Thursday, September 21, 2006

Reflections of history...

The current anniversary of the Suez War 1956 has reminded the world (if not just me) of how much things have changed. Wandering about in the blogiverse has been interesting for a start given the range of opinion that seems to be frothing at the moment with comparisons (on both sides of the political fence) between Suez and Iraq.

ALDaily put in a strong link to the debate which ended up in me following through to (eventually) Eisenhower’s papers.

What I began looking for was the actual wording of a letter from Eisenhower to Eden that was the core of one of the second links from ALD. I found it, but the comparisons and analysis that it has already led to in the blogiverse has outstripped any puny contribution I might make.

However, reading back and forth from that point led to some interesting sidelines, including this one, an instruction to John Foster Dulles on US action given the situation developing between Britain/France/Israel on the one hand and the potentials that Eisenhower foresaw. The instruction itself, the impact that it had, is of lesser import to me. What grabbed me was the rationale.

The first objective of the United Nations should be to achieve a cease-fire because this will:
(a) Keep the war from spreading.
(b) Give time to find out what each side is trying to gain.
(c) Develop a final resolution that will represent the considered judgment of the United Nations respecting past blame and future action.

The United States must lead because:

(a) While we want to do all the things in 1 above, we want to prevent immediate issuance by the United Nations of a harshly worded resolution that would put us in an acutely embarrassing position, either with France and Britain or with all the rest of the world.

(b) At all costs the Soviets must be prevented from seizing a mantle of world leadership through a false but convincing exhibition of concern for smaller nations. Since Africa and Asia almost unanimously hate one of the three nations, Britain, France and Israel, the Soviets need only to propose severe and immediate punishment of these three to have the whole of two continents on their side; unless a good many of the United Nations nations are already committed to something more moderate that we might immediately formulate. We should act speedily so as to have our forces in good order by 5:00 p.m. today.

(c) We provide the West's only hope that some vestige of real political and economic union can be preserved with the Moslem world, indeed, possibly also with India.

Unilateral actions now taken by the United States must not single out and condemn any one nation--but should serve to emphasize to the world our hope for a quick cease-fire to be followed by sane and deliberate action on the part of the United Nations, resulting, hopefully, in a solution to which all parties would adhere by each conceding something.

Most of the “analysis and debate” (that I have come across) centres upon Eisenhower’s “appeasement” role, the part played by Dag Hammarskjold and the UN, and the subsequent economic punishment meted out to Britain as a means of stopping the action against Egypt. As I said at the start, interesting but not the real point that I want to pick up as being the major difference between Suez and Iraq (and potentially Iran).

The two paras I have highlighted well illustrate the mechanisms within the global politic fifty years back. It was not directly the Cold War. It was the potentialities created by there being two powers of (as thought then) equal strength and capability. It was not the direct mutual threat that was the danger.

The rationale, the driving force behind Eisenhower’s diplomacy, was the potential for Soviet Russia to gain influence, and for the US to correspondingly lose influence, in Asia and Africa.

That balance between US and Russia was the great moderator of the 1950’s and ‘60’s. It waned during the ‘70s right through to the collapse of the Soviet Republic.

It is the lack of that balance or moderator, in any form, that lies in large part behind the development of the stresses between Europe/America on the one hand and Middle East on the other, between Christianity and Islam if you want to look at it in that way. The care that Eisenhower had for the US’s sphere of influence has been replaced by the arrogance of “We don’t give a stuff what you think. You are either with us or against us. If you don’t like what we do, too bad. If you try and stop what we do, then you just made our day, punk.”

To put it in a more slightly kindly fashion -

"The US no longer needs the potential influence of Soviet Russia to reduce the effectiveness of its own relationships with the rest of the world. It is quite capable of doing its own irreparable damage in its own interests."

Parts of the trail -

The ALDaily link to Boston Globe
Book review
BBC historical view
Another British perspective
...and the American Right.

No comments: