The Atlantic Report on the World Today: Washington

SUPERPATRIOTISM and Chinese Nationalist sympathy have coalesced with congressional control of the pocket book in a syndicate pitting formidable political pressure against the Eisenhower foreign policy. It was in the cards and probably should not have been surprising that McCarran and McCarthy, those supermonopolists of patriotism, share places on the Senate Appropriations Committee with Bridges, Mundt, and Dirksen, satellites in their system, and with Knowland, the leading Formosa Firster. Chairman Taber of the House Appropriations Committee partakes of both ideologies.

At a testimonial dinner to Mme. chiang in Washington, Knowland, McCarthy, and Taber raised their glasses in a climactic toast: “Back to the Mainland!” In that tableau is represented an array of overlapping political forces now threatening the President’s foreign policy.

If a foreign policy can be diverted by defaming its practitioners, it can be still further altered by starving them — or threatening to. Senator Mundt stated it bluntly when he said, “We are going to insist on a sweeping shake-up of top officials. It is not a question of loyalty or security. We promised a change.” He indicated that 100 or so should go. Dulles replied that several top changes had been made but that career men ran adapt themselves to a Republican leader. His defense implied that he would keep them on, but he made no solid promise.

The careerists, fearing Mundtism more than McCarthyism because it is more inclusive and hits even the immaculate just because they are holdovers, felt their security gone. Mundtism eliminates one whole layer of jobs at t he top and, by thus constricting the opportunity for reward, dampens incentive all the way through the career service. Our diplomacy could suffer gravely.

The Administration cannot ignore this combination of power or, with its precarious majority, easily combat it. Because of it, George F. Kennan, half of America’s renowned Bohlen-Kennan team of Russian experts, could not be made ambassador to Yugoslavia, though high-strategy considerations in which the President himself concurred made him the best choice. It was possible only to compromise, making Kennan an element as invisible as possible in the Slate atmosphere in which policy on Russia grows. “Consultant ” was the scientific word for it.

NSC: the new brain

During the period of wild surmise surrounding Stalin’s funeral in Moscow, the President drove every department and agency head toward an important date — March 31. The policy-makers were ordered to attend on that date, fully prepared, a meeting of the vitalized National Security Council, at which they would expound, defend, and reconcile their particular programs with all the others and so rough out a single national policy.

The meeting lasted from breakfast to supper, It produced what enthusiasts believe to be the mosi coherent body of cold-war policy yet brought together by the government, the tidiest budgeting of requirements and resources. The NSC projected the future on the basis of American capacity rather than Russian posturings.

But the lines of thought that had been explored in the unpublicized NSC meeting suffered distortions as to content and were wrongly evaluated as they emerged. A common error was failure to be clear as to how far along toward final decision some highly tentative ideas had progressed. The NSC has no formal arrangement for admitting the public as a party to its formulations, and in fact, by tradition and present thinking, shuns such an arrangement. That could be a major defect in its process.

Secretary Charles E. Wilson, who according to Pentagon generals had not done his homework well enough, enuncialed a policy of narrowing the American mobilization base. In intent, this policy meshed into a broad effort to get away from the “peril point” thinking which had prompted both NATO planning and American mobilization since Korea. The new line was to regear over-all Allied defense to a pace which would respect and conserve the economic base of the effort rather than aim it toward a date, chosen more by guess than by knowledge, when the Russian menace supposedly would reach its peak.

Wilson’s exposition, blurred perhaps in the reporting, came out looking like a reversion to the discredited 1938-1939 scheme of a few big munitions plants on full time rather than a lot of them, big and small, set to run at half speed until an emergency occurred.

The backlash complicated the problem. There was instant consternation among American industrialists who feared cancellation of arms contracts in a time of falling prices, and among allies who saw an end to offshore procurement and a possible revival of the Fortress America doctrine. They thought Wilson had been made hopeful by Moscow’s doves or had transposed economy and security in his table of priorities. But Wilson’s thinking predated Stalin’s death, and while he is working hard toward economy, security comes first with him.

Forrestal’s “broad plateau”

The Administration actually aimed to bring rearmament policy at long last to the “broad plateau" James Forrestal fought to reach in 1949. His defense budget was underbid by Louis Johnson’s cutrate $13 billion for assertedly adequate defense. Had Forrestal won, he might be alive today, the nation would have been prepared for Korea, the 1950 emergency program would not have distorted the whole rearmament picture, the strains on the economy would have been more sensibly diffused both here and throughout the alliance.

Forrestal is now regarded as the t rue prophet of a modern U.S.-NATO defense policy. It is estimated his program would have cost $22 billion a year if launched in 1949. Today if would cost $32 billion because of inflation induced by trying to catch up after Korea, and can be reached, if at all, only by a careful retrogression through the zone between that level and $40 billion, or more.

The pattern of foreign policy which began to show at the NSC meeting naturally reflected judgments reached before Stalin’s death and certainly predating Malenkov’s apparent amicability. Policies are being projected from two points. For Asia the plan is to hold on to the flanks, Korea and IndoChina, and increase the threat of pressure from the center, Formosa.

