SUEZ, 1956: A Successful Naval Operation Compromised by Inept Political Leadership

By Coles, Michael H. | Naval War College Review, Autumn 2006 | Go to article overview

SUEZ, 1956: A Successful Naval Operation Compromised by Inept Political Leadership


Coles, Michael H., Naval War College Review


This article was originally undertaken to note the fiftieth anniversary of the Suez Affair, the November 1956 Anglo-French invasion of Egypt, which, although originally headed for rapid success, was quickly halted by a combination of political and economic pressure. As work progressed it became apparent that much of what happened fifty years ago, and the political and military thinking (or lack thereof) behind it, has relevance for today's strategic planners. Indeed, as one contemplates the present situation in Iraq, Santayana's oft-quoted axiom-that those who cannot learn from the past are condemned to repeat it-remains extraordinarily relevant. Suez was a war of choice in a time of peace, one that, we now know, was largely justified by clandestine political arrangements. It was extraordinarily divisive both politically and among the military leadership, the latter going to unusual lengths in their attempts to halt it. The politicians responsible, anxious to sustain their fictitious casus belli in the face of rapidly moving events, interfered with tactical operations in a manner that went well beyond the political/military relationship normal in democracies. Perhaps the most important conclusion to be drawn from Suez is that flawed political decisions are likely to lead to flawed operational strategy. Nevertheless, as we look at the actual military performance during the invasion, taking into account the constraints imposed, we see near copybook performance by the airmen, commandos, and paratroopers involved. Suez goes down in history as a bad event and carries a bad name, yet froma half-century's perspective it appears that those who fought there, however briefly, performed well. It is to recognize this point that this article concentrates on the operational side of the affair as much as, or more than, on the political.

Following the end ofWorldWar II theMiddle East became an area of increasing tension.Many factors were responsible, but the most significant was the continuing conflict between the new state of Israel and its Arab neighbors. In 1950, Britain, France, and the United States issued a Tripartite Declaration in which they agreed to take action to prevent any violation of the 1947 armistice lines separating Israel from its Arab neighbors. Intended to defuse the situation, the declaration did little to calm tensions, but it did become a central factor in Washington policy making. In the fall of 1955,Moscow and Cairo concluded a major arms contract, at which point relations between Egypt and the West started to deteriorate rapidly. Nevertheless, at the end of the year the United States, Britain, and theWorld Bank offered to fund construction of Egypt's prestigious Aswan High Dam. However, Gamil Abdel-Nasser (Egypt's new head of state) and his proposed dam were equally unpopular with Congress, and on 19 July 1956 the financing offer was withdrawn. A week later Nasser announced that the Suez Canal would be nationalized. The French and British, its principal owners and users, deemed this unacceptable, fearing restrictions on the use of this vital international waterway.1

Although Anglo-French diplomacy throughout the affair appeared at the time to be primarily directed at regaining the canal, events following the nationalization owemuch to the fact that PrimeMinister Anthony Eden of Britain and PrimeMinister GuyMollet of France wanted also to eliminate Nasser, believing, respectively, that he was undermining British prestige in the Middle East and providing support for the Algerians in their rebellion against France. Such feelings resonated withmuch of popular opinion in the two countries; comparisons with Hitler andMussolini were rife. Removing Nasser from power, however, if a potentially valuable collateral outcome of a successful recovery, represented a confusing alternative priority for military planners. Even though the two governments decided within days after nationalization to use military force, they never properly defined their political objectives-regime change or canal access- and could thus give little clear guidance to their military staffs. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

SUEZ, 1956: A Successful Naval Operation Compromised by Inept Political Leadership
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.