The Atlantic Report on the World Today: Washington
THE new year begins with both uncertainty and anxiety about the future course of the Soviet Union and about the peace of the world. The past three years saw the emergence and the mutual recognition of a military and therefore of a political stalemate between the two great poles of world power, Washington and Moscow. But the events in Eastern Europe and the Middle East these past months—above all, the historic Hungarian Rebellion of 1956 — have so shattered that quasistability as to produce more doubts in Washington about the events which lie ahead than was the case in any year since Eisenhower took office.
In the President’s first term, Washington and Moscow each in its own way worked to lessen world tensions and to produce a period of peaceful though highly competitive coexistence. But the assumption that this would continue for many years was founded on the belief that Stalin’s successors, whatever their personal power struggle, felt secure not only as the heads of the Soviet state but as the leaders of the Communist orbit, whatever the evolutionary processes afoot in that orbit.
Washington officials are not predicting war, but many of them believe that the Kremlin has been shaken and thrown off balance by the Hungarian Rebellion and that a dictatorship off balance is a highly dangerous thing. Many in the Capital agree with Milovan Djilas, the rebel former Vice President of Yugoslavia, who wrote in a magazine analysis which sent him to jail that the Hungarian Rebellion “placed on the agenda the problem of freedom in Communism — that is to say, the replacement of the Communist system itself by a new social system.”
The American appraisal of Soviet decision-making over the decades has always been, in fundamental terms, that the Russians were coldly calculating in their risk-taking and both willing and able, unlike Hitler, to cut their losses because they had no timetable for achieving world supremacy. What worries Washington now is whether the Kremlin might become so alarmed over the consequences of the Hungarian Rebellion, not only in the satellites and among the neutrals they have been so assiduously courting, but also at home, as to abandon calculation for frenetic action.
Hence the view of many in Washington that the fate of the world may hinge to a high degree on the way the United States now proceeds — on its diplomatic techniques and, above all, on the words and actions of President Eisenhower.
The President acts
The President is neither an intellectual nor a student of Soviet affairs. But he has demonstrated time and again a sort of visceral reaction to world events which has produced the highest order of statesmanship. During the combined HungarianMiddle East crises in November he understood the absolute necessity of firmness without provocation, and acted accordingly.
He knew that the United States could not directly challenge the Soviet Empire by any form of intervention in Hungary, however much our inability to intervene was to dishearten both the rebels in that nation and many in the free world. He knew that the United States likewise must indicate to the Kremlin that it would “oppose” a Soviet attempt to enter the Middle East conflict through the device of “ volunteers,” but he was careful to avoid spelling out that opposition in advance. He alerted the American armed services, and let the Soviets know he had. But when the Pentagon, driven by its “Pearl Harbor won’t happen again” complex, began to feed out military judgments, he ordered a halt lest they grow into provocation.
This is a narrow ledge upon which to tread. It kept Dwight Eisenhower at his desk more steadily than he had planned. But when the challenge came, and it came at the moment when Secretary Dulles was hospitalized, the President acted as Chief Executive, Commander-in-Chief, and Secretary of State as well.
The fall crises, however, sharply demonstrated the needs of 1957: stronger executive management of foreign affairs at the State Department, the National Security Council, and in the White House staff and the vital necessity of a new relationship with the Congress. The President acted, and acted to a very large degree on his own, at a time when the Congress was not only not in session but involved in an election campaign and its aftermath. But the American government cannot for long proceed in that fashion, nor is it Eisenhower’s inclination so to proceed. Hence some important changes may be made.
More help with foreign policy
For many months some of the President’s closest advisers, beginning with his brother Milton Eisenhower, have urged him to name a trusted associate to act as the White House foreign policy chief in much the same fashion that Sherman Adams functions in the domestic field.
White House assistants C. D. Jackson and Nelson Rockefeller, in turn, both fell short of that role. William H. Jackson came closer to fulfilling it but he, too, ran afoul of the State Department and the Treasury, especially of the conservative views of George Humphrey and his more limited followers, Under Secretary of State Herbert Hoover, Jr., and foreign aid chief John Hollister.
General Alfred Gruenther, in his new post as head of t he American Red Cross, is expected to fill, in part at least, the role of White House politico-military adviser. And there are reports that Vice President Nixon may take over the post held by Hoover, not at State but as chairman of the little-known but important Operations Coordinating Board. The OCB is the arm of the National Security Council charged with seeing that NSC decisions—that is, the President’s foreign policy decisions — are in fact carried out.
