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Imperial Overreach

From Suez 1956 to Lebanon 2006

by JOHN V. WHITBECK

By an odd coincidence of the calendar, Israel’s current assault on Lebanon is occurring precisely 50 years after the "Suez Crisis". The calendar may not constitute the only coincidence.

In 1956, Israel struck south against Egypt in secret collusion and collaboration with the two leading imperial powers of the day, Britain and France. It had been arranged that, once Israel had achieved its immediate military objective, Britain and France would send in their own military forces — ostensibly to act as a "force of interposition" which would separate the combatants but, in fact, as part of a joint plan to rein in Nasser, the new hero of the Arab world deemed a "New Hitler" by the British, and bring Egypt under effective Israeli/Western control. To the surprise of the conspirators, the United States was outraged by this gross violation of international law, threatened to impose economic sanctions on its close allies and forced them to cease fire and withdraw, thereby earning the United States a decade of immense popularity in the Arab world, which ended only in 1967 when America applauded Israel’s successful "pre-emptive" attack on its neighbors and occupation of large chunks of their territory.

In 2006, Israel has struck north against Lebanon in transparent collusion and collaboration with the leading imperial power of the day, the United States (with the pathetic Britain of Tony Blair tagging along as usual).

Today, no country can stop Israel or the United States from doing whatever they please, including, in this case, defying appeals from the rest of the world to cease fire. However, various European countries are expressing their tentative willingness to send in their own military forces — ostensibly to act as a "force of interposition" which would separate the combatants but, in fact (and perhaps even avowedly), in order to rein in Hezbollah, the new heroes of the Arab world deemed "terrorists" in the West, and bring Lebanon under effective Israeli/Western control.

If such a military deployment occurs — and one must hope that it will not — it will confirm Europe’s new status in Arab and Muslim eyes, minds and hearts as a full partner in the multi-front Israeli-American war against the Arab and Muslim worlds, assisting Israel and America to achieve the objectives of their assault against Lebanon, with consequences likely to play out bloodily over decades, both in the Middle East and in the West.

Historians view the "Suez Crisis" as a last gasp of imperial overreach which effectively brought the British Empire to an end — which was not a bad thing for the British people, who, as a result, were able to focus their attention, talents and resources on dealing with their own considerable problems at home and building a more decent society for themselves.

Another coincidence perhaps?

JOHN V. WHITBECK, an international lawyer, is author of "The World According to Whitbeck". He can be reached at: jvwhitbeck@awalnet.net.sa