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When Diplomacy Fails Podcast

1956 - The Suez Crisis #2.18: The Art Of Backing Down

1956 Episode 2.18 brings us to a critical point in the narrative, where Anthony Eden decided that a ceasefire was in fact favourable after all!


So just what had changed? Thanks to Harold Macmillan, Eden was persuaded that the economic situation in Britain was close to breaking point, and the Treasury Secretary greatly inflated the figures to ape a crisis which could not be avoided, unless peace was reached. Explaining this event necessitates a small investigation into the elements of truth in Macmillan’s economic doomsaying, as well as a deeper examination of Macmillan’s motives. Was the Treasury Secretary motivated by the hopeless Egyptian situation, or by his political ambition to oust Eden and take his spot?


As the title of the episode indicates though, much of our time is spent on examining the incredible transformation in British aims which took place over the day of 6th November. With news that Egypt would not be capitulating now common knowledge among his peers, Eden determined to change virtually every aspect of the Egyptian campaign. If a ceasefire would have be implemented, then it was necessary Britain control the narrative which led to this ceasefire. This Eden did, with a breath-taking disregard for the truth.


Britain, so the PM claimed, had gone to Egypt not to remove Nasser, recoup prestige or recapture the Suez Canal, but to prevent the Egyptian-Israeli war from spilling over into neighbouring countries and, most incredibly of all, to draw the conflict to the attention of the UN. This latter goal was ludicrous, but Eden insisted until the end that because the UN Emergency Force was en route, this ‘aim’ of his had been successful.


This recasting of Britain’s role in the Crisis was never going to fool everyone, but it was immensely convenient now that Eden possessed someone to blame – the Americans – and something noble to cling on to – the idea that Britain had acted in the interests of the world. It was a combination which he was to uphold for the rest of his life, with the most damning of consequences for his legacy and Party. 


Remember history friends - you can get these episodes ad-free with scripts attached for just $2 a month - for a fiver you can access our PhD Thesis series, so come and nerd out with us!

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