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The following study examines the relationship between competing national interests and the implementation of multilateral diplomacy as characterized by the United Nations. Although primary attention focuses on the events Suez Crisis of 1956, the scope of work analyzes this dichotomy from the Suez Canal’s construction to the post-Suez era of the 1960s. Adopting a more comprehensive approach to understanding the crisis and its impact on international diplomacy provides adds a new and timely perspective to scope of the crisis and the complexities of conflict resolution.
In many respects, the diplomatic maneuvering of the nineteenth century remained a constant in diplomatic exchange leading up to the Suez crisis. As the canal’s architect, Ferdinand de Lesseps marginalized international differences in order to win support for the fulfillment his own ambitions. De Lesseps’s tactics gained in popularity throughout the remainder of the century as British politicians and early Zionists presented their particular interests as broader, universal goals. This became the operational model for many twentieth century leaders and diplomats. Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, President Eisenhower, and U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles used similar methods to in order to enlist support for their Cold War agenda. Egyptian Prime Minster Gamal Abdel Nasser and other nationalists usurped pluralistic initiatives to serve state interests. Virtually all of these efforts heightened international tensions within and between blocs of interests.
Concomitant with these developments, some members of the international community engaged in more genuine multilateral diplomatic pursuits. International civil servants inside the United Nations, including UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld, advanced ideas that placed the international interest above the agenda of any single country. During the Suez Crisis of 1956, the Lebanon Crisis of 1958, and the Congo Crisis of 1960, this diplomatic alternative helped defused tensions.
Rather than encourage independent multilateralism, national leaders established closer relations with non-government organizations through which they could continue to exercise influence without sacrificing control. After the Suez crisis, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), and the European Economic Community (EEC) all sought greater conformity. The sense of interdependency was lost.