President Eisenhower=s Foreign Policy and the Ugly American
Presented at the 20th International Congress of Historical Sciences
Sydney Australia, 2-9 July, 2005
By Keith P. Dyrud
While President Eisenhower followed an anti‑communist foreign policy in the 1950s, this presentation will suggest that he opposed Athird world@ nationalism and overthrew several democratic governments in order to facilitate ongoing economic control of Athird world@ resources. His efforts to link the nationalist movements with communism was a foil to make his third world policy acceptable to the American people.
Even Eisenhower=s memoirs connect the Guatemalan and Iranian democracies with communism in such a convoluted way that they seem to be rationalizations rather than the real reasons for replacing those governments with a military dictatorship and an authoritarian monarchy, respectively.
* * *
The Ugly American, a book by William J. Lederer and Eugene Burdick, was published as a novel in 1958, but its contents were a serious indictment of American foreign policy.
When first published, the book was a Arunaway
drawing a Adevastating
picture of how the
Dwight D. Eisenhower was in his second term as president of the
While Lederer and Burdick generally argued that economic policy was the primary arena for competition, they also noted that in
In economic policy, Lederer and Burdick argued that:
Most American technicians abroad are involved in the planning and execution of Abig@ projects: dams, highways, irrigation systems.
The result is that we often develop huge technical complexes which someday may pay dividends but which at this moment in Asian development are neither needed nor wanted except by a few local politicians who see such projects as a means to power and wealth.
Technicians who want to work on smaller and more manageable projects are not encouraged. The authors of this book gathered statements from native economists of what projects were Amost
in various Asian countries. These included improvement of chicken and pig breeding, small pumps which did not need expensive replacement parts, knowledge on commercial fishing, canning of food, improvement of seeds, small village-size papermaking plants (illiteracy in many countries is perpetrated by the fact that no one can afford paper), sanitary use of night-soil, and the development of small industries. These are the projects which would not only make friends, while costing little, but are also prerequisite to industrialization and economic independence for
The authors of The Ugly American went onto argue that AWe
do not need the horde of 1,500,000 AmericansBmostly amateursBwho
are now working for the
Lederer and Burdick missed several important points in their analysis: The French war in
Historians= Evaluations of Eisenhower=s Foreign Policy
In the 1960s the first historians of President Eisenhower=s administration followed the common view that Eisenhower was not a Ahands on@ administrator, but rather left policy and the implementation of that policy to his advisors. Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, designed and implemented American foreign policy. Revisionists have convincingly changed the view that Eisenhower was detached from policy making. Perhaps the best description of the relationship between the President and his Secretary of State is that of the relationship between client and his attorney, Aa client who has firm overall purposes and an attorney who is expected to help him devise ways to accomplish those purposes and to argue his case.@
Much of the Eisenhower administration=s stated rationale for its foreign policy was anti-communism. Some scholars have suggested that this statement of policy was necessary in order to maintain the support of the right wing in Congress. Many others suggest that Eisenhower misunderstood developing countries= national liberation movements, identifying them as Communist and using the CIA to oppose or crush them. For example, Robert J. McMahon, a former State Department historian observed:
The Eisenhower administration insisted on viewing the
Robert W. Stookey, in America and the Arab States, concluded that, in the Arab world, the Eisenhower Administration Anever arrived at a clear distinction between communism and revolutionary Arab nationalism.@
In oil rich
Eisenhower also identified the
African independence movements as Communist.
When Patrice Lumumba led the successful independence movement in the
President Eisenhower Speaks for Himself
On leaving the office of President
in 1961, Eisenhower wrote his memoirs of his two terms as President of the
United States, entitled The White House Years. The first volume, covering his first term, is
sub-titled, Mandate for Change. These memoirs are quite honest and with only
slight interpretation, are actually a serious indictment of his foreign policy,
especially in the Eisenhower Administration=s
treatment of three countries in three areas of the globe:
The British government owned 52
percent of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company which controlled the Iranian oil
supply. In 1952, the Iranian government,
headed by Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh nationalized Iranian oil. In retaliation, the British shut down the
AThe leader of this drive was Iran=s Premier, Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh, a semi-invalid who often clad in pajamas in public, carried on a fanatical campaign, with tears and fainting fits and street mobs of followers, to throw the British out of Iran, come what might.@
That sentence should have read:
The leader of this drive was
[Eisenhower wrote:] In January of 1953 the Iranian parliament extended Mossadegh=s dictatorial powers for another year. The following month, Mossadegh, pushing his strength, denounced the Shah, the constitutional monarch, for intrigues with Aforeign interests.= Pressed by Mossadegh, the Shah on February 28 announced he would abdicate Afor reasons of health.@ This brought on serious riots; the Shah=s supporters, along with rival supporters of Mossadegh, choked the streets. As a result, in a direct challenge to Mossadegh, the Shah within hours canceled his plan of abdication.
