Eisen­how­er 1956: The President’s Year of Cri­sis, Suez and the Brink of War

David A. Nichols
  • Review
By – October 31, 2011

The year was 1956, Dwight Eisen­how­er was pres­i­dent, and the U.S. gov­ern­ment was con­sid­er­ing sanc­tions against Israel. And a block­ade. And, pos­si­bly even hav­ing to fight Israel. 

While these events may sound dis­tant and almost unfath­omable, they are a sig­nif­i­cant part of the sto­ry David A. Nichols tells. His book is an exten­sive­ly researched effort to chron­i­cle Eisenhower’s han­dling of the Suez Canal cri­sis, which cul­mi­nat­ed in Israel, Britain, and France fight­ing Egypt — and the Unit­ed States and Sovi­et Union stren­u­ous­ly object­ing to their efforts. The author focus­es on the lev­el-head­ed lead­er­ship of Eisen­how­er, who jug­gled the explo­sive cri­sis as he dealt with the Sovi­et inva­sion of Hun­gary, his health woes, and the 1956 election. 

Nichols likes Ike, but his sym­pa­thies don’t extend to Israel. Con­sec­u­tive chap­ters are titled Betray­al of Trust” and Dou­ble-Cross­ing Ike,” and the author high­lights Israel among Ike’s betray­ers. Nichols gen­er­al­ly casts Israel as bru­tal and devi­ous, with­out even any con­sid­er­a­tion that, for instance, an alliance among Egypt (and its new Sovi­et-sup­plied arms), Syr­ia, and Jor­dan would have giv­en Israel real rea­son to fear for its secu­ri­ty. This is disappointing. 

Anoth­er issue: Though Nichols is high­ly crit­i­cal of the Allies’ deceit­ful­ness, he doesn’t let him­self get too both­ered by the administration’s arti­fice about Ike’s pre­car­i­ous health before the 1956 elec­tion. End notes, index.

David Cohen is a senior edi­tor at Politi­co. He has been in the jour­nal­ism busi­ness since 1985 and wrote the book Rugged and Endur­ing: The Eagles, The Browns and 5 Years of Foot­ball. He resides in Rockville, MD.; his wife, Deb­o­rah Bod­in Cohen, writes Jew­ish children’s books.

Discussion Questions