An Interesting Historical Parallel – When is FDR like Nasser?
April 11, 2011 Leave a comment
I was intrigued by this Eric Margolis article in Lew Rockwell’s site today. Margolis is a man I often disagree with, particularly on the subjects of Israel, Islam and the EU, but he does trump most of the other foreign affairs ‘experts’ out there.
Margolis points out one of the main reasons Imperial Japan chose to attack the United States when it did:
When in late 1941, US President Franklin Roosevelt sought (my view) to push Japan into the war by imposing an embargo of oil and scrap metal on Japan, Tokyo had a two-year stockpile of oil.
Tokyo’s military-dominated government faced a stark choice: go immediately to war in hopes of a quick victory while there was still oil, or watch its oil stores dwindle way and thus face military impotence. War was the choice.
This all reminded me of another war under three decades later: Israel’s spectacular Six Day War, in which three Arab (Soviet-sponsored) armies were utterly humiliated, though this in turn left Israel with the curse of having to rule over another people until this day. One of the major catalysts of this war was the Egyptian decision to block ships bound for Israel through the Straits of Tiran, depriving Israel of most of its main access to oil. The Israelis were then facing a similar predicament to Japan’s in 1941.
One of the reasons I write this is to address the historical revisionism that has taken place around the Six Day War. Nasser knew by closing the Straits he would provoke Israel into making war, a war he was certainly looking to fight. UN peacekeeping troops had been expelled from the Sinai by the Egyptians with no opposition. Israel was on alert, but it was the closure of the Straits that made war inevitable. As Nasser said in a cabinet meeting on May 21st: ”Now with our concentrations in Sinai, the chances of war are fifty-fifty… But if we close the Strait, war will be a one hundred percent certainty”.
I suppose the main lesson from all this is that the great classical liberal theorist Frédéric Bastiat was right:
”When goods don’t cross borders, armies will”.