Suez: The Consequence of Failure

S Z

Diabloii.Net Member
Suez: The Consequence of Failure

Interesting article on the BBC this weekend:

(yeah, I've been a little liberal in my thread titling)

The BBC said:
Suez: The 'betrayal' of Eden

The Anglo-French-Israeli invasion of Egypt 50 years ago aimed at retaking control of the Suez Canal is widely seen as a catastrophic miscalculation which proved disastrous for British interests in the world.

The then British Prime Minister Anthony Eden usually gets the blame, but in the view of historian and biographer Andrew Roberts, he was the subject of a betrayal that changed the course of history.

The modern-day analogy of a prime minister called Anthony committing British troops in the Middle Eastern theatre in the face of much domestic opposition is too obvious to be laboured, although it is noticeable that Tony Blair seems to have learnt from Churchill's dictum: "We must never get out of step with the Americans - never."

If only Eden had paid more attention to the sensibilities of the Eisenhower administration as it faced the 1956 presidential elections, much might have gone differently.

Certainly Eisenhower himself years later admitted that not supporting Eden over Suez had been his greatest foreign policy mistake.

The Left have long held Suez was "no end of a lesson", arguing that the adventure proved Britain could not act without the imprimatur of the United Nations any longer, and that Anthony Eden fell as a result of his unhinged demand for unilateral - or bilateral with France - action against Nasser's perfectly justified demand for an asset that was built on the sweat of the Egyptian peasantry.

Greatest asset

There is another version. This one puts British national interest priority over high-minded liberal internationalism.

Its heroes are not the Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell, First Sea Lord Lord Mountbatten and Liberal Lady Violet Bonham Carter - who opposed the Anglo-French "police action" - but the right-wing Tory MPs Julian Amery, Captain Charles Waterhouse and Fitzroy Maclean, who supported it.

The revisionist view holds that Eden was absolutely right to resist the unilateral and practical confiscation of Britain's greatest single overseas asset, that had been bought in hard currency by Benjamin Disraeli in 1875.

On the eve of victory, just as General Hugh Stockwell telegraphed Downing Street to say that within 48 hours the entire Canal Zone would be in British hands, Eden was stabbed in the back by a cabal of unscrupulous Cabinet colleagues, short-sighted allies and a small and unrepresentative group of Tory liberal internationalists.

It is undoubtedly true that Suez tragically proved that Britain was no longer a Great Power, but this was their fault, not Eden's.

The cabal - by threats and falsehoods and leaking - forced Eden to call a ceasefire only days before Stockwell's objectives of Ismailya and the town of Suez were attained.

Civil wars

If the Suez operation had succeeded, Nasser would probably have fallen, like many discredited anti-Western adventurers.

This would not have preserved Britain's status indefinitely but it would certainly have slowed the scuttle of the Western colonial powers from Africa and Asia.

Over-hasty decolonisation, which brought vicious civil wars and dictatorships to much of Africa over the next three decades, might have been avoided.

Had the "informal empire" system, by which American and British companies shepherded the Arab oil economies towards mutually beneficial co-operation, not been dealt such a blow at Suez, the vicious oil price hikes which did so much to dislocate the Western economies in 1973 might have been blunted or even prevented.

In October 1973 a barrel of oil cost $3.02. By December it was $11.65 because OPEC suddenly quadrupled prices virtually overnight.

The result was a huge economic downturn for the West and disastrous ripple effects for the rest of the world.

Embers of Suez

There was nothing inevitable about Muslim fundamentalist and Arab nationalist victories in places like Iran, Iraq and Libya in the 1960s and 1970s.

Britain had regularly put down such revolts, such as those of Arabi and the Khalifa, ever since Gladstone's original invasion of Egypt in 1882.

Yet after 1956 she was in a far weaker position to protect Arab rulers from revolution.

The coup in Baghdad on 14 July 1958 saw the murders of both King Faisal II and Prime Minister Nuri-es-Said within two years of their advice to Eden to "hit Nasser hard and quickly".

The subsequent history of Iraq, and especially her recent history, would have been very different if Nasser had been toppled.

