With the election of a new president and significant foreign policy decisions on the line, one of the best ways to understand the stakes involved is to revisit the past. With the Middle East, there is no better place to start than with Dwight Eisenhower, the incisive leader who helped win World War II and formulated America’s Cold War policy. But according to Hudson Senior Fellow Michael Doran in his critically acclaimed new book, Ike’s Gamble, Eisenhower stumbled repeatedly in the Middle East before he got it right.
Eisenhower, in Doran’s account, initially made the same kinds of mistakes that President Barack Obama has made. Both believed America had tilted too closely to Israel and sought to readjust the balance—Obama by realigning with Iran, and Eisenhower by allying with Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser. The difference, argues Doran, is that Eisenhower came to realize he was wrong to turn against America’s traditional Middle East allies and he eventually restored the status quo. Obama, however, leaves the White House with America’s position in the Middle East still unsettled. Will Donald Trump be able to repair Middle Eastern relations, or will he indulge isolationist tendencies and further cede America’s status in the region? Given the extent of Eisenhower’s engagement in the region, what other lessons can the next administration draw from his experience?
On November 21, panelists Michael Doran, Hudson Distinguished Fellow Walter Russell Mead, and Council on Foreign Relations Fellow Ray Takeyh discussed Eisenhower’s strategy and the incoming administration’s policy options in the Middle East. This lunchtime panel was moderated by Hudson Senior Fellow Lee Smith.