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Dawn over Suez: The Rise of American Power in the Middle East, 1953-1957 by Steven Z. Freiberger Critical Essay


Thesis statement

This essay is a review on the book, Dawn over Suez: the Rise of American Power in the Middle East 1953 – 1957 by Steven Z. Freiberger. Published in 1992 by Ivan R. Dee, the book explores the issues surrounding the Suez conflict.

The paper will start with a summary of the book where it gives a compendium of the major points.

Critical analysis will then follow where the paper will highlight issues like who is the author of the book, where did the author get his information, how professional is the book, and what sources are used. Other elements of the critical review will include how readable is the book and how well the book is written.

Ultimately, the paper will close with a conclusion by summing up the highlighted ideas coupled with underscoring the strengths and weaknesses of the book.

Summary

In Dawn over Suez: the Rise of American Power in the Middle East 1953 – 1957, the author, Steven Freiberger, majors on the heralds of the Suez crisis if 1956. He accounts for the issues surrounding this controversial occurrence. Unfortunately, most writings on this issue major on the crisis part of the 1956.

However, Steven Freiberger expands his research back to early 1950s to investigate the precursors of the crisis. The author uses novel and updated information, which makes this book one of unequivocal accounts of the Suez issue.

He adopts a distinguished perspective to the issue and gives fresh renditions based on the novel ideas gathered throughout his widespread research. Steven holds that the 1956 crisis was simply an apogee of the American vexation with the ever-growing British control over Asia and especially the Middle East.

From 1953, the American government under the leadership of Dwight Eisenhower started scheming ways on how to tame British imperialism by sympathizing with Arabs to show that they were not at peace with the Britons’ belligerence.

As the secretary of state at the time, John Foster Dulles assumed the responsibility of propagating the United States’ agenda in the Middle East and at the same time maintaining the degenerating British-American relationship.

The growing tensions burst in 1956 during Eisenhower’s reelection bid. Perhaps due to the campaigns’ mood, Eisenhower lost his patience and pushed for the toppling of Anthony Eden from the British prime ministerial seat.

Unfortunately, Eisenhower’s strategy flopped, thus estranging the Arabs who became easy prey for the Soviet Union, which moved with speed to occupy the Middle East.

In 1957 after winning his reelection bid, Eisenhower was faced with two equally important tasks of superseding the British’s rule in the Middle East while at the same time taming the fast spreading communism in the region under the influence of the Soviet Union.

In the quest to achieve the latter objective, Eisenhower pledged to offer military and monetary support to any Arab nation under the threat of communism.

Once more, Eisenhower failed as he mistook the loyalty and building blocks of the Arab nations and this misstep awarded the Soviet Union the very chance it needed to infiltrate the Middle East.

Apparently, this masterpiece book highlights the genesis of the current relationship between the United States and the Arab world, which has always been tense, fuelled with suspicions and misgivings.

Critical analysis

As aforementioned, the book Dawn over Suez: the Rise of American Power in the Middle East 1953 – 1957 is a chef-d’oeuvre work written by Steven Freiberger in 1992. The author has extensive knowledge on the American diplomatic issues.

In the spring of 2007, Steven Freiberger wrote a succinct book review article on Missed Opportunities: U.S. Diplomatic Failures and the Arab-Israeli Conflict 1947-1967 by Candace Carp. In the review, Steven revisits his accounts of the Suez crisis in 1956.

Steven Freiberger’s book is dotted with novel facts from disparate sources that the author consulted to compile the masterpiece.

The most important sources of the book are from the government archives. In the 1980s, almost thirty years after the Suez crisis, the British documents dating back to the 1950s were availed to the public. In addition, the Dwight D. Eisenhower Library documents became accessible to the public around the same time.

These two distinct sources provided invaluable and novel information to the author of the book, which makes his work the most factual source of the issues surrounding the Suez crisis.

According to Hann, “in 1989-90, the State Department published relevant volumes in its series, Foreign Relations of the United States, and opened at the National Archives many of the decimal files and lot files on the Middle East for the late 1950s” (1992, 567).

This availing of the long-held documents fuelled Freiberger’s research and the ultimate compilation of the book under this review. Other pertinent sources used include books written on the issue by different historians.

The book is highly readable given the systematic organization of ideas that the author employed. It opens up by giving a preface, which gives background information on the Suez crisis and the contents of the book including the availing of critical information after the 1980s concerning the issues surrounding the Suez crisis.

The author then proceeds to give a pictorial presentation of the location of the Suez Canal and the surrounding nations. This demonstration gives the reader a clear glimpse of the different locations referred to in the book.

Freiberger then starts his book by giving a background on President Truman’s exploits during his latter days as the American president.

Truman’s administration clarified that should “war with the Soviet Union occur, the United States would be unable to help the British protect vital military bases in Egypt and Iraq (Freiberger 1992, 20).

Therefore, Truman’s administration contemplated the possibility of signing the NSC-68 provisions, which called for the rapid changes in the American military expenditures and capabilities overseas.

Therefore, by going back to 1950 during Truman’s presidency, Freiberger gives a holistic view of the Suez crisis that occurred later in 1956, thus giving the reader the opportunity to connect the dots and understand Eisenhower’s actions later during the conflict.

After introducing the Truman’s background and ensuring that the reader understands the basics of the American involvement in the Suez, the author proceeds to introduce the American key player in the Suez conflict, viz. Dwight Eisenhower.

In chapter two, Freiberger explores Eisenhower’s initiative to tame the growing British imperialism in Asia. After the World War II, the ever-present disputes between Egypt and the Britain were still ripe.

Therefore, Eisenhower wanted “a speedy resolution of these issues because they threatened to weaken Britain’s role in the Middle East” (Freiberger 1992, 55).

