The Middle East: Critical Choices for the United States

By Eugene V. Rostow | Go to book overview

3
The United States
and the
Middle East

EUGENE V. ROSTOW

My assignment is to discuss the present policy of the United States in the Middle East against the background of history. I shall start with the Truman period, which was the first modern occasion on which the United States had to take serious positions on Middle Eastern issues. President Truman's administration was the birth period of modern American foreign policy. The policies we adopted then for the Middle East were part of the process through which we realized that we had to have a foreign policy, and slowly began to forge one.

The basic axiom in our minds was that we must try not to repeat the mistakes made by the nation after World War I. We were not going to have a withdrawal into isolation, like that of 1919. But the effort began, and gained promising momentum. We were going to help establish the United Nations and participate in its work. At that time, of course, we had a good many illusions about the potential of what the United Nations could do. The first modern crisis in the Middle East, that of 1947, 1948 and 1949, coincided with the wide public realization that the cold war was on. But those of us who had worked in the government during World War II knew very well that the seeds of the cold war, and more than the seeds, were there, and that a most violent and vehement effort was

-47-

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