The Atlantic Report on the World Today: Washington


FROM Korea to Austria, some 200 million people have been added to the American charge as the result of the war. The problem is to provide them with administration. At present the work is done mainly by the Army and the Navy. In addition to subjecting these wards to military rule, the situation has given rise to the fear in other countries that the United States is going militaristic.

The United States has assumed world power with only the briefest preparation for these tasks of administration. There is not yet the exportable surplus of trained young men which is supposed to be essential to greatness in a nation, nor is there the like of the colonial services of Great Britain from which to draw the operating personnel. And the State Department hesitates to ask for the kind of budget necessary to man a Department of Peace which has been left with this Atlas-like assignment.

But our chief drawback is our inability to attract proconsular talent into government positions. The President has difficulty in filling domestic appointments, let alone foreign posts. He once said he had to spend half his time in persuading Americans to serve their country.

Government service made unattractive

In these critical days a new concept of service is required of our individualistic society. A reciprocal responsibility devolves on the government, for a man who agrees to serve his country should be treated with consideration. Instead, he is often regarded as a candidate for bear-baiting.

Consider the case of General William H. Draper, Jr., who is in charge of trade for the military government in Germany. In private life he is one of the executives of a New York investment banking firm. He was a reserve officer when war broke out in Europe. One day in 1940 he was asked to come to Washington for a short spell of duty in connection with Selective Service. He thought he would be away from home a matter of six weeks, but he has been on duty over six years. Nobody is more anxious to get back to home and career. Yet the Brewster (formerly Truman) Committee has allowed its special counsel to cast aspersions on his motives.

The situation has alarmed such reformers of government service as Secretary Forrestal and Civil Service Commissioner Arthur S. Flemming. The latter recently warned that “if we put second-rate men in the government’s scientific laboratories, in important positions in the field of international relations, and in our key administrative posts, we are deliberately jeopardizing everything for which we fought.”

Thought control?

Government employees, already reduced to a state bordering on demoralization by the brandishing of the economy axe, are faced with a general inquisition. They are to be put through a loyalty test. The Civil Liberties Union has declared that the order is so broad in its scope and substance, so lacking in sufficient safeguards necessary for the protection of individuals, so wanting in clarity as to procedure, that it constitutes a menace to civil liberties.

Everything depends upon its administration. There are multiple safeguards against unjust dismissal. Suspects are given every opportunity to appear personally before departmental loyalty boards, to be represented at such hearings by counsel, and to present evidence in refutation of charges against them.

Employees recommended for dismissal have a final right of appeal to the Civil Service Commission’s loyalty review board. Chairman Harry B. Mitchell of the Commission insists that the order will not be carried out so as to deprive government workers of their rights of free thought and free speech. Nevertheless — pity the poor government worker with a sword of Damocles hanging over his head!

WASHINGTON (continued)

This drastic order is due to a combination of circumstances. The Canadian experience is vivid in every official mind in Washington. Our own Federal service mushroomed in wartime, and little chance was afforded for appraisals of character and other non-technical qualifications. Finally, Congress insists on a house cleaning. It already has shown that it will do the job itself if the Executive won’t.

One step already taken is the denial of appropriations for payment of salaries to Director Warren of the Conciliation Service and his staff. This assumption by Congress of the right to fire members of the Executive branch is a plain usurpation of power. Representative Cox even went so far as to suggest that Mr. Lilienthal might be kept out of office by a denial of funds by the House.

If this sort of thing is tolerated. Federal employment would attract only the docile and the conventional. Nobody else would enlist. They would refuse to subject themselves to a Congress acting at once as prosecutor and jury. At least the President’s loyalty procedures, in addition to reaffirming his power to hire and fire, afford safeguards.

The Truman message

The Russophobia in America made for receptiveness of the Truman showdown with Russia in the Near East. Still, the people seem to have been caught flat-footed. There had been little preparation for the new responsibilities in the Near East left by Britain. In self-defense the State Department has argued that the first intimation of British withdrawal from Greece came on February 24. But it was certainly known long before that. Bevin mentioned the possibility to Byrnes last summer. From that time on, an argument raged between the British Treasury and the Foreign Office, and our State Department knew all about it.

It was a foregone conclusion that Britain’s economyminded Treasury would win. Indeed, Britain’s representatives in Athens left Americans, from the Ambassador down, under no misapprehensions that before the March 31 end of the fiscal year the British would have to get out of Greece. But none of the possibilities inherent in this situation had been communicated to newspapermen.

This reluctance to inform the American people is altogether contrary to old practice. The State Department ought to ponder the words of wisdom in the message to Congress which contained the Monroe Doctrine: “The people being with us exclusively the sovereign, it is indispensable that full information be laid before them on all important subjects, to enable them to exercise that high power with complete effect. If kept in the dark, they must be incompetent to it. . . . The more full their information, the better they can judge of the wisdom of the policy pursued and of the conduct of each in regard to it.”

WASHINGTON (continued)

Today the assumption is that the people cannot bear the light and will not support the truth as responsible officialdom sees it. President Truman confided in the people, but he found a weak backstop in the State Department.

Which way the UN?

Bickering and Russia’s too frequent use of the veto have reduced the Security Council to a state of semi-paralysis. Its military staff committee is still talking over the procedure of its own organization. For this reason, according to Mr. Truman, we are called upon to act in Greece and Turkey. Until his speech at the Jefferson Day dinner, Mr. Truman was somewhat perfunctory in his reference to the United Nations.

Moreover, it was remiss of him and the State Department not to report to the Security Council, which is in continuous session, at the same time that he reported to Congress. The excuse of State Department officials was that American action is not a reality until Congress approves. It was a thin excuse. At any rate this omission was remedied before Congress took action, by the report of our delegate, Warren R. Austin, to the Council on March 28.

Austin suggested the maintenance of a commission on the spot, with an international border patrol. The latter, interestingly enough, would not be new in Balkan history. From 1903 to 1912 the Macedonian frontier was policed by an international gendarmerie, including Dutch, Swiss, and Swedish nationals.

Another possibility is that the American mission should enlist United Nations personnel. There is, for instance, a technical staff available in the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. Aside from keeping faith with the undoubted American sentiment in support of the United Nations, there is merit in spreading the political risk.


The Capital is full of confusion over the dilemma posed by the Truman message. Most Congressmen are pledged to reduce taxes. Yet the global responsibilities put on Uncle Sam’s doorstep will cost money. The job of reconciling the contradiction is causing a good deal of perspiration on Capitol Hill.

The polls indicate a falling off in Republican popularity. This has precipitated the stirrings of a revolt among the more forward-looking Republican Senators against their leadership. Saltonstall and Lodge are in this company. They want to see less negativism in policy, less reliance on old shibboleths and traditions. The only Republican leader who seems to have grown in stature since the election is Vandenberg.