedal on many fronts.

    1. I would say its still one of the driving forces in US foreign policy to this day. They openly talk about pre-emptive nuking of Iran, they send warships to the coast of Lebanon as a “show of force” while Lebanon is trying to settle on a President.

      Can there be any more pure expression of the madman sentiment than “all options are on the table”?

      The problem is, almost every major and minor power on the planet is playing to some variation of this strategy now. Iranian officials talk of fighting to the last man over a civilian nuclear energy program. Russia talks of targeting Poland and the Czech Republic with nuclear weapons in response to a US missile defense system. Hamas talks of guerilla warfare and massive suicide campaigns while an Israeli defense official literally threatens to Holocaust the people of Gaza. Every major Presidential candidate in the US seems to make the cornerstone of his/her foreign policy the idea that there’s really no telling what horrible things he/she might do if crossed.

      Its harmless to the extent that everyone does it and everyone calls everyone’s bluff. The underlying problem is that we have no objective way anymore to determine who’s just kidding and who’s sincerely a genocidal madman.

      1. It’s not harmless. The example used in the article was of two people handcuffed at the edge of a cliff. The first to cry “uncle” to get out of the handcuffs would forfeit the “reward”. So, if one danced around at the edge of the cliff, the other might be induced to cry “uncle,” the more so the closer his partner came to the cliff. But if BOTH antagonists are playing the game, miscalculations become ever more likely until one is likely to make a misstep and both end up over the cliff.

        1. Bill Rood makes an excellent point. The real reward would be the freedom from the handcuffs anyway.

          However, at a more basic level, the logic offered by the theorists is not complete. There are other ways to make the other cry uncle, such as physically dominating and torturing him, choking him with the chain of the handcuffs, etc. Another way to look at it is this: people don’t necessarily respond to threatening behavior by surrendering to the madman–especially if they calculate that they can inflict enough pain and damage to bring the madman to heel. The madman provides the other with motivation to do just that.

      2. Anyone remember when Rumsfeld was characterized as “the crazy grandfather, liable to do anything,” (paraphrased) at the start of the Iraq invasion?

  3. I’m against nuclear brinkmanship as much as the next guy but that lurid Wired story is childish and naive. Not to mention full of factual blunders that do nothing to enhance its credibility.

    If those bombers “flew for 18 hours without rest, hurtling toward their targets at more than 500 miles per hour” from Southern California then they would have overshot Moscow by 3000 miles.

    SAC procedures for loading B-52’s does not call for “workers were pushed beyond their training, and there could have been an accidental explosion (Oh My!)”

    Game theorist Thomas Schelling hardly invented “chicken” and the fact that he lectured on it at Harvard does not add versimilitude to this story.

    There were many regrettable incidences of brinkmanship during the Cold War, a war which apparently the girlishly shocked Jeremi Suri has just heard about for the first time.

    God, I hate liberals.

    1. “God, I hate liberals” is not a rational reply. It only reveals your intolerance for those with whom you disagree. You also assume that the author is a liberal and you overlook that the bombers did not spend all 18 hours flying to the USSR. The article states that the bombers spent time flying over Europe around the periphery of the USSR.

      SAC procedures were not followed recently when nuclear armed aircraft were flown from North Dakota to Louisiana.

      Democracy and capitalism are liberal inventions. Jefferson and Madison were the liberals of their day. You can spend the rest of your life projecting and hating the straw men fabricated by the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity or you can see people as they are and life as it is.

  4. I recommend “History and Strategy” by Marc Trachtenberg (1991) to Forrest. “Chicken” is a time-honored (and time-dishonered) strategy. But those of us who consider nuclear weapons proliferation to be a wholenewballgame; and appreciate that Nash’s mathematics has been used to comfort the aggressive in international relations; well, we get nervous about situations like Kosovo.

    BTB, I am not a liberal.

  5. The world in some ways was actually safer during the cold war. Whether it be Kennedy and Khrushsheve or Reagen and Gorbechev, they were not insane or suicidal. Mutually assured destruction made sure that no rational person would want a nuclear war. The United States and the Soviets had enough ICBMs to blow up the whole world 40 times over again but only a lunatic or a fanatic would want to see that happen.

