EGYPT'S agreement to barter cotton for arms from the Soviet bloc has once again involved the Near East conspicuously in the Cold War. The Communists have followed up this victory, their first in the Near East in about eight years, by making further offers of arms and other types of aid to countries in the area. The regional troubles which the Russians are thus exploiting were already sufficiently grave. In late August there began a series of armed clashes between Egypt and Israel which have resulted in the heaviest casualties since 1949. The impasse in British-Greek-Turkish negotiations over Cyprus set off a wave of ugly mob violence in Istanbul and Izmir unprecedented in 22 years of the Turkish Republic, paralyzing, for a time at least, both the eastern flank of NATO and the year-old Balkan alliance. Further to the West, recurrent riots in Morocco and Algeria caused France to divert about half her NATO forces to North Africa and jeopardized an area containing a heavy concentration of Western defense installations.

In the year preceding these outbreaks of violence, Western diplomats had achieved what appeared to be notable successes, including agreements regarding the Suez base, Iranian oil, Tunisian home rule and mutual defense among the so-called "northern tier" countries (Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Pakistan). Almost overnight the crises in Egypt, Palestine, Cyprus and North Africa threatened the regional stability and defensive strength that these agreements had seemed to promise.

The Near East has long been recognized as a focal area both in world politics and in military strategy. What are the main factors that give it its special strategic value? What are its assets and liabilities for regional defense? What are the threats against which it may have to be defended?


The first strategic factor is geography. Because of its location, the Near East can serve both as a link and as a barrier between oceans and between continents. A strong Near Eastern defense system would provide an essential connection between Western positions in Europe and in Australasia, securing communications

between NATO and SEATO. If the Suez Canal were closed to allied shipping, the distance between the North Atlantic and the Indian Ocean would be increased by up to 6,000 miles and the required number of ships would be doubled. Conversely, Russian access to the Indian Ocean is probably a prerequisite to Soviet naval operations on a world scale.

The geographic importance of the Near East can best be shown by an examination of the strategic situation which its loss would entail for the West. The Taurus-Zagros mountain line (which, as we shall see, is the principal natural defense of the region) measures only about 1,000 miles from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf. To the west of Suez, the only comparable obstacles to a Soviet overland advance are the Atlas and the mountains of Ethiopia and Kenya, separated by about 3,000 miles of desert and steppe. The Zagros line is thus the natural defense not only of the Near East; it is also a first-line defense of the Mediterranean and of the entire African continent (protecting the flank and rear of Europe), as well as of the Indian Ocean and the flank of South and Southeast Asia. As General Eisenhower put it some years ago, "As far as sheer value of territory is concerned, there is no more strategically important area in the world than the Middle East."

Aside from its superlative importance for defense, the Near East is an ideal base of operations for any counterattack by air or land against Soviet aggression. The Near Eastern frontier from Turkey to Afghanistan is the only region where Soviet power has failed to expand beyond its 1939 frontiers. The Near East juts like a wedge driven between positions of Soviet strength in Eastern Europe and East Asia. Its air bases are closer to the main Soviet industrial centers at Baku, along the Donets, in the Urals, and in Southern Siberia than any other non-Communist territory. Conversely, all the vital parts of the Near East--including the northern tier and Levant countries, the major oil fields, the Suez Canal and Western air bases as far away as Tripoli--are within a 1,000-mile radius of airfields in Bulgaria, Caucasia and Turkestan.

The second strategic factor--Near Eastern oil--became prominent after the Second World War when the region attained the status of a first-class oil producer. Its importance is likely to increase in the future, as a few statistics will illustrate. While world production of petroleum more than doubled between 1938 and 1953, Near Eastern production multiplied seven times, raising its share in the total from about 6 to about 20 percent. In the three years of shutdown at Abadan (1951-1954), the Arabian oil fields stepped up their production by about one-half; at the same time roughly 15 barrels of oil were newly discovered for every barrel extracted. The estimated proven reserves of crude petroleum in the Near East are well over ten times the prewar figure. In 1953 alone three times as much oil was added to the industry's conservative estimates of proven reserves in the region as had been produced in 42 years of Near Eastern operations. Today therefore nearly two-thirds of the world's known oil deposits are located in the Near East. Even at the recent high rates of extraction, the region's present proven reserves would insure a steady supply for nearly a century, as against about a dozen years in the United States.

