41 Years Ago Today: The Yom Kippur War Begins

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    Forty-one years ago today, the deadliest Arab-Israeli military conflict commenced with a surprise attack, coordinated mainly by Egypt and Syria, on the Israeli occupied territories in Suez and the Golan Heights. The Yom Kippur War would instantly go down in infamy as the bloodiest military confrontation between Israel and its Arab neighbors totaling nearly 53,500 total casualties on all sides involved; compared to 5,500 casualties during the 1967 Six-Day War, and 10,000 casualties during the 1956 Suez Crisis.

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    A wrecked Israeli tank during the early days of the Yom Kippur War. Israel lost approximately 500 tanks during the first three days of confrontation, placing a high priority on tank replacements during the airlift campaign.

    This military campaign immediately presented a crisis of worldwide proportions that not only threatened the long-term stability of the Middle East but dramatically heated tensions between the United States and Soviet Union after long fought years towards rapprochement by the Nixon Administration. In order to achieve the best possible outcome from this tragic event, RN and his staff, along with the U.S. military needed to carefully and strategically maneuver on various fronts all the while confronting hostile domestic and internal backlash in response to Watergate, the resignation of Vice President Agnew, and the firing and subsequent resignations of high ranking Justice Department officials.

    From the start of the conflict, each side had many pieces of the board in play. The following is a brief summary of what each major player had to work with:

    Arab States (belligerents: Egypt, Syria, Iraq):
    • Reclaim land and prestige lost as a result of the 1967 war.
    • Remove Israel’s superior bargaining position dependent on occupation of 1967 conquered lands.
    • Force Israel into negotiations from a position of relative weakness.

    Israel:
    • Maintain lands captured in 1967 to preserve ideal negotiating position with respect to Arab states, PLO, and other Arab-Palestinian groups.
    • Maintain superior combat effectiveness over Arab enemies in the face of being extremely outnumbered by Arab forces.
    • Cannot strike preemptively in order to not appear to be the aggressor at the risk of losing U.S. support.

    United States:
    • Take supportive action for Israel that allows U.S. to maintain strong diplomatic and military influence.
    • Do not allow the balance of war to tilt in either direction in order to bring about negotiations with parties on equal terms.
    • Allow Israel to maintain its balance vis-à-vis the invading forces by supplying it with sufficient military material and arms.
    • Maintain domestic acceptance of arms supply to Israel in the face of the reciprocal OPEC oil embargo.
    • Do not allow U.S. relations with the USSR to escalate out of hand as a result of the conflict.

    Soviet Union:
    • Maintain fleeting influence in region by aiding Arab states in the war.
    • Maintain influence, credibility, and prestige in the region by making it possible for Arabs to reclaim the lands lost in 1967.
    • Attempt to expand Soviet military influence on the ground by sending in as many military personnel as possible under whatever diplomatic guise necessary.

    YKW Map 2

    On this day in 1973, the armies of Anwar Sadat’s Egypt and Hafez al-Assad’s Syria launched  surprise attacks on Israel.  The Arab armies took advantage of Israel’s observation of  the holiest day of the Jewish calendar — Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement — when broadcasting is curtailed and many soldiers are given leave to be with their families.

    For the remainder of October 1973, the crisis in the Middle East would test the resolve of each of the aforementioned parties and the global community as a whole. Over the next few days The New Nixon will be posting additional entries regarding different angles of the Yom Kippur War focusing on the various efforts and policies of the Nixon White House to end the war and to bring the warring parties back on the path to peace.

      The First U.S. President to Visit Yugoslavia

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        President Nixon receives a warm welcome from Yugoslavian citizens.

        On September 30, 1970, President Nixon touched down in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, becoming the first U.S. President to visit the Communist nation. On this day in 1970, after two hours of official talks with President Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia in the Federal Council Building, President Nixon acknowledged “the growth of good and friendly relations between their two countries.”

