Peter Hitchens writes:
Henry Rand says: ‘Suez was a very big military success.’ Alas, it wasn't. There was much bravery, but a lot of mess, and key objectives were not taken when they should have been. Egyptian resistance was also often more effective than expected. This is a widespread myth we tell ourselves to compensate for the diplomatic disaster. I recommend everyone interested to read the account of the whole affair by Keith Kyle in his superb book ’Suez: Britain's End of Empire in the Middle East’.
But I really can't accept the views of some people who blame the Americans for what they did to the British Empire, or attribute this to some sort of personal anti-British prejudice on the part of FDR (which I never suggested). Nor do I in any way deny that lots of Americans like us British. It is just that the interests of the two countries are sharply different, and were most strongly different during the first 60 years of the 20th Century, when propaganda history - of the 'Finest Hour' sort - maintains we were close friends. On the contrary, we were rivals.
Admiral Mahan's great book on sea power is often taken as a compliment to the Royal Navy - and so it was, but it was rather more than that. Admiral Mahan, an Irish-American serving in the USN, also understood that the US, if it wished to emulate Britain and become a great power, needed a big Navy of its own. And who would be the greatest loser if another power dominated the oceans of the world?
Theodore Roosevelt's 'Great White Fleet' was the first stage in this. It still amazes me that most people know far more about Tirpitz's doomed and short-lived German High Sea Fleet, which failed in its idiotic purpose and was uselessly scuttled in the end. It was Teddy Roosevelt's big USN, and Woodrow Wilson's 1916 'Big Navy Act', which modernised Teddy Roosevelt's fleet and expanded it, that really threatened British sea power - as we would discover during the negotiations for the Washington Naval Treaty. This was, in a way, the equivalent of what Ronald Reagan did to Mikhail Gorbachev over 'Star Wars'. The Americans secured the treaty of limitation by simply threatening to outbuild us - and so bankrupt us - if we did not do as asked. Or rather as told. Financially ruined by the 1914-18 war, we dared not defy them.
By the way, the behaviour of the US 6th fleet during the Suez episode (alluded to in Keith Kyle's book) is one of the most fascinating episodes in the history of our two nations. British officers believed that the USN was deliberately harassing and obstructing them as they headed towards the invasion. This is as near as the two countries have come to an armed clash in the 20th century, but a misjudgement by either side could have been very problematic.