The Atlantic Report on the World Today: Washington

SECURITY, in Adam Smith’s phrase, now takes precedence over opulence. The question is: Where to begin? What we need is an all-round expansion of defense. Clearly our first need is for more divisions, a greater “readiness potential.”In civil defense we are just getting up steam. The problem here is to prepare the population without exciting it. A radar screen is fundamental, and in this enterprise there must be coöperation from Canada, for Canada lies athwart the direct line between Russia and America. Radar protection calls likewise for stricter controls over private flying, so That the unknowns on the screen can be spotted and dealt with before they do damage.

But that is only the outer edge of civil defense. James M. Landis says that a definition of powers as between Federal and state authorities must be established. As director of civil defense in the last World War he found that the lack of this was a major stumbling block. At the moment, most communities are waiting for a Federal lead; and a sort of guidance report, several times promised, is due from the National Security Resources Hoard, of which, the fledgling directorate of civil defense is a subsidiary department.

What the people need is education in what might be expected from the atomic enemy. So far they have had none. Some communities like Cambridge, Massachusetts, are not unmindful of this need, or of the necessity for going ahead with their own preparations. In one or two cases, as in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, neighbors are negotiating common safeguards. There is also a plethora of unofficial plans, but some of them, such as the proposed building of shadow cities in California, are regarded as too disruptive to deserve consideration.

Civil defense is also responsible for the safety of the harbors when receiving foreign ships. Diversion and search have been instituted for ships from countries back of the iron curtain. What is an iron curtain country? Is Finland one? In the eyes of the Treasury Department, evidently—to the distress of the good Finns, who insist, with strong claims of verisimilitude, that they are independent.

The State Department is sympathetic with the Finns, but was not consulted in the application of the ruling. This is another case of the executive departments working at cross purposes.

The Spanish lobby

Over jurisdiction, of course, the perennial clash is between the Executive and the Legislature. Congress took a startling initiative when the Senate voted a 100-million-dollar loan to Spain. This set off some fireworks among the liberals and in free Europe. The balance of the arguments appears to be against the loan, though some of the prejudices are ill-founded, such as the prejudice that Franco always played the Axis game. If the military are to he believed, the Duke of Alba placed all Spanish intelligence at Allied disposal, and Franco himself never breathed a word about the North African landing, though he knew about it from the documents found on a shipwrecked courier.

The Spanish case is in the hands of an expert lobby every whit as influential and well-heeled as the China lobby. Sometimes, indeed, these lobbyists work together. Spain, too, has military backing. The President resented the Congressional initiative, and at first sought to seduce the pro-Spanish group, which crosses party lines, by throwing out a favorable word for the restoration of diplomatic relations, after almost a century-long break, with the Vatican. Whereat he himself ignited another set of fireworks.

Another priority in defense is the task of defending the dollar. Lenin long ago spoke of the ruination of a currency as the easiest route to revolution. Inflation was incipient when the Korean war started, so that a lot of uncovered defense spending could wreak havoc on the dollar. This is well realized, as is the fact that there was too little pay-asyou-go in the last war. However, the estimated 30 out of the 270 billion dollars of national income slated for defense spending, or 11 per cent, ought to be manageable without the Baruch plan for comprehensive controls.

A lot of “give“ remains in the American economy. Allocations and priorities, strict credit controls, stiff taxes — these should be sufficient safeguards for an 11 per cent earmark. Stand-by controls are regarded as all that are necessary this side of overt action by the Russians. All the guesses and tentative plans are being made in the darkness imposed by lack of knowledge of Russian intentions.

Russia experts in the State Department don‘t seem to think that the aggression in Korea was the beginning of a series of incidents or the curtainraiser to Russian attack. They think it was a response to an isolated situation. This was the speeding up of American plans for a separate peace with Japan, with the prospect that before long Japan would be safeguarded from Russian infiltration or absorption. According to this theory, the Russians wanted to round out their control over Korea, so as to be in a position constantly to intimidate Japan from her flank.

ACHESON and Johnson

Acheson and Johnson continue to be lemon and cream to each other. Acheson appears to be the more likely to last, though his relations on the Hill are unimproved. He is the bull of the pro-Chiang Kai-shek contingent and the diehard Republicans, though much of the criticism is really due to the fact that he has no political following. He is the unknown Secretary to most Congressmen. One member, in the House for thirty years, talked to him for the first time the other day and confessed that he had misjudged the man.

Mr. Acheson is undoubtedly hampered in administration by the opposition, and shows it in action. Some say that in consequence he is getting a persecution complex. He is given to talk about pistols being held to his head, and creates the impression that he sees more pistols, or more formidable ones, than there actually are.

