West Is Losing In Middle East

October 18, 1951 — Marquis Childs

The Mossadegh Project | March 29, 2016                        

Marquis Childs (1903-1990) In October 1951, United Features syndicated columnist Marquis Childs predicted doom and gloom for the United States if it did not act quickly to save countries like Egypt and Iran from Soviet domination.

Though condemning Washington for losing China, Childs also came to the defense of President Harry Truman’s appointee as UN Ambassador, Philip C. Jessup (1897-1986), then under scrutiny for his Chinese policies.

China, it will be remembered, became Communist in 1949, under Truman and Acheson’s watch.

Washington Calling
Middle East Is Going the Way of China —
Being Lost to West

WASHINGTON — While the post mortem on America’s China policy, if any, grinds on and on, the Middle East is going the way of China. That is to say, it is rapidly being lost by the West.

Apparently we never get around to these things until there is a corpse to be fought over. In the Middle East there is a good chance that we shall soon have several corpses. And in a few years the post-mortem will be on who lost Iran, Iraq, Egypt, etc.

You can see the witnesses squirming under the interrogation. Did you ever intend to abandon Iran to Communism? Where were you on the night of Oct. 18, 1951, and didn’t you at one time have a conversation in Tehran with a member of the Tudeh Communist-dominated party?

This extraordinary folly recalls once again Winston Churchill’s words spoken in June of 1940 when all of the West seemed about to go down: “If the past undertakes to sit in judgment on the present, then the future will be lost.”


The historical forces at work in Egypt have some parallel with those that ran their course in the China catastrophe. The roots of the trouble are above all, in a colonialism that ignored the aspirations of masses of people in a dynamic and swiftly changing world.

The British signed a treaty of mutual defense with Egypt in 1936. Under that treaty they agreed to do certain things in return for the right to maintain bases in the Suez Canal area. One obligation was to train Egyptian forces and help to integrate them into a common defense.

The Egyptians say this was never done. They say that if Britain had taken the ablest young Egyptian officers to England and had given them training in such crack military schools as Sandhurst, they could have taken the leadership in forming an Egyptian army with a Western orientation.


If ... if ... if ... the land of lost opportunity. A little opportunity may still be left. The British proposal for an international commission that would appraise the British administration in the Sudan is a start. It avoids any complication with Soviet Russia.

But should this prove unacceptable to Egypt, then a United Nations trusteeship should be proposed as quickly as possible in spite of the hazard of the Russia veto or, worse, Russian participation in such a trusteeship. U.N. action would almost inevitably have to be in preparation for the departure of British administrators from the Sudan.

Egyptian spokesmen say they can starve out the British troops by shutting off supplies of food and water and thereby forcing them in a comparatively short time to get out. British spokesmen say they can hold out for years by bringing in their own supplies. That way invites disaster. It is readying up the corpse for the next post-mortem.

This process of post-mortem has about it an air of almost suicidal futility. That senators should at this point in world history spend time deciding what Henry Wallace meant or did not mean, and if he meant it who influenced him to mean it, in a pamphlet written in 1946 is a phenomenon historians will have a difficult time explaining.


It is, moreover, grossly and wickedly unfair, inasmuch as if scenes to impugn the loyalty of individuals who may have been mistaken but who were sincerely and honestly seeking the best way out of an almost impossible situation. What is happening in the nomination of Philip Jessup to be one of the American delegation to the meeting of the UN General Assembly is a tragic case in point.

This controversy has become so involved, so complicated, that no one can any longer tell where right or wrong lies or even whether there is a right or a wrong in the tangled mess of China’s downfall. But meanwhile, Jessup is being sacrificed to the fears, the prejudices and the politics of those who mean to pin the guilt on someone.

If it were a crime to be mistaken, a very high percentage of the members of Congress would be in jail today and on one score alone. The moment the war ended both Republicans and Democrats demanded that the boys be brought home, often accompanying this with a denunciation of the brass hats. This, in itself, had a lot to do with creating the vacuums of power from which so many of our current troubles stem.

Alternate headlines:

Death Looms In Middle East
Post-mortems in Britain and U.S.
Is the Middle East Going Like China?
IF--the Land of Lost Opportunity
Post-Mortems on Past Imperil Present, Future Not So Inscrutable at Present
Republican Investigators Scream ‘Who Lost China?’ ...And While They Probe, Egypt Slips Away

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Related links:

Iran Moves Toward Destruction; But It Could Yet Be Saved | Marquis Childs, May 25, 1951

And Now Egypt | The Decatur Herald and Review, October 11, 1951

Nationalization At Home Haunts Britain In Iran | Ivan H. Peterman, Oct. 3, 1951

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