In the actual conduct of any future world war, however, the importance of Near Eastern oil can be discounted: wells, pipelines and tankers make too neat a target for bombers and saboteurs to allow either belligerent to count on a steady flow of petroleum from the region. Moreover, increased production in the Western Hemisphere would probably make up the loss to the free world. In a period of armed peace or preparation for war, on the other hand, the Russians may well be interested both in denying the oil to the West and in acquiring it for their own use. The Near East today meets about four-fifths of Western Europe's demand for petroleum and thus appreciably slows the depletion of the Western Hemisphere fields which are our safest source of supply. Use of the oil in Russia, to be sure, would require undisturbed control of the Eastern Mediterranean or the construction of major pipelines across the Iranian mountains (an unenviable task compared to past pipeline projects across the level Arabian desert). Much of Siberia, moreover, consists of potentially oil-bearing strata so that the Soviets could meet any additional needs more easily by drilling than by conquest. In the Near East itself, however, the oil could fuel a Russian air force and possible naval operations in the Indian Ocean. It seems likely, therefore, that Russian control of Near Eastern oil, if achieved prior to an outbreak of worldwide hostilities, would seriously affect the fuel balance between the two sides and hence the outcome of the war itself.

To these two factors of geography and petroleum must be added a third--the psychological effect of Near Eastern relations with the West and East on other areas of Asia and Africa. It is a factor that has received less than its due share of attention in our strategic thinking about the region, yet it may well turn out to be decisive.

The Near East not only geographically but in its relations with the West is about midway between the countries of Asia which won complete independence following the Second World War and the countries of Africa which are still largely under Western domination. Although Western hegemony in the Near East generally took the form of mandates, protectorates and preferential treaties rather than outright colonial rule, it is only in recent years-- notably since the agreements on Abadan and Suez--that the area as a whole has been able to deal with the West on something like a basis of full independence. What will take the place of the previous political order once guaranteed by Western predominance? Will countries of the region be able to live peaceably alongside each other? Will countries like Egypt, having attained full independence, find and accept a suitable place in the concert of free nations? Will young nations, assisted by the West, be able to insure domestic progress and regional defense? Or will the vacuum left by the withdrawal of Western dominance result in domestic upheaval and regional strife, to be filled eventually by the pressure of Soviet power? The outcome will influence profoundly the West's long-term position in Africa and the short-term attitude of our present friends and allies in South and East Asia.


Before we investigate the political complexities involved in forging stable alliances in the Near East, let us examine the area's purely military strengths and weaknesses. Fortunately its most effective geographic barriers--its mountains and seas--all fortify it against possible invasion from the northeast. The Black and Caspian Seas together with the high mountains that stretch in a continuous chain from Anatolia to the Pamirs provide an excellent defense line immediately along the Soviet frontier. The most inhospitable terrain--the Eastern Turkish mountains or "Armenian knot"--lies directly athwart the shortest route from Russia to Suez. To the southeast and southwest the Taurus and Zagros mountains form a second defensive arc connecting this central massif with the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf. This second line has the added advantage that the defender's supplies would move across comparatively level terrain whereas the aggressor would have to bring men and equipment across the first mountain chain. A quick glance at a physical map thus shows that the Near East has a girdle of natural defenses against invasion from Russia second perhaps only to the Alps and the Himalayas on the Eurasian continent. Even in an air age, such a defense line can be a great asset.

But this heavy concentration of natural barriers in the northeast has at least two other implications. First, an airborne operation from Trans-Caucasia would have to traverse less than 300 miles of mountain terrain to reach the plain of northern Iraq. Once Soviet power were extended, in peace or war, south of the Taurus-Zagros line the entire region would be wide open to further invasion. The Anti-Lebanon and the Lebanon ranges are too close to the sea to allow for strong deployment. A defense line across the Sinai peninsula would, at best, protect Africa. On the other hand, the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean are close enough on either flank to bring the entire region within easy range of Western carrier-based aircraft. Similarly, the Eastern Mediterranean and Persian Gulf coasts offer a number of ports and beaches suitable for amphibious landings, so that a Soviet-occupied Near East would be highly vulnerable to re-invasion by Western forces.

