Eisenhower Doctrine: History, Definition, & Significance
The Eisenhower Doctrine was a proposal from U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower that was first delivered to a joint session of Congress on January 5, 1957. The foreign policy proposal, which came in response to a developing tumultuous situation in the Middle East, was the president’s way of reshaping the US Middle East policy. In simple terms, the Eisenhower Doctrine aimed at positioning the United States in such a manner that it was able to deal with Soviet Union’s presence in the region.
The Eisenhower Doctrine refers to a Cold War U.S. foreign policy instituted during the Eisenhower administration. The policy sought to give military and economic assistance to countries in the Middle East that were prepared to stand with the United States in fighting against the spread of communism.
At the core of the Eisenhower Doctrine was the sole objective of halting the Soviet Union’s influence in not just the Middle East but also across the globe, in places like sub-Saharan Africa and South East Asia.
The Eisenhower Doctrine had quite a lot of similarities with the Truman Doctrine, which held at its core the policy of containment – that is halting the Soviet Union’s political, economic and military sphere of influence in the world.
U.S. President Eisenhower used the doctrine, which was official released in May, 1957, to affirm America’s strong and unequivocal commitment to Israel, America’s greatest ally in the Middle East. The doctrine was aimed at developing an alliance of Middle Eastern countries that would supports Israel’s right to exist peaceful in one of the most troubled regions on the face of this earth.
Did you know: The Eisenhower Doctrine was approved by the U.S. Congress in March 1957, less than three months after it was announced?
As the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union entered its second decade in the mid-1950s, the battlefield seemed to be shifting to the Middle East. At the center of it all was the anti-Western and nationalist Egyptian president Gamal Nasser who was drawing increasingly closer to the Soviets.
In response to President Nasser’s anti-West rhetoric, the Eisenhower administration, in July 1956, pulled out its support for several projects in Egypt, including the funding for the famous Aswan Dam on the Nile.
Angered by Eisenhower’s change in policy, the Egyptians took control of the Suez Canal, a man-made waterway in the Mediterranean Sea that is a vital shipping route between Europe and Asia.
U.S. partners in Europe – Britain and France – and Israel responded to Egypt’s move by carrying out a full-scale coordinated military attack on Egypt in October 1956. The region’s inhabitants braced themselves for further escalations, as fears of a breakout World War III seemed palpable.
Events that triggered the Eisenhower Doctrine
Historians generally point out the following as some of the major reasons for the birth of the Eisenhower Doctrine:
- Heightened hostilities from Arab nations (stemming from pan-Arabism) towards the U.S. and its Western allies
- Increased Soviet Union presence in the Middle East
- The Suez Canal Crisis that took place in 1956
- Direct hostilities from Egypt towards Israel
- Diminished influence and prestige of former colonial powers – such as Great Britain and France – in the Middle East
What did the Eisenhower Doctrine entail?
On January 5, 1957, Eisenhower made an address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress, providing further details to brewing crisis in the Middle East. The president called on the U.S. and its Western partners to fully handle the Soviet’s influence in the region. Part of that was the reason why Egypt seized the Suez Canal.
President Eisenhower was also worried that the ensuing military intervention from France, Britain and Israel could spiral into an all-out war in the region. Most importantly, he stressed the importance of halting the spread of Communism globally. In the speech to Congress, Eisenhower called on Congress to support his administration proposed set of economic and military programs to tackle the threat appropriately.
Eisenhower Doctrine also made provision for the U.S. to offer economic and military shield nations from the threat of communism and by extension the USSR’s influence. The president stated that his administration would need close to a quarter of billion USD in support for such nations, particularly those in the Middle East. Although the Doctrine was not the clearest of policy ever made by Washington, the U.S. Congress gave it a thumb up.
Did you know: the Chicago Tribune described the Eisenhower Doctrine as “goofy” due to its lack of clarity and specifics?