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Great Britain is therefore bound--even apart from her pledge in the McMahon letters--

to hasten the inauguration of an independent Arab State in Palestine. But all this

has been upset by the recommendations of the recent Anglo-American Commission.






30th 1946



Egypt and the Middle East


It is impossible to consider our negotiations with Egypt apart from the policy we are adopting in Palestine and the consensus of opinion current in the Arab Middle East.

The Arab league is much more than a loose confederation of the Arabs of various countries; it is an active force inspired by a united aim: to obtain the complete independence of the Arab peoples. The countries to which its attention is principally directed at the present moment are Egypt, Syria, the Lebanon, and Palestine; and the reason for this is that in those countries full independence is not yet assured. It is in the light of this fact and of Great Britain's governmental assurances that she supported these Arab aspirations that the actions of the League must be considered.

In the debate on Egypt last week our Government's policy as presented by Mr. Bevin was that friendship with the Arab world should be the foundation of the revised treaty with Egypt/ "I had the choice," Mr. Bevin said, "of going to my colleagues and recommending force when the disturbance was on, but I had equally the chance of offering friendship, which I thought would re-echo through the Arab world. I chose friendship." And, earlier in his speech: "I recommended to my colleagues that they should begin the negotiations by making a proposal to do what we had promised to do from the first day we went into Egypt, to evacuate--in other words, to have the exodus--and to proceed from that basis to decide what should be substituted for it. If there could be nothing substituted to protect this great artery it was quite true the Treaty must stand."

That is clear enough. Putting aside action that might have been taken in the past, but for which the opportunity has now gone by--such as the evacuation of all British troops from Cairo and Alexandria--we must recognize in Mr. Bevin's words the formulation of a definite policy for which much can be said. if Great Britain can win the trust and friendship of the Arab League, there is undoubtedly a better chance of an amicable and satisfactory settlement of strategic matters.

But here comes the crux of the whole affair. It is no use offering what we consider to be a sop to Egypt unless our whole policy with regard to the Arab Middle East is made consistent. We cannot hope to influence the league--of which Palestine, as well as Egypt, is a member--and to win its friendship merely by revising the Egyptian Treaty in a manner consonant with Egypt's wishes. We must apply the same policy in our relations with all Arab States--notably with Palestine.

Now the Palestine problem is not only older than the Egyptian problem, but there are many points with regard to it that make it a much more serious bone of contention than the latter.

In the first place, Egypt is already an independent State. The Treaty of 1936 laid that down and there has been no question, even during the stringencies of the war, of regarding it as anything else. It is true Cairo was an important base of operations for our troops in their successful efforts to drive both the Italian and German forces out of Africa, and even for overseas operations in Greece and our defence of Syria and Irak; but this arrangement was agreed to by Egypt and was indeed a vital necessity for the preservation of her own independence. 

Palestine, on the other hand, has never been free. Moreover, the McMahon agreement with King Hussein in 1915--whatever unlikely interpretations may have been placed upon it by subsequent English politicians--has always been taken by the Arab world to be the official charter for an independent Arab government in that country. The Arab grievance therefore regarding Palestine is far more fundamental and bitter than in regard to anything we have done of failed to do in Egypt.

But even if England's untenable interpretation of the McMahon letters be accepted, a final and authoritative declaration of policy was laid down in 1939. This was contained in a White paper, by which it was determined that 10,000 Jews were to be admitted into Palestine each year for five years, with the addition of 25,000 as soon as the High Commissioner was satisfied that they could be absorbed, and that thereafter no further Jewish immigration would be permitted unless the Arabs of Palestine were prepared to acquiesce in it. This immigration of 75,00 Jews has taken place.

Now, according, to our official promise in the White paper, all Jewish immigration should cease and, in accordance with rules laid down for Mandates of this class, an independent Government should be set up as soon as possible. Great Britain is therefore bound--even apart from her pledge in the McMahon letters--to hasten the inauguration of an independent Arab State in Palestine. But all this has been upset by the recommendations of the recent Anglo-American Commission. If Mr. Bevin adopts the policy recommended by the Commission, so far from coming forward as a friend to the Arab world, he will be acting in a way calculated to arouse in it the most violent antagonism.. His sop to Egypt will count for nothing.

