The Historical Journal



A MICROCOSM OF DECLINE: BRITISH LOSS OF NERVE AND MILITARY INTERVENTION IN JORDAN AND KUWAIT, 1958 AND 1961


NIGEL JOHN ASHTON a1
a1 The University of Liverpool

Abstract

This article reinterprets the post-Suez British role in the Middle East through a comparison of the military interventions in Jordan in 1958 and Kuwait in 1961. Moreover, it places these operations in the broader context of the debate about British decline. It is argued that in addition to the familiar constraints on British action imposed by limited resources and the changing international climate, the projection of power in the region proved to be a great test of nerve for British ministers and officials. Paradoxically, this proved to be true as much of the successful interventions in Jordan and Kuwait as of the earlier failure over Suez. Utilizing very recently released documents from British and American archives, the article aims to shed light on the dynamics of decline at the microcosmic level, in the belief that insights gleaned here may well be of value in revising macrocosmic theories of the process.