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Suez: Britain's End of Empire in the Middle East

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Keith Kyle has drawn on a wealth of documentary evidence to tell this fascinating political, military, and diplomatic story of how Britain, France, and Israel colluded in attacking Egypt, ostensibly to protect the Suez Canal, but in reality to depose Gamal Abdul Nasser . The US opposition to this scheme forced an ignominious withdrawal, and Nasser was triumphant. Above all Keith Kyle has drawn on a wealth of documentary evidence to tell this fascinating political, military, and diplomatic story of how Britain, France, and Israel colluded in attacking Egypt, ostensibly to protect the Suez Canal, but in reality to depose Gamal Abdul Nasser . The US opposition to this scheme forced an ignominious withdrawal, and Nasser was triumphant. Above all, Britain's imperial posture was decisively over. "Suez" is acknowledged as the classic work on the subject.


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Keith Kyle has drawn on a wealth of documentary evidence to tell this fascinating political, military, and diplomatic story of how Britain, France, and Israel colluded in attacking Egypt, ostensibly to protect the Suez Canal, but in reality to depose Gamal Abdul Nasser . The US opposition to this scheme forced an ignominious withdrawal, and Nasser was triumphant. Above all Keith Kyle has drawn on a wealth of documentary evidence to tell this fascinating political, military, and diplomatic story of how Britain, France, and Israel colluded in attacking Egypt, ostensibly to protect the Suez Canal, but in reality to depose Gamal Abdul Nasser . The US opposition to this scheme forced an ignominious withdrawal, and Nasser was triumphant. Above all, Britain's imperial posture was decisively over. "Suez" is acknowledged as the classic work on the subject.

30 review for Suez: Britain's End of Empire in the Middle East

  1. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Saunders

    Keith Kyle's Suez: Britain's End of Empire in the Middle East will likely stand for decades as the definitive account of the mad imperial folly of November 1956, when Britain, France and Israel teamed up to reclaim the Suez Canal from Gamal Abdul Nasser's Egypt, shattering their empires and political systems in the process. Kyle's book contains an overwhelming abundance of detail: it seems like no source, primary or secondary, remains uncited, and admittedly it occasionally makes for dry reading Keith Kyle's Suez: Britain's End of Empire in the Middle East will likely stand for decades as the definitive account of the mad imperial folly of November 1956, when Britain, France and Israel teamed up to reclaim the Suez Canal from Gamal Abdul Nasser's Egypt, shattering their empires and political systems in the process. Kyle's book contains an overwhelming abundance of detail: it seems like no source, primary or secondary, remains uncited, and admittedly it occasionally makes for dry reading. It's well worth plugging through the book's rougher patches, however, because no other single-volume account analyzes the Crisis from so many perspectives. Whereas most English-language accounts, naturally enough, focus on either Britain or America's role in the Crisis, Kyle painstakingly reconstructs the thought processes, actions and consequences of everyone involved. Kyle's image of Anthony Eden, obsessively plotting to "knock Nasser off his perch" in a fit of imperial pique and chasing fascist phantasms, is familiar enough, yet there are nuanced shades to Kyle's overall portrait of Britain's non-united response. Eden's cabinet, members of Parliament, the press and the people vacillated between seeing Nasser as a "latter-day Hitler" who needed punished, a threat to the British Empire's oil sources and remaining strongholds in the Middle East, and finding Eden's handling of the crisis bizarrely impulsive yet devious at once. Britons might have been sold on a righteous crusade against a frightful imperialist, but many found a squabble over pride and shipping rights harder to stomach. Even many hawks found themselves disgusted by Eden's launching an invasion that scored early success, only to stop it at the last moment. Kyle also sketches Nasser, whose visions of a secular, modernized Egypt clashed with ideas of western hegemony, and whose messianic dreams of a pan-Arab state became fodder for comparisons to fascism. And France's Guy Mollet, a vacillating socialist convinced (despite little or no evidence) that Nasser backed the FLN in Algeria and nourishing a relationship with Israel, who in turn viewed fedayeen border raids from Egypt and Jordan an intolerable threat. Thus these three powers cooked up a bizarre, improbable conspiracy: Israel would attack Egypt, Britain and France would retake the Canal while posing as peacekeepers. This bit of legerdemain is so hamfisted it's impossible to see how anyone involved thought it would work; certainly the British and French should have anticipated that the United Nations wouldn't go along with it. I would be remiss if I didn't identify reservations with Kyle's analyses. His comments on the Arab-Israeli conflict occasionally betray a sympathy for the former over the latter, though rarely to a crippling degree. He repeatedly hints that Eden's erratic behavior was not merely caused by a chronic illness, drug use and stress, but an inherited mental condition; there's not enough factual basis for this implication to land. His weakest, least convincing arguments involve Eisenhower and the United States, taking their anti-imperialist rhetoric at face value. Other readers may wonder whether Ike and John Foster Dulles feared the conflict escalating into war with the Soviets more than unreliable allies, or planned to supplant British hegemony in the Middle East with American dominance (as in fact happened, almost immediately afterwards). Despite these minor shortcomings, Kyle sells not only the dizzying, convoluted events of the Crisis itself, but its toxic fallout. America implemented the Eisenhower Doctrine, assuring their lasting presence in the Middle East with all the consequences that has entailed. France's government was further destabilized, triggering De Gaulle's return to power, the death of French Algeria and an Anglo-French relationship strained to the breaking point. Nasser remained in power, emboldened despite his military setbacks to continue antagonizing Israel and the West, launching another launch another, far more disastrous war against Israel ten years later. As for England: Eden resigned a few months afterwards, being replaced by Harold MacMillan, far more attuned to the new reality of the "special relationship" with the United States. Britain's client states in the Middle East rejected their rulers (Iraq, Yemen) or turned to America instead (Jordan). And the British learned that the gunboat tactics which earned them Egypt in the first place, appropriate and unchallenged in 1882, were a dead letter in 1956. So another Empire perished, replaced by another stronger, craftier and better attuned to the rhetoric of postwar power struggles.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Francisco