For Europe, the plan is sturdy adherence to the European Defense Community project so heartily indorsed by Eisenhower himself when he was Atlantic Supreme Commander at Rocquencourt. These plans assumed maintenance of a respectable American military posture, and success in holding against congressional pressure for tax cuts.

The problems of peare

To Washington, watching the flight of the Muscovite doves, a difference between the Chinese and the Russians seemed detectable. The Chinese showed a yen for one less war. This added poignancy to the problem of Chiang and Formosa. All could see that the alliance with Chiang would have to be weakened to attain less war with his mainland enemy. That produced a wispy suggestion of UN trusteeship for Formosa — and an instantaneous adverse reflex from Knowland and other legislators oriented toward Chiang.

The radiance of possible peace exposed vested interests. American diplomacy has developed a vested interest in German partition and in our chosen instrument, Chancellor Adenauer, Congress has a strong vested interest in no peace with Red China. Divestiture would require reversal of solidified political habits for a whole generation of right-wing Republicans. Pentagon brass has a vested interest in big budgets, for which the Russians have obligingly applied a spur every year.

Though he is not against air power, Wilson asked disconcerting questions of Air Force and Navy birdmen. Even unsatisfactory answers wouldn’t bring changes overnight, but Wilson’s questions pointed a possible direction of change. Why do we need so many big bombers if three can carry in atoms the destructive power it took 2700 to lift for the St. Lô breakout — especially since we have plenty of A-bombs? Why are we enamored of 143 as an irreducible number of air groups when the planes per group have doubled since 143 was conjured? Must we have both a full intercontinental bomber force and a full system of overseas bases to domicile less rangy planes? Couldn’t both programs be safely trimmed a little? Would the Navy air arm and the Air Force perhaps stop planning to defend the same places?

Eisenhower and Congress

The relatively slim accomplishments of the first session gave the opposition opportunity to haul up slogans about a Do-Nothing Congress. Before the inauguration, the Eiscnhower Administration planned principally a housekeeping program on the Hill, Nevertheless, judging the President’s program by his utterances, the things left over by the first session will include a new farm policy, a broader social security program, revision of the McCarran Act, Federal aid to education. Federal aid for health needs, and improvement of the defense organization.

Noise and agitation sometimes suggested that Eisenhower was bulked in Congress. But the distribution of power was in Eisenhower’s favor. In summary, the House leadership and the House committee power are at odds, while in the Senate the leadership and committee power work together on most issues, notably in the domestic field. House and Senate leadership are naturally allied with Eisenhower. So the line-up is the Presidency plus the Senate leadership plus the Senate committees plus the House leadership, against the House committees.

House Ways and Means bucked on taxes, foreign trade, and social security. Thecommit lee’s position seemed popular in the House, and the proEisenhower leadership’s strength only marginally exceeded the committee’s. The discharge procedure always threatens the margin. But in the Senate, Eugene Millikin of Finance was an Eisenhower-Taft ally in defense of the line along the middle of the road. So success by extremists of the right in the House could be frustrated in the Senate; or at worst, a reasonably satisfactory compromise could be achieved in conference.

The reasons for this pattern lie in the different political bases upon which the elements of power rest. House Ways and Means Chairman Daniel Reed comes from a solid Republican upstate New York district. Taft and Millikin answer to more complex constituencies. Legitimate concern for political survival urges them toward a middle position which Esienhower has prov ed to be popular. Mart in rises above district politics when he becomes Speaker: automatically. he moves to Eisenhower’s side.

The President unblushingly favors the middle of the road, He wants middle-of-the-road appointees, willing to operate on facts, be laithlul to the laws they execute, and give loyalty to their service. No extremists need apply.

But some of Eisenhower’s appointments raised the question of whether his specifications were bending under pressure. The President has seemed an advocate of a liberal foreign trade policy. That appearance seems more dubious after his appointment of former Representative Joseph E. Talbot of Connecticut, candidate of protectionists, to the Tariff Commission. This was a sop to Chairman Reed and his Ways and Means colleague, Representative Richard Simpson, philosophically hostile to the reciprocal trade agreements legislation.

Appointment of former Representative Albert M. Cole of Kansas, longtime foe of public housing and slum clearance, to head the Housing and Home Finance Agency was perhaps more startling than that of Talbot. But he had labored in the Eisenhower campaign with Kansans Harry Darby and Senator Frank carlson: and, as is well known, political friendships of that sort overlook secondary ideologies like those encrusting the public housing issue.

Mood of the Capital

Washington is at last beginning to persuade itself that history has ordered a breathing spell — certainly in the domestic ideological conflict, and hopefully in the international struggle. The conservatives are realizing that twenty years of inciting opposition is a different thing from legislative leadership, particularly with only a narrow majority in Congress. Forces of left and right are nearly in equilibrium, and both are much smaller than the relatively contented center.