Properly interpreted, this
passage should be understood as: The Iranian parliament extended Mossadegh=s emergency powers for another
year. The Shah was exceeding his role as
a constitutional monarch by negotiating with the British to get the
Anglo-Persian Oil Company back in business again. When challenged by Mossadegh, the Shah
resigned in despair but the
A crisis was approaching. Three months earlier Mossadegh had tried to get the parliament to pass legislation making him Commander-in Chief of the Iranian Army, replacing the Shah in this position. The parliament refused. On July 19, therefore, Mossadegh called for the dissolution of the Majlis, the second house of the Iranian parliament, and for a plebiscite to be held August 2. Less than a week after this announcement, reports came in that Mossadegh was moving closer and closer to the Communists.
This should read: With the Shah
cooperating with the British to reverse the government=s policy of nationalization, Mossadegh,
fearing British military intervention, asked parliament for the power as
Commander in Chief of the Army. The
second house of the parliament refused to grant that permission. Since the post-war government of
the plebiscite three days later Mossadegh got 99.4 per cent of the votes.
Eisenhower should have written: The popular support for Mossadegh=s policy was so overwhelming that it was clear he did not need the support of the Communists nor did he ask for their support. Such an appeal to the popular will must certainly be called democratic leadership.
the Shah thought, believed that he could form an alliance with the Tudeh Party
and then outwit it: but in doing so, the Shah recognized, Dr. Mossadegh would
That should have read: The Shah had committed his future to the CIA=s ability to use the military to overthrow Mossadegh knowing full-well that Mossadegh neither needed nor requested the support of the Tudeh [Communist] party. Mossadegh certainly would not have become another Benes.
But we did not stop trying to retrieve the situation. I conferred daily with officials of the State and Defense departments and the Central Intelligence Agency and saw reports from our representatives on the spot who were working actively with the Shah=s supporters.
Then suddenly and dramatically, the opposition to Mossadegh and the CommunistsBby those loyal to the ShahBbegan to work. The Iranian Army turned against officers whom Mossadegh had installed. . . . The next day Mossadegh, in pajamas, surrendered.
It should read: Our State Department, the military, and the Central Intelligence Agency were working actively with the Shah=s supporters to overthrow Mossadegh. Then suddenly and dramatically, the covert operations of the CIA began to be effective. Selected army officers took control of the Iranian army and arrested Mossadegh, who surrendered in his traditional Iranian dress.
In 1954 the country held new
elections. And in August of that year
the Iranian government reached an agreement with an international consortium to
Under a special ruling by the Department of Justice, based on the
national-security needs of the
A more informative wording would
have read: In 1954 the country held controlled elections. And in August of that year the Iranian
government reached an agreement with an international consortium to buy
It would have been a violation
of the Clayton and
Prior to 1950,
In his Mandate for Change,
President Eisenhower provided very little policy information about American
In May 1954 the French were
defeated in the battle of
The agreement did contain features,
I admitted, that we did not like, but a great deal would depend on how these
features worked out in practice. AThe
Eisenhower also claimed to be Aanticolonial.@
He wrote: AThe strongest
reason of all for the
Eisenhower seemed to be blinded to
his own argument concerning Aanticolonialism.@
For a former colony to be anti-colonial means that country is
nationalistic, that is, that former colony is determined to control its own
political and economic destinyBa
position which is often equated with Afreedom.@
Eisenhower never admitted that.
In virtually every former colony in the world which developed a
nationalistic movement, Eisenhower declared that movement to be ACommunist@
and he set about destroying it. In
In 1944 the military dictator of
In 1950 a military officer, Jacobo Arbenz Guzman, came to power and by his actions soon created the strong suspicion that he was merely a puppet manipulated by Communists.
The American republics wanted no Communist regime within their midst. They recognized that subversion by Communism was only another form of aggression, even more evil than that achieved by naked military force.
Eisenhower could have said: In
1950 Jacobo Arbenz Guzman was constitutionally elected president of
However, Eisenhower went on to admit that Arbenz may not have been motivated by the Communists. He wrote: [In countries] Awhere some governments were being ruled by dictatorial means, where resentments against the United States were sometimes nurtured by groups other than Communist cells, it was difficult to differentiate positively between Communist influence and uncontrolled and politically rebellious groups.@ Eisenhower was probably hinting his awareness that Arbenz was not a Communist but that he was a leader of an Auncontrolled and politically rebellious group.@
For example, on
What Eisenhower did not say, was that several of his closest advisors had Aprior connections to United Fruit Company@ and they included Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and Allen Dulles, the head of the CIA., and that United Fruit Company was trying to break a plantation workers union in Guatemala by closing down a significant portion of its plantations resulting in far fewer jobs than workers. For the idle plantations, the Arbenz government paid the amount that United Fruit Company had declared as their value for tax assessment.
