Foreign Policy has always been a sticky situation for the U.S. – different approaches have yielded different results. During the Eisenhower years it was a favored approach by the President to employ the personal touch, something that hadn’t been tried before to any great degree, but was becoming more and more crucial in this era of modern diplomacy that there be direct contact between heads of state. The concept of Talks at the summit has brought together leading statesmen from all over the world, both the Free world and the Communist world
But in Eisenhower’s White House it was a steady stream of visiting dignitaries, as is evidenced by this commentary by broadcast journalist Cedric Foster for the Mutual radio network. In this commentary from January 30, 1957, Foster lists who has just left and who is scheduled to arrive at the White House in the coming weeks. Prime Minister Nehru of India was the most recent visitor, quickly followed by Crown Prince Abdullah of Iraq, German President Theodor Heuss, René Coty of France, UK Prime Minister Harold MacMillan, Marshall Tito of Yugoslavia, Generalissimo Franco of Spain and Queen Elizabeth. Scheduled to arrive on this day was Saudi Arabian King Ibn Saud. His visit was of great import. That Eisenhower was slated to greet Saud at the airport was indicative that Ibn Saud was no stranger to Washington. Ten years earlier he visited when he was a Prince, only this time as King he came as one of the few remaining absolute monarchs in the world – a culture far different than that of the U.S. – where slavery was commonplace, freedom of religion was unknown and anti-semitism was rampant. But in this air of discontent and upheaval, the concept of finding common ground was imperative – and not that the American way of life was the panacea for all the worlds problems. But the bottom line; Saudi Arabia had oil, and even in 1957 our need for oil was voracious and the U.S. couldn’t afford to let that oil fall into the hands of the Soviets. So a certain goodly amount of “looking the other way” became standard operating procedure. Saudi Arabia, along with Egypt, Syria and Jordan had lately constituted a split in the Arab world because they stood apart from Iraq, who was allied to the West in Baghdad. They also represented a split in the Muslim world because Iran, Turkey and Pakistan, predominately Muslim, were also aligned with Baghdad. The fear was; Egypt with its substantial population and large military, along with Saudi Arabia’s Oil could fall under the influence of the Soviet Union – as Egyptian President Nassar had been warming up to Moscow in recent months.
So even in 1957 it was all a chess game – and diplomacy was a delicate and critical art, in order to maintain peace in an otherwise volatile world. And always, it seemed, it was about oil.
And to remind you of that, here is that commentary from Cedric Foster from January 30, 1957.