Seeking to align Egypt with the West, Dwight Eisenhower enacted disastrous foreign policy.
A senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and formerly a senior director of the National Security Council under George W. Bush, Doran (Pan-Arabism before Nasser: Egyptian Power Politics and the Palestine Question, 1999, etc.) offers a detailed analysis of the context for the Suez Crisis of 1956, which pitted Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser against Britain, France, and Israel and nearly led to war. Drawing on British and American memoirs, correspondence, and government documents, the author argues persuasively that until 1958, Eisenhower deeply misjudged Nasser, convinced that he would help the U.S. by unifying Arabs against the Soviets in the Cold War. Even before Nasser moved to take control of the Suez Canal—through which two-thirds of European oil flowed—Eisenhower had pressed Britain to withdraw from Egypt, convinced that “the yoke of colonialism” undermined Western efforts to support Egyptian nationalism. But Nasser, Doran vociferously maintains, was never interested in alliance with the West; the young leader had one self-serving goal in mind: to dominate the Arab world. The author characterizes Nasser as devious, power hungry, “an inveterate blackmailer,” and “a born manipulator, a man who was never forthright with anyone—including the Americans.” Doran focuses closely on Eisenhower’s Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and emissary Kermit Roosevelt, who refused to recognize “the disturbing scope” of Nasser’s ambitions. Both were anti-imperialists and anti-Zionists; Doran stops short of branding them anti-Semites. They abetted Eisenhower’s policy of placating Nasser, even when it became obvious that he was negotiating with the Soviets, allowing them to make “deep inroads into the Arab world.” In 1958, Eisenhower finally realized that Nasser was a threat to Western interests; that the U.S. needed to pay attention to inter-Arab struggles, not only the Arab-Israeli conflict; and that “the solution to every problem will inevitably generate new problems.”
A disturbing history that clearly reveals the dangerous “collective American delusion” about the Middle East, which the author believes still persists today.