London Letter

London Letter

“America is no longer our ally”

BEVERLEY BAXTER January 5 1957
London Letter

London Letter

“America is no longer our ally”

BEVERLEY BAXTER January 5 1957

London Letter


“America is no longer our ally”

It may well be that what I am about to write will cause offense and resentment to some of my fellow Canadians. Nor will these emotions be confined to Canadians: Maclean's is widely read in the United States and I cannot believe that my words will rouse enthusiasm there. Therefore I must ask you to believe that my version of the Suez crisis is not gathered merely from gossip in the smoke room but from direct contact with the British political figures chiefly concerned. I do not propose to quote them verbatim, but rather to use what they have said to place before you an accurate backstage account of a drama that shook the world. Let us begin by stating that it was fully known to Sir Anthony Eden that the Russians had been supplying Egypt for some time back with formidable war materi-

al. It was also known that Nasser was in constant touch with Moscow. The seizure of the canal by Nasser was the first step. A violent anti-British propaganda campaign in the Arab states was the second. The final step was to be the sending of Russian volunteers “to maintain order.” Undoubtedly Nasser had scored an enormous personal triumph by the nationalization of the canal. This posturing adventurer, by no means a popular figure in the Arab states, saw the United Nations gather in solemn conclave in London to discuss the rights and wrongs of what was merely a piece of daylight robbery. It was as if the supreme court had been summoned to deal with a petty thief. As usual, America was on the

eve of an election and, as usual, America deplored any direct action by the Western powers. By contrast, the Russians pledged full support to Nasser if trouble broke out and plans were made to send "volunteers” from the Soviet Union. Eden was aware of this. So was Eisenhower. Then suddenly Israel attacked Egypt and the long-awaited moment had come for Russia to send a strong force of volunteers to take possession of the massed modern armaments they had delivered to Egypt. But the Russian timetable went wrong. The horrors of hell had been let loose in Hungary and, to a lesser extent, in Poland. Eden took continued on page 46

continued from page 4

“One thing is certain — Great Britain will no longer take its foreign policy from America”

the view that the moment of destiny had arrived. The French government concurred. Like the crack of a whip the AngloFrench forces went into action to stop the lsrael-Egypt war and to destroy the Russian armaments that were massed there. Those armaments proved to be better in quality and far greater in size than had been supposed. The estimate ot the British forces is that they destroyed Russian tanks and airplanes to the value of a hundred million pounds.

Now we must turn to the White House for a moment. We in Britain, like you in Canada, are familiar with the smiling friendliness of President Eisenhower. As a soldier and as a statesman his good humor, his humanity and his warmth have won the hearts of his own people and the admiration of the whole civilized world.

When he learned that the AngloFrench forces had intervened without any consultation with the White House his anger grew to fury.

Some day we shall know exactly what Eisenhower and Eden said to each other on the telephone. One of the best-informed men in British politics told me that Eisenhower gave Eden absolute hell, and I do not doubt it.

But the debonair Anthony Eden is no tailor's dummy when it comes to a row. His father, the "Barking Baronet.” had the hottest temper in his part of the countryside, and Anthony is a sprig of the old tree.

For better or for worse the British

prime minister had decided to end Britain’s role of satellite to the U. S. For weary sterile years Britain's ministers of state have commuted to and from Washington. At America’s command Britain

ended her long and loyal alliance with Japan. At America’s command Britain

ceased her valuable established trade with China. At America’s command Britain

supported the League of Nations, which was founded and then rejected by Amer-

ica. At America’s demand vye were burdened with the repayment of the 191419 IS loan, which brought about the financial collapse and the general strike.

And now the British prime minister was being treated as an irresponsible warmonger. That was what we were told by a man who is in a position to know the truth.

Unhappily. Sir Anthony partially gave way to pressure and the Anglo-French attack stopped short of the objective, which involved seizing the canal.

It will be for the historian, not the contemporary journalist, to say whether it was wise or unwise to be content with a limited objective. At the moment it seems a thousand pities that we gave way to the pressure of America and the outraged morality of that international debating society whose very existence means delay, talk and impotence in the face of aggression. In case you have any doubt, I mean the United Nations.

Because of the Anglo-French failure to carry out its plan to the limit. Sir Anthony Eden was faced with a mutiny within the Conservative ranks by a group of Tory MBs led by Julian Amery. son of that great imperialist, Leo Amery, who last

Julian Amery’s group let it be known that if the Anglo-French forces were withdrawn prematurely at the behest of the UN they would vote against their own Conservative government.

Unfortunately Eden was ill and about to leave for Jamaica, so it was left to Rab Butler and Harold Macmillan to meet the Conservative members in a private conference room in the Commons.

There is a limit to what i can reveal, but the speech of Harold Macmillan, the chancellor of the exchequer, at that private meeting was a brilliant mixture of sincerity, irony and irresistible logic. In turn. Butler was clearheaded, firm and persuasive.

Macmillan discussed Anglo-American relations with a candor that left almost nothing to the imagination.

There is no reason to be diplomatic or mealymouthed about it. The direct action of France and Britain, without consultation with America, was a declaration of independence. The Americans should understand what that means because they became a nation by such a declaration.

What then is the position of Canada in the essential duality of her position as part of the British Commonwealth and

part of the North American continent?

Let me answer by recalling that there was a most amusing book of the First World War called The Silences of Colonel Bramble. I see no reason why an enterprising publisher should not give us a modern book called The Silences of Mr. St. Laurent.

A shrewd and witty observer of the contemporary scene said the other day, "The only friends we have in Canada are the Canadian people.” Dismiss it as a play on words, an epigram or just a joke. For myself I make no comment.

Therefore let us sum up the situation. The military intervention by France and Britain may have repercussions that will alter the very trend of history. One thing is certain — Great Britain will no longer take its foreign policy from America.

As for the UN, it will become an enfeebled giant without power to act unless another Truman arises to give it life.

Because of America’s flabbiness of purpose there will be a mighty rejuvenation of Western Europe with the economic and military unity of Great Britain. West Germany, France. Italy and the Benelux countries.

We shall feel nothing but friendliness toward the American people and we shall do our best to make common cause with them in furthering the rights of human liberty and human dignity. We shall look upon America as a friend, a valued friend, but not an ally.

Forgive me if I end this London Letter on a personal note. In 1920 I wrote my first novel. The Parts Men Play, which was published simultaneously in the U. S., Canada and Great Britain. In the last chapter was the phrase: “America —

debtor to the world.”

Thirty-six years have passed by and I would not alter one word of what I wrote at that time. But perhaps I would add another chapter entitled: "The world is debtor to Anthony Eden, to Britain and to France.” ★