Why England and France Intervened:
Was the Soviet Timetable Upset?
The month that failed to shake the world is over. As I write in mid-November, “order” of a sort reigns in Hungary, while in Egypt the ruling military clique must ponder the dangers of embarking on a fresh round. For the moment, the Middle Eastern and the East European upheavals show no sign of merging into a general crisis involving all the powers. Such a merger may yet occur if the reports are true which speak of mounting Soviet intervention in certain Arab states, with the prospect of a fresh outbreak of fighting next spring. Whether or not the present pause is of long or short duration, it enables one to take breath.
One conclusion can already be drawn: the Hungarian catastrophe and the Anglo-French intervention in Egypt were only externally connected. Their mutual interaction was nonetheless so pronounced that at one moment it seemed Moscow might tolerate a semi-independent regime in Budapest, in the interest of reinforcing the hue and cry against Britain and France. In the event, the Kremlin decided to crush the Hungarian rebellion by force. Had it done otherwise, Hungary might have been lost to the Soviet bloc, but Soviet intervention in the Middle East would have been more effective, and might have gone beyond diplomatic bluster and talk of sending “volunteers.” In this sense it is arguable that the East European upheaval threw the Russian timetable out of gear, and correspondingly spoiled Nasser’s chances of assembling the forces of the Pan-Arab bloc for a war of revenge on Israel, to be followed by the seizure of the oil pipelines and the launching of a military drive against Britain and France. “Is it inconceivable,” wrote an influential British commentator in the Conservative Daily Telegraph, “that a future Macaulay will write that the workers of Poland and Hungary saved Israel from annihilation and Europe from impoverishment?”
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