    And today? We have Muslim fanatics who think that they will get 72 virgins in Paradise if they kill “infidels.” They are, indeed, madmen with no grounding in rational thought. The Islamic terrorists would not hesitate for one second to use a nuclear weapon, if they could get a hold of one. They would not hesitate because they welcome death, they are in a death cult. Their death cult says if they die for “Allah” they go straight to paradise, no questions asked. Compared to them, we should long for the days of Khrushchev banging his shoe on the podium at the United Nations.

    1. Tim R,
      On the other side from the Muslim fanatics, we have the Zionist fanatics who believe that they are justified in stealing the Palestinian’s land because some supernatural being “promised” it to them 3,000 years ago. And somehow despite the prevalent notion that the earlier version of these Zionists crucified this supernatural beings “son”, this promise should still stand. That, my friend, is even more irrational.

      1. Richard Vajs,

        You are right, some of the Zionists are fanatics and they do believe they have a right to the land based on God’s promise. If they were smart, they have a much better arguement they can use: the law of conquest. It has been recognized for thousands of years, to the victor goes the spoils. You can say the law of conquest is unethical, but that is another discussion. Israel beat the Arabs in 48, 67, 73 and many smaller wars in between. So if Israel is now morally obligated to give back land, I say ok, fine. But then hold every other country to the same standard. The United States should give back ALL land stolen from the Native Americans. Australia should give back all land taken from the Aborigines. New Zealand should give back all land taken from the Maori people. And so on and so forth. It is not fair to hold Israel to a higher standard than any other country.

        1. Tim R,
          I think you are finally telling it the way it really is – the Palestinians are on the land that the Jews want and the Jews are going to take it even if it hairlips every camel in Arabia. Sounds like something worth bankrupting America for.

      2. And it is the zionist fanatics who are in possession of an estimated 200 nuclear warheads. That and their belief of being God’s chosen people, make a volatile mix.

      3. I refuse to buy the theory about “Zionist fanatics”, as well as “Muslim fanatics” for a balance. The true “fanatics” of this worls are the US elite, that firmly decided to inherit the karma of Rome, UK Empire and 3rd Reich.

        They are (and Bush is the tip of the iceberg) true, genuine madmans. The only thing that can stop them – is ABUNDANT nucler weapons. Had I been the President of Russia, I’ve used all available weapon grade plutonium to build as much missiles as possible and cancelled all nuclear weapon related treaties. Supposedely there is enough for 14,000 charges. That MAY slow madmans a little.

        And of course provided nuclear weapons to Iran. Because nuclear weapon is VERY efficient against Navy. World would be a much safer place with 100 nuclear charges given to Iran. I believe they would use it wisely. I.e against US Army and not Israel, since I think they do understand who is the real madman of this Planet.

        But had I been Tim R, I would think more about the very unpleasant fact, that the country that used to be some sort of “New World” for the humankind have turned into the worst Empire eagerly bringing World to the World War III without much hesitation – and with indifference of american population – are they really human beings, or sheep, animals? Most of the problem stems from the 3rd world migration to the US over last 100 years. Although… Europe is knows for constant bloody wars and agression against Russia. So – US being the combination of 3rd World sheep w/o human dignity, and patenly agressive elite from Europe… very bad mixture, prone to set this World on fire.

    2. The MAD doctrine can’t be applied to terrorists even without bringing the 72 virgins into the picture and terrorists don’t even have to be Muslims to be terrorists. Timothy McVeigh anyone. Their is no way to use MAD with terrorists in the equation because there is no there, there, there is only here.

    3. …and we also have Christian Dispensationalists who believe the Book of Revelations predicts the coming of the “rapture” in our lifetime and that we must encourage the Zionists to rebuild the Temple in order to hasten the “rapture’s” arrival so they can go to paradise. Why does Tim R. always focus on the OTHER culture as the one that needs correction?

      If everyone sweeps his own stoop, pretty soon the neighborhood will be clean.

    4. We are all have a blood on our hands.
      Tony Blair,Bush,Howard whole Isarely Armies dayly atrocities and we public just tolarate.