        President Tito, a leader in the so-called nonaligned world and owing allegiance to neither of the two superpowers, gained prominence as the leader of the World War II Yugoslav guerrilla movement, which successfully resisted the occupying Axis forces. Having by September of 1944 expelled all external forces from Yugoslav territory, Tito established the provisional government of the Democratic Federal Yugoslavia, later renamed the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia following Tito’s overwhelming electoral victory.

        At the end of September, 1970, circumstances nearly prevented President Nixon’s visit to Yugoslavia. President Tito was a close personal friend of President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, who abruptly passed away on September 28 after suffering from a severe heart attack. Though President Tito was expected to postpone President Nixon’s state visit, he instead elected to forego the funeral. It appeared that President Tito would not have wanted to postpone, perhaps indefinitely, President Nixon’s much sought-after visit. It was also likely that he wanted to avoid missing the limited opportunity of making the case for his country’s stance against the Middle Eastern policy of the United States, for which he claimed to have been too favorable to Israeli interests.

        High on the agenda of topics to discuss at the October 1 meeting, no less, was United States involvement in Middle Eastern affairs. But equally important to this discussion was President Nixon’s pledge to abide U.S. interest in Yugoslavian independence, to exhibit an understanding of its nonalignment policy, and to support its continued economic development. In other words, President Nixon would take this opportunity to differentiate the United States from the Soviet Union, who at the time continuously opposed Yugoslavian aspirations. Likewise, President Nixon, aware of Tito’s ties to Egypt, would approach this meeting with the premise that Yugoslavia offered a valuable conduit to Cairo.

        Below, view National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger’s briefing memo for President Nixon’s first visit to Yugoslavia, which highlights some of these points:

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        President Nixon and President Tito before a State Dinner in Belgrade, Yugoslavia on October 1, 1970. 

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        Toasts of President Nixon and President Tito

        After the meeting, both President’s released a join statement that acknowledged discussions on the Middle East, South East Asia, East-West relations, European security, less developed countries, and bilateral issues. It also affirmed both nations’ belief in negotiation rather than confrontation as indispensable to peaceful and just solutions, insisting that cooperation among sovereign nations would be the impetus for this type progress.

          9.22.73 – Nixon for a Strong National Defense

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            President Nixon greeting the men of the U.S.S. Saratoga on May 17, 1969.

            By the summer of 1968, Americans had grown so weary of the Vietnam war, so alarmed by America’s domestic situation, and so disillusioned with its country’s foreign policy that a new isolationist thought and a consensus to unburden American defense commitments became very attractive philosophies.

            When many thought that the United States should turn inward and nurse its own ills while crises amounted abroad and at home, Richard Nixon recognized a unique opportunity. An opportunity not for the assertion of heavy-handed American pressure abroad, but of empowering free nations around the world who faced the challenge of adversarial expansionism. He ascertained that the United States should not be wooed by the prospects of reducing its defense budget, for history has shown flawlessly that negligence on the part of the US abroad invited conflict regardless.

            Richard Nixon believed in a new generation of peace–one void of wars yet conducive to economic competition and international prosperity. It served the ends of his administration’s foreign policy model. The means to which he would achieve this end began with American military strength.

            “What we have to do is to have the strength and the intelligence in our negotiation to see to it that this period in which we are entering will be a period of negotiation and a period of peace.”

            To be sure, RN did not support strong military for the purpose of threatening anyone or waging war. Rather, he backed a strong military for the purpose of negotiating through strength and not fear. Fear would invariably give a potential adversary, one of expansionary motives, a clear upper-hand. He believed in a strong United States because he recognized that the US was the guardian of peace and could only sustain this role on the basis that it could negotiate with strength peaceful settlements around the world. As he campaigned in 1968, RN alluded to this very concept, citing former President Kennedy’s inaugural wisdom:

            “I think President Kennedy put it very well in his first inaugural, better than anybody else has put it, when he said we should never fear to negotiate and never negotiate from fear. And at this time the United States is reaching a position where we might negotiate from fear.”

