President Eisenhower stated his support for the idea of statehood for Alaska early in his administration but also expressed concerns that needed to be overcome before that could occur. The greatest concern was the issue of national security; this was during the height of the Cold War and Alaska was on the border of the Soviet Union. Another concern was the amount of public land in the territory; 99% of the area was owned by the Federal government and a suitable compromise had to be arranged to transfer unreserved lands to the new state government.
I wonder if Charlie Gibson would have condescendingly peered at President Eisenhower if he had shared the bolded concern above in an interview. Alaska's geographic location was a concern during this time of the Cold War, but its position on the globe proved to be a solid justification for statehood as well as its location was helpful in the Pacific theater of World War II. Today, in addition to its abundant natural resources, it proves to also be a strategic location for national security purposes as Governor Palin highlighted in a recent op-ed regarding the START treaty:
New START recognizes a link between offensive and defensive weapons – a position the Russians have sought for years. Russia claims the treaty constrains U.S. missile defenses and that they will withdraw from the treaty if we pursue missile defenses. This linkage virtually guarantees that either we limit our missile defenses or the Russians will withdraw from the treaty. The Obama administration claims that this is not the case; but if that is true, why agree to linking offensive and defensive weapons in the treaty? At the height of the Cold War, President Reagan pursued missile defense while also pursuing verifiable arms control with the then-Soviet Union. That position was right in the 1980’s, and it is still right today. We cannot and must not give up the right to missile defense to protect our population – whether the missiles that threaten us come from Russia, Iran, China, North Korea, or anywhere else. I fought the Obama administration’s plans to cut funds for missile defense in Alaska while I was Governor, and I will continue to speak out for missile defenses that will protect our people and our allies.
When Secretary of State William Seward purchase Alaska from Russia in 1867, many deemed it "Seward's folly", as Alaska was seen as a large, detached, sparsely populated area. However, Alaska's most well known resource, oil, was first discovered just 29 years later when drillers found oil at Cook Inlet in 1896. Alaska's natural resources and location now provide both energy and security to America.
Happy 52nd birthday, Alaska!
Crossposted here and here.