The Turkish army with its 22 infantry divisions and six armored brigades--about 500,000 men in all--is the largest land force not only in the Near East but in NATO as well. The next largest army, at the periphery of the region, is that of Pakistan with close to 200,000 men. The Arab countries and Iran have a total of around 300,000 men under arms, but among military experts only the two divisions of Jordan's British-trained Arab Legion and possibly Egypt's army of approximately 80,000 would be considered to come close to modern standards of training, organization and equipment. The valor of the Turkish soldier has won high praise from those who observed the Turkish brigade in action in Korea, and Turkey over the last seven years has been allocated over one billion dollars in Western military aid-- both for heavy equipment and for construction of facilities such as ports, airfields and supply routes. Since Turkey has one of the few effective conscription systems in the region there is a pool of trained or partly trained reserves of well over a million men. On the other hand, one out of every two recruits is illiterate and the only mechanical skills he commands are likely to be those acquired during his military service. Turkey's industrial plant, vastly improved as a result of the government's recent efforts and of American aid, still is inadequate to service let alone replace her army's mechanized equipment.

American military aid to Pakistan and to Iraq has only just begun. There is little heavy industry in the Arab countries and in Iran. Israel alone offers--in addition to a well-trained army capable of instant mobilization to a level of about 200,000 men --something approaching adequate repair and maintenance facilities for a region-wide war effort. But in view of recent increased tension and violence along her borders there seems to be less prospect than ever that Israel can be integrated into a region-wide defense system. In short, much of the trained manpower and nearly all the military equipment for an effective defense of the region will have to be supplied from the outside.

Turkey, aside from having the best defensive terrain and the largest army, also has the longest road and rail network of the region. Two trunk lines link Turkey with Iraq and the Persian Gulf, and with Syria and Jordan; a third, the Trans-Iranian line, connects the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea. All major rail lines are single track, and the routes in Turkey and Iran pass over many bridges and through numerous tunnels. There are some excellent ports, such as Izmir, Beirut, Haifa, Alexandria and Basra, and others are under construction--e.g. at Iskenderun, at Latakia and on Cyprus. The region's military airfields are sufficiently dispersed to afford some security against enemy attack. There are major bases at Dhahran in Sa'udi Arabia and at Habbaniyah in Iraq, as well as numerous larger and smaller fields in Turkey, on Cyprus, in the Suez Canal Zone, in Libya, in French North Africa and in Spain.

Whatever the Near East lacks in military training, equipment, communications and even industrial plant could largely be remedied, given sufficient funds, competent advice and time. The most serious obstacles to an effective and integrated defense of the region, however, are neither military nor industrial but rather political. The deep-rooted disunity among the peoples concerned and their distrust of the West have so far thwarted all diplomatic attempts at fashioning an inclusive Near Eastern security system, have slowed efforts toward economic development and have opened many avenues for Soviet propaganda and diplomacy.


The Near East bristles with boundary disputes and other international frictions. Greece, Britain and Turkey have fallen out over Cyprus; Syria after 16 years still smarts at the loss of Iskenderun to Turkey; Arab relations have been perplexed by rivalry between Hashemites and Sa'udites and between Egypt and Iraq; Egypt has not forgotten her dream of a unified Nile valley; Afghanistan has claimed independence for the Pushtu border region of Pakistan; Pakistan and India have been at odds over Kashmir. There has been a revolution in Egypt, a succession of military coups in Syria, a series of authoritarian régimes in Iran, and chronic governmental instability in Iraq, while Turkey lately has been in the throes of a severe economic crisis. Worst of all, the Palestine dispute, temporarily adjourned by the armistices of 1949, periodically has threatened to throw the region back into war. The misery of close to a million destitute Arab refugees, the Arab economic boycott and partial blockade of Israel, the rival claims to water, the continual border incidents, have all this time embittered the conflict on both sides.

