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July 18, 2014 1:07 PM Bad, But No DEFCON 3

By Ed Kilgore

There was a certain Chicken Little quality to news coverage and punditry (and even a touch of it here) yesterday, and that’s to be expected since it’s a bit unusual to have two big internationally-significant breaking news stories occurring simultaneously. But it’s worth noting that some people are projecting chaos and catastrophe for the ignoble reason of suggesting that somehow Barack Obama is responsible. John McCain’s been doing that lately, and Fareed Zakaria busted him for it:

“I do believe that the things we’re seeing in the world today, [which is] in greater turmoil than at any time in my lifetime, [are] a direct result of an absence of American leadership,” said Sen. John McCain last weekend on CNN.
Really? McCain has had a long and distinguished life and I’m sure he remembers what happened in, say, 1973, the year he and 590 others were released from imprisonment in Vietnam. That year, in Vietnam alone, several hundred thousand people died as a result of the war.
And that doesn’t include the tens of thousands who died in the Yom Kippur War, also in 1973. The effect of that war was that, in retaliation for America’s involvement, the major oil-producing countries announced an oil embargo against the United States and its closest allies. Within a year the price of oil had quadrupled and the industrialized world was plunged into deep economic crisis, forever losing its access to cheap energy from the Middle East.
All this happened under the shadow of a potential nuclear war. The superpowers had almost 45,000 atomic weapons aimed at each other. During the Yom Kippur War, U.S. forces were put on high alert — DEFCON 3. The only time they had been placed at a more serious state of readiness, DEFCON 2, was during the Cuban missile crisis.
I could have picked 1956, the year the Soviet Union brutally suppressed a Hungarian uprising, France’s control of Vietnam collapsed, the French, British and Israelis mounted a failed invasion of Egypt, and Sino-American tensions over Taiwan continued to simmer, tensions that a few years earlier had Washington contemplating the use of nuclear weapons.

So sometimes things get crazy and go south even when the U.S. is big and bad and “in charge” and killing people, which is what McCain seems to want.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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