On Power, Nationalism, Mossadegh & Iran Revolution
Marquis William Childs (1903-1990) was a columnist, author, foreign correspondent, lecturer and novelist for nearly half a century.
He began his career at The St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 1926 and later became its Washington bureau chief in 1962. Co-mingling with the powerful, Childs interviewed numerous Presidents and world leaders in the course of his distinguished career, and in 1970 was awarded the first ever Pulitzer prize for commentary. Childs wrote, co-authored or edited well over a dozen books, including the influential bestseller Sweden: The Middle Way (1936), Eisenhower: Captive Hero. A Critical Study of the General and the President (1958) and Ethics in a Business Society (1954), which studied “modern applications of Christian ethics” in economic circumstances.
Though Marquis Childs believed America ought to project its power throughout the world, he was also alarmed by the hubris that accompanies power. “My judgments have been tempered over the years by a growing awareness of the hazard of power”, he wrote in his 1975 book Witness To Power. “It may not be literally true that all power corrupts but the more it is exercised the more likely it is for the individual to deceive himself into believing that he is infallible. And when it comes to absolute power we have seen in this grisly century all too many examples of what that can mean.”
Childs had few qualms about supporting the Shah’s autocratic regime in Iran, however. Tracing his nationally syndicated column Washington Calling through the decades, one finds a confused and often diametric logic with respect to Iran.
Early in the oil dispute with Britain, Marquis Childs saw the potential consequences as not only dire—but extremely imminent:
But Childs was also gravely concerned about what the loss of oil supplies could mean to the West, with the ever present danger, he warned, of severe gas rationing in the U.S.
Childs’ main concern about nationalization was the threat it posed to foreign investors. Nationalism in Iran, he believed, was fueled by a “fanatical religiosity and skillfully exploited by communism”. As he wrote:
Childs emphasized the importance of bridge-building with India and its “brilliant and often temperamental genius” Premier, Jawaharlal Nehru, as the U.S. selected a new ambassador to replace Loy Henderson, who had been reassigned to Iran.
Childs noted in a June 21st column on Iran’s oil nationalization law that “the awesome and overriding respect for the supremacy of western military and economic power has gone.” In October, he lamented the dwindling of “Western prestige and power in the Middle East” and signaled America’s duty to “fill the vacuums left by the withering of British authority”. He saw both Iran and Egypt as hotbeds of “fanatical nationalism” and suggested United States intervention in both areas to resolve the situation:
Having ‘lost’ China, Childs imagined the U.S. post-mortems for Egypt and Iran if the West continued to dawdle, hem and haw:
In 1952, Childs wrote about the implications of U.S. antitrust laws with regard to its proposed management of Iranian oil in a mostly professional, reporter-like manner. Yet he couldn’t resist getting in this pot-shot:
After Mossadegh was overthrown largely as a result of the CIA plot Operation Ajax, Childs reacted more soberly than many of his fellow pundits:
In 1954, Childs used this reference anecdotally:
After the Bay of Pigs Invasion which failed to topple Fidel Castro, Childs wrote that “errors of appraisal and understanding have been evident in other trouble spots where revolutionary change has been confronted with the claims of the status quo.”
“Certainly nothing should be done to harm the position of the Shah”, wrote Childs in late November 1978, when the U.S.’ stalwart ally was declining. Childs admitted, however, that SAVAK had been “exceptionally cruel and repressive”.
After the 1979 revolution went in motion, Childs termed the banishment of the Shah (whom he and his wife had met in his Tehran palace in May 1975) a “tragedy” and proposed direct U.S. military intervention in response. He took this idea directly to President Carter’s Chief of Staff, Hamilton Jordan:
A month later, Childs ruminated on the lessons of the Iranian revolution...
...only to immediately contradict himself:
Marquis Childs Columns:
Desperate Situation in Iran Calls tor Action: Three Steps Suggested — May 25, 1951
West Is Losing In Middle East — October 18, 1951
Anti-Trust Laws Ended Iranian Move — November 11, 1952
Iran’s New Regime -- The West’s Last Chance — August 26, 1953
Columnist Stewart Alsop Suggests U.S. “Choose” Shah of Iran — December 10, 1951
VIDEO: NBC News’ Camel News Caravan on Iran Referendum, August 6, 1953
The Bystander Is Too Innocent — LIFE magazine, August 11, 1952
MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”