In relations between the Arabs and the West the Palestine question has long provided the chief irritant. During the period following the First World War and for close to a century before that the West's interest in the Near East had been primarily commercial and strategic. In Palestine alone did colonialism imply colonization. The Zionists, invited by the British mandate and supported by American funds, had come to stay: they proclaimed nationhood for Israel at the very moment when colonialism was in full retreat elsewhere in the region. Common opposition to Israel and to her Western supporters thus has become one of the few effective political bonds among the Arab states.

But generally Near Eastern attitudes toward the West have tended to be ambivalent. Western technical and military superiority, from the late eighteenth century onward, provided both the chief incentive and the chief psychological obstacle to Westernization. In their diplomacy, the governments of the region soon took to playing off the more remote Western Powers against those closer at hand, and major European wars were seized on as opportunities for securing greater independence. Iran long maintained a precarious sovereignty amid opposing pressures from Britain and Russia. The Arabs in the First World War invoked British help to throw off Ottoman rule, while during the Second World War men like the Mufti of Jerusalem, the Egyptian Premier Ali Mahir, and Rashid Ali, leader of the Iraq coup in 1941, were tempted to align with the Axis in order to oust the British. From their narrow perspective, many Near Easterners --and especially Arabs, who have had no direct contact with Russia--tend to see the present world conflict as just another dispute among two groups of European Powers. Once again the temptation is to profit from tension among the Powers to promote one's own political aspirations.

Regional disunity and animosity towards the West have long been familiar in many parts of the world. But there are several reasons--all implicit in what has been said before--why these attitudes have particularly serious implications in the Near East at this time. First, the Near East, unlike South and East Asia with its peninsulas and archipelagoes, is a compact region which is likely to stand or fall as a unit whether war is hot or cold. Second, containment of global aggression requires harmony along a broad belt: the effectiveness of any northern tier defense scheme, for example, is seriously impaired if it causes countries like Afghanistan, Syria or Egypt to veer to the other side. Third, the struggle of formerly dependent and agrarian areas for full sovereignty and industrialization has come to be inextricably and perilously interwoven with the present East-West contest. President Truman's Point Four message acknowledged this connection--but the Communists have been aware of it since Lenin's writings on colonialism. Their bold new program of supporting the nationalist and anti-Western aspirations of what they choose to call the "colonies and semi-colonies of Imperialist Powers" began as early as 1917. Although most of the Near East today is fully sovereign, the problem of colonial devolution still presents itself in its classical form in such areas as Cyprus and North Africa: how to foster responsible self-government, a viable economy and external security before demands for independence have become irresistible. Any hesitation and any miscalculation in this policy field is apt to hurt the Western cause not only by poisoning our relations with the region but by providing high-test fuel for the Kremlin's propaganda machine.

Despite its many military weaknesses and political difficulties, the Near East has so far proved relatively safe from the Soviet threat. The Turkish army, supported in the mid-forties by the British and more recently by the United States, guarded the forbidding Eastern Anatolian mountains and thus served as a deterrent to rash military ventures. The British treaties with Iraq and Jordan and, above all, British control of Suez protected the southern parts of the region. (In World War II the Suez base supported as many as 41 divisions--roughly equivalent to all the forces now under arms in the entire northern tier region, and as late as 1954 British maintenance troops there still outnumbered Egypt's armed forces.) In 1945-47 local opposition, supported by Western military assistance and Western diplomacy, thwarted the last major Soviet bid for expansion into the Near East. Communist troops were defeated or withdrawn in Greece and Iran, and Soviet diplomatic overtures for a foothold along the Turkish straits, on the Dodecanese or in Libya, went unheeded.

