139. Memorandum of a Conversation Between the President and the Vice President (Nixon), White House, Washington, July 15, 1958, 9 a.m.1

The President and the Vice President talked a little more about situation in Mid East.2

The President said we had come to the crossroads. Since 1945 we have been trying to maintain the opportunity to reach vitally needed petroleum supplies peaceably, without hindrance on the part of any one. The present incident comes about by the struggle of Nasser to get control of these supplies—to get the income and the power to destroy the Western world. Somewhere along the line we have got to face up to the issue. It is too bad. You see the mistakes that were made.

The President said he was sure of one thing: we need a strong powerful voice speaking in the Mid East—powerful in the terms of technical capacity and a man (as well as a station) that could present the Western point of time [view?] all the time and who would also support legitimate nationalism. The trouble is that we have a campaign of hatred against us, not by the governments but by the people. The people are on Nasser’s side.

The Vice President then gave the President his ideas as to how the talk to the nation, or to reporters, should present the case. For the United States, the argument has to be tied to Mid East oil; for world opinion you cannot allow it to appear that the Mid East countries are simply a pawn in the big power contest for their resources. What is required, the Vice President said, was an historical announcement of when a civil war becomes the type of action in which outside intervention by the United States is justified. When is a civil war not a civil war? Any nation ought to have the right to revolution. We recognize the right of revolution. We also say every people has the right of self-determination—that right of self-determination is one that carries with it the right not to have outside interference that stimulates it. We go into Lebanon because we were invited in and because here is a man, Chamoun, who was freely elected leader in his country who finds his country infiltrated by corruption, subversion and bribery. In the larger sense the President could say we have to find a way to deal with civil [Page 245] war—if we do not, we will lose the world. The Communists have developed the device of foreign-inspired revolution to create a civil war (a classic case was Czechoslovakia). What we are doing here is saying that finally the West has reached a conclusion. We will not stand by to allow civil war to deliver a country even to Nasser. The Vice President further cited our action in the Greece–Turkey difficulty.

  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, Eisenhower Diaries. The source text bears the heading “Staff Notes.” There is nothing to indicate who drafted the notes.
  2. Shortly before this conversation with Eisenhower, Nixon called Dulles and discussed the announcement of the troop landing in Lebanon. Nixon complimented Dulles for his handling of the Congressional briefing on the previous day. Of the decision to intervene, Nixon said “if it works we are heroes and if not we are bums,” but he added that nothing would be worse than waiting for the United Nations to act. (Ibid., Dulles Papers, General Telephone Conversations; included in the microfiche supplement)