Sunday, February 18, 2007

# Posted 6:46 PM by Patrick Porter  

THE RUMP PARLIAMENT: More than a few British and American politicians have a weak grasp of the differences between the denominations of Islam.

There's also a quiz you can do. (hat-tip, Andrew Sullivan).

Note the nostalgia of the director of the British Institute of Persian Studies:
Anthony Eden, for all his woes, did have a first in oriental studies from Oxford. He spoke Persian and Arabic fluently. I have to say I think our politicians from 50 years ago were probably a more worldly aware bunch than now.
What is 'let's occupy Suez' in Arabic? (joke)
(16) opinions -- Add your opinion

porter has a 2:2.

true story.
Anthony Eden, for all his woes, did have a first in oriental studies from Oxford. He spoke Persian and Arabic fluently..

And a lot of good that did England.

(Just imagine what would have happened had Eden not spoken a word of either Farsi or Arabic....)
To Anonymous 8:24. If you're going to post abusive nonsense (and it is nonsense, as you well know), have the courage to leave a name. But of course, people with courage don't publish that kind of post.
What was wrong with occupying Suez?
Please use explanations suited to the time the effort was made.

I was joking. We're allowed to have a laugh occasionally at Oxblog, surely?

Assuming that we're talking about 1956, rather than the earlier occupations, the case against the Suez operation was overpowering.

First, it was a breach of international law. This is not an argument that concerns me greatly, but it was of real resonance in the post war period. Papers in the National Archives show that Eden sought legal advice on the invasion, and was informed that it would almost certainly be illegal.

Second, it dealt a very serious blow to the reputation and moral authority of all three parties to the invasion. This was a plot cooked up in a series of secret meetings, culminating in an agreement of which the British government was so ashamed it tried to have all copies destroyed. The rationale for Anglo-French intervention was based on a brazen lie, and as such stripped both powers of moral authority in responding to similar tactics from the Soviet Union.

Third, the invasion distracted world attention from the brutal suppression of the Hungarian uprising by the Soviet Union. More than this, it enabled the Soviet Union to claim a spurious democratic legitimacy against the "colonial powers" of the West. This was one of the elements that infuriated the American government.

Fourth, it destroyed British influence in the Middle East. It alarmed arab governments that had been favourably disposed to Britain, and regenerated the charge of Western imperialism. This gave real nourishment to the propaganda being pumped across the region by Nasser, and correspondingly strengthened his position both within Egypt and in the wider region.

Fifth, it enormously intensified hostility towards Israel in the region. I don't want to exaggerate this point - nobody would suggest that the Suez crisis created that hostility - but it provided a very powerful legend for anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic movements in the Middle East and, indeed, across the world.

Sixth, it failed. Not only that, but it could not possibly have succeeded. It was carried out against the opposition of most of the army command in Britain and the intelligence services. It showed a baffling disregard for the changed political realities of the Cold War era.

It is, of course, true that there were plausible arguments in favour. Nasser was a dangerous and unpleasant leader who posed a real threat to the interests of the West. It is not necessary to argue that Eden was malevolent or even stupid; but events showed that he was wrong, and his errors had calamitous consequences for the very things he himself held dear - British world power, the security of British interests in the region, anti-communism, united action against dictators, the unity of the Commonwealth and a more peaceful world order.
Michael Oren challenges the accepted dogma, regarding Israel's achievements and/or failures as a result of the Sinai campaign.
P. Your joke seems to have woken up salient.

Salient: What was the brazen lie?

The little I know aboiut the Suez operation, and it must be very little considering the tenor of your comments, was that the Brits, French and Israelis decided to take back Suez because Nasser said he was going to nationalize`the canal zone. "It Failed" It is my understanding that everything was going swimmingly well until the US started throwing its weight around.

As far as taking people's minds off the Soviets attack on Hungary, do you really think anyone was going to do anything about Hungray before the Suez operation. Of course this line of thinking does make one wonder whether any of the Cambridge Five was still briefing the Brits at the time.
As anyone who knows me will confirm, it takes a lot to wake me up...

The "brazen lie" was the British and French governments' claim to have been ignorant of the Israeli attack and to act as neutral parties between Israeli and Egyptian forces. Not only was this wholly untrue, but French air forces were actually involved in combat operations against Egypt. French planes were hastily repainted to look Israeli, but Dulles was aware of the deception and tipped off sympathetic elements in the British press.

"Swimmingly" is perhaps a bit strong - the operation evoked anti-western violence across the region in which many westerners lost their lives and property. There was considerable disquiet within the military about their capacity to hold the Canal Zone - one of the main reasons for abandoning it in the first place - especially as they had not been given adequate time to prepare the invasion.

Indeed, one of the striking features of the crisis is the extent to which knowledgeable parties were kept out of the loop. The intelligence servies were taken by surprise (it is widely reported that the invasion disrupted an operation to assassinate Nasser) and the diplomatic service was thrown entirely off balance. Douglas Hurd, later Foreign Secretary, was a diplomat at the UN - he recalls the sense of astonishment as it gradually became clear that Eden (supposedly the master of foreign affairs) did not, in fact, have any secret information to which they were not privy, but that things really were as bad as they looked.

I don't for a moment think the West would have taken action in Hungary had Suez not happened. But I do think Suez damaged the ability of the European powers to condemn what was happening - and as Reagan understood better than most, moral authority and soft power do matter in a (partly) ideological struggle. It also - and this is perhaps a minor point - distracted attention from the Uprising in Britain, making it harder to confront some of the hard left with the realities of Soviet rule.

Good talking with you, Davod. Sorry for the very long posts... I promise not to disrupt P's jokes in future!
yes, I agree with Rob, not only did it distract attention and deflect condemnation from the suppression of the Hungarian uprising.

It also helped the Soviet Union to posture as the ally and patron of anti-colonialist liberation causes in Africa and elsewhere.

And I suspect at the time it enabled Soviet apologists in the west to change the subject whenever Budapest was mentioned...
Ok, so he got a 2;1, whatever.
Michael Oren (See above) seems to think Israel came out of the conflict pretty well.
I'm a British historian and don't claim any expertise on Israel. I find Shlaim's account more persuasive than Oren's because of the hostility generated by the invasion and the lasting myths it created. But it comes down, to a large extent, to your take on the origins of the Arab-Israeli conflict, which is a bit big for me...

Anonymous - stop being a cock. He got a 1st.
Salient! your language makes me blush.
My sincere apologies. I meant to say, "Stop being a rotter". It just came out wrong.
'Rotter'? Meet you in the quad to play conkers old chap
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