Eisenhower Doctrine

A bipartisan foreign policy initiative, proposed by U.S. president Dwight D. Eisenhower, articulated the U.S. effort to combat “international communism” in the Middle East.

Summary of Event

In the aftermath of the Suez Canal crisis Suez Canal crisis (1956);and Eisenhower Doctrine[Eisenhower Doctrine] of October, 1956, which created a power vacuum in the Middle East as a result of Great Britain’s and France’s invasion of Egypt, the U.S. government reconsidered its position and policies in the Middle East. Acting through the United Nations, and for once in agreement with the Soviet Union, the United States had brought about the withdrawal of British and French forces from Egypt. The entire episode seemed not only to have weakened Western unity but also to have strengthened the position of the Soviet Union in the Arab countries and that of Gamal Abdel Nasser, the Egyptian president, as the leading spokesman of Arab nationalist feeling. Eisenhower Doctrine
Cold War;Middle East
Foreign aid, U.S.;Eisenhower Doctrine
[kw]Eisenhower Doctrine (Jan. 5, 1957)
[kw]Doctrine, Eisenhower (Jan. 5, 1957)
Eisenhower Doctrine
Cold War;Middle East
Foreign aid, U.S.;Eisenhower Doctrine
[g]North America;Jan. 5, 1957: Eisenhower Doctrine[05380]
[g]United States;Jan. 5, 1957: Eisenhower Doctrine[05380]
[c]Diplomacy and international relations;Jan. 5, 1957: Eisenhower Doctrine[05380]
[c]Cold War;Jan. 5, 1957: Eisenhower Doctrine[05380]
[c]Government and politics;Jan. 5, 1957: Eisenhower Doctrine[05380]
Eisenhower, Dwight D.
[p]Eisenhower, Dwight D.;and the Middle East[Middle East]
Nasser, Gamal Abdel
[p]Nasser, Gamal Abdel;Arab nationalism
Richards, James P.
Chamoun, Camille
McClintock, Robert M.
Murphy, Robert Daniel
Shehab, Fuad

Nasser envisioned himself to be the “voice of the Arabs,” and his resisting the West and allying himself increasingly with the Soviet Union caused the United States to fear instability in the oil-rich and strategically located region. The Eisenhower administration saw a vacuum in the Middle East, which it feared would be filled by Soviet influence. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, therefore, offered a statement of policy, which became known as the Eisenhower Doctrine.

Issued as a message to the U.S. Congress on January 5, 1957, after consultation with congressional leaders and with Dag Hammarskjöld, the secretary-general of the United Nations, the doctrine proposed that the United States fill the vacuum with economic and military aid. Eisenhower asked the new Congress to appropriate $400 million for two years for economic and military assistance to the nations of the Middle East, and to authorize the use of U.S. forces upon the request of any nation in the region threatened by communist aggression. Eisenhower appointed James P. Richards, the recently retired Democratic chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, to be his personal envoy to the Middle East. Richards’s mission was clear: He was to explain the evils of international communism, solicit support from the region’s leaders, and dispense aid to countries that publicly announced their loyalty to the West.

Besides the provision of assistance, one purpose of the presidential request to Congress was to give the Soviet Union warning of U.S. intentions to prevent Soviet expansion in the Middle East. Also, the request would make clear and public the national support for those intentions.

In some respects, the Eisenhower Doctrine followed the precedents of the Truman Doctrine of 1947 and the Formosa Resolution passed by Congress in 1955. It differed, however, from the Truman Doctrine in its application to a particular area: The Truman Doctrine, although occasioned by problems of Greece and Turkey, was a promise of U.S. support for any peoples resisting aggression. Moreover, neither earlier proposal carried the proviso that armed forces be sent only on the request of the other nation.

The House resolution on behalf of the president’s request, introduced the same day, was approved by the Foreign Affairs Committee House Committee on Foreign Affairs by a vote of 24-2 on January 24, and by the entire House on January 31 by a vote of 355-61. Senate action was slower. In debates in early March, Senator Richard Russell, Jr., Russell, Richard, Jr. of Georgia proposed an amendment that would have deleted the military and economic assistance, but the amendment lost. A proposal by Senator J. William Fulbright Fulbright, J. William of Arkansas for a white paper from the State Department detailing U.S. relations with the region also failed. The Senate passed the resolution, with some limiting changes, on March 5, by a vote of 72-19; the House accepted the Senate version on March 7, by 350-60; the president signed it on March 9.

The announcement of the doctrine met mixed reactions. The votes in Congress were probably indicative of general support; they are notable, because the Democratic Party had majorities in both houses. The public trust in President Eisenhower, so recently reelected, was one factor; the general mood of the Cold War was another. Additionally, the selection of Richards to go to the Middle East as the administration’s chief envoy helped solidify bipartisan support for the initiative.