      We deserved to have thees Prime ministers and Presidents.
      We don’t mine we don’t care as long as we don’t see actually whats happening out there. CNN is there to inform us the killing and brutality as a fact of live without blood and unpleasant injuries so its ok to us.

      If we are such a good people how come we produce those people?

      We all like violance,brutality we practise and get prepare for the real thing with the moovies and we are doing it in Iraq Afghanistan Palestain.

      Only hope we have with the Putin and China that keep us the bustards a honest and not to fight.

    5. Tim,

      You call “leaders” who produce and maintain 10’s of thousands nuclear weapons sane. ha ha ha ha…….


  6. Once again, I recommend reading of Walter Karp’s “The Politics of War” to understand the underlying reasons all this happens. Demonization is not new. It worked in the past and will continue to work as long as half the world is below average…:>)

    1. The USA doesn’t need to be in the bottom half of the world. That ‘s the reason for Constitutional republics, in our case, with democratic processes.

  7. It’s hard to know what to make of the “logic” of the madman theory (other than to realize once again that governments shouldn’t be allowed to possess nuclear weapons). Consider: US game theorists assumed that Soviet leaders were rational, & would, therefore, back down in the face of an apparent nuclear threat. But if it’s rational to act crazy when facing a rational nuclear-armed opponent, what is the rational strategy when facing a crazy opponent? A nuclear first-strike, seems to me. And, indeed, game theorist/mathematician John Von Neumann (working for Air Force think-tank, the Rand Corporation) offered just this advice, when the US had a monopoly on nuclear weapons: “If you say why not bomb them tomorrow, I say why not today? If you say today at 5 o’clock, I say why not one o’clock?”

  8. The quotation from Vonnegut is apt and at the heart of the matter.

    Emile Borel originated what is now called Game Theory, and proved special cases of the minimax. John von Neumann generalized it and proved the general case.

    The mathematics are fairly simple at base and easily mastered by any teenager who is intelligent enough to play tic-tac-toe.

    Though widely used in economics and decision theory, resolving conflict of interest situations, and even logistics, the key to its usefulness hinges on being able to quantify the possible results of various strategies.

    The basic fraud in all this was Kissinger’s, worked out for long years in his seminars at Harvard, in which he combined his admiration for the incompetence of Prince Metternich with monumental ego and social climbing.

    Nixon and the American people, not the old Soviets, were the ultimate marks.

    The essence of Kissinger’s shell game was the use of supposed counters in diplomacy, marketed with naive psychology and a heavy German accent.

    If Kissinger actually studied Game Theory, save informally, it was just a way to garnish diplomatic Wiener schnitzel with mathematical parsley.

    The flaw is epistemological and mentalist. What is the difference between making a threat and pretending to make a threat?

    One’s “real intention”?

    One is invited lose oneself in that little loop for as endlessly as one chooses.

    The Russian leadership, well trained in Marxist dialectics and engineering, was immune to the line peddled to American rubes by the House of Humbert Humbert, which included not only Kissinger but Marie Jana Korbelová Albright.

    American Cold Warriors would have done better watching spaghetti westerns over and over, especially The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly.

    In a Mexican standoff how do you “pretend” to reach for your pistola?

    The lunatics comprised, therefore, not only Kissinger, but Nixon, and most of the brass of the Strategic Air Command, who appeared to be sane and rational on one level by moving their pathology up the hierarchy of types.

    Nikita Khrushchev, the cunning clear-headed peasant, had already short-circuited the whole shebang a decade earlier and on the cheap, with Sputnik and Muttnik, and ICBM’s.

    The whole American Air Force, including SAC, was obsolete, just as the obscenely expensive Stealth are now.

    Leonid Brezhnev was a lesser character, it is true, but what did the Soviets have to fear really?

    Doomsday is doomsday, and if, like Hitler and the Nazis, that’s what the Americans want, that’s what they will get.

    Are you really reaching for your single action again, Senor?

    1. Sounds pretty solid to me. I’ve recently been tasked for being a Harvard college grad, despite calling for der prof Kissinger’s removal, and now, probably despite Sam Powers’ surprising commitment to the truth. Thanx, Eugene Costa, for your fine perspective on this. Now I want to resume my readings of this article’s very long thread, for which — as its first commentator — I’m quietly proud.

