As the foreign affairs reporter for the Washington Post, I spent many months following the course of both the Indochina and Suez affairs. Eden's Indochina account, especially those parts involving the American efforts under Dulles' leadership to bring about allied intervention in the war with the Communists, is in accord with the known facts. It is largely confirmatory. Here, for the first time, a major participant in the events tells the story of Dulles' desire to strike militarily and the willingness of Admiral Radford, then chairman of the American Joint Chiefs of Staff, to bomb Communist airfields in mainland China if the Chinese countered a United States intervention by intervening themselves.
Here is confirmation that there was an American plan for a naval air strike to save the then beseiged fortress of Dien Bien Phu on April 28 and that the President was willing to go to Congress a few days in advance to ask for sanction. The whole effort collapsed because the British, led by Eden, refused to have any part in it. After the publication in the Times of London of this section of the Eden book, Eisenhower told a press conference that Eden had mistaken Dulles' actions, that Dulles had been talking only of "possibilities that might . . . be considered as proposals, when they were not meant [as] that at all." But this, too, is disingenuous. The record is clear and includes Dulles' own account in his famous "brink of war" interview in Life magazine in 1956.
The quarrel with Eden's history centers on his account of Suez. It is not, however, a matter of commission but of omission. Eden's reason for sending British armed forces into Egypt along with the French after the Israeli strike across Sinai, the reason he announced in the House of Commons, was to "separate the belligerents and to guarantee freedom of transit through the canal by the ships of all nations." This was, in fact, only a device to strike at Nasser in hopes of bringing him down. But Eden is stuck with the explanation, because at the time he flatly denied any connivance with Israel. He now remains silent on a critical part of the story. This is what happened when Eden, his Foreign Secretary, Selwyn Lloyd, Mollet, and his Foreign Secretary, Christian Pineau, met alone in Paris on October 16. Eden contends that the four men "reviewed alternatives" and that the British asked the French to tell the Israelis, because "our relations with Israel were not close or intimate," that "an attack on Jordan would have to be resisted by us." As it turned out, the talk of art Israeli attack on Jordan helped to confuse Washington and served as a cover for the strike at Egypt.
There is, however, very strong circumstantial evidence, most of it already published in the American and foreign press, that it was at this October 16 conference that Britain and France agreed to strike at Egypt in concert with an Israeli attack. It is known, for example, that from that day until the war broke out there was what Dulles later called a "blackout" in Anglo-American diplomatic relations. American officials in London, and in Paris and Israel as well, were given the runaround. Dulles' efforts to find out what was going on not only availed nothing, but on October 28 the American ambassador in London, Winthrop Aldrich, was told by Lloyd that Britain was very hopeful of a peaceful Canal settlement. Yet Eden states in his book that it was on October 25 that the British Cabinet "discussed the specific possibility of conflict between Israel and Egypt and decided in principle how it would react if this occurred." If one or both sides refused to stop hostilities, the Cabinet decided, "then British and French forces would intervene as a temporary measure to separate the combatants." Dulles rightly felt he had been deceived when that plan was put into effect.