Thursday, June 19, 2014

III. October, 1973 Apocalypse Not Yet

A half dozen of the most senior American national security officials were summoned to a hurriedly called late-night emergency meeting in the White House Situation Room. Nixon himself was not awakened for the meeting on the advice of Alexander Haig, who told Kissinger that the President was “too distraught” to join them. Some of the participants were surprised to find that the President was not there. The officials grimly reviewed the Brezhnev message. Direct Soviet military intervention could not be tolerated; it could upset the entire international order. Brezhnev could not be allowed to assume that the Soviet Union could take advantage of a Watergate -weakened Presidency. There was further reason for alarm. Over the previous few hours, United States intelligence had “lost” the Soviet air transport, which it had been tracking as the planes ferried arms to Egypt and Syria. No one knew where the planes now were. Could they be on their way back to Soviet bases to pick up the airborne troops, already on alert, and carry them into the Sinai?

The officials in the White House Situation Room concluded that the risks had suddenly escalated; the United States would have to respond resolutely to Brezhnev’s challenge. Force would have to be prepared to meet force . The readiness state of American forces was raised to DefCon 3 and in some cases even higher, which meant that, in the early morning of October 25, the American military went on a nuclear alert around the world. The message was clear. The United States and the Soviet Union were squaring off directly against each other, something that had not happened since the Cuban Missile Crisis. Miscalculation could lead to a nuclear confrontation. The next hours were very tense.

But the following day, the fighting in the Middle East stopped, Egypt’s Third Army was resupplied , and the cease-fire went into effect. It was just in time. The superpowers pulled back from their alerts.

Yergin, Daniel (2011-04-05). The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power (pp. 593-594). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

The oil weapon, however, had been unsheathed.