  9. A soviet fascist type government is being implemented for the USA. What you write makes perfect sense.

  10. Interventionism is the incubator of terrorism..War is a tactic used by the wealthy and powerful..Terrorism is the tactic used by the poor and powerless..when the Israelis use helicopter gunships to kill those filthy goyim-that’s just as much terrorism as anything-when civilians die it’s wrong and it doesn’t matter what killed them..But the partisans of Israel want to convince that the answer is more interventionism and the stupid goy watch Fixed News and eat it up..Because the partisans of Israel only care about-Israel.
    We need to stop toppling their govts ( i.e.; Iran ’53 ) and leaning on the ones we don’t topple and the problem ( as it concerns us over here in America ) will go away..Listening to people like Kristol you would think Israel was just off the coast of Long Island..It’s not..It’s a Middle Eastern country-and we’re not.

  11. One last comment on this episode. The B 52s were not as redoubtable as the author seems to think. Fourteen of them were shot down by the North Vietnamese during the 1972 Christmas bombing of Hanoi.

    1. “Records released by the White House show that George Bush attended some drills in the Texas Air National Guard in the four months of 1972 while the air losses in Vietnam continued.

      On George Bush’s last paid day in the Texas Air National Guard, on April 16, 1972, the air war in Vietnam had turned furious because Richard Nixon had ordered large strikes against North Vietnam, the first since 1968. Nixon was certain that bombing would crumble North Vietnam and give him a smashing victory in the war.

      Bush was on duty for 26 days from January 1 until April 16. On that last day in Texas, April 16, 1972, the front pages around the nation, which George Bush could see because he was here, far from the shooting, had a photo of Maj. Gale Albert Despiegler, just captured after being shot down over Quang Binh, North Vietnam.

      Despiegler would be in the same prison with John McCain, who spent five and a half years in a Hanoi jail and was tortured. He tried suicide twice.

      On April 16, the American raids on the port of Haiphong and the capital city, Hanoi, were reported from Hanoi by Agence France-Presse:

      ‘Anti-aircraft guns fired on a formation of American F-4 fighter bombers early Sunday as the planes swept low over the North Vietnamese capital. The Hanoi radio said that American jets struck inside and outside Hanoi seven hours after the Haiphong raid. The Associated Press also reported. The radio said that 11 American planes had been downed in the raid. A Pentagon spokesman refused to comment on the reports from Hanoi.’

      The United States command said that escort planes had accompanied the bombers. Anti-aircraft fire was believed to have been intense and some planes may have been shot down by surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft fire, but the command’s announcement said only that all B-52’s “returned safely.”

      After that April 16, Bush went to Alabama and that pretty much ended his fighting career although he did battle cavities in a dentist’s chair at Maxwell Field, Ala….”

      Jimmy Brselin Newsday Februrary 15,2004 Excerpt


    2. “When Nixon assumed the presidency in January 1969, one of his top priorities was to end the Vietnam War as quickly as possible on terms favorable to his administration. By mid-1969, Nixon and his national security adviser Henry Kissinger had come to favor a strategy that combined international diplomacy with threats and acts of force to induce the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) to bend to their will.

      In several venues during July and August, they and their surrogates issued dire warnings intended for leaders in Moscow and Hanoi that if by November 1 the North Vietnamese did not agree to compromise on American terms, Nixon would ‘take measures of great consequence and force.’ Should these threats fail to move Moscow to persuade Hanoi to compromise, then the second phase of the military escalation option would begin: dramatic, sudden military pressure by means of a multifaceted campaign against the DRV, consisting mainly of heavy air attacks in the far-north of Vietnam, including mining operations on coastal ports.

      Kissinger and his staff had begun by at least early July to develop contingency military plans under the codename ‘Duck Hook’ (a term probably borrowed from golf parlance). To evaluate the secret plans prepared by members of the Joint Staff in Washington and military planners in Saigon, Kissinger set up a special NSC staff planning committee dubbed the ‘September Group’ (aka ‘contingency group’). ‘I refuse to believe that a little fourth-rate power like North Vietnam does not have a breaking point,’ Kissinger confessed. ‘It shall be the assignment of this group to examine the option of a savage, decisive blow against North Vietnam. You start without any preconceptions at all.’ The president, he told them, wanted a ‘military plan designed for maximum impact on the enemy’s military capability’ in order to ‘force a rapid conclusion’ to the war.

