THE refusal of the Eisenhower Administration to exert firm leadership is dissipating the aura of enthusiasm and expectation that greeted the first months of the Republican regime. No one doubts that President Eisenhower himself retains immense personal popularity, in Washington and throughout the country. Precisely because of tins great personal standing, his flaccid guidance on domestic issues and his failure to come to grips with McCarthy have left the Capital mystified.
On major items of foreign policy the President, has shown both awareness and adroitness and on occasion has displayed considerable moral force. On some domestic items, such as the budget, the Administration has marshaled strong arguments to support its position — though the proposal to cut back the Air Force expansion stirred up a storm in Congress. But there the matter seemingly stops. Having outlined its position, the Administration is content to leave the outcome to Congress. The result is that in more than one instance the President’s program has been rescued by the Democratic opposition. In other cases, the President has stood by while legislators have prepared to subvert the measures he has proposed.
To assert or conciliate
To understand this curious performance, it is necessary to understand the President’s deep respect for the tripartite nature of the American government. But the President’s belief amounts to an almost exclusionary separation of powers which may be naive in view of the repeated Congressional encroachments on the Executive domain.
Another of President Eisenhower’s deep convictions is that few matters can be satisfactorily resolved through public quarrels. This was the secret of his diplomacy as Supreme Allied Commander during World War II and later as NATO commander. Hence his efforts to conciliate members of Congress through a series of luncheons and his heavy reliance on regular conferences with legislative leaders, particularly Senator Taft.
The flaw in this philosophy is that it leaves the stage to the right-wing extremists and demagogues who care not a whit for the President’s scruples. Foremost among these is Senator McCarthy. No one believes that Eisenhower has the slightest sympathy with McCarthy’s techniques. But the President has steadfastly refused to consider a personal fight. Instead, he has relied on efforts by moderate Republicans in the Senate to isolate McCarthy. This strategy worked well enough on the Bohlen confirmation. Some of McCarthy’s supporters, there and in the press, deserted him temporarily. Now, the White House explanation goes, the President is waiting fora clear-cut EisenhowerMcCarthy issue on which to blow the Wisconsin Senator out of the water.
Even some believers in the President’s strategy, however. have begun to have doubts about its long-range effectiveness. In the first place, Senator McCarthy himself is aware of the strategy. He has seized every opportunity to pyramid himself into new areas for conquest. The more publicity he can got, the more his political ambitions are advanced and the harder is the President’s role.
In the second place, the Senate has virtually abandoned the fight against McCarthy. The Senate report detailing MeCarthy’s financial manipulations has scarcely been acknowledged, let alone acted upon. Even though other Senators admit their disgust, they express their disapproval merely by absenting themselves from McCarthy’s tirade’s. This, of course, leaves the floor — and the initiative — to McCarthy.
Even if Senator McCarthy is finally tackled, the damage he can do in the meantime is immense. This is particularly true in foreign relations. It is progressively more difficult to persuade Europeans that McCarthy does not speak for the United States. Hence some Eisenhower supporters feel that the President must act soon or even his great prestige will be tinax ailing.
The contradictions of Secretary Dulles
Elsewhere in the Administration, leadership has been spotty. Treasury Secretary Humphrey, Attorney General Brownell, and Mutual Security Director Stassen understand their jobs. Humphrey’s realism on the difficulties in balancing the budget has been especially applauded. Defense Secretary Wilson, despite his inauspicious start and the doubts about the wisdom of his program cuts, is credited with understanding the defense budget better than his predecessors. Postmaster General Summerfield has worked hard to introduce business methods into the Post Office.
Some of the hesitation elsewhere may be put down to lack of governmental experience. Inexperience, however, cannot explain the contradictions of Secretary of State Dulles. With considerable experience in foreign affairs, including the United Nations, Dulles is as well equipped as any Secretary of State in recent years. Yet it would be hard to find a diplomat in Washington who privately has much respect for him.
