Crash programs seldom result in a sound policy. Too often our State Department has waited until the United States was involved in a new crisis before it began to improvise a pact, a doctrine, or a show of force; too often we have reacted in the heat of emergency, under circumstances not of our own choosing.
The problems of the Middle East will be with us for the foreseeable future. They are primarily the responsibility of the peoples of the area, but they also affect us closely, for the Middle East provides 80 per cent of the oil required by the European economy, is crossed by the major trade routes between Asia-Africa and Europe, and could be the seedbed of a war. The question then is whether we can find in the steps leading up to the Iraqi coup d'état any clues to what lies ahead for Jordan and the Arabian peninsula.
The keystone of the Iraqi arch of power was Nuri as-Said. Observers had long realized that if he should be removed, the whole structure would crumble. Nuri ranked as one of the more able politicians in the Middle East, and perhaps his last great compliment came from the rebel leaders when they announced to their followers that the revolt would fail if Nuri were allowed to escape. But a man who is bitterly hated by a large proportion of his people is always in danger of assassination. Nuri was more than seventy years of age, in bad health, and would probably have been forced to retire soon. In case of his retirement, which Washington should have foreseen, upon whom or what were we planning to rely? Nuri built no party organization and had no follower of sufficient ability to succeed in command. The hatred directed toward his government, which was held in check by the fear he inspired, could not be controlled by any of his associates or followers. Finally, the sort of rule at which Nuri was so adept had come to be an anachronism in his own country.