As to Mr. Johnson, he is vulnerable, though not for the reasons that are usually assigned, He is a tall, even disingenuous, talker, but he has piloted the needed unification, and he has cut out a lot of fat in the defense establishment that was exposed by the Hoover Commission. Whatever muscle he has cut is a sacrifice to be attributed to strategical planners and political limitations as much as to his ambitions to stake out a claim for higher ofiice as Lord High Economizer.

Censorship by intimidation

The press is already feeling the hot breath of censorship on its neck. In the war zone this is inevitable, though the censorship by intimidation that goes on in Korea, as it does in occupied Japan, is not conducive to adequate news and proper comment. The corresponded Is would much prefer outright censorship by the military; at least they would know where they stood. But General MacArthur does not like such an operation, and has passed the buck to Washington to initiate some form of censorship at home.

Rather than endure this innovation, with the possibility of all agencies and generals equipped with a gag, the newspapers would prefer to see voluntary censorship return, with a civilian Byron Price in charge. This would become a demand if the wedge of existing requests not to publish gets deeper and wider.

How do we tell our story?

America’s reputation as a salesman makes the weakness and oven the failure of our propaganda abroad the more inexplicable. Shortage of funds is primarily responsible. But existing propaganda, even though it is purveying truth, does not seem to persuade. This, at any rate, is the verdict of returning travelers. Throughout Europe, except in England, the Communists appear to be more than holding their own in spite of the aggression against South Korea.

It may be that we are conducting our publicity on too high a level. At any rate, those who complain about the inefficacy of the Voice of America point, by way of contrast to the success of the representatives abroad of American labor. Few people seem to know of this activity. The AFL has a free tradeunion committee with half a dozen men abroad who work the men in foreign factories. Every one of them has done a general’s work, particularly Irving Brown in Europe and Richard Deverall in India, and the wonder is whether the Voice cannot take a leaf out of their copybook.

Even so, our propagandists have to match wits as well as talents against the most successful as well as the least scrupulous of all propagandists. An example of the genius opposed to us is the peace movement. The brains behind the Stockholm peace petition are precisely the same brains, according to this writer‘s information, which engineered the peace ballot of the thirties and supplied much of the material for the disarmament campaign. To counter evil men who can enlist peace to foment war requires countergenius.

Guarding against subversion

Half a dozen bills, some born in hysteria and some in precaution, have been batting around Congress which would strengthen the laws against subversion. They all got a spur on the realization that Fuchs and his cohorts had evaded all twenty-seven of the antisubversion laws on the books when thev stole the greatest secret in American history.

In such crises the answer usually is “there ought to be a law.”If the question is raised t hat maybe enforcement is defective, the questioner is himself regarded as a near-traitor, for the FBI is the Capital‘s sacred cow.

However, there are deficiencies in the law. Governor Dewey denied this in his famous debate with Stassen, but the President has himself acknowledged them, as in present circumstances Dewey would. The greatest fear is sabotage at the air bases both here and abroad.

Partly for this reason, partly to sidetrack extreme proposals which would erode liberties without supplying much security, President Truman has combined the least noxious features in the current bills in a message to Congress which he asks to be enacted. An example of his rewriting is his acceptance of an extension of the statute of limitations, but only for peacetime espionage eases.

He likewise rejects the detention features of the Hobbs bill, which would set up concentration camps for deportees with no available port of destination. The frozen deportees constitute a real problem. There are 3800 deportees unable to leave the country, but only 103 are subversives, so that comprehensive detention would destroy basic freedoms.

Some of the hills on the Hill would penalize the harboring of evil thoughts as well as the doing of evil actions. Some would put a crimp on lawful association. Senator McCarran, however, has responded to the Presidential effort to separate grain from chaff by combining in an omnibus measure his own anti-immigration ideas and most of the provisions of the Mundt - Nixon-Ferguson bill.

The battle is on, with more sympathy for McCarran, who is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, than for Truman. The President, under fire for sheltering Communists, deserves full marks for his initiative in grasping the worst nettle of the times –how to safeguard security without imperiling liberty.

Mood of the Capital

Nonparty men deplore the quick return to political preoccupation. However, polities is the business of Washington, and the Republicans, after the first shock of Korea, had independently been studying the Truman armor for new chinks in the light, of the happenings in Korea.

The result of a new Republican look at political chances is the documented charge that the Democrats are unworthy of trust because they were fooled by Stalin. The Republican minority in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee put the indictment together. Senator Vandenberg withheld his signature, but authorized his “general agreement.”To what extent he subscribed to the document is mere guesswork, but no doubt he has his reservations about a document signed by some who never supported him when he was waging a lone battle as a constructive oppositionist.

The fact is that the Republicans cannot present much of a position to warrant any faith that they would have turned in a better performance in office. “Indifference to defense,”said John Calhoun, “is the first symptom of decay.”and defense requires more unity between the parties than is now observable.