Cohen has written a detailed and authoritative study of Allied strategic contingency planning during the opening years of the Cold War. He makes a major contribution to an understanding of both British and American approaches to an important and volatile region. Carefully examining British and American war plans, he demonstrates the strategic dimension of British and American interest in the Middle East, showing that oil and influence were not the sole concerns. The region also played a major role in the strategy of both powers as they contemplated the prospect of general war with the Soviet Union.
British and American strategists believed Soviet conventional superiority to be so overwhelming that Western Europe was indefensible. Response to a Soviet attack would, therefore, consist of an aerial offensive using both conventional and atomic weapons. Delivery systems consisted of upgraded World War II bombers that required basing within range of Soviet targets. The possibility that Soviet air power could nullify the value of the British Isles as a base area meant that the Cairo-Suez region assumed great significance in Allied war planning. But London's traditional imperial interests in the region clashed with growing Egyptian nationalism while Arab-Israeli hostility made coherent strategic planning ever more problematic. When Washington shifted its focus to the Northern tier in 1954, London ultimately had to follow suit and recognize reluctantly that the United States had become the dominant Western power in the region.