The Atlantic Report on the World Today: Washington
THE power of the purse is a check which no President can safety ignore. As a practical matter, therefore, Mr. Truman needs to keep Congress moving along with his policies and his decisions under the North Atlantic Pact—not necessarily by asking for votes but by inviting confidence through consultation.
Most of the irritation in Congress is caused by the hit-or-miss method of consultation which this Administration has practiced hitherto. For instance, about the middle of August the French asked for a decision on American troop reinforcement in Europe and the appointment of an American commander-in-chief. For nearly a month the various agencies wrestled with it.
A check shows that Secretary Acheson saw no Senators other than Senators Harry Cain and Elbert Thomas until he appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee the day before he met with the British and French Foreign Ministers on September 12. At that time he told them of the Administration’s decision. There was then no chance for discussion. It is because of this lag — and sometimes lack in consultation that the Taft objections are sustained even in the Administration’s party by such influential Senators as Senators Walter George and Paul Douglas.
Truman names the enemy
The State of the Union message was grimly impressive, and showed in its style the work of professional hands. This aid has since been confirmed. Apparently for the first time, the White House team brought in some writers from the outside, including John Mersey. In this respect Mr. Truman is following the technique of his predecessor, who leaned on such professionals as Robert E. Sherwood and Archibald MacLeish. In it and for the first time Mr. Truman named Soviet Russia as our ad versary.
The period of tilting at abstractions like international Communism or just plain Communism is over. The President hit at the “Russian Communist dictatorship and at “Soviet imperialists.” The turning point may be dangerous, but not so dangerous as clothing our conflict in abstractions. Several consequences will follow from the President’s fresh tack. Instead of confusion, there will be direction. This may aid our diplomacy in other Communist lands — for instance, Yugoslavia. But mainly the new focus of our defense effort may enable us to avoid the pitfall of an endless ideological war of the Thirty Years variety.
The Communists are afraid of facts — the facts of the prisoners of war they still keep, of the 15 million slaves working in their mines, fields, and forests, and of the crowded concentration camps. Here, as one official said, is our real secret weapon in waging the cold war. The overshadowing fact that we must grapple with is Muscovite aggression. It is aggression that we fight, not an idea.
Production, not exaggeration
The all-out mobilizers have piped down since Secretary Marshall and Charles E. Wilson have deflated them with common sense. Marshall makes the point that I he hundred-division boys — Governor Dewey ct al. would withdraw useful manpower from the labor force and leave it with no place to go. Until there are supplies and equipment and uniforms for the men, wholesale recruitment would be futile. There would be no housing or training available for a flock of newcomers. The object of policy must be, in his words, to get “a workable system of partial mobilization from which we can move with great rapidity into a full mobilization.”Nothing is more demoralizing to an army than to have it standing around with nothing to do.
Wilson has further sharpened the Marshall point by explaining that the significant word in our gray mobilizalion is industrial capacity. That prime need, of course, is obvious. But some of those who agree with Marshall are nevertheless anxious to flood the country with war matériel. They would “let it lie around for want of either use at home or the ships tor dispatch abroad! comments Wilson in sizing up the principle of priority. No. capacity is the prerequisite, and in this respect we are well started.
In the last war much raw material was absorbed in creating capacity for turning out munitions. It is still there 100 per cent more than in 1041, as, for instance, in dockyards. The Economic Report talks about the need for more aircraft capacity, but the need is nothing like that of World War II, when capacity had to be built to jack up output from .4000 to 100,000 plain’s a year. A three-shift system in the arms industry, it is said, would put us in the position of emitting a Niagara of tanks and airplanes at short notice.
Wilson, Assistant President
The appointment of General Electric’s Charles E. Wilson has come as a great reassurance. People from all walks of life have showered him with the kind of welcome that betokens relief. The greeting was a humbling experience for a man who, in addition to running a giant enterprise, leaches Sunday school. Instinctively the letter-writers knew that only a man who knew the structure of American indust ry could do the job.
