The Atlantic Report on the World Today: Washington

UNQUESTIONABLY the most far-reaching issue, foreign or domestic, confronting the Administration is what to do about the hydrogen bomb. It is fitting that in the forefront of those participating in the decision is the man whose persistence was largely responsible for the original determination to go ahead with the development of the H-bomb — Lewis L. Strauss, the new chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission.

Strauss, a New York investment banker and wartime rear admiral, served previously on the Atomic Energy Commission from 1946 to 1950. He and the immediate past AEC chairman, Gordon Dean, successfully argued the case for the H-bomb against the opposition of David E. Lilienthal and Dean Acheson.

During his previous serv ice on the A EC, Strauss became known as a great dissenter, often constituting the sole opposition within the commission. He had a passion for secrecy, as evidenced by his fight to prevent the shipment of medical radioisotopes to Sweden. Strauss was an exemplar of a sort of scientific isolationism, though no one ever challenged his knowledge or technical competence.

The hydrogen bomb

Recently, however, there have been indications that Strauss has mellowed in his views and that he favors the release of much more information about atomic matters. A primary reason is that the hydrogen bomb has proved more potent than it was envisaged four years ago, and that, like Frankenstein, it threatens to destroy its creator.

It is no longer a secret that the United States exploded a sort of custom-built thermonuclear — or hydrogen — weapon in the Pacific last fall. Not only did this device literally obliterate an island one-half by three miles: it also destroyed all the recording instruments, so that its power could only be estimated. Yet this was the Model T stage of thermonuclear development; and scientists are pretty well agreed that the potential of the hydrogen bomb is almost unlimited. One estimate is that the device last fall had an explosive force equivalent to 3 1/2 million tons of TXT. By contrast the plutonium bomb exploded at Hiroshima was calculated to have a force of 20 thousand tons of TNT.

What chills American policy-makers is the forecast that a Russian hydrogen bomb is no more than four years away, perhaps as close as one year. The Administration takes this forecast seriously, especially in view of the unwarranted complacency that attended t he early Russian efforts on the plutonium bomb. The effectiveness of American air defense leaves little room for comfort.

That is what is behind the emphasis of the President and his associates on making public more atomic information. For one line of thinking holds that the United States soon must face a showdown with Russia. The only alternative which some of the thinkers see to the possibility of a war of total destruction is effective world disarmament with rigid inspection everywhere. Hence, the thinking goes, the United States should arrange a dramatic demonstration of the H-bomb, coupled with a generous offer to the Soviet Union.

No plan has crystallized, and it is a moot quest ion in any case what this country could bring itself to do if the Russians said no. Thus it is entirely possible that the moral and political hazards implicit in a showdown will lead to a policy based on the hope that American and Russian thermonuclear weapons will somehow cancel themselves out and not be used.

Truce and unification

The heartfelt relief in Washington over the Korean truce was followed by apprehension about the forthcoming political conference. Despite oratory in both parties against admission of Communist China to the United Nations, there was a realization that in all probability this will be a key question. The likelihood stems from the “big etcetera’ in the truce—the paragraph providing for discussion of “the peaceful settlement of the Korean question, etcetera.”

Moreover, there is growing awareness that the slogan that Red China cannot shoot its way into the UN may have to be reassessed. Fortunately, the capable Lester B. (“Mike”) Pearson of Canada, president of the General Assembly, is one of the most trusted statesmen in public life and in a position to mediate between American and British views. The real question is whether there can be any approach to Korean unification without invoking the other Far Eastern issues.

FOOD behind the Iron Curtain

Secretary Dulles’s agreement to go along with Britain and France in a meeting with Russia this fall represented an about-face of American policy on Germany. What brought about the compromise was a last-minute plea from West German Chancellor Adenauer, who faces an election in September, pointing out that the cry for German unity in the wake of the East Berlin riots had become irresist ible.

The Germans complained that the United States was inexcusably late in responding to the riots. The American radio station in Berlin, RIAS, is credited by the Germans with having done the most effective job in exploiting the uprising against the Communist overseers of East Germany. But the American food offer, when it finally came, was so delayed that it was viewed as principally a propaganda gambit. Some Germans protested that the East Berliners, like the Warsaw Poles in the 1944 uprising, had been left to wither on the vine.

The offer of food for East Germany, which the Russians promptly rejected, actually was the work of the President’s psychological warfare assistant, C. D. Jackson. But the suggestion ran afoul of State Department fears that the food might go to the wrong people, as well as of objections by Commodity Credit Corporation lawyers who insisted on reimbursement for the surplus items.

It was the ouster of Beria that finally induced the Administration to cut through the red tape and make the offer of food, which presumably would be paid for with Mutual Security funds. If the incident did nothing else, it served to point up the cost of hesitation. For, to be fully effective, psychological warfare must be carried out quickly and without advertising.

Is German unity good for Europe?

The question of German unity will be a severe test of the resiliency of American policy. Since the Bonn government of West Germany came into being four years ago, a fundamental aim of American policy has been to Europeanize Germany. Indeed, the concept of European unity including a Germany facing westward has been one of Dulles’s most cherished dreams.

This aim has been grounded in two practical considerations: 1) a realization urged by NATO military men that only with German manpower can Western Europe be readily defended, and 2) a concurrent realization that only through absorption of Germany into Europe can the danger of German national military power be avoided. The objective was to bring about European unity before German unity became a distraction.