The National Security Council’s machinery will be strengthened by the return of Robert Cutler, who had galvanized it early in the first Eisenhower Administration. Cutler’s great limitation, however, is his almost unshakable belief that the press is a danger to government rather than a means of creating public understanding and support for policies, particularly for those which are seemingly unpopular and unpleasant..
Changes at State?
At State there is no doubt that Secretary Dulles will retain the top post as long as his health will permit. The President’s faith in him, though it may have been shaken by the collapse of Western coöperation in the Middle East, remains very great. But Dulles, however well he may recover from a serious operation at age sixtyeight, cannot be expected to regain the stamina he has demonstrated these past four years. A replacement for Hoover — perhaps retiring Massachusetts Governor Christian Herter, who served with distinction as a member of Congress on the House Foreign Affairs Committee — would help.
But what is even more needed, and even more difficult of attainment, is the use by the Secretary of the vast and all too often untapped reservoir of competence and ability within the huge State Department staff. Many of these men have frequently felt the highest degree of frustration because Dulles paid little or no attention to their thoughts and ideas and leaned so heavily on his own experience and on a tiny group of close associates.
Of these associates, incidentally, the rising star these past months has been Herman Phleger, the San Francisco lawyer who heads the department’s legal division and whose similarity of approach and thought to Dulles’s has deeply impressed the Secretary of State. Phleger has the lawyer’s limitations, but he is a man of character and stubbornness who has not hesitated 1o challenge the Secretary’s thinking.
Changes at the key embassies abroad are already afoot. The political necessities complicate the problem of filling a number of posts, and Eisenhower has yet to put his foot down on party demands for ambassadorships to generous GOP contributors. London especially has been a weak embassy, not only at the top but through much of the ranks. A change of faces in both London and Paris was certainly in order after the Middle East debacle, although Douglas Dillon in Paris has been an exception to the rule of mediocrity among political envoys.
Trouble at the UN
The United Nations representation has been a particularly soft spot in the American diplomatic machine. Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., although a man of ability, has been personally antagonistic to so many foreign diplomats as to jeopardize seriously his usefulness. Lodge’s relationship with the State Department long has been unhappy. Of course, he has not been a free agent although he has tried to influence, as is his right, the policy decisions which he had to carry out at the United Nations.
Fundamentally, the problem lies with Administration policies, or lack of them, and the manner of their application. During the depths of the split in the Atlantic Alliance in November and early December, the most substantial criticism of our policy concerned the way it was handled. The French Foreign Minister told his Parliament that America is determined that there should be no split between white and colored nations in the free world and that Russia should not be allowed to be the champion of the colored nations.
This meant that the United States could not approve, even condone, Anglo-French action against Egypt. But it did not make it necessary to cut the Anglo-American ties so abruptly that there was no discussion for many weeks on how to accomplish the objectives shared by both nations — what kind of Suez Canal and ArabIsraeli settlements should be sought through the United Nations. The British Ambassador in Washington was treated more like the envoy of a minor Latin-American slate.
Not enough diplomacy
White House officials say that the President, even in the moment of anger over the attack on Egypt, “never lost sight of who is the real enemy.” But the way he and his subordinates conducted American affairs in those dreary weeks led the British and French people to believe just the opposite.
The President might, for example, have had Lodge explain the seemingly incredible fact that the United States was voting with Russia against its two chief NATO allies. Or better still, he might have done so himself. For it is a fact that personalities as well as policies and events shape international relationships.
The Administration might also have explained to the American public, either directly or through the press, the reasons for the split with our allies.
Before the assault on Egypt, the Administration felt that such an attack would be disastrous for the British and the French. Events have borne out that forecast. Yet just as the Administration never offered its allies in advance what they could consider a satisfactory alternative, so it failed to continue even the normal diplomatic relationships during the weeks following the attack — relationships which Washington very well knows are indispensable to the healing of the breach.
Will a new bipartisanship work?
The nature of the Eisenhower Administration’s relationship with the new Congress on foreign policy is up to the President. With the departure of Senator Walter George, retiring chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the President is left with no supporters on the Democratic side. On the Republican side, he has Senators Wiley of Wisconsin and Smith of New Jersey. Senator Knowland’s support can be counted on only occasionally.
