Canadian Involvement In The Suez Crisis Essay

, Research Paper

Eleven years after the second world war, a crisis occurred which had the potential to escalate into a third world war. Hostilities ran high and the background causes that prompted this crisis contained the same fundamentals as were seen in the first and second world wars. Those being militarism, alliances, imperialism and nationalism; wrought by those countries that had an interest in the Suez Canal and the Arab states. In the world of superpowers in conflict, Canada made a name for itself through an innovative peacekeeping scheme, instead of aggression (Encyclopedia Britannica Online, 1999-2000). If Canada had not become involved in the Suez Crisis, as a neutral party, it could have escalated into a world war. The three components which add up to the conclusion of the Suez Crisis and a bench mark for Canada and world peacekeeping are: Canada?s choice for those countries directly involved in the crisis, Canada?s choice for involvement, and Canada?s resolution of the United Nations Emergency Force, which would put a stop to a possible world war.

In the Middle East, by July 1956, tensions were rising. The Egyptians were denied funds from the Us, Britain and the World Bank for the creation of their Aswan dam to affiliation with the Soviet Union. In desperate need of funds for the dam project, the Egyptian government had nationalize the Suez Canal Company, froze its assets in Egypt, and proposed to use canal tolls to pay for the dam (Hillmer, 1999, p. 226). In fear of the Egyptians cutting off the transportation of Arabian oil and Asian goods, the British, French, and Israel secretly planned an attack on Egypt. Meanwhile, the Israelis and the Arab states, including Egypt, were having an arms race. Israel was concerned with self-preservation while the Arabs, who had opposed Israel?s creation, wanted to destroy it. The Americans opposed the British, French, and Israeli invasion of Egypt because it didn?t want to offend the Arab states where US oil companies were drilling. On the other hand, the US was wiling to supply Israel with weapons if the Soviet Union sent arms to the Egyptians. Such military support could inevitably have lead to a nuclear war. Through ties with Britain, Canada was expected to aid in the invasion pf Egypt but Canada was reluctant and saw how much actions might put their relationship with the Americans in danger. Canada was now caught between two opposing opinions and did not want to disturb its relations with either side.

Canada had to make a decision. That decision was not to get involved in the aggression. After a letter of regret was sent to the British, the Canadian Prime Minister St. Laurent proposed that, ?in view of the urgent and spreading nature of the crisis, Lester B. Pearson assume responsibility for the Canadian role in the crisis with full confidence of the cabinet? (Georges-Picot, 1978 p.83). Pearson was the Canadian Secretary of State for External Affairs and through his work in the United Nations he would help to show Canada as a neutral country in this time of crisis. To do this, he would abstain during voting on British or US and therefore the Arabs would not be suspicious of Canadian policy brought to them for their approval. Pearson got especially upset, as were many other Canadians, when the British neglected to tell Canada about the action plans that Britain had made against Egypt with the aid of France and Israel (The 2000 Canadian Encyclopedia World Edition, 2000). This made Canada fell betrayed; especially since Britain expected Canada to side with it in the invasion of Egypt. This reaffirmed Canada?s decision to stay neutral, rather than siding with Britain.

Being of low military stature, Canada might have seemed insignificant in the scheme of things, when the crisis occurred. Through hard work and organization, Lester B. Pearson was able to put together a United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) to act as neutral army and to separate opposing forces in the Middle East while debates continued between the United Nations and Egypt on the fate of the canal. The UNEF was comprised of volunteer countries that had only minor political interests in the Suez Canal and Canadians played an active role in managing the force. Although the Canadian infantry was mobilized but not used, the highly trained and efficient specialist troops were and they aided in minimizing conflict while political leaders came to a settlement (Hillmer, 1999, p.238). In December of 1957, Lester B. Pearson gained special recognition for Canadians on his work in the Suez Crisis when he became the first Canadian ever to win the Noble Peace prize.

In times of war Canada had always been expected to follow the lead of the British and French. Growing ties with the US might have been a reason for Canada to follow the Americans on their course of action. However, Canada proposed an innovative and peaceful solution, creating a new role for Canadians in international politics. Prime Minster St. Laurent made a wise decision to allow Lester B. Pearson to choose Canada?s path for involvement. From the outcome of the peace settlement, in the Middle East, we can conclude that Canada?s involvement of the creation of the UNEF helped to prevent the Suez Crisis from escalating into a world war by minimizing the involvement of the superpowers in the resolution of Middle Eastern problems. The UNEF was revolutionary in the way it helped in prevention of war. Today peacekeepers are also used to separate military powers in conflict and foundations of these actions can be credited to Lester B. Person and the Canadians. It is possible that Canada could one day rise to become a world superpower but hopefully we won?t forget our roots and remain the peaceful haven we always have been.


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