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Moral Melodrama


Although one episode in the Syrian-Turkish conflict seems to have passed without producing much more than frayed nerves, the difficulties have only begun. The coming debate in the United Nations may only serve to push Syria even further into the Russian grasp, unless the United States reconsiders its policy in the Middle East.

At present American efforts in that area have either been completely misunderstood or understood all too well. Syria is convinced rightly or wrongly that the U.S. is supporting counter-revolutionary elements infiltrating the country in the hope of seizing power. If this concept is correct, and America is really engaging in melodramatic cloak-and-dagger activities, it is a sign of an unimaginative diplomacy and an imperialistic attitude. Neither are worthy of our State Department.

Assuming that the United States has no interest in the Middle East beyond assuring a steady flow of oil to Europe, there can be no excuse for attempting to overthrow any existing government. Syria is not dominated by Communists, only by nationalists, but any attempt to install an American-dominated government by force will certainly result in a pro-Communist reaction.

Certainly President Kuwatly and the military leaders who put him in power have no interest in letting Syria become a base for either Russian or American operations. The anti-colonialism in the Middle East expressed itself not in Communism, but in an assertion of Arab unity. It would be a major blunder if the United States appeared to be the enemy of this unity and allowed Russia to become its protector.

Syria's own persecution complex has been heightened in intensity by continuing American statements on the immorality of neutralism. The Syrians hear our diplomats say that if a country is not with us, it is against us, and the Syrians believe what they hear.

Until we substitute practical considerations and actions for what appears to uncommitted nations, our foreign policy will remain a failure. In the UN discussion a shift of attitude in favor of the neutrals will serve to ease not only Syrian tension, but strained relations throughout Asia and Africa.

The United States, by adopting a less self-righteous attitude towards the forms of government of nations and a more realistic concept of Western interests, can serve its own cause far better than by making "right conduct" the only standard of foreign policy. In Syria, particularly, a revision of our viewpoint can prevent Russia from gaining a sphere of influence in the Arab world.

Aside from dropping, for the moment at least, the sword of righteousness, the United States must increase its economic aid program in the Middle East. Economic stability is still the surest weapon against Communism. Syria and its neighbors are still vulnerable to Marxist doctrine, and only financial security can prevent its spread.

Until we substitute practical considerations and actions for what appears to be an attitude of hostile morality, we can make no progress towards stable relations with the Middle East.

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