The President must, if there is to be any sort of revival of bipartisanship, work out a new relation with such Democrats as Theodore F. Green, the 89-year-old Senator from Rhode Island, who succeeds George as chairman, and Senators Fulbright, Sparkman, Humphrey, Mansfield, and Morse, who follow Green in that order of seniority.
Of these men, all of whom have been vocal in their criticism of Eisenhower foreign policy in general and of Dulles in particular, Fulbright is the deepest student of foreign affairs. Humphrey is mercurial, as is Morse. Sparkman is too pedestrian. Green himself is often waspish and lacks influence on the Senate floor, having become a sort of senatorial exhibit of longevity alone.
The most important Democrat on the committee, at least until the day the youthful Fulbright succeeds the aged Green, is Mike Mansfield of Montana, for ten years a professor of Far Eastern and Latin-American history, who has made a name for himself by his attention to foreign affairs. Mansfield is an authority on the problems of South Vietnam; it was only at his insistence that support was not at one point withdrawn from Prime Minister Diem.
But what will make Mansfield the closest thing to a Senate successor to George is his selection by the party leaders as the new Democratic whip, the number two post behind Ma jority Leader Johnson vacated by the defeat of Senator Clements.
Lyndon Johnson is a practical politician with little interest in or understanding of foreign affairs. In the past he was guided almost totally by Senator George’s views and wishes. He is not likely to accord the same sort of deference to Mansfield, but if the Montanan can speak for the bulk of the committee Democrats, he will be the key man on foreign policy decisions.
Unlike most of his Democratic colleagues, Mansfield has had public words of praise for Dulles as well as criticism. He thus is in a position to work with Eisenhower and Dulles if the President so wills it.
Congress and foreign policy
But there should be no illusions about the conduct of American foreign policy. It is, constitutionally and in hard fact, an executive responsibility. Congressional actions in this field tend to be of a restraining and negative nature. It is all but impossible for the Congress to formulate foreign policy in any positive sense.
Nothing could be more demonstrative of the folly of congressional attempts to run foreign affairs than the efforts last summer, just before Congress adjourned, to legislate an end of aid to Tito’s Yugoslavia. As a result of the compromise finally voted by Congress, the President was forced to make public, shortly before the election, affirmative findings about Yugoslavia of a sweeping nature. This step became necessary to enable the President to retain freedom of action in this important issue.
The subsequent turn of events in the satellites — the emergence of national Communism in Poland, as Tito desired, and the Hungarian Rebellion, which Tito approved until it swept past anti-Stalinism into anti-Communism — convinced most of Washington that the aid-to-Tito policy has been a major success. Yet it came within a few votes of being cut off by a Senate momentarily angry over the then current Tito-Khrushehev meetings in Yugoslavia and in the Soviet Union, about which the senators knew little. As Tito has now revealed, these meetings in fact served to help force the issue of greaterindependence for both Poland and Hungary, as the senators themselves all desired.
The Yugoslav episode is the sort of thing that can be avoided only by the closest form of executive-legislative coöperation, especially necessary when the President is of one party and control of Congress is in the hands of the of her.
Moof of Capital
The pre-holiday visit of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru of India came under considerably different circumstances than it would have if it had occurred in July as originally planned. There was criticism in Washington as elsewhere in the West, and among many Indians as well, of Nehru’s initial failure to equate morally the Soviet intervention in Hungary with the British-French attack on Egypt. It was with considerable relief in Washington that the news was received of Nehru’s second thoughts on Hungary.
The necessity of working out a new American relationship with the Asian neutrals for whom Nehru is the chief spokesman even though he is often resented as such by Asians outside of India is clear. But it has been transcended by the insight into the nature of Soviet Communism provided by the Hungarian Rebellion — an insight which Washington believes has not been lost among the important Asian politicians and intellectuals. The problem for the President thus became how to make use of this revelation in creating a new relationship between America and India and how to bring the two great nations closer together in their roles at the United Nations.
Concerning other visitors to the Capital, the President held off a request from the British and French Prime Ministers because he did not want to compromise the position of the United States in the Middle East as the single great power which had not taken sides. But this was a matter of timing, since such personal contact is regarded by the President as a necessity during the period when the Atlantic Alliance must be repaired.