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My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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NEW YORK—The news from the Middle East is increasingly ominous. The murder of young King Faisal II of Iraq and of the King's uncle, Crown Prince Abdul Ilah; the military maneuvers of the Soviet Union's armed forces near the Iranian border; and the landing of British troops in Jordan are all most highly disturbing.

The Soviets have labeled the landing of United States Marines in Lebanon as aggression. But we are supposed to concede that it is not aggression for Cairo to foment dissatisfaction among the army leaders of Iraq that brought about the overthrow of the government that seemed to be making some real headway toward bettering the lives of the Iraqi people.

No one close to the scene in any of these Middle Eastern countries—except perhaps Lebanon, where the standard of living is better than in most of the surrounding nations, partly because it is more Westernized—will feel that enough advances in living conditions have been made in any of the countries. It is inconceivable that President Abdal Gamal Nasser of Egypt could believe that the army now in power in Iraq will actually do much for the people. Nasser, himself, has not yet achieved many improvements for his own people.

The whole situation points up more than ever the need for a permanent United Nations police force. Had it been in existence in the Middle East, and had Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold answered Lebanon's plea to have its borders protected, all of the present difficulties might have been avoided.

Mr. Hammarskjold believes in negotiation, but there are times when, if you want to keep the peace, action taken by a world body through troops that are not emotionally involved in the troublesome area may well be the only way to preserve a peaceful status.

Now we have the Soviets and the U.S. sparring for the predominant position of influence. It is like a poker game in which the stakes are the leadership of the Middle and Near East. Neither the Soviet Union nor the United States really has any desire to have its troops stationed in the area permanently. But since these two countries represent different ways of life and different ideologies, they do not want to see the influence of the other side, whichever it may be, predominate.

One understands very well that for the Arab leaders themselves the struggle between the East and the West cannot be their closest concern. They are primarily interested in controlling their own countries and their natural feelings are with people of the same race and religion. But there are differences among them and some of them have not wanted to be controlled by Nasser any more than they would want to come under the influence of the U.S. or the U.S.S.R. Those desires are what made the Baghdad Pact possible. And Nasser's ambitions made it possible for the Soviets to gain control over him and to use him very largely to foment rebellion in both Lebanon and Iraq.

The Soviets are sure that their objective of a Communist world can be attained without war. But they are quite willing to foment small wars, and you can be sure they feel that they have moved forward in the whole pattern of controlling other peoples rather satisfactorily in the past few years.

We have been slow in making it clear that we would resist their progress. And now it comes as a shock to us that we have to resist using our own men in the field, even while the Soviets are still maneuvering not too far away and sounding self-righteous in the U.N.

We are suffering again from the lack of statesmanship to prevent such situations, but we cannot let the Soviets succeed in controlling the Middle East. We must make it clear that situations which are genuinely internal must be settled without outside interference. But where obviously there is outside interference the U.N. should take action quickly.

We must make it clear, too, that the Soviet Union cannot prevent appeals by governments in difficulty to other nations that might want to help but would leave them free in the future.


(Copyright, 1958, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)

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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, July 19, 1958

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.