How to Get them To “Stop Hating Us”
LIFE magazine — August 11, 1952

Arash Norouzi
The Mossadegh Project
| April 29, 2013       


A prescription for U.S. involvement in the Middle East, this little-known LIFE magazine editorial would present a far more reasonable approach than the cynical, unsympathetic tone taken in TIME’s 1951 Man of the Year article, "Challenge of the East" from earlier in the year.

Taking partial responsibility for developments in the region, LIFE acknowledged the ill effects of U.S. support for despised tyrants friendly to Western interests, and recognized the historical parallels between the American revolution and the Arab world’s struggle with colonial powers.

The piece would represent an unusual detour for LIFE, whose ordinarily harsh, derisive depiction of Premier Mossadegh would closely mirror that of its sister publication, TIME, also published by staunch Republican Henry Luce.

Omitted here is an opening section discussing the impact of television on the political process and the apathy of the American voter. Commented LIFE, “Once our citizenry starts following politics as it follows baseball what a country we’ll have.”

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THE BYSTANDER IS TOO INNOCENT

LIFE magazine, August 11, 1952 If any proof were needed, the last few weeks have provided it. The Middle East is now in a state of revolution. The revolt is everywhere, underground or in full cry. Indeed the news items from the Middle East are amazingly simple these days. However obscured by the names of unfamiliar men and unfamiliar places, however complicated by details of assassination of military coups, they all say the same thing. The people of the Middle East–not just rival politicians but the people–are rising against their rulers.

The first impulse of the American reader, himself the creature of revolution, is to applaud. If there ever was a man whom Americans instinctively despise, it is Egypt’s now deposed King Farouk. But here we come to the paradox. Farouk has been a friend of the Western world, a man with whom Britain could do business with and thus keep its vital link through the Suez Canal. In rebelling against Farouk, Egyptians are also rebelling against Britain–and therefore, in a peculiar way, against the US.

The do-nothing policy

As the Middle East has disintegrated, the U.S. has stood nervously by. Either we have done nothing or we have supported the policies of England and France. And thus we have stood–innocently perhaps, but in the inevitable position of the innocent bystander–behind all that is wrong in the Middle East: the poverty, the corrupt pashas, the selfish landlords, European imperialism.

“...nationalization of oil means the same thing to Iranians that the Boston Tea Party meant to American colonials. Unfortunately the British reaction has been about as farsighted as it was in 1773....in the face of exactly the kind of history this country itself set in motion just a century and three quarters ago..”
In the space of a year and a half we have worked ourselves into the position of seeming to be against freedom. Last July 4 an Arabic newspaper mocked America by printing as it’s lead editorial the U.S. Declaration of Independence. That America is so easily mocked is partly the fault of some of the people we been sending to the Middle East. Prior to World War II, Americans were known in the Middle East as serious educators and selfless missionaries. Now, in many Middle Eastern countries, the only time citizens see an American is with a highball in his hand. Some weeks ago our director of Point Four in Lebanon installed himself in a fantastic three-story villa by the sea and immediately threw a gigantic garden party–the liquor bill for which would have fed a Lebanese village for a month. When our diplomats give chic garden parties, when they consort exclusively with the hated kings and the hated pashas, the common people of the Middle East look on in scorn.

But mostly the fault lies with our official policy–the spinelessness of the Truman-Acheson line, which offers no real alternative to the British and French colonialism. London and Washington should both have known a year ago that nationalization of oil means the same thing to Iranians that the Boston Tea Party meant to American colonials. Unfortunately the British reaction has been about as farsighted as it was in 1773. And the U.S. merely stands in righteous paralysis–in the face of exactly the kind of history this country itself set in motion just a century and three quarters ago.

Our past policy can be described in three words: watch, wait, worry. Despite the warnings of the people who really know the Middle East, we have done nothing. Time has ticked away, and the revolutions have boiled up a little higher. To date they’ve been essentially middle-ground revolutions, but shortly they may become something else. The handwriting was on the wall last January and the burning of Cairo, when the Communists came out from under their rocks for a day. And in Iran last month there was an open and unmistakable alliance of anti-American propaganda between nationalist leader Mullah Kashani and the Communists.

If we do not want Russians to take over the Middle East, we must at last face the facts. It is already very late, almost too late. Britain and France no longer have the power to rule the Middle East. The Middle East is no longer willing to be ruled.

“What really goes with men like Iran’s Mossadegh...? Do we have to fear them, or ignore them? Or would they be good and helpful friends if we just give them a chance?”
Our allies, the British and the French, are in this case blinded by their overwhelming problems at home and their natural desire to maintain the status quo abroad. However unpleasant the task may be, we must convince them by any means at our hands that in refusing to settle for half a loaf in the Middle East they’re losing the whole loaf–and will lose it, in the end, to Russia. We can no longer support, even by inaction, a policy that is bound to lead to ruin.

From worse to worst

Our problem is much more difficult today that was a month ago; it was more difficult a month ago than a year ago. And it will continue to grow worse by the day unless we take active steps to grapple with it. True, we are now in a peculiar governmental hiatus, waiting for the new administration of Eisenhower or Stevenson to take over in January. There seems to be no point in once again demanding the dismissal of Dean Acheson, which is the precondition of a real American policy. But this much the State Department must be asked to do: try to get the Middle Easterners to stop hating us. And it could take another look at the men who lead the various opposing forces in the Middle East and begin exercising some hard judgment about which of them deserve our support. What really goes with men like Iran’s Mossadegh, Egypt’s Naguib and Syria’s Shishekly? Do we have to fear them, or ignore them? Or would they be good and helpful friends if we just give them a chance? Here is one area where the U.S. must start immediately to use its own judgment and not the secondhand opinion of Britain and France.



Related links:

Foreign Intervention — “Un-American”? — Holmes Alexander - August 7, 1956

Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas: U.S. Should Support Mossadegh in Iran

Mossadegh Fights For Oil in Name of Iranian PoorU.S. News & World Report, July 6, 1951



MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”

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