In 1969, as Arab states decline in prestige–and start to run out of water–a conflict brews between Israel and its deadliest enemy, the Egypt of Pan-Arabist General Nasser. When the water dispute explodes into a full-scale war, Soviet leader Alexander Shelepin uses the crisis to make his first major test of new U.S. President George Romney. What results is not merely a hot war in the Sinai desert, but a tense confrontation between the Cold War superpowers that threatens to trigger nuclear war if one or the other of Romney and Shelepin lose their cool. Are they up to the challenge?
In real life, the Six-Day War of June 1967, a turning point in modern history, resulted in a lightning defeat of the Arab powers by Israel, and also tension between the U.S. and USSR. The roots of the conflict made a war between Israel and its Arab neighbors sometime in the latter half of the 1960s probably inevitable on some level. The details in this episode about the Jordan Valley water disputes, the Johnston Agreement and the demographic and climate pressures that led to the Arab states’ acute lack of water are all historically accurate. Many people don’t realize that the Six-Day War was, at its root, about water more than anything else. Our alternate storyline’s analogue to that war, which occurs two years later, takes that as a departure point.
Nasser, the leader of Egypt, really was on the decline in the late 1960s and for the reasons given here. In real life he died of a heart attack in September 1970. Of course there was a further Arab-Israeli war in 1973 that did test superpower mettle in much the same way this fictional 1969 conflict does. I think all of these plot points are pretty plausible given the real political situation at the time.
Next Episode: August 29, 2021