The embers of Suez took a long time to cool in Britain, especially on the Right where it resuscitated a strain of Tory anti-Americanism that had not been much in evidence since the 1920s.

Even as late as in November 2004, after David T Johnson of the US Embassy in London had said that America had historically been prepared "to stand by your nation, through thick and thin", a letter appeared in The Times consisting of only one word: "Suez?"
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/6085264.stm

Iraq and Afganistan right now are most often compared to Vietnam, but perhaps parallels with the Suez Crisis should also be recognised. Most especially that sometimes the Left can get it wrong through short-term-ism and over-reliance on Internationalism, and following through on ones stated goals (showing that you're capable of what you set-out to do) may indeed be a benefit to the region. Or rather, percieved failure in your goals can doom the region because of the moral boost to other similar regemes.

It is also a testament to the risks of going to war for politics, that sometimes you are undermined at home long before you lose the war abroad and effective PR is just as important as - perhaps more so than - the quality of your troops. (Yeah, I know, no **** Sherlock).

As I say, just thought it interesting and thought some of you guys may be interested but missed it. Reading about these alternate views of much-maligned politicians like Chamberlain and Eden often gives one a new perspective on history.
 

WildBerry

Diabloii.Net Member
Interesting article on the BBC this weekend:

(yeah, I've been a little liberal in my thread titling)



http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/6085264.stm

Iraq and Afganistan right now are most often compared to Vietnam, but perhaps parallels with the Suez Crisis should also be recognised. Most especially that sometimes the Left can get it wrong through short-term-ism and over-reliance on Internationalism, and following through on ones stated goals (showing that you're capable of what you set-out to do) may indeed be a benefit to the region. Or rather, percieved failure in your goals can doom the region because of the moral boost to other similar regemes.

It is also a testament to the risks of going to war for politics, that sometimes you are undermined at home long before you lose the war abroad and effective PR is just as important as - perhaps more so than - the quality of your troops. (Yeah, I know, no **** Sherlock).

As I say, just thought it interesting and thought some of you guys may be interested but missed it. Reading about these alternate views of much-maligned politicians like Chamberlain and Eden often gives one a new perspective on history.
Can you please elaborate on the significance of the quoted article a bit more? All it got me thinking was "oh goddamn what is that guy smoking I want some of that stuff too". In a manner of few paragraphs manages to establish, albeit, admittedly, by implication, that 1) the Gulf Wars I, II and III are Nasser's fault, 2) because the colonial officials could put down turban-headed guys on camels in the late 19th century, they'd be as easy halfway down the 20th given that they were getting some actual tools of trade for war and 3) the curses associated with decolonisation are not the colonial ruler's bad but the fault of those seeking independence - nay, that too is Nasser's fault!

Seriously. He might have a few decent points but they're pretty much devalued by the clear & present issue that the guy's just out to try to talk down a historical figure and quite obviously has something personal going for that.

Please tell me that there is something solid there too. Underline it for me, if you will.



 

S Z

Diabloii.Net Member
I read an attempt to make the following points in the article:

1) Britain was justified in trying to secure an owned Empire resource in the Suez Canal.

2) Anthony Eden's prosecution of the war was undermined by 'left-wing' internationalists in his cabinet and in Parliament as a whole, resulting in his having to pull out before the objectives were achieved. Objectives which were very much 'achieveable'.

3) The fact that Britain and France couldn't back up their claim of ownership emboldened separatist movements in the colonies in Africa and Asia. Coupled with a much less pro-Imperial stance in Britain, partly due to the appearance that they couldn't defend their foreign assets any longer, this resulted in the premature loss of the colonies and political upheaval in the region (the King and PM of Iraq being assassinated to name a single event).

4) The resulting power vacuum of Empire pulling out before local authorities were mature enough to take over led to the unstable political landscape of Africa started in the 1960's and continuing to this day, the arguement being that early withdrawl of Empire forces lead directly to totalitarian power being grabbed in these regions.

5) And so the troubled political landscape of Africa today is (supposedly) at least partly due to Britain not following through in the Suez Crisis, which was also partly due to anti-war elements who advocated an early-withdrawl from the colonies.


