Eisenhower Doctrine and the Middle East

It was never the intent of the U.S. foreign policy makers to be indirectly responsible for the power vacuum left in Lebanon; however, it is undeniably the result of the over exaggerated paranoia of communism during the cold war era that led to crucial foreign policy doctrines which, when complicated through the regional political and religious prism, ultimately led to the national deconstruction of Lebanon. The very first doctrine that established the grounds for the escalation of the crisis in not only Lebanon but throughout the world is the Eisenhower Doctrine which offered American military and economic aid on behalf of any state “threatened by international communism” (Shlaim 31).

The inherent flaw of this doctrine was its lack of limitations and guidelines for U.S. involvement and established a false perspective through which every global crisis was misconstrued as a struggle between capitalist and communist forces. As a result, not only had the United States entrenched itself in bloody domestic conflicts such as in Vietnam, the conservative and sometimes autocratic regimes began to capitalize on the doctrine in order to secure their own power. A clear example of the exploitation of American paranoia can be seen in Lebanon and the events surrounding the first American military escapade in Lebanon. President Chamoun of Lebanon, facing political instability in an increasingly violent struggle between Lebanese and Arab nationalists, called for the U.S. intervention invoking the Eisenhower Doctrine although he faced “no threat from international communism” (Shlaim 33). As a result, the first American marine contingent landed in Beirut on July 15th, 1958 in order to stabilize the country and neutralize the supposed communist threat. Until the withdrawal of the marines on October 25th, 1958, there was no significant insurgency against the marine contingent from the populous of Lebanon. However, as presented in Eugene Jarecki’s documentary Why We Fight, what the American intervention did was sow the seeds of resentment against the United States which will cumulate into violence and paint a picture of an oppressive United States in the minds of the Arab populous. The Eisenhower Doctrine became what Avi Shlaim described as the bane of American Middle Eastern policy of seeing the region through the distorting prism of the Cold War. Despite the obvious manipulation by the Lebanese president, the Eisenhower administration proved their incompetence in understanding the regional conflict and continued to see the Arab regional disputes as an international crisis and set the stage for U.S. involvement in the Middle East. It is a fact that there were significant influences by Ba’athist Syria over Lebanon during the Lebanese Crisis of 1958 and afterwards during the civil war through their connection with Arab radicals. However, one of the false assumptions that the U.S. foreign policy makers had made was that the Ba’athist parties in Iraq and Syria were agents of the Soviet Union with the objective of a communist takeover in the Middle East by destabilizing conservative regimes friendly to the west. In reality, according to Fromkin’s analysis on Arab societies, the Ba’athist party principles shared little in common with the Marxist Leninist philosophies of the Soviet Union and was more of a political manifestation of Arab nationalism. The United States, through over exaggeration of the Soviet Arab cooperation such as the Soviet funding for the construction of the Aswan Dam and the Arms supply from Czechoslovakia to Egypt in 1955, was seeing a crisis that did not really exist. This paranoia will profoundly affect the course of the crisis that will eventually manifest itself in Lebanon as increasing American influence in the region intensified the negative sentiments of the Arabs toward the U.S.

posted in: Lebanon History