The Middle East in Transition: Studies in Contemporary History

By Walter Z. Laqueur | Go to book overview

THE GREAT CATASTROPHE

by G. F. HUDSON

AN ALLIANCE between two states for a specific common purpose can remain stable only as long as disagreements which may arise on other matters are of an order of importance so greatly inferior that the factors of disruption are always outweighed by the community of will. If there is serious conflict on an issue which appears to one or other of the parties as vital as that for which the partnership was formed, their solidarity cannot long be maintained. For two nations to be allies in one part of the world and enemies in another part is possible only if the latter region is regarded by both as relatively unimportant.

The N.A.T.O. coalition, built round an Anglo-American alliance that was a revival of the original war-time partnership against Hitler, was brought into being to defend Western Europe against domination by the Soviet Union. But for Britain, and to a lesser extent for France, the affairs of Europe could not be entirely separated from those of the Middle and Far East, traditional fields of their maritime commercial and colonial expansion where the Soviet Union, as heir to the continental empire of the Tsars, was also present and politically active, It was necessary in these regions, too, to achieve a close co-ordination of policies with the United States, not only in order to contain the advance of Soviet power in Asia as well as in Europe, but also because discord over Asian affairs could gravely impair the good understanding they had reached on European problems. The last six years, however, have been marked by a series of quarrels between the British and American governments, first over Far Eastern, and then over Middle Eastern, policy, which have imposed severe strains on their alliance. The crisis over the Anglo- French action against Egypt merely brought to a climax a long process of mutual irritation and misunderstanding.

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