            In September of 1973, when Congress threatened to further reduce the United States defense budget, President Nixon wrote to leading senators in Congress expressing his views on why these proposed cuts concerned him. He warned them of the consequences of a slashed defense budget.

            “It is ironic that in this critical period in which the United States has so much at stake in the international arena, argument to erode our military posture have gained such currency.”

            President Nixon was referring to two important foreign policy events that his administration was partaking in: 1) a new phase of strategic arms limitation talks with the the Soviet Union and 2) discussions with the Warsaw Pact regarding mutual troop reductions in Europe.

            A cut in defense at this pivotal juncture while President Nixon attempted to steer America in the direction of real peace would assuredly disrupt the ongoing burden-sharing negotiations, the transition to peace in Vietnam, and would weaken U.S. weapons capability while potential adversaries improved theirs.

            With the risks identified, President Nixon ended the letter with a call for unity:

            An adequate defense must not become a partisan issue. A strong and ready military force is an asset to all Americans and supports all of their interests. Therefore, the Congress and the Executive Branch must work together to provide the funds, the manpower and the leadership needed to assure this capability. I ask for your support in this most critical effort.

            Read the President Nixon’s entire letter to Senate leaders here.

              Richard Nixon and Hispanic Heritage

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                President Nixon with Martin Castillo, Chairman of the Interagency Community for Mexican American Affairs–as it was called in early 1969–Hank Queveda, its Executive Director, and Uraldo Palmares.

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                President Nixon with members of the Advisory Council of the Cabinet Committee on Opportunity for the Spanish Speaking People, established on December 31, 1969.

                President Nixon believed that it was grossly irresponsible for government to promise billions of new Federal dollars for the poor and for minorities if it meant diminishing the collective pride of its recipients. More often than not, these promises fell short of their intentions. 116 programs for assisting small/minority enterprises operated among 21 agencies without appropriate coordination existed when President Nixon took office. Despite the programs’ bona fides, President Nixon believed that people must be moved, first and foremost, by hope–that the path to true dignity lay in building up personal and racial pride. The catalyst for realizing his administration’s successful domestic policy agenda for minority groups hinged on empowering not through capricious spending, but through responsible inspiration. President Nixon sought to accomplish this by bringing together private funds, private energies, and private talents to “develop the opportunities that lie untapped in our own underdeveloped urban heartland.”

                On September 12, 1969, President Nixon signed a proclamation dedicating the week beginning on September 14 as National Hispanic Heritage Week. Not too long afterwards, in December of the same year, the President saw to the establishment of a Cabinet Committee on Opportunities of Spanish Speaking People. This statutory Cabinet Committee would help the administration ensure that existing and future Government programs would in fact reach all Spanish-speaking people.

                Read the Hispanic Heritage Week proclamation below:

                By the President of the United States Of America

                A Proclamation

                One of America’s great strengths is her diversity. A wide variety of peoples have made contributions to our nation; each has added its own strength and charm to American life, and each provides an ongoing link between our culture and those of other countries around the world.

                The Hispanic culture is one to which this nation is particularly indebted. Men of Hispanic origin were among the first Europeans to explore this hemisphere. For four centuries men and women of Hispanic descent have provided distinguished leadership in our country and in other New World countries, both in government and in other walks of life.

                Today the people of the United States are reminded of this rich heritage in many ways. Millions of our citizens speak Spanish, and Hispanic names and traditions grace many parts of our landscape, including both the town where I was born and the place where I am making my new home.

                This country’s Hispanic heritage is particularly important because it reminds us of the great traditions we share with our neighbors in Latin America. In fact, when the Congress, just a year ago, requested the President to issue annually a proclamation setting aside one week as Hispanic Heritage Week, it designated the week which includes the dates of September 15th and 16th, when five Central American nations and the Republic of Mexico celebrate their Independence Days.

                The Hispanic culture is one of depth, excitement, and beauty. It has crossed borders and mountains and oceans, and has made its influence felt in all parts of the globe. In honoring it, we give strength to that international understanding which is indispensable to world order.

