Tuesday, February 27, 2007

President, Congress Agree on Middle East

Fifty years ago, after debating Presidential policies in the Middle East, Congress approved the Eisenhower Doctrine in March 1957.

The world was different then, yet the hostility and intrigue were there. But our troops were not dying in Iraq, and no one was trying to kill our Vice President in Afghanistan.

Egyptian President Gamel Abdel Nasser was flirting with the Soviet Union and promoting radical Arab nationalism. The U.S. moved to stop him.

Our diplomacy was not brilliant then either. “The genius of you Americans,” Nassar told a CIA agent, “is that you never made clear-cut stupid moves, only complicated stupid moves, which made us wonder at the possibility that there may be something to them that we were missing.”

He called the Eisenhower Doctrine “one of the shrewdest mistakes ever made by a Great Power...”

The lesson for today is that we were involved even then in what came to be called “the clash of civilizations,” but we were fighting with words not blood, and we were flexible with our diplomacy.

Eisenhower liked to quote the philosopher George Santayana: “Fanaticism consists in redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim.”

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