The Atlantic Report on the World Today: Washington
LAST December 10, Nuri as-Said, the Premier of Iraq who was slain in the coup d’état, sat down with President Eisenhower in his White House office. His advice to the President was this: Israel should disappear as a state; Palestine should be partitioned according to the 1947 United Nations plan; the Jews could remain in the successor Arabcontrolled state, living in the enclaves which the partition would create.
Eisenhower, having been forewarned by Secretary Dulles, who had heard the same plea a day or two earlier, totally rejected the idea. Nuri’s visit was announced simply as a call from an old friend of the United States, for at that time he was exercising power in Iraq behind the scenes rather than directly as Premier.
The point of the story is simple, but it apparently was not grasped in official Washington. Here was Nuri, who out of fear of Communism (both at home and in the Soviet Union) had taken Iraq into the pro-West Baghdad Pact, proposing an Arab-Israeli solution which he surely must have known would have no takers in Washington. Nuri was seeking a way to remove the Israeli stick with which the Arab nationalists had been beating the West to the point where Nasserism threatened to pull down his own regime in Iraq. Nuri also reported that photographs of Nasser, even within Iraqi government buildings, reappeared within a few days after he had ordered them down and the offenders punished.
The whole story represented a measure of desperation on Nuri’s part, a foreboding of the events culminating in his downfall at the hand of Arab nationalism only seven months later. For Nuri it was impossible to come to terms directly with that nationalism; he was far too committed to the West and to Western influence, which nationalism sought to destroy. And so he made a desperate effort to remove the irritant of Israel.
This was a year after the American stand on Suez had opened the possibility of some United States negotiation with Nasser. But Dulles, still on the defensive over charges both at home and abroad that his handling of the Aswan Dam issue had brought on the whole Suez crisis, was determined not to be “blackmailed” again — his private term for Nasser’s actions after he nationalized the canal. Then Nasser moved closer to Khrushchev, and his agents increased their efforts to subvert the regimes in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq. The issue of Nasser’s subversion came to a head in Lebanon, and with his back to the wall, President Eisenhower ordered in the marines once the coup took place in more important Iraq.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee now has some $300,000 with which to investigate American foreign policy. But it does not take that amount of money to locate the two key factors in the Middle East debacle, which began almost as soon as the Eisenhower Administration took office (with some of its roots, principally the support for Israel, going back to the Truman Administration).
First was Dulles’ determination to ring the Sino-Soviet orbit with pacts binding together anti-Communist forces. For this purpose he created the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization; the Baghdad Pact (though the United States stopped short of taking the final step of full membership, in part to avoid a Senate fight and in part to avoid offending Saudi Arabia’s King Saud); and finally the Eisenhower Doctrine. Many nations thus became embroiled directly in the overriding East-West struggle, and their leaders have been constantly under attack within their own nations and regions where neutralism would have been the far more popular counterpolicy. In the Middle East, and especially in Iraq, Nasser became the rallying point for both the idealists and the cynics determined for one reason or another to end Western domination, political or economic.
Khrushchev moves into the gray
It was the Soviet Union which provided the means for these Arab nationalists to achieve their aims, to the extent that they have thus far. The Kremlin divided the world into three parts: the Sino-Soviet area, the AngloAmerican NATO area, and the gray area which included the Middle East, Africa, and countries in Asia outside the Communist regions.
Kremlin theoreticians understood better than did Washington policy makers the depth and vitality of the post-war pressures throughout this gray area for a new deal in life. When Nasser asked for arms, Moscow supplied them, and Khrushchev skillfully backed up the arms program with diplomatic support of Arab nationalism. He professed no desire to Communize the Middle East, and he played on the hostility toward Israel. Withdrawal of the Aswan Dam project and the AngloFrench-Israeli attack on Egypt served to implement the Kremlin’s argument that the Communists alone were the friends of Arab nationalism.
And in due course came civil war in Lebanon, the coup in Iraq, the marines in Lebanon, and British forces in Jordan. More engulfment of Western interests by Arab nationalism will follow until the West and, above all, the United States decide to come to terms with Arab nationalism, Summit or no Summit. This is the judgment of many in the Capital, including some within the Administration and many more in the Congress.
The need for debate
In deciding to go into Lebanon, Eisenhower and Dulles had to consider two risks. First, that if they did not “evidence the concern of the United States” for the integrity of small nations, as the President put it, the wave of nationalism would sweep away all remnants of proWesternism from Morocco on the Atlantic all the way across the globe to the Pacific. And then the door would be open to Communism. Second, that a landing in Lebanon could be risked, because there was no reason to alter the basic American intelligence estimate of Soviet intentions: the Kremlin does not want to take any action which it feels would involve it in a general war.