There is another difference between the cases of Egypt and of Palestine. The Suez Canal, designed and constructed by the French, has always been regarded as a passage-way of international, and more especially of British concern. It is the link between Great Britain on the one hand and Australia, New Zealand, and British possessions in the Far East on the other. Our Government has therefore a perfect right to insist that they should be able to defend it in the event of war. No such point of Imperial importance exists in Palestine. The Arab League would therefore be much more likely to appreciate our insistence upon maintaining control of the Canal than they ever will upon our standing in the way of Palestine independence.

It has been explained by our Government that the thing that rankles in the hearts of Egyptians is the presence of British troops in their country. there is no reason to doubt the truth of this, though a defensive area manned by R.A.F. and A.A. units on the unpopulated eastern side of the canal would not seem to be an extravagance concession to request in the circumstances. But exactly the same thing rankles in the hearts of the Arabs of Palestine. One of the three demands made last week by the Arab Higher Committee was that all British troops should leave Palestine. Our Government has made no mention of this. Yet the whole Arab attitude would undoubtedly be altered and a general agreement entered into with the league.

As things stand at present we are giving away indispensable control over vital communications to an Arab world that remains hostile to us.

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1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created

By Charles C. Mann

I’m a big fan of Charles Mann’s previous book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, in which he provides a sweeping and provocative examination of North and South America prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus. It’s exhaustively researched but so wonderfully written that it’s anything but exhausting to read. With his follow-up, 1493, Mann has taken it to a new, truly global level. Building on the groundbreaking work of Alfred Crosby (author of The Columbian Exchange and, I’m proud to say, a fellow Nantucketer), Mann has written nothing less than the story of our world: how a planet of what were once several autonomous continents is quickly becoming a single, “globalized” entity.

Mann not only talked to countless scientists and researchers; he visited the places he writes about, and as a consequence, the book has a marvelously wide-ranging yet personal feel as we follow Mann from one far-flung corner of the world to the next. And always, the prose is masterful. In telling the improbable story of how Spanish and Chinese cultures collided in the Philippines in the sixteenth century, he takes us to the island of Mindoro whose “southern coast consists of a number of small bays, one next to another like tooth marks in an apple.” We learn how the spread of malaria, the potato, tobacco, guano, rubber plants, and sugar cane have disrupted and convulsed the planet and will continue to do so until we are finally living on one integrated or at least close-to-integrated Earth. Whether or not the human instigators of all this remarkable change will survive the process they helped to initiate more than five hundred years ago remains, Mann suggests in this monumental and revelatory book, an open question.

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Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global Power

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By 1991, following the disintegration first of the Soviet bloc and then of the Soviet Union itself, the United States was left standing tall as the only global super-power. Not only the 20th but even the 21st century seemed destined to be the American centuries. But that super-optimism did not last long. During the last decade of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st century, the stock market bubble and the costly foreign unilateralism of the younger Bush presidency, as well as the financial catastrophe of 2008 jolted America—and much of the West—into a sudden recognition of its systemic vulnerability to unregulated greed. Moreover, the East was demonstrating a surprising capacity for economic growth and technological innovation. That prompted new anxiety about the future, including even about America’s status as the leading world power. This book is a response to a challenge. It argues that without an America that is economically vital, socially appealing, responsibly powerful, and capable of sustaining an intelligent foreign engagement, the geopolitical prospects for the West could become increasingly grave. The ongoing changes in the distribution of global power and mounting global strife make it all the more essential that America does not retreat into an ignorant garrison-state mentality or wallow in cultural hedonism but rather becomes more strategically deliberate and historically enlightened in its global engagement with the new East.

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The White Masters of the World

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Ancient African Nations

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update 14 February 2012




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