I seem to recall from some book on Nixon that he was given to initial gut responses (aren't we all?) and would verbalize them (and then caught on tape of course.) In my foggy memory there was something where they were going to make the guy that released the "Pentagon Papers" look really bad. Goofy stuff, like drug him and dress him up in women's clothing or something really off the wall like that. Probably was talking with aides like some of the posts get going on FR! ("If there's a subway bombing in New York we put underwear on Saddam's head and nuke Mecca!")
Haig aludes to that in this tape where he says "He always wants to do something" talking about his threat "to break relations with nations that harbor or give sanctuary to these guerrillas."
And then Haig gets a call 5 minutes later from Nixon talking about a more measured first step - going to the funeral.
Reading another thread on the "Golden Mosque" bombing it is interesting the same thing is going on to a degree (as is most foreign relations).
Nixon didn't want a strong Israeli response (after his knee-jerk reaction of "what do we care about Lebanon?" and "screw the Chinese". It sounded like he thought a large Israeli strike would give the arabs an excuse to strike back, and then leading who knows where in the global scheme.
I imagine the fears of our folks in Iraq is the Shittes using the Golden Mosque as an excuse to go on the rampage against the Sunnis. With our guys in the thick of it would be bad. And as much as it would be nice to just back off aways and let them fight it out among themselves and come back in and pick up the pieces - not sure how welcome we would be after abandoning them to the wolves - again.
And I imagine if we left then Iran would be "willing" to take our spot to help the Shittes.
From the last article I read it sounds like the rhetoric from both the Sunnis and the Shiites is calming down - so that's good I guess. (No Civil War this week for the Media and Liberals :(.
One of the greatest tragedies of Nixon's resignation was that the best hopes for establishing a Middle East in which Israel had the inviolate status of a 51st U.S. state were lost. Just a couple of months before he resigned, Nixon was paraded through the streets of Cairo in an open car to the cheers of millions of Egyptians in spite of his having single-handedly reversed the tide of the Yom Kippur war in Israel's favour only 7 months earlier when he over-ruled both Kissinger and Schlessinger by supplying Israel with the necessary military ordnance (and in Rabin's words, "Saving Israel from destruction in its hour of greatest need"). The Carter administration carried through on Nixon's breakthrough by getting a peace treaty between Israel & Egypt, but Nixon would have gone much further than that and avoided the sort of Arab sectarian divisions that now look irreversible.
If there is one thing Nixon was not, it was "fear-ridden". The man was prepared to undertake risky policies that succeeded in important goals. According to Richard Reeves' biography, Kissinger was derisive of the chances of ever achieving an opening to China. When Haldeman told him Nixon was serious about forging an opening to China, Dr, K. replied "Fat Chance", and told his own staff that Nixon had taken leave of reality. Likewise, in the case of the Yom Kippur War, Nixon knew full well he was risking his presidency if an Arab Oil Boycott materialized when he aided Israel by sending them "everything that flies" and putting the U.S. on a nuclear alert in the Yom Kippur War -- which Kissinger & Schlessinger were fearful of doing. Nixon thought it was a price worth paying for Israel's survival and for the maintenance of U.S. stature vis-avis the U.S.S.R. at a time of nuclear parity.
I recall as if it were just yesterday when I watched Nixon give his resignation speech. He hung tough. As one of our local columnists wrote, "President Richard Nixon had really never looked better." Much is made of the fact that Nixon was devastated shortly before and shortly after that speech, but he looked positively great when he gave it. As Churchill's physician, Lord Moran, said of his most celebrated patient, what had impressed him most about the great man was that he had bouts of shivering anxiety shortly before most of his best 'moments' -- something Moran regarded as the best index of true courage (as opposed to 'dumb insensitivity').