      According to an early secondhand account of the planning process by investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, one staffer asked Kissinger whether nuclear weapons should be considered. Kissinger replied that it was ‘the policy of this administration not to use nuclear weapons.’ He did not exclude, however, the use of ‘a nuclear device’ to block a key railroad pass to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) if that should prove the only way of doing it. Roger Morris, a member of the September Group, later reported that he had been shown plans that targeted at least two sites in North Vietnam for nuclear air bursts. Special Counsel to the President Charles Colson–who was not a member of the contingency group but who asked Nixon’s chief of staff H. R. Haldeman in 1970 about contingency planning in 1969–claimed that Haldeman said ‘Kissinger had lobbied for nuclear options in the spring and fall of 1969.’ One Kissinger aide, Winston Lord, expressed incredulity to one of the present writers: ‘It’s beyond my comprehension that they would even think of doing that.’ But he allowed for the possibility that the Vietnamese might worry about nuclear weapons and that, consistent with Nixon’s ‘madman theory . . , we wouldn’t go out of our way to allay their fears about that.'”

      Excerpt “National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 195, edited by Burr and Kimball July 31, 2006


      1. If the US did not use nuclear weapons in Vietnam proper, which many US military were recommending, either because the of the potential Soviet response, or that of China, or both, or, most assuredly also, because it certainly would not have accomplished submission of the North Vietnamese, how was threatening to use nuclear weapons against the Soviets supposed to make the North Vietnamese submit?

        So the nonsense of a “Madman Theory” held by madmen, and again the deeper significance of the Vonnegut quotation above.

        Note also Kissinger’s non credo: “I refuse to believe that a little fourth-rate power like North Vietnam does not have a breaking point.”

        This one sentence shows the underlying psychopathology of Kissinger and his ultimate disconnection from reality.

        It was for him at this point still decisively about prestige.

        In Vietnam, naturally, the North Vietnamese were no fourth-rate power, nor were they at any point interested in Kissinger’s ratings of what they might or might not be anywhere else.

        They knew all too well, on the other hand, that it was the United States itself, in and out of Vietnam, that was close to the breaking point, as did the old Soviets.

        Why else threaten the use of nuclear weapons and be dancing around the edge of a cliff like a madman?

        This also underlines the empty rhetoric of such phrases as “the projection of power”, so often on the lips of Kissinger and the Neo-Cons and many others still.

        In contemporary terms what this means mostly is the ability of the American military to destroy infrastructure and kill civilians from the air, while not being able to sustain any long war or occupation on the ground against a population that stands up and fights.

        Read from the other side, the “Madman theory” is merely the penultimate temper tantrum before the enemy surrenders, an empty threat from a failed bully about how much he still could destroy if he does not get his way, which how much, as the Soviets knew, also included himself.

    3. Stanley,
      I remember that well. At the time, I was working at Eglin AFB in Florida working on simulations of Soviet radar systems. Something drastic changed; all of a sudden our B52 and escorts electronic jamming techniques weren’t effective anymore. Don’t know that the AF ever figured out what changed – some speculated that the North Vietnamese switched to passive optical tracking of targets (our planes). Anyway, our massive bombing runs over North Viet Nam stopped and never resumed. Probably had more to do with our leaving Viet Nam, than any moral awakening on our part ever did.

      1. And now the Air Force has saddled the country with obscenely expensive, worthless Stealth technology, the only possible purpose of which was first strike against the Soviets or the Chinese, itself an ill-conceived idea in a three way gun fight.

        Meanwhile the Russians have been provoked by Bush into building a whole new line of ICBM’s and nuclear weapons with the vast sums accruing to them from high oil prices caused by the war in Iraq.

        It does not get more incompetent than this.

