Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Queen Victoria to the King of the Belgians
Somehow it is probably fitting that the President comes out and states the obvious on the one hundred and 2nd anniversary of the Battle of Balaclava. The battle will fovever be linked with gallant men, astounding courage and poor decision making at the top. Today is the 102'nd anniversary of the Charge of the Light Brigade.
Today was also the real begining of the War on Terror. It marked the start of the Suez Crisis. Britain and France conspired with Israel to take back what was theirs and had been stolen from them: the Suez Canal. They also hoped in the process to eliminate an Arab dictator and show the region who was boss.
It did not quite work out that way and as Gwynne Dyer points out:
If you're an imperial power, your troops often end up in places that most of your citizens cannot even find on the map: Mesopotamia for Roman soldiers, for example, or Afghanistan (three times) for the British. It looks foolish, viewed with the long perspective of history, and
yet lots of people fall for it in the short run.
This week marks the 50th anniversary of the Suez crisis of 1956, when Britain, France and Israel conspired to invade Egypt. That operation took much less time to fall apart than the current Anglo-American invasion of Iraq, which has already lasted more than three years, but the parallels are irresistible.
The British-French-Israeli invasion of Egypt was an instant military success, because at that point Egypt had just emerged from centuries of colonial rule by the Turks and the British.
Egypt was utterly incapable of defending itself against countries that had long-range bombers, aircraft carriers and amphibious forces. But what was striking, even then, was the sheer helplessness of the Anglo-French invasion forces once they had won their military victory.
I diagree with Dywer about that conclusion. The simple truth of the matter was they were on the right track. Had they been supported by the United States and allowed to continue, Nasser might have been gotten rid of then, before he had a chance to drive Egypt into the Soviet orbit and the seeds of the current era were laid. Furthermore Suez meant the de-facto end of British influence in the Middle East-something that in the long run was NOT in the best interst of the United States.
Of course the fact that the Hungarian uprising was going on did not help. Particularly since they looked to the US for help and the US was not going to give for a whole host of reasons, not the least of which was the fact that Hungary was deep inside the Warsaw Pact and it could very well have triggered World War III.
However I believe Eisenhower erred in his brush off of the British, and we have paid for it ever since. Britain is still a friend and most Britons consider the adventure as foolhardy and reckless. Nonetheless, it lead the Arabs to try the secular route first, and because it was in their hands without a proper European power there, they screwed it up. Hardly suprising-its what Arabs do.
The power vacuum that led us into Baghdad began this week 50 years ago. I'll publish more about this in the next few days. For now though, its off to Narita! See you on the other side.