Friday, May 13, 2005

A little more on the Eisenhower quote

Returning to the Eisenhower papers social security quote, I had gone to the original document simply to verify that the circulating Blogistan copy was correct (turns out the circulating version had some slight, and in fact insignificant, omissions.)

Anyway, I have had time to read the whole letter, which was to his extreme right-wing brother Edgar. It is actually pretty interesting. It is an attempt to defend what Ike considered pragmatic and moderate policies against the extremist views represented by his brother, who had written him a letter critical of those policies.
(The document, number 1147 in the Eisenhower Papers, is here)
Now it is true that I believe this country is following a dangerous trend when it permits too great a degree of centralization of governmental functions. I oppose this--in some instances the fight is a rather desperate one. But to attain any success it is quite clear that the Federal government cannot avoid or escape responsibilities which the mass of the people firmly believe should be undertaken by it. The political processes of our country are such that if a rule of reason is not applied in this effort, we will lose everything--even to a possible and drastic change in the Constitution. This is what I mean by my constant insistence upon "moderation" in government.

Immediately after this was the quote that is making the rounds. In the context of the letter, it's clear he was defending a certain amount of big government against what became in later years the Goldwater wing of the party, represented here in its embryonic form it seems in Edgar's complaints to Ike.

Interesting, but what comes next is chilling:

No matter what the party is in power, it must perforce follow a program that is related to these general purposes and aspirations. But the great difference is in how it is done and, particularly, in the results achieved.

A year ago last January we were in imminent danger of losing Iran, and sixty percent of the known oil reserves of the world. You may have forgotten this. Lots of people have. But there has been no greater threat that has in recent years overhung the free world. That threat has been largely, if not totally, removed. I could name at least a half dozen other spots of the same character.

This being true, how can anyone be so unaware of what is happening as to say that this Administration has conducted foreign affairs under the same policies as did the former Administration?

Here we have Eisenhower defending the overthrow of Mohammed Mossadegh, in the coup that brought the Shaw to power; a coup that, ultimately, lost Iran to the Ayatollahs and made the United States the perceived enemy of fundamentalist Islam. John Foster Dulles's coup was ultimately catastrophic for the United States, but this would not be known to Ike in his lifetime. Although our Israel policies may have made enemies of Arab nationalists, it was the overthrow of Dr. Mossadegh and the Shaw's CIA backed efforts to crush the Shia Islamists that eventually caused us to become the Great Satan in Shia eyes. Sunni Islamists could not be left behind on that bandwagon, and weren't.

So it would seem, by Eisenhower's own words, that if the policies of the Truman administration had continued, we would have "lost" Iran to a secular, modernizing, independent democracy in the heart of the Middle East. Unfortunately, under the influence of his Gray Eminence, John Foster Dulles, "moderate" Ike perceived that possibility as equivalent to communism, and, hence, intolerable. He was, perhaps understandably, a prisoner of the Cold War. And he genuinely believed he had secured our oil supply for the future.

And here we are, fifty years down the road, living with some very unforeseen consequences.

Too bad.

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