To sum up, Empire weakness in Suez emboldened separatists in the region at large, leading to a much greater problem in the long-term.

It is however built on supposition to a large extent, and does indeed seem to take a few too many liberites with how things would have panned-out with a more hard-line Britain in the 1960's-80's. But I do think he has an interesting point, that is that sometimes when you are in a conflict for the wrong reason, you make need to see it through to try to mitigate the damage you have done. And that such a policy is not always popular, and needs to be intelligent and achieveable in it presecution.
 

Dondrei

Diabloii.Net Member
Look, this article has certain basic valid points, for instance:

1) Britain was justified in trying to secure an owned Empire resource in the Suez Canal.
This is fair enough. I have my own disagreements with the anti-Imperialist policies and philosophies of the Left from this time (and from now, seeing as things haven't changed much on that score). However it is also clearly a heavily blinkered, partisan view of things and engages in the kind of ideological misrepresentation of history and blame-gaming I despise most.

2) Anthony Eden's prosecution of the war was undermined by 'left-wing' internationalists in his cabinet and in Parliament as a whole, resulting in his having to pull out before the objectives were achieved. Objectives which were very much 'achieveable'.
This aspect in particular I revile. When your side of a debate fails, blame those who opposed your view for "undermining" you - it totally would've worked if it weren't for you damn hippies! In addition to being partisan idiocy it also seems to imply a certain contempt for the oppositional system of our government that's utterly despicable.

Next there is the highly speculative and ridiculously over-optimistic appraisal of what would've happened had Suez succeeded:

3) The fact that Britain and France couldn't back up their claim of ownership emboldened separatist movements in the colonies in Africa and Asia. Coupled with a much less pro-Imperial stance in Britain, partly due to the appearance that they couldn't defend their foreign assets any longer, this resulted in the premature loss of the colonies and political upheaval in the region (the King and PM of Iraq being assassinated to name a single event).

4) The resulting power vacuum of Empire pulling out before local authorities were mature enough to take over led to the unstable political landscape of Africa started in the 1960's and continuing to this day, the arguement being that early withdrawl of Empire forces lead directly to totalitarian power being grabbed in these regions.
Yes, it totally would've stopped all those things happening. It's not like there was a groundswell of nationalism around the world that Britain lacked the Imperial might to quash, it was all just because of Suez. Anyone who honestly believes this is living in a world of flowers and bells and leprechauns and magic frogs with funny little hats.

If Suez had worked maybe it would've delayed the inevitable a few more years, but so what? It wouldn't have stopped evil dictatorships and other undesirable elements stepping into the vacuum left by the Empire either, that was also an unpleasant inevitability.

5) And so the troubled political landscape of Africa today is (supposedly) at least partly due to Britain not following through in the Suez Crisis, which was also partly due to anti-war elements who advocated an early-withdrawl from the colonies.
Just silly, Suez may (or may not) have been catalytic, but to think that Africa would be in a measurably better position now had in not been for Suez is willing ignorance.

It is however built on supposition to a large extent, and does indeed seem to take a few too many liberites with how things would have panned-out with a more hard-line Britain in the 1960's-80's. But I do think he has an interesting point, that is that sometimes when you are in a conflict for the wrong reason, you make need to see it through to try to mitigate the damage you have done. And that such a policy is not always popular, and needs to be intelligent and achieveable in it presecution.
It's obtuse, and this point that he's trying to make is build on such an absurd house of cards he's hardly lending it any credibility. I'd also like to point out that Suez has precious little in common with the Iraqi conflict.

Also, the article blatantly ignores many crucial dimensions of the Suez Crisis. For instance, the Soviet threat to enter the war on the Egyptian side and launch "all types of weapons of destruction" on London and Paris. It may not seem a credible claim now, but remember the climate of the time. The fear of Soviet intervention had a massive impact, no doubt far more than that of the domestic Left.

Not to mention the fact that it was due in large part to intense American pressure that Britain and France abandoned their assault. Britain's senior Commonwealth colleagues were similarly making rude noises about it. Really, when you look at these far more powerful factors, the attempt to blame the failure of Suez on the Left looks like nothing more than petty partisan finger-pointing.