The immediate reaction in the Capital, as across the nation, was that the President had no other choice under the circumstances. But this was coupled with a feeling that once the reasons for those circumstances became more widely known, especially if the Middle East situation continued to deteriorate, there would be general condemnation of our foreign policy.
Foreign policy should be debated, of course, and it has a proper place in election campaigns. Debate can no longer stop at the water’s edge despite the merits of closing ranks behind the President in an immediate period of crisis. Only debate and consideration and understanding will enable the nation to face up to the tasks ahead.
What worries the Pentagon
Even before Lebanon there had been for many weeks a major internal Administration argument over the possibility of fighting, and therefore the preparations for, a limited war. Defense Secretary McElroy has tended to follow much of the prevalent military thinking that a limited war involving the United States with the Soviet Union in any real or direct measure is highly improbable. This is, in fact, what the Russians have been saying.
But the argument is not yet ended, and the lessons of the issue of Lebanon and its ramifications will call for scrutiny. Some inside the government have already strongly argued that the United States should face up to the problem of, say, an explosion within Poland, assuming that limited action would not necessarily mean all-out thermonuclear war as the Kremlin certainly would like the West to believe.
Part of the reluctance to accept doctrinal changes is clearly related to the budget, just as the Administration’s original massive retaliation thesis was tied to the more-bang-forthe-buck idea which was so appealing to the Budget Bureau and Treasury. The financial problems are, indeed, staggering. With the rush of science and the concurrent high cost of weapons, even a well-run military establishment will call for a $60 or $70 billion budget in ten years compared to today’s $41 billion, officials say. Such a thought is all the more appalling at a time when the economy has been going through a setback and the deficit has been rising. Talk of economic growth to support a higher budget seems like pie in the sky to this Administration.
For example, a B-70 jet bomber costs some $70 million, and equipping the navy’s carriers with supersonic planes of Mach 2 or Mach 3 speed is estimated to cost $10 billion.
The issue was not resolved in the budget passed by Congress this summer, as many thought it might be, but will have to be faced by the new Congress. The Pentagon’s Weapons System Evaluation Group is working on an elaborate study to determine what diversity of weapons is needed. Every service can be expected to fight for the weapons it feels it needs for survival. And worrisome to the military is the issue of disarmament, especially the possibility of an agreement to halt nuclear testing. Can a limitation be devised which will represent only a reasonable risk for both sides? There are those in authority who argue that any such limitation would so inhibit our future weapons development as to make it impossible for the United States to defend itself at home or oppose the Soviet Union abroad.
The record of the Congress
Two major accomplishments in the second session of the eighty-fifth Congress were the creation of a civilian space agency and the Pentagon reorganization measure. Each measure contains both the framework for success and the creaky joints of possible inaction and failure. The space agency is too heavily loaded, many think, with military control. And the Pentagon reorganization bill does not give the President a really free hand to alter roles and missions of the services.
The Congress did release its grip on atomic secrets for Britain, and it preserved the fundamentals of both the reciprocal trade bill and the foreign aid program.
In domestic matters Congress pumped considerable money into the economy via the housing field and public works, including the federal highway program. But the Administration for the most part had its way in allowing the economy to right itself, even at the cost of a lengthy recovery period extending into 1959.
Nothing was done in the civil rights field; in fact, congressional liberals had to concentrate on warding off retaliatory legislation aimed at Supreme Court decisions. In the great domestic issue, racial desegregation, the President let the situation drift and Congress did not even try to legislate. When schools open more trouble looms ahead.
A bright star was added with Alaskan statehood, but Hawaii was forced to wait.
Mood of the Capital
As the members of Congress were going home to campaign, the Republicans were more gloomy than they have been at any time since Franklin D. Roosevelt dominated the nation’s political life twenty years ago. The middle-of-the-road Democrats, Speaker Rayburn and Senate Leader Johnson, were even fearful that victories in the North and West in November would bring so many liberals to Congress they would upset the leadership’s control. In the South there was some alarm that the Dixiecrats were scheming to repeat in 1960 what they did in 1948, when they managed to rob Truman of electoral votes in several states.
The historians had to go back a long way to find the correct definition of the proper conduct for government employees, once the AdamsGoldfine case had again raised the issue. It was President Thomas Jefferson who wrote, in refusing a gift: “Tt is a law, sacred to me while in a public character, to receive nothing which bears a pecuniary value. This is necessary to the confidence of my country, it is necessary as an example for its benefit, and necessary to the tranquillity of my own mind.”