One thing about if — Wilson has got the power. His is a far more important assignment as Defense Mobilization Director than Byrnes’s as War Mobilization Director. He is Assistant President plus. Wilson enjoys a unique authority to issue presidential directives — a power that Mr. Truman has never delegated before, and one that F.D.R. would never have delegated. Wilson demanded it.
At first the President offered him a job equivalent to the directorship of the old War Production job. But the General Electric head declined; he said he would be delighted to serve. Inn in a more responsible assignment. He then wrote his own ticket, which makes him a kind of umpire above the operators. General Harrison is the Nelson, or war production chief, of the present emergency.
Acheson and Eisenhower
It seems a safe bet that Secretary Achoson will not be displaced in a hurry. The unparalleled action of the Republican Party in calling for his resignation served merely to get the presidential dander up. He is reputed to have said that the only way they would “get" Acheson was to impeach the President.
If looked at one time as if this were the direction of Taft’s indictment on Korea. In saying that intervention there was irregular and illegal, the Ohioan gave aid and comfort to Moscow, for this was precisely the Vishinsky-Malik line at the United Nations. In this respeel Taft got nowhere. The President, judging from the approprialions for the Korean effort, certainly had a crowd of accessories in the legislative branch, including Mr. Taft, if any illegality were involved.
The worst thing you can say about Secretary Acheson is that he has lost the art of getting along with Congress. Perhaps he feels that in this respect any forwardness on his part would precipitate him into the middle of intraparty Republican squabbling. His aloofness, nevertheless, is criticizable.
I he job is difficult enough, but Paul Hoffman did it. Almost every night he used to entertain one or more Congressmen, and win friends in the House or Semite by an unwearied personal account of his stewardship.
By way of defense of Achoson it can be said that no man works harder than he and that no man has such a weight of responsibility on his shoulders, He has in turn to bully and cajole the faint hearts in Europe, though now the task is more or less shared by General Eisenhower, whose belated appearance in Europe, however, is traceable to Mr. Acheson’s addiction to bargaining points.
“Ike’s" enthusiasm is contagious. He believes fervently in his mission, and left the country as if he had been touched with inspiration. This is no extravagance of one admirer. He gave that impression to all who saw him before’ he left for Europe. At a time when the country is counting the cost of the political general directing the war in Korea, it is refreshing to see a general with both a nonpolitical and a civilian mind, oven though he is a popular idol. There was only one sour note. He has left the Pentagon with a feeling that it has been robbed because he has put some of the best men there on his staff. Two of them, Generals Gruenthcr and XorstacI, are regarded with the highest respect wherever military men meet.
Mood of the Capital
The mood of the Capital is returning to a sense of proportion about our post-Korean situation. Fear and hysteria are in process of subsiding. Much of the shrill demand beginning late in November for multibilliondollar overnight expansion was due to the mortification arising from military defeat. America has been unused to military setbacks since the grapple started with Moscow. Greece, Berlin — they were armed successes. But when we encountered reverses, as we did in Korea, then we went into a psychological tailspin and behaved like the Ancient Mariner: “All’s lost. To the boats.”
The British in the Capital contributed their historical experience by way of support. Sir Oliver Franks, Britain s Ambassador, is said to have reminded his American friends of a picture he used to look at as a child in his father’s study. It showed a lone Tommy stumbling back from an encounter in the Khyber Pass. And Sir William Slim, Britain’s chief of staff, told his opposites here that the feeling of “hurt “ was oh, so familiar, because “we have been through it.”
If we ever had as much as a tenth of our effectives in Korea, most, observers would be surprised. And now the buildup under Wilson promises to reproduce the wartime miracle.
The “great debate” still is adulterated with partisan heckling, especially in the Republican Party, but many of its Senators are irked by Taft’s assumpt ion of party aul hority.
If he and his fellow trustee at Yale — namely, Acheson — were not like lemon and cream, there might be some point to the suggestion one newspaper made that they should go together to the next meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers, and meet the Russians face to face. But, like Borah, Taft feels he has his own sources of information, and he appears content with them. However, he has a justifiable gripe about the Executive’s dealings with Congress. Truman as well as Acheson can upset the applecart with the greatest aplomb.