The Suez Crisis
Egypt is a country situated in a strategic location because of a vital waterway that was constructed in the late 19th Century called the Suez Canal. Throughout most of the 19th and 20th Centuries Egypt was a British colonial outpost. The Suez canal was a joint British-French commercial construction project and its significance as a vital international waterway still holds true, as much of Europe’s oil and other important resources pass through the canal every day. Before the canal was built ships carrying cargo had to sail around Africa in order to reach their destinations in European ports. Since the British and French put up most of the money to finance and build the canal, the administrators and harbor pilots who helped run the place on a day-to-day basis were Europeans, not Egyptians. This was the reality until the end of World War II when things started to change, and those changes led to the crisis described below.
After World War II, Egypt, like many former European colonies, became an independent state. A former army officer named Gamal Abdel Nasser emerged as the face of a new generation of political leaders that wanted to lift Egypt out of poverty, to make it self-sufficient and dependent no longer on its foreign colonial masters. In order to achieve his vision, Nasser approached the British and French for loans to build a hydro-electric dam on the Nile River that would generate enough electricity to meet the needs of Egypt’s economic development. But the British and French rejected his request, so Nasser then went to the Americans, who likewise said no. Finally the Soviet Union stepped in and agreed to help, but the loans were not enough to cover the vast sums of money Egypt needed to complete the Aswan High Dam Project, so Nasser and the leadership of Egypt decided to take matters into their own hands by seizing (nationalizing) the Suez Canal. This decision made the British and French very angry, and their response was to launch an invasion of the Canal Zone. The invasion was a disaster for British Prime Minister Anthony Eden. When fighting on the ground led to bloody stalemate, world public opinion turned against him. Moreover, the United States was furious that Britain and France, two close allies, had colluded behind its back and not consulted with President Eisenhower; in fact, Britain and France had not done so because they knew he would have vetoed the whole operation. After the Soviet Premier, Nikita Khrushchev, issued a nuclear threat to Britain and France, the United States stepped in by condemning Britain and France at the United Nations, thus siding with the Soviets.
This is where you come in. You are the supreme commander of British military forces and an advisor to the British Prime Minister, Mr. Eden. He has asked you for a two-page policy recommendation. Explain, from your perspective as a military commander, what the Prime Minister’s next steps should be. Should you attack? Should you hold back? Should you attempt some other strategy?
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Because this happened in the past, you will not use outside sources for this assignment. Your grade will be determined on the basis of how you present your case using logic and reason.
Therefore, to finish this assignment, complete the following steps:
- Read this background article on Egypt: The world factbook: Egypt (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site..
- Review this website, which provides additional details about the Suez Canal, its history, and its strategic importance: Canal history (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site..
- Read this obituary for Nasser, written after this scenario concludes, for some background on his character: From the archive, 29 September 1970: President Nasser dies of heart attack (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site..
- Be sure to read this on the Suez Crisis: The Suez Crisis (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site..
- In two pages, explain, from your perspective as a military commander, what the Prime Minister’s next steps should be. Remember that you are an advisor to Mr. Eden on the eve of his proposed invasion of Egypt. While British and French forces are ready to attack, Mr. Eden is awaiting your opinion before he gives the final command. He has asked you for a two page policy recommendation. Should Britain attack? Should Britain hold back? Or should Britain attempt some other strategy? In your memo, be clear about the pros and cons of your proposed approach, and defend it.
Your final product should be at least two pages in length, formatted in APA style. Remember that you will not use external sources for this assignment.