If I asked the question, “When exactly did this war begin?”, I would probably receive several, historically complex theories, but most folks would just look at me a little strange (as if I’d been freeze-dried or doin’ hard time) and then, give the standard reply of “9/11”. Although that is the date history will record as the beginning of hostilities, this war actually began in 1973 with a surprise attack on Israel, coming from Syria in the north and Egypt in the south, during Yom Kippur (Still referred to as the Yom Kippur War by Israelis but known as the War of Ramadan or the October War, among Arabs.) In the first two days of fierce battle, Israeli outposts were overrun in both theaters.
Following a refusal from both Egypt and the Soviet Union for an immediate ceasefire, Nixon launched an emergency airlift to re-supply Israel with the necessities of war, allowing the Israeli Defense Forces to use their current stockpiles, without reservation. Within two days, the IDF rallied with an armor assault in the north and recaptured the Golan Heights, pushing Syrian forces east of the ‘67 ceasefire line and then, beyond the border, setting tanks on the road to Damascus, only 18 miles away.
Having secured the northern border, the Israelis turned their attention to the Sinai, where Sharon’s division actually drove through a gap between the Egyptian Second and Third Armies and seized the canal crossings, effectively cutting off the Third, and then crossed into Egypt, destroying SAM sites and advancing within a kilometer of a major intersection on the Ismailiya-Cairo highway.
What had started out to be a great victory for Egypt and Syria had suddenly turned into a disaster of immense proportions. Syria’s shock force of 1,100 Russian tanks laid strewn and burning across the Golan, while the Egyptian Third Army, cut off from it’s re-supply, sat withering in the Sinai desert.
Syrian President Hafiz al-Assad was furious! His five armor divisions were being shredded while the Egyptians seemingly sat, “pinned” in the Sinai, never moving after the initial thrust across the Suez Canal. He believed this inactivity gave the Israelis time to recover and mount the devastating counterattack against the Syrian Army. Actually, the Egyptians did try to move, but by that time, the Israelis had “dug-in” to better defensive positions and the Egyptians were in fear of moving out from under the protection of their own SAM sites, exposing themselves to Israel’s deadly, modern air force, which had been so devastating to their army in the ‘67, Six Day War.
The Soviet Union (USSR) now found themselves in the unthinkable position of having to defend both Damascus and Cairo. Although Sadat had kicked his 20,000 Russian advisors out of Egypt, before the war (he had demanded better weapons from the Soviets and more political pressure upon the U.S. to enforce U.N. Resolution 24), the Soviets could not just stand by and watch their allies be destroyed, leaving Israel to be the dominate power of the Middle East. Russian paratroopers were put on alert and the Soviets threatened direct military intervention in a letter dispatched on the night of the 23rd, to President Nixon which read, “I will say it straight that if you find it impossible to act jointly with us in this matter, we should be faced with the necessity urgently to consider taking appropriate steps unilaterally. We cannot allow arbitrariness on the part of Israel”.
The official story is that Schlesinger, Kissinger and Haig, not wanting to wake Nixon (this occurred at the height of the Watergate scandal), sent a conciliatory letter to Brezhnev in Nixon’s name and another to Sadat, asking that he drop his request for Soviet assistance, and also threatening U.S. intervention, if in fact, the Soviets did intervene.
Still not publicized as a matter of record, leaks from our intelligence services, shortly after the war claimed that the Russians had actually shipped a nuclear device to Egypt, to be used against the Israelis. Alerted to this fact, President Nixon called up Soviet Premier Brezhnev, threatening retaliation “in kind”, if Israel gets nuked! The fact is, U.S. forces did go to DEFCON 3 (Defense Condition 3 being the highest level of alert during peace. DEFCON 4 is war!) at this time and the Soviets dropped their demands for joint peacekeepers and agreed to negotiations
Although Syria continued to fight on for several weeks, Sadat was pleased to have captured part of the Sinai away from the Israelis, giving Moslems back an element of pride that comes with even a small victory against the IDF. Egypt may have lost the battle in strategic terms, but Sadat always believed that he had obtained a significant political victory (Sadat had already decided to scrap Nassar’s economic views and knew he would need the U.S. for investment in his country). After all, he had actually captured land back from the Israelis (the October 6 victory is still celebrated in Egypt) and never surrendered his cut-off Third Army. He had proved to the Arab world, as well as the world as a whole, that Israel was not invulnerable and at the same time, he had put himself in a strong political position with the U.S., well before the U.N. ceasefire was brokered (in part, by Henry Kissinger).