                Now, Therefore, I, Richard Nixon, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim the week beginning September 14, 1969, as National Hispanic Heritage Week. I call upon all of the people of the United States, and especially the educational community, to observe that week with appropriate ceremonies and activities.

                In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this twelfth day of Sept., in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred sixty-nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the one hundred ninety-fourth.


                RICHARD NIXON

                  9.8.73 – Remarks About the Nation’s Energy Policy

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                    President Nixon holds a meeting in the White House Cabinet Room with several senior advisors to discuss energy on September 8, 1973. Attendees at the meeting included John A. Love, Roy Ash, Charles DiBona, Bryce Harlow, Deane Hinton, Henry Kissinger, Melvin Laird, Rogers Morton, and William Simon.

                    On September 8, 1973, President Nixon met with major administration officials having responsibilities in the field of energy. The purpose of this meeting was to ascertain current and proposed programs initiated under and before former Governor of Colorado John A. Love assumed the role of Director of the Office of Energy Policy.

                    In a two hour meeting, the participants briefed the President on energy/fuel shortage projections for the immediate months to come. Mr. Love in particular emphasized the urgency of Congressional action at this time. As is reflected in his talking points memo, Love stated that congressional action would not solve the immediate problem, but their inaction could make the national energy situation worse. He made light of the number of Nixon administration legislative proposals on the table–initiatives that would greatly assist in the nation’s energy recovery in the next 2-3 years.

                    Love also advised of his office’s intentions to initiate a number of steps:

                    -The Office of Energy Policy would announce forecasts of the winter shortage in order to communicate more clearly the urgency of the short-term situation.

                    -The EOP would meet with selected Governors to discuss what they can do to ease their states’ energy crunch during the winter.

                    -The Oil Policy Committee would devise contingency plans.

                    -The Crude Oil Logistics Committee would allow pass-through of increased prices of foreign crude oil and petroleum products.

                    -John A. Love would take energy related trips to foreign countries.

                    -The implementation of an energy conservations campaign involving industry, the public, and government.

                    -The establishment of a proposed mandatory petroleum allocation program, prohibitions against fuel switching, and mandatory propane allocation.

                    Below, view John A. Love’s talking points memo for the September 8 energy meeting:

                    In addressing the media following the meeting, President Nixon gave his opinion regarding the fervor over a perceived energy crisis:

                    We have heard a lot about a crisis. I do not use that term, because we do not face a crisis in that sense of the word. I would simply say that in the short term we face a problem, a problem with regard to energy–heating, for example, this winter, just as we though we faced a problem of gasoline this summer, and the possibility of brownouts.

                    We are not Pollyannaish about solving the problem, but insofar as the short-term problem is concerned, Governor Love has a program which he is working on and one which is designed to meet the problem and to deal with it.

                    President Nixon agreed with Governor Love’s in-meeting push for Congressional action, shortly after at the press conference making reference to pieces of legislation pending Congressional approval.

                    In my press conference a couple of days ago, I mentioned seven pieces of legislation. Today we have moved down to four pieces of legislation that we consider to be of the highest urgency and that must be acted upon before the end of the year. These pieces of legislation deal with both the short-term problem and address themselves particularly, however, to the long-term problem.

                    Here, President Nixon refers to the Alaska pipeline project, the expansion of deepwater ports to authorize the ownership, construction and operation of marine terminals in federal waters on the Outer Continental Shelf, the deregulation of gas, and legislation with regard to strip mining.

                    The president then highlighted his administration’s efforts that did not require legislation: relaxation of emission standards, the Elk Hills Naval Reserve development project, and the development of peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

                    Before handing off the press briefing to Love, President Nixon closed with a verifiable and simple stance on what he believed should be the energy policy of the United States:

                    Because the United States, as a great industrial nation, the most advanced industrial nation in the world, must be in a position and must develop the capacity so that no other nation in the world might, for some reason or another, take an unfriendly attitude toward the United States, has us, frankly, in a position where they can cut off our oil or, basically more importantly, cut off our energy.

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