Nov 1, 2006 4:38 pm


Soccer Dad sent me a copy of Fromkin's Stuck in the Canal suggesting that I debunk it. I soon discovered that Fromkin's sins were not those of commission but of omission."A message was delivered: decision-makers in European governments were on notice that they no longer were free to initiate colonial wars." Note the passive tense. By whom was that message delivered? Fromkin knows to well that historical reality not withstanding, as far as the Third World is concerned, it was delivered not by the US but by the USSR. In other words, in 1956 the US seriously undermined its relations with its European allies without accruing any benefits in the Third World.

On the contrary, by saving an Egyptian dictator who built his fame on reviling the US, it demonstrated that it is dangerous to declare oneself a friend of the US but it is very safe to declare oneself its enemy.

Nasser may not have had the capabilities of Hitler, but he had similar"great" dreams of leading the three concentric circles: Egypt, Arabs and Muslims. Yes. You read right. Muslims. He also sent Gaza Palestinians to commit terrorist acts in Israel and tried to orchestrate the overthrow of the Jordanian, Iraqi and Saudi monarchies or at the very least, convince them to buy Soviet weapons, i.e., stop siding with the US in the Cold War. When American Congressmen took exception to his anti-American rantings, Ambassadors such as Luke Battle assured him that he should pay no attention to them. Saddam and Ahmadinejad merely followed in his footsteps.

Sorry, Fromkin, but 1956 was not all about the end of Colonialism, it was about Washington losing allies it desperately needed. For as far as non-Americans are concerned, Britain and France retreated because Moscow threatened to nuke Paris and London and Washington did not threaten to respond in kind. Paris decided it needs a"Force de Frappe" and Adenaur suggested it retaliate by creating the EU. Britain was not as sanguine as Fromkin implies. It moved to withdraw from its bases East of Suez at the worst of times, while the US was mired in Vietnam. To be forgiven, the US had to help Britain in its"Colonial" War against Argentina.

Fromkin writes:"Israel compromised itself through its partnership with European imperialism — providing evidence to enemies who had asserted all along that Israel was no more than a European imperialist itself. And its victory in the Sinai campaign — one of many dazzling triumphs — illustrated the paradox that the more Israel won on the battlefield, the further it got from achieving the peace that it sought." Reading this one may think that Israel was on the road to peace prior to that war. Indeed, Israel just upped and went to war on a whim and that it got nothing out of it except a military victory. Shameless.

Nasser armed himself in preparation for another war against Israel (he employed Nazi missile specialists), used Gaza terrorists to murder its children and tried to prevent its development by blockading its southern port of Eilat. If Israel did not achieve the peace it sought, it was because no one, not even the US, was interested in promoting and Arab-Israeli peace. The first American president to call for peace between Israel and its neighbors was Lyndon Johnson and, then, only following the 1967 victory. Peace implied the permanence of Israel and at that point in time, Israel's enemies were yet to be told that the world would not tolerate the destruction of the state of Israel. Nasser's primary goal was the destruction of the Jewish state not because it was not sufficiently anti colonialist (which it was) but because he believed its existence is preventing him from bordering Jordan and Saudi Arabia and, eventually, uniting the Arab world under his leadership. In 1958 Egypt and Syria (and briefly Yemen) created the United Arab Republic. It was a failure. But Nasser believed Israel's location in between the two was major part of the problem.

Israel alone got tangible benefits from the 1956 war in the form of a UN Emergency force which prevented Gazans from infiltrating into the country and kept the Straights of Aqaba open to Israeli shipping. The reason Israel succeeded where Britain and France failed was that Senator Lyndon Johnson refused to permit Eisenhower and Dulles to punish Israel for refusing to agree to unconditional withdrawal. Foggy Bottom is still livid.

1956 gave Israel a decade of relative peace which it used to settle a large refugee population (mainly from the Middle East) that streamed into the country. Pauses are sometimes better than their alternatives and Fromkin knows better than to construct such a incomplete, hence distorted picture. It is true that the US threw out Europe from the ME in 1956. It is also true that she has been paying a very high price for doing it in such a self destructive manner.

1956 established the principle that it is better to be America's enemy than its ally. If the US often finds itself alone, it is because lesser powers have learned the 1956 lesson all to well. The Bush administration is trying to alter that longstanding policy, let's hope it sticks by its guns. Foggy bottom and their historian allies are sure to do everything they can to revert to the old policy.

Indeed, part of the reason the US is doing so poorly in Iraq is that is has not stood by its local allies or against its local enemies. For more on that subject, see American"stooges."

comments powered by Disqus