    An authoritative and exhaustive account of the Suez crisis. Great effort is expended in detailing the particularities of diplomacy, with a strong focus on British politics and decision-making. Insight is also given to French, American, Egyptian and Israeli internal policy making processes and diplomacy. However, perhaps a bit more of an Egyptian perspective would be appreciated. All in all an excellent one-volume read for anyone wishing to understand the single most important post-war event of t An authoritative and exhaustive account of the Suez crisis. Great effort is expended in detailing the particularities of diplomacy, with a strong focus on British politics and decision-making. Insight is also given to French, American, Egyptian and Israeli internal policy making processes and diplomacy. However, perhaps a bit more of an Egyptian perspective would be appreciated. All in all an excellent one-volume read for anyone wishing to understand the single most important post-war event of the realization that Britain was no longer a world power.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Eric Grounds

    Very detailed but rather readable. A valuable reference for anyone writing about the 1950s

  4. 5 out of 5

    شريف لطفي

    An excellent read

  5. 5 out of 5

    Arthur

    Very dry and English.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Keith Schnell

    Keith Kyle's Suez is a comprehensive and detailed examination of the entire Suez crisis that may only be eclipsed as additional documentation is declassified, giving future historians information that he did not have access to. Even given such eventual disclosures, and barring some insane revalation, this will remain a fundimental text on the subject. Kyle focuses heavily on the diplomatic and political maneuvering that led up to the most acute phase of the crisis, and for the most part shows a Keith Kyle's Suez is a comprehensive and detailed examination of the entire Suez crisis that may only be eclipsed as additional documentation is declassified, giving future historians information that he did not have access to. Even given such eventual disclosures, and barring some insane revalation, this will remain a fundimental text on the subject. Kyle focuses heavily on the diplomatic and political maneuvering that led up to the most acute phase of the crisis, and for the most part shows a thorough understanding of the key players' motives and decision-making processes. He tends to give Dwight Eisenhower little credit, however, and seems reluctant to delve into the effect of Anthony Eden's health and drug use on his actions, perhaps considering such matters to be speculation and so beneath a serious historian. Readers should be aware that this is not a page-turner, nor a personality-driven popular history or introduction to the subject. Suez is dense. It took me over a year to finish reading. But, unless you're literally writing a doctoral thesis, this is probably the only book you'll ever need to read to understand the subject.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Raymond Thomas

    Really engaging and vivid depiction of exactly was going on in the British government during the build up to, and during, the Suez Crisis. The book offers unique insight into the machinations of the Eden government and the secrecy with which they handled preparations to overthrow Nasser. Also illuminates much of the dealings between the American and British governments with regard to the UN resolutions on the crisis and afterward.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ahmed Assem

    Just amazing.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Justin Crabtree

  10. 5 out of 5

    Liquidlasagna

  11. 4 out of 5

    Blair

  12. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Stieb

  13. 5 out of 5

    Stuart Ward

  14. 5 out of 5

    Paul

  15. 4 out of 5

    Hoolyaa

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ashraf Sami

  17. 4 out of 5

    Simon Liney

  18. 5 out of 5

    David P

  19. 4 out of 5

    Nicholas Robison

  20. 5 out of 5

    Hisham

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mohammed

  22. 5 out of 5

    Chris Stutts

  23. 4 out of 5

    Brenda EVHS Perez

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lucas

  25. 5 out of 5

    Adrian B.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Allenmokyr

  27. 5 out of 5

    David Conroy

  28. 4 out of 5

    Trevor

  29. 5 out of 5

    A chick

  30. 4 out of 5

    Re Garrett

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