Losing Ourselves or Finding Ourselves? Operation Ajax, the Eisenhower Administration, and Changes to American Identity during the Early Cold War
Finucane, Daniel Northrup
LOSING OURSELVES OR FINDING OURSELVES?OPERATION AJAX, THE EISENHOWER ADMINISTRATION, AND CHANGES TO AMERICAN IDENTITY DURING THE EARLY COLD WARDaniel Northrup Finucane, B.A.MALS Mentor: Francis X. Winters, S.J.ABSTRACTThis thesis reviews from the perspective of ethics and human values the decision by the Eisenhower Administration to overthrow Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953. Most literature on the coup, known as Operation Ajax, revolves around either its disastrous consequences or the geostrategic rationale for the controversial action. This thesis conducts an ethical assessment of Operation Ajax, and it contends that the coup decision provides a useful example to illustrate how American values and identity changed during the early Cold War. This thesis reviews the literature to date on Operation Ajax and develops an argument for why morality needs to factor into American foreign policy. The thesis then discusses how the Eisenhower Administration believed it was acting in the right when it deposed Mossadegh, even though it acknowledged, through the Doolittle Report, that it consciously lowered the ethical standards of American foreign policy in doing so. The thesis contends that Operation Ajax was justified but unethical, though it suggests that a coup could be both justified and ethical given the right circumstances. The thesis also argues that actions such as Operation Ajax show an America more interested in stability than in self-determination, and a United States that has ceded some of its claims to exceptionalism. The thesis concludes with a suggestion that Americans strive for better self-understanding of how its increased intervention in the Cold War - for benign reasons in the interest of international security and stability - led to fundamental changes to the nation's identity.
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