The Hungarian uprising was crushed while Israeli, French and British troops were moving against Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt – four months after Nasser had announced that he was nationalizing the Suez Canal. The invasion provided some distraction for the Russian assault on Hungary. Eisenhower disliked Nasser but was opposed to the military invasion of Egypt, fearing that it would create an outrage among anti-colonialists and maybe stir up a guerrilla war, and he felt betrayed by the British and French. The Soviet Premier, Bulganin, proposed a joint Soviet-U.S. military action to end the hostilities in the Middle East – rejected, of course, by Eisenhower. But with Eisenhower against the attack on Egypt and the UN moving against their action, on November 26, 1956, the British, French and Israelis halted their advance – less than 48 hours after it had begun.
On January 5, 1957, Eisenhower asked Congress for what was to become known as the Eisenhower Doctrine – a program to guard against communist aggression in the Middle East. And in his State of the Union message on January 10, Eisenhower spoke of his commitment to the defense of the entire free world.
These were times of unrest in the South of the United States. Through 1956 there had been the bus boycott in Montgomery Alabama, and in 1957 a battle over school integration was in the making. Eisenhower declared at a news conference on July 17 that he could not imagine any set of circumstances that would ever induce him to send federal troops. He tried to remain aloof from what he regarded as a state problem, but in September he reluctantly federalized the Arkansas National Guard and sent 1,000 men of the 101 Airborne Division to Little Rock to "prevent anarchy," angering those who believed that states had a right to act or not to act as they saw fit.
Khrushchev also had domestic problems. The revolts in Poland and Hungary had strengthened his conservative critics, people who believed that his anti-Stalin speech was conducive to creating anarchy and support for the capitalist West. Presidium members including Molotov, Malenkov and Kaganovich tried to abolish the office of Party First Secretariat, held by Khrushchev. In the political struggle that followed, Khrushchev won. Molotov, Malenkov and Kaganovich were voted out of the Presidium, and the Minister of Defense, Zhukov, a Khrushchev supporter, was voted in. Molotov was sent to Mongolia as ambassador. Malenkov was sent to Kazakhstan as director of a hydro-electric plant. And Kaganovich was made director of a cement works.
In October, Khrushchev received a boost from the successful launching of the Soviet Union's first satellite – sputnik – six times heavier than the satellite the U.S. had been planning. A second satellite was launched on November 2. Many in Washington, other than Eisenhower, were alarmed. Dulles hinted publicly that he would seek to equip overseas bases with intermediate-range missiles capable of delivering atomic bombs. Prime Minister Lester Pearson of Canada spoke in favor of another summit meeting. The World Council of Churches spoke in favor of "massive reconciliation" rather than "massive retaliation." Eisenhower believed that another summit might help prevent a nuclear war.
Meanwhile, the U.S. and the Soviet Union signed a cultural agreement. The Soviet Union's journal, USSR, would now appear on magazine racks in the United States – without doing much apparent damage to U.S. citizens, and more Western works were available to Soviet Citizens – not long after the novel Doctor Zhivago had been banned and its author, Boris Pasternak, prevented from going to Sweden to accept his nobel prize.
Nasser was working toward unity for the Islamic peoples of North Africa and the Middle East and was supporting the revolt by Algerians against French rule. In Iraq, a coup in July, led by pro-Nasser army officers, left Iraqi royalty dead and brought an end to a pro-Western regime there. Iraq had been a member of the Baghdad Pact, detested by Nasser, who considered it imperialistic. The Eisenhower administration considered intervention, but with the royal family dead and no one in Iraq to collaborate with, no grounds for intervention could be found.
Iraq pulled out of the Baghdad Pact, and ended its treaty with Jordan, where trouble was also brewing. The CIA warned the British, who had an interest there, and the British sent a paratrooper brigade to protect Jordan's King Hussein.
Syria had joined with Egypt in what was called the United Arab Republic, and when Nasser visited Syria, hundreds of thousands of Lebanese journeyed there to see him. Nasser was a hero to Lebanon's Muslims, and Lebanon was in a civil war. Lebanon was divided between Muslims and Christians, and the president, Camille Chamoun, was a Christian who was holding on to power as a result of a rigged election. The U.S. Information Agency library was burned and an oil pipeline was cut, and Chamoun appealed to the United States for help.
The Pentagon urged the sending of a UN force rather than a U.S. force, but this was overruled by Dulles, who believed that Moscow was fomenting the trouble in Lebanon. The Eisenhower administration sent its Sixth Fleet to Lebanon. On July 15, 1958, the Marines landed, and Lebanon's airport was secured. No ground fighting involving Americans broke out. A couple of Marines made a wrong turn and drove into Muslim territory. They were disarmed and asked why they were in Lebanon, and the Marines said they did not know. The Marines were given a lecture on imperialism and then allowed to return from whence they had come.
On July 31, Lebanon's parliament elected General Faud Shehab as president to succeed Chamoun, and Shehab selected a Muslim, Rashid Karami, as his prime minister. Karami's cabinet had an equal number of Christians and Muslims. Karami pursued rebuilding and pacification, and, in October, U.S. forces withdrew.
Two months after the evacuation of Lebanon, the U.S. military sent ships back to the Taiwan Strait. Since the first crisis involving Quemoy and Ma-tsu, Chiang Kai-shek had occupied those islands in force. From Quemoy he had been shelling the mainland and sending teams against the communists. Using old American destroyers and patrol boats, he was cruising China's territorial waters, disrupting trade and doing battle with China's inferior boats.
Mao was impressed by the Soviet Union's missile and H-bomb capability and thought that weapon superiority was an opportunity to get rid of capitalist imperialism. Khrushchev was appalled by the idea, but for the sake of solidarity he offered Soviet backing for any attempt to capture Taiwan. Three weeks after Khrushchev departed from China, Mao began bombarding Quemoy, firing 50,000 shells against the island in one day, initiating another Quemoy crisis. Dulles and the Joint Chiefs of Staff urged Eisenhower to consider using nuclear weapons to prevent an invasion of Quemoy and Ma-tsu. Eisenhower refused. He was not interested in the use of tactical nuclear weapons as he had been early in his presidency, but he went on television and announced that there was not going to be any appeasement and that he believed there was not going to be any war. A U.S. delegation met with a Chinese delegation in Warsaw, Poland, and the crisis ended.
Copyright © 2001-2011 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.