Out of Necessity: Presidents Truman and Eisenhower’s
Policies in the Arab World
Dr. Murad Salem
December 14, 2010
Since the conclusion of World War II, the United States of America has worked diligently through diplomacy to encourage stability throughout the Arab World. In investigating foreign policies of the American administrations during Truman and Eisenhower presidencies, it is undeniable that that the power in America played a defining role in the construction and definition of the region. While it may appear as though that the United States’ policies symbolize its desire for imperialism, the truth lies at the opposite end of the spectrum. A 1994 Congressional report states that, “American policy in the Middle East has traditionally focused on four major objectives: ensuring the security of Israel, achieving the Arab-Israeli peace settlement, maintaining access to Middle Eastern oil, and blocking Soviet expansionism in the region.” America has utilized its power and influence in world relations out of the necessity to ensure long-term global security. From the Truman Doctrine to the fall of communism, American administrations worked to bring freedom and peace to the Arab region. Policy decisions have greatly influenced life in the region and one could even argue that without United States intervention, the Arab world would currently be part of the Soviet Union.
Truman and His Doctrine
President Harry Truman assumed the Presidency of the United States, following the death of Franklin Roosevelt, having no college degree and no expectations for success in dealing in foreign relations. Following the end of the Second World War, Truman was faced with a difficult situation – Europe was in shambles and half the world was occupied by the armies of the victorious. Michael Oren describes the situation as a, “region of almost unremitting turmoil… It was a time of radical flux, of the waning of the French and British empires and their replacement by American and Soviet influence, and of rapidly hifting alliances.” This created quite a predicament for the President, as he was left with the difficult decision of what to do regarding the Soviet Union.
Truman’s first test of diplomacy came not on the wasteland of Europe, but to the South in the Arab populated Middle East, only three weeks after V-E Day. Following the end of conflict, the Allies agreed to remove their forces from the occupied territories in Syria; however, the French refused to vacate Syria, and when the people protested, the French responded violently, killing more than four hundred Syrians. The cry of outrage from the Syrians, sent shockwaves through Washington and Truman knew that action must be taken. Oren writes that Truman’s officials, “expressed remorse over America’s failure to ensure Syria the freedoms promised… and consternation over the danger that Damascus would turn to Moscow for help.” The fear of the unrelenting spread of the Soviet Union was Truman’s primary concern following the war. He had refused to authorize a continuance of war by insisting that diplomacy, not conflict, be used to quell the advance of Stalin’s armies. Knowing that the Syria situation may be his only chance to keep the United States out of war with the Soviets, Truman took a hard line against Charles de Gaulle and the French government, warning that the use of force by the Americans and British were certain unless the French withdrew.
Not soon after the end of the nearly explosive stalemate in Syria, the Truman administration was presented with another problem facing North Africa, this time in Libya. Libyan nationalists requested their independence from the powers that arose out of World War II, and all sides of the table proposed different solutions. While the French and British desired to retain the area for themselves as colonies, as they were before the war, the Soviets demanded a plan that shared control of the land between the...
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