“Instead of going back to diplomacy of the poisoned chalice, the hidden dagger, and the pulled rug, we should try something more modern and a lot more worthy of us as Americans.”
To intervene or not to intervene...it’s a timeless question of foreign policy-makers.
Three years after the 1953 coup, while the Suez Canal dispute between Egypt and Britain was boiling over, journalist Holmes Alexander (1906-1985) suggested the United States not be party to any other foreign intrigues. Such activities, argued Alexander—nationally syndicated columnist, former member of the House of Delegates, friend to Barry Goldwater, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, and author of over over a dozen books—are not only hypocritical, but contrary to the national interest.
In the post-war/Cold War atmosphere of the mid-20th century, this was a rare viewpoint to espouse—those that tried were usually drowned out, overruled, muzzled or simply ignored.
“The moral and spiritual aspects of both personal and international relationships have a practical bearing which so-called practical men deny”, wrote Vice President Henry A. Wallace in his 1944 article, “The Danger of American Fascism”.
In his 1951 farewell address, Gen. Douglas MacArthur urged a departure from the colonial era: “...[T]he Asian peoples covet the right to shape their own free destiny”.
Quoted in 1952 on U.S. policies in Asia, Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas remarked, “We have taken a rough, militant, demanding attitude. We have been seeking ground bases for airplanes, when we should have been looking for bases in the hearts of people”.
Meddling in the affairs of other countries has become a bipartisan U.S. tradition. As Holmes Alexander observed in his column seen below:
“It is fashionable in party politics these days for Democrats to be interventionalists in European affairs and Republicans in Asian affairs. But there’s certainly a strong all-American argument for intervening nowhere at all.”
Decades later, Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) would garner a major following on a platform featuring non-interventionism. This approach has yet to be incorporated by the political establishment, however, even with a Commander in Chief, Barack Obama, who rose to power peddling “Change”.
On the Political Front
MOSSADEGH: A LESSON FOR NASSER?
WASHINGTON—It’s one of those never-ending touches of historical drama that pathetic old Mohammed Mossadegh, one-time nationalization premier of Iran, comes out of prison at the very time Premier Nasser of Egypt, another nationalizer, is reaching the top of the stairs.
If there is a rug up there, Nasser can start looking for a sly British hand to give it a yank. The apparent Downing Street way of getting rid of nationalizers is to finance a palace revolt and have the fellow thrown out. In Iran in 1951 the British rug-pullers received more than a little support and encouragement from the United States [the rug was pulled in August 1953]. There is even indications that the same power play is to be repeated in Egypt.
“The American way has often been, and still should be, one of Iran-for-Iranians and Egypt-for-Egyptians. When premiers are overthrown, or pretenders are assassinated, let it be done by other than American hands.”
There are those who delight in this Old World intrigue with the same relish that they feed on One World fantasy, but it’s not for everybody. My own opinion would be that all such intrigue is as un-American as the Medici, while the global fantasy of perpetual intervention belongs to the dream world of old emperors who used to scheme over their cups about conquering the world. The American way has often been, and still should be, one of Iran-for-Iranians and Egypt-for-Egyptians. When premiers are overthrown, or pretenders are assassinated, let it be done by other than American hands. Our 20th century record in colonialism is best shown in the Philippines and Puerto Rico.
It will be said that the loss of Iranian oil, as well as any hindrance to our use of the Suez Canal, would be against the interest of this country. Yes, they would be against our immediate interests. The only argument is whether we are willing and wise to abandon high political principles and to act upon expediency for the sake of short-term interests.
If we do put expediency ahead of morality we should know what we are doing and should say so. And if we’re going to join these Old World orgies in the name of One World, then we should stop acting scandalized when other nations press the course of their own empires over smaller nations. It is arguable that Soviet Russia had the same necessity to intrigue against [Czech statesman] Jan Masaryk and Cardinal Joseph Mindszenty [anti-communist Catholic Church leader in Hungary] as the British did against Old Mossy and Archbishop Makarios of Cyprus. The bulwark of the East European satellite states is just as helpful to Russia’s interest in the Orient as the Suez Canal is to Britain’s stake in that same part of the world. If we are going to lend a hand in the downfall of Colonel Nasser, we cannot piously object if Communist Russia and Red China reach for the rug upholding certain generalissimos in Formosa and Spain.
It is fashionable in party politics these days for Democrats to be interventionalists in European affairs and Republicans in Asian affairs. But there’s certainly a strong all-American argument for intervening nowhere at all. If the Middle East is shaping up, as has been said, as “another Korea”, the people of United States should have a say-so following the party line. Let’s not have anymore “undeclared” wars for awhile.
“...if we’re going to join these Old World orgies in the name of One World, then we should stop acting scandalized when other nations press the course of their own empires over smaller nations.”
While the closing off of Suez would adversely affect our immediate interests, it is far from certain that our long-range welfare would suffer any harm. Was the Berlin blockade a bad thing for our side? Not at all. As we look back on it now, the Soviet blockade of the German metropolis Bristol put us to a useful challenge. We responded in a manner that made us far better friends to the Germans and far better operators in the field of freight-lift aviation. Was the Japanese capture of the British Malayan peninsula a bad thing for the USA? Not in the long run. We now supply 60 per cent of our own rubber from our own farms and mineral reserves. Historically, the closing of doors on foreign trade has opened magic casements on self-sufficiency at home.
If the Egyptian dictator should permanently shut the Suez Canal (a most unlikely thing at best), we have every reason to suppose from past performance that the USA would rise to the challenge as before. The possibilities, of course are infinite. The means are already at hand. The President has just signed a bill for an atomic merchant ship. Air Force General Twining says we are working hard on an atomic airplane. It would be that we are approaching the end of the canal-era anyhow. Certainly we are not going to suffer much from losing the 4 per cent of our total oil consumption which comes from the Middle East. An industrial chemist recently told me this one:
“I have just been moving from one home to another,” he said, “and in the attic I found my high school essay entitled ‘Are We Running Out of Oil?’ The conclusions on an oil shortage which I reached 35 years ago are exactly the ones you can hear today and are just as plausible”.
The Egyptian situation does call upon President Eisenhower and Secretary Dulles for a nervy decision, but not the one that the intriguers have in mind. Instead of going back to diplomacy of the poisoned chalice, the hidden dagger, and the pulled rug, we should try something more modern and a lot more worthy of us as Americans.
There is a practical reason for being moral this time. By refusing to do the wrong thing, even if the wrong thing seems to our narrow advantage today, there is promise of far greater reward for making economic progress toward a better future.
The Los Angeles Times titled the column, “MOSSADEGH: A LESSON FOR NASSER?”. The Titusville Herald (Pennsylvania) went with “The Sands of Egypt”.
The Charleston Daily Mail (South Carolina) titled it “The British Will Give A Big Tug On the Rug”, but lopped off the last four paragraphs.