For one thing, Dulles deals with nations as if he were dealing with law clients. He has not learned that in foreign affairs it is impossible to tell one person one story and another person a different story without having them compare notes. When he has talked politely to Europeans and then led Americans to believe that he issued some sort of ultimatum, the full story has leaked out to discomfit him.
Moreover, Dulles likes to lecture. At the April meeting of the NATO Council in Paris there was a proposal to move a brigade of troops from Denmark. The Danes were upset at the prospective loss of a considerable part of their defense. Dulles condescendingly told them: “We all must take risks.”
Yet Dulles, by his willingness to travel, has advanced American interests in many neglected areas. Although he almost abetted the attacks on the foreign information program by his silence, he did make a forceful presentation to Congress in the Bohlen case. Although he has stuck inflexibly to the concept of a European Army despite European indifference, he has shown some signs of being willing eventually to alter the rigid American policy on China.
The most contradictory performance of all was in Dulles’s lukewarm testimony on extension of the Reciprocal Trade Act. President Eisenhower had come out strongly for extension, and Under Secretary of State Bedell Smith and Assistant Secretaries Morton and Cabot had made emphatic statements on the need to liberalize trade policy. Asked whether his assistants represented the Administration position, Dulles replied that they were “expressing one point of view.”
It was as if Dulles had deliberately set out to sabotage his subordinates. He resisted every effort to pin him down, and his equivocation had even the hardhearted House Ways anti Means Committee laughing.
Clean sweep at the Pentagon
The appointment of Admiral Arthur W. Radford as the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was a compromise. It pleased Senator Taft, who had expressed lack of confidence in the outgoing chiefs, and it alarmed the Air Force and some persons who had been disturbed by Radford’s views on China. But it had the concurrence of General Omar N. Bradley, the present chairman, and in all probability it will mean no change in basic strategic concepts.
No fundamental change is likely because the other new members of the JCS all have had an indirect part in the formulation of present strategic plans. General Nathan F. Twining, the new Air Force chief of staff’, actually sat as a member of the Joint Chiefs during the absence of the ailing General Hoyt S. Vandenberg. General Matthew B. Ridgway, who will head the Army, was consulted frequently by the Pentagon during his tour as Far East commander in Tokyo and later as NATO commander. Admiral Robert B. Carney, the new chief of naval operations, is regarded as a sailor-diplomat in the Admiral Sherman tradition and had an important say in strategy during his service as commander of NATO forces in southern Europe.
Balance is the outstanding characteristic of the three new service chiefs; none of the three is a zealot. Undoubtedly the new team will have a fresh look at military emphasis, for strategy is always subject to review. But the three are well grounded in the facts of geography and national interest, and an Asia-first policy would be out of keeping with their backgrounds.
Where Senator Taft got his pound of flesh was in the precipitate replacement of Admiral William M. Fechteler as chief of naval operations. Terms of the other JCS members were up anyhow; but Fechteler still had two years to serve of a four-year term. He had been a steady if not. outstanding member of the Joint Chiefs, and the feeling in the Pentagon is that he was victimized in order to give the appearance of a clean sweep.
Admiral Radford’s views
The brilliant, outspoken Radford, who has been commander of the Pacific Fleet, is widely recognized as one of the ablest officers in all the armed forces. An early naval airman, he helped win recognition for carrier aviation. But he became known as a violent Navy partisan during the unification discussions and particularly during t he 1949 debate over the Air Force B-36 bomber, and his at tacks on land-based strategic bombing left many hurt feelings. They also led the even-tempered General Bradley to condemn the Navy’s “fancy Dans.”
Radford’s past attitude on air power is exemplified by a conversation several years ago at Pearl Harbor. Radford and a friend were standing on the wreckage of the battleship Arizona, which has been made into a memorial. “This really makes you think of the significance of air power,” the friend observed. “Yes,” replied Radford, smiling, “but it was Japanese carrier air power!”