In chapter three, the author explores the withdrawal of Britain from the Suez. The conflict between Britain and the United States emerged after the latter started funding Egypt coupled with availing military aid to fight the British troops in the region.

In chapter four, Freiberger tackles the pursuit of the Baghdad pact after the withdrawal of Britain from the region.

In chapter five, the author starts a new phase of ‘the search of peace: the ALPHA project.

Afterwards in chapter six, Freiberger explores the infamous “two failures: the Anderson Mission and the Aswan Loan” (Freiberger 1992, 133).

The Aswan loan was surrounded by controversy (Podeh 1995, 81-98) and it is classified as a failure because Dulles’ indecision and personal prejudices towards Nasser gave the Soviet Union an opportunity to solidify its presence in Egypt.

Freiberger (1992) posits, “The secretary of state had demonstrated a basic lack of understanding of nationalist forces in the Arab world as he tried to punish Nasser for his transgressions” (157). Hence, the loan withdrawal was a failure on the part of the United States.

In chapter seven, Freiberger highlights the conspiracy at Suez. While Britain wanted to punish Nasser and exit the region, the United States became opportunistic and decided to replace the waning British influence in the region.

In the process, Eden tarnished Britain’s image in the region, which effectively killed his political career. Freiberger (1992) posits, “Eden’s tactics and blindness towards Eisenhower’s repeated warnings against the use of force facilitated the American ascendancy” (160).

The author then concludes the book by covering the American ascendancy in the region in chapter eight.

The book’s readability is enhanced due to the author’s additional materials concerning the contents of the book. Immediately after the last chapter, Freiberger gives an eight-page epilogue where he presents a recap of the entire book.

By reading the epilogue, the reader can understand the contents of the book as the author steps in to summarize his writings and give views of what happened in the following years. Freiberger discuses different views from disparate historians concerning the controversy surrounding the Suez issue.

For instance, he notes, “historian Thomas Paterson points out about congressional hearings on the Eisenhower Doctrine that no American official provided a detailed substantiated account of the Soviet intentions, activities, or capabilities” (Freiberger 1992, 214).

He then concludes by linking the remnant issues, which have persisted even in the contemporary times. By the time of writing this book in 1992, Freiberger maintained that the “Palestinian issue remains a key element in the process, with no real solution on the horizon” (Freiberger 1992, 217).

True to his words, over two decades after Freiberger predicted the Palestinian issue – it remains unresolved even in the contemporary times where the West Bank occupations have been a point of conflict between Israelis and Palestinians (Brown 2004, 56-63).

In addition, the book clarity is unquestionable given the numerous notes that the author offers on each chapter. After the epilogue, Freiberger dedicated fifty pages to notes and notes on sources.

The notes give a chapter-by-chapter expansion where the reader gets additional information concerning the contents of each chapter.

In the notes on the sources, the author explains where he got his sources, which gives credibility to his work. Ultimately, the author gives an index to guide the reader on where to get a certain word in the book (how the word is used and the location), which simplifies the reader’s navigation through the book.

Conclusion

Freiberger’s masterwork, Dawn over Suez: the Rise of American Power in the Middle East 1953 – 1957, explores the issues surrounding the Suez conflict.

The author offers a systematic account of what happened before, during, and after the crisis by highlighting the roles of the United States, Britain, Egypt, and the Soviet Union in the crisis.

He notes that the 1956 crisis was simply an apogee of growing tension between Britain and the United States concerning the spreading British imperialism in the Arab world. The author introduces the reader from one idea to another, which gives a clear account of issues that were happening, as they happened.

Given that Freiberger used records from the key players in the conflict, this book stands out as the most factual account of what exactly transpired before, during, and after the Suez crisis.

The book’s strengths lie in the use of reliable sources for referencing. As aforementioned, Freiberger used records, which had hitherto been a reserve of a few in the British and the American governments.

In addition, Freiberger gives extensive notes on each chapter by explaining additional materials, which could not fit in the book. The most outstanding weakness in the book is the author’s tendency to contradict his facts.

For instance, Freiberger holds that Eisenhower would have acted prudently concerning the Egypt’s situation. In the contents of the book, the author does not show how Eisenhower would have acted to avert the situation.

Despite its weaknesses, the book stands out as the most factual account of the Suez crisis and given the novel information released in the 1980s, it is one of the most credible accounts on the issue.

Reference List

Brown, Carl. 2004. Diplomacy in the Middle East: The International Relations of Regional and Outside Powers. New York: I.B. Tauris.

Freiberger, Steven. 1992. Dawn over Suez: the Rise of American Power in the Middle East 1953 – 1957. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee.

Hann, Peter. 1992. “Suez.” Reviews in American History 20, no.4 (December): 567-574.

Podeh, Elie. 1995. The Quest for Hegemony in the Arab World: The Struggle Over the Baghdad Pact. Leiden: E.J. Brill.

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"Dawn over Suez: The Rise of American Power in the Middle East, 1953-1957 by Steven Z. Freiberger." IvyPanda, 24 Dec. 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/dawn-over-suez-the-rise-of-american-power-in-the-middle-east-1953-1957-by-steven-z-freiberger/.

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IvyPanda. "Dawn over Suez: The Rise of American Power in the Middle East, 1953-1957 by Steven Z. Freiberger." December 24, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/dawn-over-suez-the-rise-of-american-power-in-the-middle-east-1953-1957-by-steven-z-freiberger/.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "Dawn over Suez: The Rise of American Power in the Middle East, 1953-1957 by Steven Z. Freiberger." December 24, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/dawn-over-suez-the-rise-of-american-power-in-the-middle-east-1953-1957-by-steven-z-freiberger/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'Dawn over Suez: The Rise of American Power in the Middle East, 1953-1957 by Steven Z. Freiberger'. 24 December.

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