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Quarterly Notes

The Eisenhower Doctrine

(Winter 1957)

From The New International, Vol. XXIII No. 1, Winter 1957, pp. 3–6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

From the “greatest Secretary of State I have ever known,” President Eisenhower obtained his latest “doctrine” for a solution of the Middle East crisis. No great departure in American foreign policy has emerged with this doctrine, since, like previous policies, it is an attempt to maintain the world leadership of the United States through essentially military predominance. Economic assistance promised to the Arab nations is subordinated to it. Actually, this new objective of containing Stalinist Russia is another variation of Dulles’ diplomacy, or what the current Progressive aptly calls “dangling one foot over the brink of war.” Under it the President may engage the nation in a military adventure if and when he feels that it is necessary, without discussion and without prior endorsement by Congress.

This doctrine, drawn to provide the means for engaging in war with Stalinist Russia, is, paradoxically, described as a great instrument of peace. “I don’t think,” said the Secretary, “anybody ever thought the Monroe Doctrine was a declaration of war. It was a declaration of peace, and that is what we are bringing here.” But the essence of the Eisenhower Doctrine is more accurately presented in the description Dulles gave of it in his testimony before the Senate Committee. There he said:

We would want to limit our activity to the minimum necessary to accomplish the objective, and if the objective could be accomplished by local action, certainly that would be all that would be undertaken. If it required action outside of the area, for example, to attack staging areas, lines of communication, and the like, then that would be done. I do not envisage the possibility that there would be, for example, an all-out attack on the Soviet Union unless it was quite apparent that what was happening was deliberately intended to be the beginning of the Third World War. In that event, we might have to act differently. Those are matters which inevitably have to be left to the judgment of the Commander-in-Chief.

Although we do not believe the danger of war to be as acute as it was several years ago (as a matter of fact, the danger of a new world conflict has receded considerably), the whole thinking of the Administration in the continuing world crisis revolves around “ultimate military solutions.” In general, American foreign policy is fundamentally undemocratic. It is undemocratic in its world perspectives as they relate to the aspirations and yearnings of the people of the world; it is undemocratic in relation to the people of the United States, since it ignores the interests of the people.

At the end of the Second World War, the ferment throughout the continental land masses containing millions upon millions of colonial peoples began. It has continued unabated. The achievement of colonial independence resolved only the first problems for the newly established nations. The problems of infinitely greater magnitude, those of economic and social reconstruction, the requirements of tremendous amounts of basic capital for growth – to these great problems, American foreign policy has been bankrupt and, above all, reactionary. The United States has not presented itself as the great spokesman of a new economic and political revolution in the colonial world, but rather as the heavy-handed defender of the old order, not the defender of the old colonial regimes, but the defender of feudal and private property rights where they conflict with the needs of the masses.

Among the Western allies, the United States appears as the provider of the goods of life, at a price: support of American position and policy in the world, regardless of the national bourgeois interests of these Allies.

It is a fact that American prestige in the world has never been lower. But it cannot be said that it wasn’t rightfully earned. The colonial peoples do not regard the United States as the advocate of their economic, social and political freedom, and American foreign policy has never been calculated to overcome these feelings of the people; on the contrary, it has enforced them. Where American policy has not been outwardly or directly motivated against the best interests of the new Asian states, it has been highly ambiguous. So reactionary or so ambiguous, that Supreme Court Justice Douglas, for example, has publicly deplored the whole substance of the visionless foreign policy of the nation.

THE TWO MOST SIGNIFICANT world events in recent times are the crisis in world Stalinism epitomized by the revolt in the satellite countries of Poland and Hungary, and the crisis in the Middle East. In both events, the policies of the State Department have been irresolute, fitful, and ambiguous. Improvization and expediency have characterized the Administration’s responses to these stupendous occurrences. However “daring” the declarations of Dulles may have sounded, in every instance they were reduced to glib moralizing and sanctimony, to which the Secretary is ever prone. As the Hungarian events have shown, bombast is a poor substitute for policy.

It might be asked: what could the United States have done in the face of the Hungarian events? Send troops into the country and risk the danger of a new world war? Obviously not. But American propaganda prior to the outbreak of the revolt was misleading to the people who eventually did the fighting. Propaganda broadcasts called for a revolt against the tyranny of Stalinism; the people were led to believe by indirection and implication that they would be aided in their struggle by the “democratic West.” Short of an over-all revolutionary world policy based upon the people of all countries, the aid which the country could have given to the Hungarian revolutionaries was indeed limited. But even this limited aid was not forthcoming. Moreover, as if to emphasize its bankruptcy, American treatment of the Hungarian refugee problem was once again reactionary. No bold, forthright and honest solution of the refugee problem has been, or will be, achieved. At home, the refugee problem is in the hands of our native Neanderthals, so that the tiny, resourceless country of Austria is left with the major share of the problem. Is it any wonder that anti-American feeling among the Hungarian refugees in Europe runs high? The refugees feel deceived. They feel that they were promised goods that were never delivered. The American attitude toward the Hungarian revolt on the one hand hailed the heroic struggle against the Russian colossus, and on the other, worried and wondered about the implications of the revolution as method, and the Workers Councils as instrument, of the rebellion.