 

PlagueBearer

Diabloii.Net Member
This aspect in particular I revile. When your side of a debate fails, blame those who opposed your view for "undermining" you - it totally would've worked if it weren't for you damn hippies! In addition to being partisan idiocy it also seems to imply a certain contempt for the oppositional system of our government that's utterly despicable.
There is strength in unity; dissent does hurt, on many levels. The rise of Rogues within our own culture makes it very difficult to perform tasks with any reasonable ability.

Not to put to fine a point on it: too many people are thinking for themselves. It is a growing weakness of our culture. It must be fixed, or we will be destroyed.



 

Dondrei

Diabloii.Net Member
There is strength in unity; dissent does hurt, on many levels. The rise of Rogues within our own culture makes it very difficult to perform tasks with any reasonable ability.

Not to put to fine a point on it: too many people are thinking for themselves. It is a growing weakness of our culture. It must be fixed, or we will be destroyed.
Is this satire? I can never tell with you.



 

bladesyz

Diabloii.Net Member
There is strength in unity; dissent does hurt, on many levels. The rise of Rogues within our own culture makes it very difficult to perform tasks with any reasonable ability.

Not to put to fine a point on it: too many people are thinking for themselves. It is a growing weakness of our culture. It must be fixed, or we will be destroyed.
Yeah, isn't democracy a *****?



 

PlagueBearer

Diabloii.Net Member
Is this satire? I can never tell with you.
If you can't tell, then no, it's not satire.

My worldview presupposes that the natural state of around 98-95% of human being are wired to be manipulated for the good of the Tribe. Theis allows for unity. This breaks down when to large a percentage of the population goes Rogue, or tribeless, and become difficult to manipulate properly. Each with a different idea of what the tribe (which they don't even realize they've excluded themselves from) should do, the society in question parylizes itself.

But we've had this discussion before, so I'm not sure why my views on this matter surprise you.

bladesyz said:
Yeah, isn't democracy a *****?
Democracy is a test of which set of Leaders can manipluate the population the most effectively. The ablility to choose, so to speak, is not required for a Republic, and is harmful to the process.



 

Dondrei

Diabloii.Net Member
What surprise me is not so much that you think your idea of "tribes" and "manipulation" is right, but rather that you think it's something to be embraced rather than fought.

The vast majority of the human race is stupid. Does that very fact mean that I should try to be stupid too?
 

WildBerry

Diabloii.Net Member
Also, the article blatantly ignores many crucial dimensions of the Suez Crisis. For instance, the Soviet threat to enter the war on the Egyptian side and launch "all types of weapons of destruction" on London and Paris. It may not seem a credible claim now, but remember the climate of the time. The fear of Soviet intervention had a massive impact, no doubt far more than that of the domestic Left.

Not to mention the fact that it was due in large part to intense American pressure that Britain and France abandoned their assault. Britain's senior Commonwealth colleagues were similarly making rude noises about it. Really, when you look at these far more powerful factors, the attempt to blame the failure of Suez on the Left looks like nothing more than petty partisan finger-pointing.
This is what I'm wondering too. I haven't read on US giving harsh tones to USSR during the incident either. Let me see: there are two nuclear states in the world. The other one is going to blow you out of the water if you don't stop what you're doing right now. The other one agrees. What do you do?

Simple as that.

Maybe the author just thought both USSR and US leaderships were manned with them "liberal internationalists" - the other state had liberals (sort of) and the other had internatioalists (sort of) for leaders, so maybe he thought it was implied and didn't think this should be mentioned because it was so evident a reason for the failure of the Empire. And of course these guys are the exact same people who were pestering the UK at the time.

Rule Britain, Britain rule the seas. Hey Andrew Roberts! L2readworldhistory, n00b.



 

PlagueBearer

Diabloii.Net Member
What surprise me is not so much that you think your idea of "tribes" and "manipulation" is right, but rather that you think it's something to be embraced rather than fought.
I value the continuation of our society, so yes, I think those who make it up should do as they are told.

The vast majority of the human race is stupid. Does that very fact mean that I should try to be stupid too?
You can be intelligent and still serve your society properly.



 
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