Since taking command in the Pacific, Radford has sounded on sev eral occasions like a seagoing version of General MacArthur. In secret testimony before Congress he is reported to have argued strongly for a naval blockade of China and to have said that there could be no compromise with Communist China even if this meant a fifty-year war against the mainland. There was little sympathy for these views among leaders at the Pentagon.
Friends of Radford maintain, however, that he was quoted out of context, and that his controversial pronouncements were more in the form of tentative suggestions than positive recommendations. Radford, in contrast with some of his naval brethren, is willing to discuss matters publicly and think out loud. This quality makes him receptive to persuasion and to new ideas.
As a matter of fact it was the views of the late Admiral Forrest P. Sherman — who by common consent would have been the next JCS chairman if he had lived — which helped persuade Bradley to accept Radford. Sherman had argued that Radford was needed in Washington, whatever his excesses In the squabble with the Air Force, and that it would be unfair to leave him in “purgatory.” Sherman’s views carried considerable weight in overcoming Bradley’s distaste for Radford.
Strengthening civilian control
Concurrently with the new appointments, the Pentagon is undergoing a sweeping reorganization designed to strengthen civilian control. The reorganization plan abolishes the old Munitions Board and Research and Development Board, vests more responsibility directly in the Secretary of Defense, and seeks to return the Joint Chiefs of Staff to their original job of strategic planning.
The streamlining is impressive because it embodies the unanimous recommendations of a committee consisting of Nelson Rockefeller, Milton Eisenhower, Arthur Flemming, Vannevar Bush, Robert A. Lovett, David Sarnoff, and General Bradley. General George C. Marshall, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, and General Carl Spaatz served as consultants.
The reorganization emphasizes the responsibility of the Secretary of Defense to be the arbiter of JCS recommendations. It makes the direction of the Joint Staff (which serves the Joint Chiefs) an individual responsibility of the JCS chairman, but it empowers the Secretary of Defense to appoint the head of the Joint Staff, in an effort to broaden the staff work and minimize logrolling between the services.
The hope for the new plan is that, in addition to giving the Secretary and his assistants more direct control over such things as procurement (to avoid a repetition of the ammunition fiasco), it will also remove the Joint Chiefs from the arena of quasi-political decisions. Rather than military aggressiveness, the tendency to buck all sorts of political matters to the Joint Chiefs has been the primary threat to civilian control. At the sametime, in view of the proclivities of. Admiral Radford, the reorganization will put a premium on the vision and restraint of Secretary Wilson.
Mood of the Capital
The indecision of the Eisenhower Administration has had a curious counterpart in the city of Washington. The Capital has been undergoing a minor depression, particularly in real estate, because of the general job insecurity among government employees. Actually, the number of replacements has not been great, but reports , of dismissals are magnified in the minds of employees who believe themselves vulnerable.
While he has acted to remove policy-making positions from civil service, President Eisenhower has also sought to reassure rank-and-file civil service employees. Many employees acknowledge that some of the civil service restraints, particularly the veterans’ preference provisions, are too tight. At the same time, the result of the Administration’s move has been to put into politics some traditionally nonpolitical career jobs iti such remote bureaus as the Fish and Wildlife Service.
Compounding the uneasiness has been apprehension about the effects of the President’s new security program. This is designed to replace the old loyalty program, and it broadens the grounds for dismissal to include new standards completely divorced from loyalty, such as trustworthiness and personal habits. Had “unsuitability” been the criterion from the beginning, a lot of the difficulties with the old program might have been avoided.
But the new program does away with the right of appeal to an independent board; the final decisions will be made by agency heads. It also continues the reliance on anonymous information; the identity of informants will not be known to the administrators making the decisions. Finally, it gives to every agency head the power of summary dismissal for security reasons. The fear is that unless this power is carefully checked, it may afford an easy way for political dismissals on “security” grounds and for the reintroduction of the spoils system.