Ironically, the more enthusiastic Adenauer became over a European army as suggested by France, the less sure the French became. Actually, despite the advent of the Schuman Plan on coal and steel, the seeds of continued national fragmentation were sown in the failure to insist in the Marshall Plan on more meaningful steps toward European federation. Some officials here have believed that France would ratify the European Defense Community if only to impose a share of the armament burden on Germany, whose economic resurgence has worried the French. But Secretary Dulles’s repeated insistence that EDC is the only way has seemed merely to raise the price.

Unity, to be sure, would not necessarily turn out to be to the Russian advantage in the sense of a Russo-German accord. The harsh treatment of East Germany, plus the fact that several hundred thousand Germans are reported still held by the Russians as slave laborers, probably means that there would be no love for the Communists in a unified state. There also is always a chance that in the last analysis the Russians would not agree to free elections in East Germany because of the effect on the satellites.

But if German unity should progress, there unquestionably would be a great spur to both neutralism and ultra nationalism in Germany. In agreeing to the inevitable, Dulles is still gambling that the statecraft of the aged Chancellor Adenauer will somehow contrive to keep Germany allied with the West in the larger aim of European unity.

Unlocking the door

Although the Administration was forced to abandon part of its legislative program during the last-minute scramble in Congress, it made a valiant effort on behalf of its plan to admit 240,000 additional immigrants. This plan was designed to make visas available to refugees from behind the Iron Curtain as well as to help relieve population pressures in Italy and Greece and to aid flood victims in Holland.

The bill by no means lifts the onerous restrictions on immigration imposed by the McCarran-Walter Act. Indeed, one of the major defects lies in the fact that under the McCarran-Walter Act, refugees must be able to demonstrate five years of overt opposition to Communism; and such opposition behind the Iron Curtain is often tantamount to a death warrant.

But the Administration decided that half a loaf is better than none. What is remarkable about the bill is that the White House induced one of the most conservative Republicans, Senator Watkins of Utah, to sponsor it, and even obtained the support of the isolationist Senator Dirksen. One report is that in return the Administration allowed Senator Watkins 1o name a candidate for the directorship of the Bureau of Mines — a point that later caused the President some embarrassment when he had to withdraw the nomination because of the candidate’s views on mine safety.

Despite the sponsorship by eighteen Senators and broad support by religious bodies, the bill encountered almost fanatical opposition from Senator McCarran and Representative Walter. McCarran resorted to numerous stalling devices to prevent the Judiciary Committee from acting, thus infuriating Senator Watkins, and he even threatened to delay the adjournment of Congress. The experience served one salient purpose in opening some eyes in the White House to what a formidable foe McCarran can be.

Realistic interest rates

Treasury Secretary Humphrey ran into a barrage of criticism over Federal debt management during the closing days of Congress. In particular there were complaints that in raising the interest rate on long-term bonds to 3 1/4 per cent the Treasury was unnecessarily liberal and added to financing charges.

The Treasury acknowledges a mistake in not limiting the sale of the new issue to insurance companies and the like, and in not excluding the speculative free riders. It cites the recovery of the bond prices, however, as an indication of the basic soundness of the decision not to continue the artificial pegging of interest rates.

Despite occasional depression talk and some concern about the automobile industry, the prevailing belief is that the main pressures are still inflationary. This belief is heightened by the large remaining backlog of defense spending as well as by the Truman Administration’s blunder in underestimating the 1953 cash deficit by $2 billion.

The move by the Federal Reserve Board to lessen reserve requirements for member banks was supported by the Treasury as necessary to relieve a temporary shortage in the capital market. But the Treasury believes that basically the economy still is best served by a combination of realistic interest rates and an effort to place as much as possible of the government debt on a long-term basis.

Mood of the Capital

As the Administration enjoys a respite from the Congressional session, there are signs that it has learned a few lessons from its attempts to compromise with Congress. The philosophy of compromise is generally thought to have been urged on the President by three principal sources: Major General Wilton B. Persons (retired), the White House liaison man with Congress; Vice President Nixon; and the President’s brother, Dr. MilIon Eisenhower. One acquaintance of Milton attributes to him a threepoint credo: 1) never lose your temper; 2) always compromise; 3) never cut a man’s ears off unless you are willing to cut his head off.

On a number of occasions, however, the President has found that unlimited compromise does not work. And at the close of the session there were indications of firmer leadership. One was on t he extension of the excess profits lax, which the Administration and its leaders in Congress handled with considerable finesse. Another was on the stand against the extremes of McCarthyism.

In appointing J. B. Matthews as executive director of the Permanent Investigating Subcommittee, with no vote of approval, McCarthy angered large Protestant groups which felt themselves slandered by Matthews’s attack on the clergy. In attempting to divert attention by investigating the CIA, McCarthy forced the Administration to safeguard the secrecy of the CIA. In threatening libel action against the Americans for Democratic Action for distributing reprints I of the buried report of the Senate I Elections Subcommittee, McCarthy invited a test in court of the truth of the charges about his financial manipulations.

Moreover, in his attacks on Senator Monroney and on the three Democrats who resigned from his subcommittee, McCarthy pointed up the issue of Senate responsibility for what he does with his subcommittee. In fact he united the Senate Democrats, including such respected conservatives as Senators Byrd and McClellan. This in turn has had an effect on the Republicans, who have been struggling to maintain a façade of party unity.

It is still possible, of course, for the Administration to undercut through timidity the victory over McCarthyism. But there is good reason to believe that its strategy is now deliberate. When, with White House knowledge, three representatives of the National Conference of Christians and Jews sent a telegram excoriating the attacks on the clergy, the President promptly replied that such attacks are “alien to America.” And those words will stick.