Summary of the situation. It was the year 1957. The Cold War was raging. Tensions were increasing between the United States and the Russia over control of the Middle East. The Suez Canal was a critical reason that Russia wanted control of the Middle East. Eisenhower perceived that the Middle East needed to remain independent because it was integral to the capitalist way of life internationally. Many countries depend on the Middle East for much of their core imports. Eisenhower saw the Middle East as a strategic weak point that International Communism might be able to take hold. There needed to be a solution that would address this issue. Eisenhower outlined three facts which promoted the need for the Eisenhower Doctrine. Eisenhower states that the Middle East has always been desired by Russia and would be a benefit to International Communism (Eisenhower, 1957). Eisenhower points out the Soviet rulers have proven themselves to be without any scruples and that they will do anything to achieve their ends (Eisenhower, 1957). And lastly, the Middle East needs protection and desires independence (Eisenhower, 1957).
Eisenhower perceived that radical nationalism might combine with International Communism in the Middle East region (Office of the Historian, n.d.). With this threat in mind, Eisenhower offered military support to the Middle East given the circumstances (Office of the Historian, n.d.). The Eisenhower Doctrine formalized the United States’ stance on the situation in the Middle East and made known that the United States would engage in war if necessary. The Eisenhower Doctrine was approved because Congress believed that there were new communist threats from Moscow which would impact the Middle East; furthermore, the Middle East represented independence, and even had religious significance that needed to be preserved (Eisenhower, 1957).
Specific actions and events. Eisenhower presented the doctrine to Congress on January 5, 1957 and by March, the Doctrine was approved by Congress (Office of the Historian, n.d.). Eisenhower requested that Congress approve $200 million in aid so that the United States would have a budget to provide military and economic assistance to any Middle Eastern countries who needed it (Danin, 2012). Eisenhower had successfully lobbied the United Nations months earlier to roll back on the invasion of the Suez, but he perceived that there were now increased threats from Moscow. Eisenhower wanted to establish protection and control of the region prior to any further military advancements on behalf of the Soviets. Eisenhower did rely upon the doctrine in order to provide economic assistance in order to overcome the expansion of the Damascus government (Danin, 2012). He sent 14, 000 Marines to Lebanon (Danin, 2012).
Nuclear diplomacy. Meanwhile, Eisenhower had the Korean War in his past which was when he had made clear the threat of nuclear weaponry as a solution to end the war, or to handle communist threats (Pach, 2017). The threat to the Chinese was also a hidden threat to the Soviets that nuclear warfare would be the next option that the United States would choose (Pach, 2017). This was known as “Nuclear Diplomacy” (Pach, 2017). Eisenhower attended the Spirit of Geneva Conference with Khrushchev; however, no progress was made regarding arms and military surveillance (Pach, 2017). Eisenhower presented the agreement known as “Open Skies” which would have permitted open espionage; however, this was declined by Khrushchev (Pach, 2017).
CIA espionage. Eisenhower authorized the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to conduct top-secret espionage with intelligence flights over the Soviet Union by employing the latest U.S. technology—the high-altitude U-2 reconnaissance airplanes (Pach, 2017). These missions continued in 1960 when Eisenhower met Khrushchev in Camp David. The United States and sent a U-2 to spy on the Soviets and the plane crashed—the Soviets held the pilot as a prisoner. Eisenhower did not know that the plane had crashed, and Khrushchev was able to expose his lies, which created public doubt about Eisenhower’s trustworthiness (Pach, 2017).
Advantages and disadvantages of the Eisenhower Doctrine. The Doctrine was hailed by Congress as a failure within a year of its inception (Danin, 2012). The reason that the Doctrine was considered a failure is that it placed the United States in a position against Nassar and Egypt (Danin, 2012). Furthermore, it forced the entanglement of the United States in affairs that should have not concerned the military: “Some historians argue that Eisenhower’s effort was an attempt to resist Soviet advances without involving the United States in regional entanglements. If so, it was an abject failure–the United States has been involved in local entanglements ever since” (Danin, 2012). The advantages to the Doctrine were that it established the United States as the authority and control, i.e., a superpower (Danin, 2012).
In conclusion, the Eisenhower Doctrine was a subversive way to reinstate the threat of nuclear containment against Soviet expansion. It formalized the United States’ military stance on the Middle East. The Eisenhower Doctrine was invoked to provide support in Lebanon and has been invoked ever since to provide support in the Middle East. Therefore, the Eisenhower Doctrine set the stage for our current set of military affairs. The Middle East is not under soviet rule, and the Soviet Union has ceased to exist; yet, the Doctrine still has relevance. Although historians doubt the effectiveness of the Eisenhower Doctrine, the spirit of the day prompted Eisenhower to develop the best strategy of defense.
- Danin, M. (2012). Remembering the Eisenhower Doctrine. Council on Foreign Relations. Retrieved from https://www.cfr.org
- Eisenhower, D. (1957). Eisenhower Doctrine. Retrieved from https://www.eisenhower.archives.gov