In the Middle East, American foreign policy has one dominating motive force: oil. For the sake of oil the government has bribed half a continent. On behalf of oil, it has clashed with its Allies, condoned slavery, and embarked on a high policy of what amounts to financial bribery of the most miserable rulers in the world, the Arab chiefs of state. For the friendship of King Saud, the United States refused to subscribe to the anti-slavery covenant of the United Nations. For the purpose of dominating the area, it refused to join the Baghdad pact which it helped to initiate. It has denounced Israel and given support to Nasser’s regime in Egypt at a time when it appeared that the dictator was on his way out. It has turned its back on its chief NATO Allies, Great Britain and France, who joined the Israel invasion of the Sinai Peninsula, with their own ill-conceived and ill-fated, imperialist venture at Suez.

Then, in great haste the Administration has sought to repair this debacle by the elaboration of the Eisenhower Doctrine, in which it reassured these same Allies and sounded a warning to the Arabs about the implications of Russian aid to the area. The Eisenhower Doctrine, however, was ill received by the Arab. Nations. They rejected the Eisenhower-Dulles thesis of the Middle Eastern vacuum; they are hostile to the suggestion that their area of the world become the next battleground in the struggle of the powers. In almost all the Arab countries, the reaction to the doctrine has been vigorous enough to cause the State Department to put all its resources behind reassurances to the Arabs. One of the Department’s minor (or is it major?) efforts in this direction was the invitation to Saud to come to the United States to arrange for his next handout so that he might purchase more concubines, slaves, automobiles, and keep his armed and hired assassins loyal to him. Creating a schism in Arab ranks is no doubt also an objective inherent in the visit.

In all of this, the Administration has by-passed the UN. This omission has been so gross that Dulles and his Chief had to explain that really, nothing will actually be done without the UN, or that, in the end whatever commitments the United States makes in that area of the world, are in total conformity with the UN Charter! We are, in effect, says Dulles, carrying out the mandate of the UN in our Middle Eastern policy.

The endorsement of the Dulles-Eisenhower Doctrine for the Middle East may well give the Administration the assurance that the whole of Congress stands behind it in the “non-party” or “above-party” field of foreign affairs. It does not follow that this is true, even though overwhelmingly voted for. Congressional support was obtained for Administration policy, as it has been many times before, on the theory of crisis, an imminent threat to national sovereignty and the need for national unity. But what happens in the Congressional halls solves none of the problems in the Middle East, and certainly the “Doctrine” has solved nothing. It has merely expressed the Administration’s approach to the problems.

The paradox of this regime, if it is a paradox, is its reputation as a “peace” Administration. Up to now, it is true that war has not occurred and the danger of its outbreak is not imminent. The reasons for this lie in the concurrence of a number of large international events, not the least of which is the crisis of Stalinism. The mode of thinking of the Administration is, however, military. The economic aid program worked out by “The Team” is essentially subordinated to military exigencies. This is true for every part of the world, whether it be Europe, Asia or the Middle East. There is no such thing as “pure” economic aid as a part of American foreign policy, aid given on the premises of broad social programs of economic and political freedom. This business administration is utterly incapable of embarking on such a course, and therein lies its inability to neutralize or defeat Stalinism.

Stalinist Russia and world Stalinism have received terrible blows in recent years. That they have been considerably weakened by the contradictions of Stalinist expansion, and conflicts within the Stalinist orbit are now recognized by everyone. Yet the bourgeois world, under the tolerated leadership of the United States acts without vision.

Though the world was horrified at the cruel suppression of the Hungarian revolt by Stalinist Russia, the Kremlin yet makes progress in the trouble spots. The lingering imperialism of the Western powers still manages to neutralize the abhorrence of Stalinism in areas of the colonial world In other areas, it makes possible the advance of Stalinist imperialism. Already strained to the utmost by the demands made upon her by the satellite Stalinist states, Russia still finds it possible to intervene everywhere and most particularly at this moment in the Middle East.

The policies of Great Britain, France and Israel have made the Russian penetration of that area much simpler. Like a parasite, Russian totalitarianism thrives on the activities of Western imperialism, and appears as the champion of Arab independence, ready to assist these nations in their struggle for freedom, apparently without asking for any kind of quid pro quo. Its “disinterest” arises from the fact that the oil of the area is already in the hands of the West. With the expulsion of the West, Stalinist Russia could try to subject the Middle East to an exploitation it has not yet experienced. As an anti-capitalist nation, characterized by a new form of exploitation and oppression, Russia can and does appear as an advocate of freedom only because the capitalist West is incapable of shedding its economic imperialist interests in the Middle East.

The Middle East is thus the pawn in the great power struggle. The policies of Russia and the United States and their respective allies must and do overlook and override the basic interests of the cruelly exploited Arab masses and threatens these people with war. In this situation, the Arab rulers sit like tradesmen searching for the highest price in the market, for like the great powers, the needs and interests of their people are non-existent.

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