In the years following 1947, Soviet preoccupation with China and the Far East may have contributed to alleviating the pressure on the Near East. Meanwhile the admission of Greece and Turkey into NATO (1951) consolidated the Western position, as did agreements for British bases in Jordan and Libya and American airfields in Libya and Sa'udi Arabia. Yet Western diplomats for many years were mainly preoccupied with attempts at settling the Palestine, Anglo-Egyptian and Anglo-Iranian disputes. Their effort to organize a comprehensive Middle East Defense Organization failed as it ran head-on into Arab animosity over the Palestine issue and Egyptian demands for evacuation of Suez and the Sudan. Following his Near Eastern tour in the spring of 1953, Mr. Dulles suggested a fresh solution to the problem. A Middle East Defense Organization, he cautioned, was "a future rather than an immediate possibility;" "no such system can be imposed from without." The United States therefore should work to "strengthen the interrelated defense of those countries which want strength, not as against each other or the West, but to resist the common threat to all free peoples." For the present at least, such willingness was found primarily among the northern tier of nations. The Turkish-Pakistani friendship pact in the spring of 1954, agreements for United States military aid to Iraq and Pakistan, and the Baghdad Treaty of mutual cooperation (February 1955) put this northern tier plan into effect. Subsequently Britain, Pakistan and Iran joined the Baghdad Treaty, and by late fall there seemed a possibility that Jordan might follow suit.

The most obvious advantage of the northern tier policy was that it broke the diplomatic log-jam that for years had hampered all efforts at integrated regional defense. In the event of military aggression, it will enable Western forces to fight a Russian advance along the crucial Zagros defense line. Psychologically Iran's accession to the Baghdad Treaty in October and the meeting of the Baghdad Treaty Council in November tended to offset some of the propaganda value of the Egyptian-Czechoslovak arms agreement. But the short-range, and even the ultimate, contribution of the Baghdad Pact should be judged cautiously. Its effectiveness will depend largely on the internal stability of each of the participating governments, at least two of which--in Iran and Iraq--have maintained themselves in power by almost completely silencing potential opposition. Iran, Iraq and even Pakistan are still seriously deficient in military equipment and training. Strategically, moreover, the northern tier concept is valid only as long as supply lines across other Arab countries remain open to the West--or at the very minimum as long as the "southern tier" countries can be relied upon to maintain a friendly neutrality in a moment of crisis. The only rail connection between Turkey and Iraq follows the Syrian border for about 300 miles and then cuts across 45 miles of Syrian territory. There are at present no rail lines or first-class roads from Turkey and Iraq into Iran or from Iran into Pakistan. The West's natural supply routes to all northern tier countries except Turkey thus run through Syria toward Iraq or through Suez to the Persian Gulf. In case of armed attack on the Near East it may be taken for granted that the West would be able to secure these lines of communication. But if the Czech arms deal proves to be only a prelude to Communist penetration of the "southern tier," the military value of the Baghdad Pact would be seriously jeopardized.

The Suez Canal remains the strategic hub of the entire region. The British agreement of October 1954 to evacuate Suez leaves the northern tier unguarded at a key point in its rear. Although Egypt has promised to let Britain re-activate the base in case of armed attack on any Arab country or on Turkey, there might not be time. Cyprus, because of its location and terrain, cannot (nor is it intended to) serve as a full substitute for the Canal Zone.

For a time there seemed to be hope that Egypt, having asserted her rights to Suez, might join Western defense arrangements of her own free will. Northern tier negotiations may in part have sought to speed Egypt's decision. But if such was the diplomatic plan, it clearly failed. Egypt's immediate reaction was to announce a military alliance, free from extra-regional associations, with Syria and Sa'udi Arabia. Moreover, there can be little doubt in retrospect that Iraq's adherence to the Baghdad Pact, by frustrating Egypt's long-standing ambition to lead the Arab states in matters of foreign policy, contributed to the recent Soviet-Egyptian move. Other important factors were the failure of Egypt's "Unity-of-the-Nile" policy in the face of British and later Sudanese opposition, mounting friction with Israel, and a military junta's need to placate its own army and to enhance its popularity by some dramatic gesture of independence.

In sum, Western policy has achieved a favorable alignment in part of the Near East at the cost of widening the gulf between the West and other countries in the region. It has sought to prepare positions of military strength at the risk of opening a wider field for Soviet propaganda and diplomatic manœuvre. The northern tier plan thus leaves open the question: How much better is half a regional defense system than none at all?