      2. And the key to the new Russian Federation ICBMS is this–very small and very mobile.

        Even if Stealth worked, which it does not any longer, it is designed to take out hardened static sites.

        Can you imagine these slow, clumsy, all too visible $15,000,000,000 Stealth Bombers trying to chase down a horde of small, agile, mobile launchers?

        How many of Iraq’s mobile launchers were taken out in the first Gulf War?

        What the Iraqis lacked, because the Russians did not give them to the Iraqis, was precise guidance devices.

        On the other hand, there was the bombing of the barracks, if you recall, and the war came to a close with Schwartzkopf’s “Hail Mary Pass” very shortly after that.

        The fact is all the old Soviets or the Russians now ever needed is what they developed–a credible overwhelming second strike.

  12. Now that the Madman Theory has been out there for a good while, it’s much more difficult to mount a convincing pretense of violent madness, since everyone knows that one might merely be pretending to be a homicidal maniac.

    The neocons wisely conclude that we will have to keep the pantomime going for a good while longer, maintaining our occupation of Iraq for a century or so, while launching a further war against Iran, and Yahweh knows what else.

    A pretend madman’s work is never done, eh?

  13. Dead a dozen-plus years and still getting kicked around! Wooeee! Didn’t now the Berserker in Chief side of his personality was all digits and squiggles. Go figure! But regardless of the cynical/clinical brutality of his methods (Christmas bombing, anyone?), Nixon initiated the first real and productive nuclear arms reduction talks with the Soviets and brought this country’s relationship with them to a more appropriate, “realistic” level. However, he applied this cold-eyed approach to Mideast horse-trading, and achieved tangible results that eventually led to the Carter era’s Camp David accords; this meant occasionally saying no to Israel and its American abettors, so he will always get the Haman treatment from the Likudies, foreign and domestic.

    1. I don’t know if it is worth the time or effort to reflect upon at length, but in retrospect it strikes me that the real Beserker was not Nixon but Kissinger.

      Nixon definitely had emotional problems, and Kissinger knew how to exploit them, but he was also capable of rational analysis.

      True enough the poor man was trained as a lawyer, but his exhaustive outlines on yellow pads often showed a capable mind at work.

      So there may be less inconsistency in what you say than it seems at first sight.

      Also Nixon, whatever his shortcomings, was determined to end the War in Vietnam, though his demand for saving face, which both Kissinger and the Chinese Communists exploited, may have caused more lasting trouble than has yet been widely appreciated.

    2. I am not so sure about a Nixon even-handedness in the Middle East. In 1973, when Egypt was initially winning the war in the Sinai, Nixon started the greatest weapon give away since WWII. A continuous air bridge kept re-supplying the Israelis with tanks, warplanes and even pilots according to some. It came to the point where NATO was being so depleted to quickly get weapons to the Israelis, that the generals in charge protested. By preventing the Egyptians and the Syrians from regaining their lost territories then, we have what we have now.

      1. To the extent we can call any American president “even-handed” in approaching Israel, Nixon was that. No president is going to insist that Israel follow policies that 1) – threaten their regional military hegemony, or, 2) – improve the status of Palestineans to something better than serfdom. The last American President to block a major scheme by the Israelis was Eisenhower, during the Suez Crisis of 1956.

        At least, Nixon jawboned with Sadat and others in the region. Perhaps more cordial relations with Arab states could have improved the lot the Palestineans simply by taking martial pressure off Israel to secure its borders. Who knows? Anything would be better than today.

        The last 20 years have brought no improvements at all. Reagan could barely be bothered with the Middle East; after all, by the 1980s, we had Egypt in our hip pocket – doling out huge aid packages to Cairo for faking a neighborly grin. And compare Nixon to Bush, who barely conceals his contempt for the Arab world. “Gaza? What Gaza?”

  14. This has been an interesting and informative thread, for me. Six months ago I had bookmarked a journal called something like “International Security” and talk about madman — or maybe I should just say “empire” — thinking!

    Also, in 1975 I had a letter published which said I believed that during the Mayaguez Incident the American government was on the brink of launching nukes against Vietnam, and possibly against China. It was only a feeling then, but I wonder if any of you commenters to this thread have specific info one way or the other regarding my feeling?

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