Reactions abroad were less favorable. Denunciations from Moscow and Peking were expected; Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru Nehru, Jawaharlal of India thought the dangers of aggression were exaggerated and believed that the interests of peace were not forwarded by the U.S. action. The Arab states, led by Egypt, also reacted unfavorably. A mission led by Richards in the spring of 1957 did not even visit Egypt, Syria, or Jordan. Lebanon, Israel, Iraq, and Iran endorsed the policy, but other Middle Eastern countries, such as Afghanistan and Libya, were lukewarm. Richards was briefly held hostage in Yemen when he refused to award that country enough economic assistance to persuade the small nation to oppose agents of international communism.

Lebanon’s history and situation explain both its acceptance and its later application of the Eisenhower Doctrine to that country. Alone among the Arab countries, which were overwhelmingly Muslim, Lebanon had a large Christian population; in the absence of accurate statistics, estimates place it near a majority. The ties to Rome of the majority of these (Maronites and other Catholics of non-Latin rites), the U.S. Protestant missionary and educational effort since the early nineteenth century, and the experience of French rule or mandate gave Lebanon a view of the West and a relation to it different from that of the other Arab nations. Independent Lebanon had developed political and social traditions of its own to deal with religious differences. The most notable example was the tradition that the president be a Christian, the prime minister a Muslim. Under the surface, however, religious and regional hostilities were often bitter.

These international strains were increased and intensified by Arab feeling inflamed against Israel and by Nasserism—the extreme Arab movement toward unity and belligerence intimately associated with Egypt’s leader. The immediate occasion of trouble in Lebanon was the possibility that President Camille Chamoun intended to have his term extended, contrary to the Lebanese constitution. Opposition forces organized against this move—some religious, some political opponents of Chamoun, some supported by Syrian and Egyptian interests. Civil strife on this issue broke out in May, 1958.

Just as this turmoil in Lebanon seemed to be subsiding, an unexpected crisis erupted in Iraq. On July 14 a bloody revolution Revolutions and coups;Iraq
Iraqi revolution of 1958 overthrew the pro-Western Iraqi government. President Chamoun appealed to the United States out of fear that the coup in Iraq was the result of a Soviet-Nasserite plot that would soon be reenacted in Lebanon Lebanon;foreign troop deployments in . On July 15, on the orders of President Eisenhower, units of the Sixth Fleet landed U.S. Marines in Lebanon to preserve order. With the aid of Robert M. McClintock, the United States ambassador, the U.S. troops were kept in positions where they did not affect the local political situation. Robert Daniel Murphy, U.S. deputy undersecretary of state and an experienced diplomat, worked with the differing Lebanese forces to achieve settlement.

Whatever ambition he had entertained, Chamoun now gave up any intention of another term. With some difficulty, the negotiators persuaded General Fuad Shehab to accept the Lebanese presidency, to which he was elected by Lebanon’s parliament on July 31. As commander of the army, Shehab had tried to maintain an impartial position, and he was one of the few people acceptable to almost all factions.


The exercise of the Eisenhower Doctrine thus resulted in accommodation. The Marines were withdrawn on October 25, 1958. This diplomatic effort represents the United States’ Cold War approach to foreign policy. Egypt’s coziness with the Soviet Union and Nasser’s vibrant nationalistic rhetoric alarmed the United States and led to Richards’s mission and the United States’s later presence in Lebanon. Eisenhower Doctrine
Cold War;Middle East
Foreign aid, U.S.;Eisenhower Doctrine

Further Reading

  • Ambrose, Stephen E. Eisenhower. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1984. Part of a two-volume biography of the president’s military and political career.
  • Hoopes, Townsend. The Devil and John Foster Dulles. Boston: Little, Brown, 1973. A sharp analysis of the Eisenhower administration’s obsession with agents of international communism.
  • Nutting, Anthony. Nasser. New York: Random House, 1972. A good biography of the Egyptian leader who smoothly navigated the waters between the Soviet Union and the United States.
  • Paterson, Thomas G., et al. American Foreign Relations: A History. 4th ed. Lexington, Mass.: D. C. Heath, 1995. An excellent general overview of the rationale behind Cold War initiatives such as the Eisenhower Doctrine.
  • Takeyh, Ray. The Origins of the Eisenhower Doctrine: The U.S., Britain, and Nasser’s Egypt, 1953-57. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000. A political history of relations between Egypt and the United States during the time leading to the Eisenhower Doctrine. Highly recommended for background.
  • Williamson, Daniel C. Separate Agendas: Churchill, Eisenhower, and Anglo-American Relations, 1953-1955. Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books, 2006. Detailed account of U.S. foreign policy under Eisenhower during the first three years of his administration. Focuses on his cooperation and contention with British prime minister Winston Churchill and the extent to which the two leaders helped define the Cold War and the post-World War II world.
  • Yaqub, Salim. Containing Arab Nationalism: The Eisenhower Doctrine and the Middle East. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004. A detailed analysis that argues that the Eisenhower Doctrine had an “unspoken mission” to control rising Arab nationalism, namely that of Egypt under Gamal Abdel Nasser. Recommended for its alternative viewpoints.

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