No evaluation of the Western defensive position in the Near East can be complete without some estimate, however tentative, of Soviet intentions and capabilities in the area. Three main possibilities should be considered.

(1) First there is the possibility of an all-out attack on the West, with fission and fusion bombs and long-range missiles. In such a war, it seems safe to say, the Near East would not be among the primary Soviet targets. Assuming the purpose was a surprise knockout blow against the West, Russia's only immediate interest in the Near East would be to destroy Allied air bases as a means of reducing the scale of massive retaliation.

From our standpoint, defense of the Near East is a means rather than an end in itself. The area contains neither the free institutions we are defending nor the industrial plant with which we must defend them. Its chief importance in an all-out type of war, then, would be to serve as one of several launching grounds (albeit the closest to target) for a Western counterattack on Soviet centers of industry and airpower. The force of the assault on the Near East would depend, therefore, on the amount of airpower the Soviets were willing and able to divert from their main objective. Defense against this kind of attack would depend almost entirely on Western air strength in the region.

(2) A Russian military invasion of the Near East by land and air might meet less immediate resistance than in Europe but would operate initially in far more difficult terrain. Military experts assume that forces now in the area could not long withstand a massive Russian offensive. But the Taurus-Zagros line, if properly built up within the framework of the Baghdad Treaty, might delay an invader for weeks, perhaps months. This would allow the West to rush in necessary reinforcements--always provided that southern supply lines remain open.

This second type of armed attack seems extremely unlikely as long as the Russians know that it will at once bring into play the West's full defensive and retaliatory power. It may be argued that since the days of Dienbienphu there has been little talk of massive retaliation and that the Soviets, relying on the mutually deterrent effect of nuclear weapons, will be tempted into limited military adventures without fear of full-scale reprisals. It may also be argued, even more plausibly, that as long as the Western front holds firm in Europe, the contest will be decided in other areas--i.e. the Near East, South and East Asia and Africa. The answer is that the Near East in peacetime already has what Southeast Asia lacked until the decisive days of the Indo-China campaign--the nucleus of a coherent regional defense system. The Western Powers are pledged to defend Greece and Turkey under NATO, and are linked to Pakistan through SEATO; Britain, Turkey and Pakistan in turn are pledged under the Baghdad Treaty to coöperate for the defense of Iran and Iraq. A statement that the Western Powers would consider any armed attack anywhere along Russia's Near Eastern frontier an attack on themselves would thus not be the result of any last-minute improvisation; in fact it is implicit in a carefully developed and long-standing policy. Any miscalculation of Western intentions in this region would be extremely perilous to the Kremlin. For Russia borders on the Near East without benefit of satellites (and except for Afghanistan without uncommitted buffer states); there is no North Korea and no Chinese People's Republic to bear the brunt of a counteroffensive. The creation of the northern tier grouping thus would seem to have greatly reduced the likelihood of any overt attack by land and air. There is one additional reason (and this one less comforting) why an armed invasion seems unlikely in the near future: the Soviets have been much too successful in following the third possible line of attack.

(3) The most immediate danger is of "peaceful" penetration by propaganda, diplomatic manœuvre, military and economic aid, followed perhaps by subversion and thinly disguised military action such as was employed a decade ago in Greece and Azerbaijan. There is no need to speculate on the likelihood of this type of offensive. The propaganda campaign has been in progress for years--carried on by local Communists, through Soviet information offices, at commercial fairs, during visits to Moscow of leaders like Abdel Nasser and Nehru, in the United Nations, and at Bandung. The news of the last four months has made it clear that the second phase--one of intense diplomatic manœuvre and military and economic aid--now is also in full swing. Soviet arms deliveries to Egypt are reported to include MIG planes, submarines and other heavy equipment--weapons, in short, which no Near Eastern country, or indeed any small Power, has ever had at its disposal except under regional security arrangements such as NATO. Not long ago the Soviet Ambassador to Cairo told newsmen he was looking forward to the arrival in the Near East of Soviet "economic missions, scientific missions, agricultural missions, meteorological missions, and any other kind of mission you can imagine. . . ." The conclusion of military pacts between Egypt, Syria and Sa'udi Arabia; the recent treaty of friendship between the Soviet Union and Yemen; Egypt's open support for North African nationalists; increasingly intimate Soviet-Afghan economic relations; and rumors that Russia might offer aid to the Palestine Arab refugees--all these open vistas that must be intensely tempting to the men of the Kremlin.

