Dwight D. Eisenhower: Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.
I will address Iran in a moment. However what strikes me most about this letter, and always has, is the balance or “moderation” that Eisenhower was seeking in his analysis as well as in his politics. He accepted the limitations that the other branches of government, and that the public, placed upon him. He understood that seeing politics as a zero sum game would be inimical to constitutional government. I cannot conceive of any member of the GOP today subscribing to the concepts expressed in this letter. (Maybe Romney, on a Sunday, after church.) ignoring Eisenhower's approach to government and politics has been the hallmark of the GOP since Reagan, certainly, and arguably since Goldwater, although there was a wing of the party hanging on to “moderation” in the Northeast through Nixon’s time.
As for Iran, we can certainly trace our troubles in much of the Middle East beginning in the 1970s to that ill-fated overthrow of a democratically elected government in Iran. That was not, however, the object of Eisenhower's policy. American intellectuals after World War II had a very difficult time distinguishing between nationalism and communism. Attempts at economic sovereignty were always presumed to be a first step to socialism, if not communism. Coupled with what then appeared to be the deposed president’s ambivalence towards democratic institutions in Iran, the assumption that he was in cahoots with the USSR, or likely to be in cahoots in the future, was an inevitable conclusion. Coming up with alternative histories is a meaningless past time but, to indulge, had the Eisenhower administration not imposed the Shah upon Iran, it is unlikely that the US would ever have accommodated a nationalist Iran. Ultimately, policy to Iran would have been antagonistic and Iran would likely have turned to the USSR, with which it shares a border, for support. Had Kennedy inherited an antagonistic relationship with a democratic Iran, would his policy have been any more enlightened? See, Vietnam. I am not arguing that the US was right to impose a monarchy on Iran. I am arguing that the US was likely screwed no matter what it did. (Eisenhower just inadvertently postponed the screwing until Carter’s time.) And in Eisenhower's time there simply wasn’t the intellectual framework to understand that there was an alternative to the Shah, and that engagement and modulated sanctions and rewards might have been able to avoid the mess which ultimately became the Iranian Revolution. However, with the benefit of hindsight we know that now and we even had a test of that approach involving Iran and the nuclear accords. And the proverbial stupid man, as Eisenhower warned, threw it all away.
"A year ago last January we were in imminent danger of losing Iran, and sixty percent of the known oil reserves of the world." The irony was that while this led to less than 20 years of continued low-cost oil to the west, it did not stop the nationalization of oil in the ME and led to the overthrow of the Shah and a worse situation in the ME. What might have been an Iran that was more democratic and modernized became a theocracy and a source of conflict in the ME, and especially with the US. What looked like good policy (for the oil-dependent West) in the early 1950s proved poor policy as events unfolded.
The saving of 60%of the World's oil Eisenhower describes and praises references the overthrow of the legitimately elected Parliament and its leader, in Iran, Mohammed Mossadegh, by the CIA, the Dulles brothers, and the British. It resulted in 70 years of overthrow of democratic governments and/or support of totalitarian dictatorships in the name of "opposing communism" or Islamic terrorism, or some other largely-imagined evil. the US foreign policy was indeed exceptional, in that it was all powerful and anti-democratic for a long time. Our long term alliance with Saudi Arabia has borne much Strange Fruit, including the Iran overthrow, and
Bin Laden, and more. Ed Kahn