Other than Egypt, at least eleven Arab nations had participated in the war, in one form or another. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait helped with financing, Libya furnished weapons while Morocco and Algiers sent troops and the Palestinians joined in by shelling Israeli towns and fighting alongside the attacking armies. Iraq declined to participate in the initial assault but later sent an expeditionary force of three divisions, when Damascus was threatened.
Jordan’s King Hussein sent only a few token troops, just to please the Arab confederacy and was said to have warned the U.S. of the imminent attack, his reasons being that Sadat had already voiced his support for giving control of the Gaza and West Bank territories (Jordanian land, before being lost to the Israelis in the ‘67, Six Day War) to PLO Chairman, Yasser Arafat, who had recently started a civil war in Jordan, with Syria backing them up.
Still reeling from their battlefield defeat and having little else in their military or political arsenal, the Arabs played the “oil card”, implementing the long threatened, Arab OPEC nations (OAPEC) boycotting of oil to the United States, Western Europe and Japan (particularly, the US and the Netherlands), creating gas lines and higher fuel prices that set off a period of inflation and recession for the Western economies, and probably costing President Carter (the champion of the Camp David Accords) a second term of office.
Along with these crippling effects of the oil boycott came the realization that to protect it’s own economic future, America must ensure its ability to import oil from the Middle East. No longer could they expect an endless, uninterrupted flow of cheap crude while ignoring the concerns of the Arabs, especially the Palestinian question. If it continued to support Israel, it would always run the risk of losing it’s oil supply again, a political (economic) axe, considered by the “new conservative” as much too sharp to be left dangling over the collective, economic head of the United States.
This was the beginning of a completely new political doctrine in America, mainly attributed to Kissinger himself, but embraced by conservatives from both sides of the isle. The United States would someday have to take the Middle Eastern oil producing countries, to protect it’s own economic survival.
The policies of the United States had always been pro-Israel, since it was first to recognize the emerging nation in 1949. The US looked upon the new state as an outpost of democracy in an area of increasingly strategic importance, but unfortunately, ruled over by tribal Kingdoms and dictators who were often at odds with each other, and always at odds with Israel. They had become unreliable suppliers and a national security risk.
With the overthrow of the Shah by the Revolutionary Guard in 1979, the US lost not only a major ally, but also the second largest producer of crude, in the Middle East.
The new Reagan/Bush Administration quickly convinced Saddam Hussein to attack Iran’s predominately Arab, oil rich, Khuzestan Province under the auspices of freeing the indigenous population from Persian ontrol, but after some initial success, the Iraqis were pushed back to the border. To make matters worse, Saddam had buried himself in war debt with the Saudis and the Kuwaitis that even his oil revenues could not quickly dispose of, and by 1991, the frustrated dictator made a fatal mistake and asked the State Department for permission to attack Kuwait.
At this point, it was obvious to President George H.W. Bush that Saddam had outlived his usefulness. He had failed to capture the oil fields of Iran and now, he was threatening Kuwait, another major supplier of crude. Fortunately for Bush, Saddam had unknowingly supplied the rope with which Bush was going to hang him. The State Department said, “Yes”.
After coalition forces swept Saddam’s army from Kuwait, destroying a large part of it in the field, President Bush declined to extend the attack into Iraq proper, as there was no U.N. mandate to do so. Besides, the sanctions imposed on Iraq would prohibit them from any quick buildup and the next administration (under Bill Clinton) would pummel the Iraqis on a regular basis for years, wearing down their air defense systems to prepare the way for “Gulf War II”.
With George W. Bush taking office in 2001, everyone (including all of our politicians and media) who keeps their finger on the national political pulse knew that we were going to war with Iraq. With the media’s influence, many people believed it was WMDs, but some thought it was just “unfinished business”. Anyone who knew the philosophy of the neo-con understood it was “new business”, too.
Now, we are finalizing our plans to attack Iran. This time, the excuse being that they will someday be able to produce nuclear weapons. To tell you the truth, I have never been comfortable in the thought of Iran having the bomb…but I also know that we have enough bombs to bounce rubble from Tehran to Moscow, if ever attacked. We could also take the Blackjack Pershing approach and make Mecca glow in the dark for two thousand years, thwarting that “once during the lifetime” pilgrimage, required of all Moslems.
At least twice in my lifetime, we have been on the brink of global, thermonuclear war, but survived because cooler heads reasoned, there would be no winners. Now, we will be the first to use those WMDs since World War Two.
To most of us, the unnecessary use of nuclear weapons is totally abhorrent, in fact, maniacal, risking the lives of everyone we love. To the neo-con, it’s just the next step in securing the oil reserves.
I’m sure if you would ask them, they would tell you, “It’s not personal. It’s just business.”