It would be presumptuous to suggest specific tactical moves on a fast-moving diplomatic scene--a large part of which, of necessity, is hidden from the public view. In fact it is easier to point to the dangers in various possible courses of action than to propose positive alternatives. A few concluding observations, however, may be in order.

Western statesmen are to be applauded for rejecting any thought of offering Egypt Western arms in lieu of those received from behind the Iron Curtain; this would have been tantamount to submitting to extortion. It is to be hoped that they also will discard any idea of matching Soviet arms for Egypt with equal quantities of Western arms for Israel or of offering her a one-sided security treaty (as opposed to a two-way border guarantee). Either of these steps would only add to the explosiveness of the situation and tend to drive the uncommitted Arab countries into Russia's arms. There is no question that the West must prevent by every means the resumption of full-scale war in Palestine--if only because such a war would almost certainly spread, and quite possibly spread out of control. To this end, it may ultimately be necessary to dispatch troops to separate the combatants physically--distasteful as such a move may seem. United Nations action for any such purpose would very likely be hampered by Soviet vetoes, or else would involve direct Soviet participation. Thus action by the existing Truce Organization may be preferable or, failing that, by the United States, Britain and France as signatories of the 1950 declaration on the status quo in Palestine. Indeed, to negotiate with the Russians directly for any kind of "settlement" of the Near Eastern crisis would seem both absurd and humiliating, for they can hardly be supposed to be sincere in their desire to "settle," except on their own terms, a situation which they have been at such evident pains to unsettle.

The greatest danger perhaps is that our legitimate and urgent concern over the explosive Palestine situation will lead us to overlook the wider implications of recent Soviet moves. These moves are not primarily a military threat, nor are they just a threat to Israel or even just to the Near East. What ultimately is at stake is the free world's position in the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean, in Southern Asia and Northern Africa. The West therefore should endeavor to consolidate its position in those areas and those policy spheres not immediately affected by the present crisis, while standing ready at every opportunity to counteract and repair the situation in the Near East. We must strengthen the defenses and communications of the northern tier while doing everything to forestall further infiltration in its rear. Since the West will increasingly be involved in competing with the Soviet bloc in the sphere of economic and technical assistance, much will be gained if such projects as the Assuan dam are completed with the aid of Western funds and Western experts. The defenses of areas like Libya, French North Africa, Ethiopia and Kenya will have to be reinforced. More important, it is to be hoped that with the return of Sultan ben Yussef the Moroccan question will be settled along the lines of the Franco-Tunisian agreement and of increasing scope for self-government, and that the Cyprus question will come closer to a solution before there is another series of major outbreaks.

For some time Egypt is likely to remain the key to the Near Eastern situation. Now that she has finally freed herself from what she considered the vestiges of British colonialism, it would be tragic if she were to throw herself recklessly into the arms of a far more selfish and ruthless colonialism. But we should not assume that Egypt has already done so or that her arms deal with Czechoslovakia has put her forever beyond the pale. The West must rid itself of the habit--still reflected in some of our official statements--of thinking of Near Eastern countries as wayward or compliant children rather than as free agents in international politics. The West also would do well to encourage the formation of viable groups of states, such as the British have promoted in their Central and West African territories. In the long run, a strong Northeast African bloc of, say, Egypt, the Sudan, Libya and Ethiopia--with or without formal ties to the West but determined and able to resist any outside attack--would be of immense value both to the region itself and to the cause of the free world.

A policy of defense perhaps must necessarily rely on a certain amount of improvisation from crisis to crisis. But even while it is engaged in putting out fires, Western policy should redouble its efforts to make the Near Eastern region less inflammable.

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