By 1954, the Eisenhower
administration had decided to act against the Arbenz government. The
Eisenhower historian Richard H.
Immerman accepted President Eisenhower=s
position that it was his anti-communist policy that determined actions in
The CIA helped organize a counter
revolutionary army under the leadership of Carlos Castillo Armas and through a
third country supplied that army with three bombers. The bombers were used to bomb
A meeting was arranged that afternoon with [John] Foster Dulles, Allen
Dulles [Head of the CIA], and Henry F. Holland, who had succeeded John Cabot as
Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs. The point at issue was whether the
AWhat do you think Castillo=s chances would be,@ I asked Allen Dulles, Awithout the aircraft?@
His answer was unequivocal: AAbout zero.@
ASuppose we supply the aircraft. What would the chances be then?@
Again the CIA chief did not hesitate: AAbout 20 per cent.@
. . . We would replace the airplanes.
Five days later Arbenz relinquished power and Colonel Castillo Armas eventually headed the new ruling junta, and the American owned United Fruit Company got its plantations back.
For some curious reason, Eisenhower reported the small talk between Allen Dulles, the head of the CIA and himself, as they left that meeting. He quoted Allen Dulles as saying: A>Mr. President,@ he said, a grin on his face, >when I saw Henry walking into your office with three large law books under his arm, I knew he had lost his case already.=@ The reader can only conclude that President Eisenhower was recording his contempt for international law.
When President Eisenhower dealt
with policy regarding developing nations anywhere in the world, he consistently
intervened to overthrow nationalist governments or prevent nationalist
movements from coming to power. Where
developing countries were governed by dictators, he was willing to allow those
dictators to remain in power provided they would cooperate with American
economic interests. The case of
Eisenhower did not respect
democratic-nationalist governments even when they had demonstrated the
popularity of their policies through plebiscites as was done in
It is difficult to believe that
Eisenhower and his policy makers were so naive as to believe their charges that
these governments were Communist. Most
likely those arguments were made to gain the support of the right wing
Republicans and to persuade the American public to support the Eisenhower
policy regarding developing countries.
Thus one can reasonably conclude that the Eisenhower Administration=s policy toward the developing
countries was directed to support American companies in their efforts to
maintain or gain economic control of those countries in the guise of following
an anti-communist policy. In that effort
they were reasonably successful even to the extent that they wrested economic
control of former colonies from the European colonial powers.
.From the back cover of William J. Lederer and Eugene Burdick, The Ugly American: (W. W. Norton & Co.: New York, London, 1958/1999).
.Lederer and Burdick, p. 279
.Lederer and Burdick, p. 281-282.
.Lederer and Burdick, p. 284.
.See introductory chapters in: Gunter Bishof and Stephen E. Ambrose, Eds., Eisenhower: A Centenary Assessment (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1995).
.Rosemary Foot, AThe Eisenhower Administration=s Fear of Empowering the Chinese,@ Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 111:3, p. 505.
.Robert J. McMahon, AEisenhower and Third World Nationalism: A Critique of the Revisionists,@ Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 101:3 , p.457.
.Cited in McMahon, p. 463.
.Cited in McMahon, p. 465.
.McMahon, p. 465.
pp. 468-9. Citing Stephen G. Rabe, The Road to OPEC:
p 470. Citing Madeleine G. Kalb, The
.Dwight d. Eisenhower, The White House Years: Mandate for Change, 1953-1956 (New York: Doubleday and Co., 1963).
.Eisenhower, pp. 159.160.
.Eisenhower, p. 159.
.Eisenhower, p. 161.
.Eisenhower, pp. 162-63.
.Eisenhower, p. 163.
.Eisenhower, p. 163.
.Eisenhower, p. 164.
.Eisenhower, p. 162
.Eisenhower, p. 165.
.Eisenhower, p. 166.
.Eisenhower, p. 371.
.Eisenhower, p. 372.
.Eisenhower, p. 373.
.Eisenhower, p. 373-4.
.Eisenhower, p. 421.
.Eisenhower, p. 421.
.Richard H. Immerman, AGuatemala as Cold War History,@ Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 95:4 (Winter, 1980-81), p. 638, note 29.
.Immerman, p. 636.
.Eisenhower, pp. 424-5.
.Eisenhower, p. 425, note 11.
.Eisenhower, p. 425.
.Immerman, p. 638.
.Immerman, p. 637.
.Eisenhower, pp. 425-6.
.Eisenhower, p. 426.