On January 5, 1957, in response to the increasingly tense situation in the Middle East, President Dwight Eisenhower (1890-1969) delivered a proposal to a joint session of the U.S. Congress calling for a new and more proactive American policy in the region. The Eisenhower Doctrine, as the proposal soon came to be known, established the Middle East as a Cold War (1945-91) battlefield.
Eisenhower Doctrine: Background
The United States believed that the situation in the Middle East degenerated badly during 1956, and Egyptian leader Gamal Nasser (1918-70) was deemed largely responsible. America used Nasser’s anti-Western nationalism and his increasingly close relations with the Soviet Union as justification for withdrawing U.S. support for the construction of the Aswan Dam on the Nile River in July 1956. Less than a month later, Nasser seized control of the Suez Canal. This action prompted, in late October, a coordinated attack by French, British and Israeli military forces on Egypt. Suddenly, it appeared that the Middle East might be the site of World War III.
Eisenhower Doctrine Proposed: January 1957
In response to these developments, in a January 5, 1957, address to Congress, President Dwight Eisenhower called for “joint action by the Congress and the Executive” in meeting the “increased danger from International Communism” in the Middle East. Specifically, he asked for authorization to begin new programs of economic and military cooperation with friendly nations in the region. He also requested authorization to use U.S. troops “to secure and protect the territorial integrity and political independence of such nations.”
Eisenhower did not ask for a specific appropriation of funds at the time; nevertheless, he indicated that he would seek $200 million for economic and military aid in each of the years 1958 and 1959. Only such action, he warned, would dissuade “power-hungry Communists” from interfering in the Middle East.
While some newspapers and critics were uneasy with the open-ended policy for American action in the Middle East (the Chicago Tribune called the doctrine “goofy”), the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate responded with overwhelming votes in favor of Eisenhower’s proposal.
Eisenhower Doctrine and Lebanon: 1958
The Eisenhower Doctrine received its first call to action in the summer of 1958, when civil strife in Lebanon led that nation’s president to request American assistance. Nearly 15,000 U.S. troops were sent to help quell the disturbances. With the Eisenhower Doctrine and the first action taken in its name, the United States demonstrated its interest in Middle East developments.