Opinion | America's Suez moment
By Tom Fowdy
In 1956, revolutionary Arabist leader Gamal Abdel Nasser forcefully nationalized the Suez Canal. The Canal, a legacy of British Imperialism and colonialism, had been built across the strait of land between the Sinai Peninsula and mainland Africa, creating a strategic waterway which connected the Red Sea to the Mediterranean, and as such bypassing Africa itself. British ownership of the Suez Canal company which maintained it, as part of its dominion over Egypt, was, therefore, a keystone in its power over multiple regions of the world.
But as the British Empire declined, and withdrew itself from Egypt, Nasser's nationalization of the canal delivered a shock to the British psyche. Naively, British Prime Minister Anthony Eden conspired with France and Israel to create a conflict with Egypt whereby the United Kingdom would intervene as a "peacemaker", remove Nasser and rightfully retake what was theirs. The planning behind this conflict of course assumed that Britain, despite being an empire in decline, was still the "global policeman" it had once depicted itself to be.
The proposed military action went ahead, and soon became a disaster as the UK found itself facing bilateral opposition from both the United States and the Soviet Union, which of course was the structural reality of the new world which the British Imperialist mindset had not adapted to. Nasser was backed by the USSR, and the US feared the escalation of the crisis into a superpower conflict. This created a run on the pound, and Britain was forced to withdraw in humiliation, facing a deeply unpleasant reality check as to where the legacy of the Empire was now headed.
Decades later, in a very different world, the United States and its proxies are now acting with absolute disdain over Emmanuel Macron's visit to China, where he called for lessening dependency on the US. Two newspapers, the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times, have published editorials which effectively call for preparing for and risking war over the fate of Taiwan. On Twitter, US funded think-tankers vent their spleen over France's betrayal of apparent transatlantic unity. It is obvious, and more so by the highly erratic and unstable mode of US foreign policy making, that the United States is struggling to come to terms with a perceived decline in power and status, and is exerting aggression in the pursuit of global hegemony.
But the world has changed, and the past month of China's diplomacy is undoubtedly a "Suez moment" for the United States. Beijing has demonstrated that it is capable of wielding influence on the global stage in a way that limits and checks American power, and has effectively ended the age of unilateral US hegemony whether so they like it or not. In this period, China has brokered a normalization deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Xi Jinping has visited Russia and proposed a novel solution to the Ukrainian conflict, which effectively limits America's demand that the war ends only on unilateral terms strategically favorable to it, and simultaneously avoiding falling into the US's coveted trap of military supplying Russia, and then on top of that has hosted Emmanuel Macron and landed a slap in the face of US attempts to force European unity against Beijing.
These developments have been of such a magnitude that when Washington D.C backed magazine, Foreign Policy, published an article yesterday saying China's "isolation" was growing, it was widely mocked for its ill-conceived timing, but it was nonetheless representative of the highly delusional and dogmatic thinking which clouds US foreign policy-making circles. But these events, are as mentioned, a Suez moment in which American power, in comparison to the peak of its hegemony in 1991, is ultimately on the decline and a multipolar world is emerging. The only question, however, is will the United States acknowledge this? Will they adapt their foreign policy to accommodate the new reality and become more pragmatic? Or will they continue in their effort to try and break up the current international order in order to forcefully assert their dominance?
The vitriol over Macron's visit might lead us to assume the latter. However, it will be a hallmark and testimony to Chinese diplomacy if they continue on the path they are on, and successfully constrain the United States without ever resorting to firing a single shot. The key to success is not to go to war over Taiwan, and hopefully, never ever need to do so, but to effectively secure resolutions on China's terms without a resort to conflict. America's Suez Moment is therefore not a violent ending or upheaval, but a drift into diplomatic irrelevance as the rest of the world is incentivized to shun their belligerence in favor of a more balanced global order.