The Atlantic Report on the World Today: Washington
PRESIDENT EISENHOWER’S biggest contribution has been his ability to lower the tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union which existed when he came to office. It is true, of course, that the death of Stalin was perhaps the largest single factor which made that change possible. Nevertheless, the President deserves credit for gradually altering the American atmosphere from one which was running too close to the preventive-war type of logic to one best summed up in his own historic statement that in this nuclear age there is “no alternative to peace.”
Critics of the President have contended that he carried his almost morbid fear of war to an extreme of pacifism which permitted the Soviets a free hand to do anything short of starting an all-out conflict. Though there may be some truth to the charge, it was a lesser result than Eisenhower’s having made efforts to arrive at agreements with the Kremlin on the political issues which separate the two worlds and on the arms race which provides the means to turn those issues into a holocaust.
it was Eisenhower who made possible the Geneva Summit Conference. From it flowed not only shortterm Soviet gains in the Middle East and Asia under the banner of peaceful competitive coexistence but also de-Stalinizat ion and the eruptions in Eastern Europe, events which are likely to have far more enduring ramifications since they touch directly on the Kremlin’s power over its own people and over the satellites as well.
And it was Eisenhower, through the instrument, of his “open skies" mutual aerial inspection plan, who opened up what has become the one hopeful possibility for arresting the arms race. A limited “open skies" agreement would not of itself stop the arms race. But it would, if successfully applied, prepare the way for a freeze on the arms race — a freeze which must come before there can be any lowering of the mountainous piles of armaments in the arsenals of the two giant powers.
“Not over my state!”
Initially the Russians offered to include a big slice of Siberia and the Soviet Far East in an aerial inspection zone. Shortly after that, Secretary Dulles was lunching at the Capitol with members of the Senate Republican Policy Committee. When Dulles expressed what he has called “cautious optimism” about the chances of a limited agreement with the Soviets after a decade of frustrations, one senator remarked that he hoped Dulles wouldn’t agree to let any Russian planes fly over his state. Everybody laughed and the remark was put down as facetious. But it was symptomatic of how illprepared psychologically both the Congress and the American people are for any such agreement.
It is not too much to say that there were sighs of relief in Washington when the Soviets finally got around to rejecting the original Eisenhower “open skies” proposal as nothing less than American “espionage.”This was true at the Pentagon, the Atomic Energy Commission, in much of the State Department, and at the Capitol. It was just too much to expect the suspicions and fears of the cold-war years to evaporate in the sun of the Summit Conference at which Eisenhower first made his offer.
Now nearly two years later the Soviets have come round to accepting the idea in principle for their own territory, however lopsided a territorial swap they initially offered. Meanwhile, however, little has been done to prepare Americans for the possibility of such an agreement — a possibility which seemed to grow more remote in fact as the Geneva sunshine faded.
The Russian offer of inspection zones
In Washington’s judgment, the coming of multiple nuclear weapons and especially the American promise to Britain of the 1500-mile (London to Moscow) missile have altered the short-term strategic situation to the Soviets’ disadvantage. Nuclear firepower is creeping closer to the major Soviet population centers, but the Kremlin still lacks the ability to throw the 5000-mile missile across the polar icecap into the United States.
This, far more than the budgetary pressures of which the President has spoken, is taken in Washington as the reason why the Soviets made their first genuine “open skies” offer. And their offer for inspection zones in America and Russia (starting in Alaska and Siberia) is linked with a zone in Europe which includes the forward NATO bases from which nuclear weapons could be used against them. This offer and the fact that both Washington and Moscow have now made it clear they are talking about a limited agreement rather than an allembracing disarmament pact are the keys to any hope for a breakthrough in the arms race.
The two governments are trying to call a halt in the arms race—but even before that, to lessen tensions by mutual inspection which would lower the chance of a nuclear Pearl Harbor on either side. If that can be done, then some freeze in the arms race becomes a possibility. Only after that would an actual reduction become a reality. Neither side is prepared to cut its nuclear stockpile, and each realizes the other won’t either.
There will continue to be battles within the Administration on how far to go in counter offers; there will be sniping against any agreement, by such men as Admiral Arthur W. Radford, whose suspicions of the enemy overwhelm their hope of the likely end of an unbridled arms race; and there will be “many arguments,” as Eisenhower put it, with the Russians before any bargain is struck, if indeed one ever is. But in this period of budgetary wrangles and legislative lagging in Washington, the appearance of even a chance of agreement with Moscow on the arms issue has been heartening.
The budget issues impinge on this type of progress in foreign affairs to the extent that they provide a platform for the modern-day isolationists. Unhappily no one has yet come up with a word to replace “isolationism.” In its meaning of the years between the two World Wars, isolationism is dead despite a few who cling even to that concept. The new isolationism tends to be more of a new-style American imperialism — not the hopeful “American Century” dream of Henry Luce in which American bounty round the globe would create a new world, but of hard business bargains conducted more in terms of world trade tactics than in terms of the national interest as a whole.
The arguments over American participation in the International Peaceful Atomic Energy Agency and over the cost and continuation of foreign aid brought forth this new-style isolationism, carefully mounted for the most part on a budget and economy platform. But the question was less one of cost to the American taxpayer than of United States relations with the Soviet bloc and our responsibilities toward those non-Communist nations which are outside the massive alliance structure erected these past four years by Secretary of State Dulles.
In this foreign field the eventual outcome is far from clear, whatever the final roll calls may show in this session of Congress. A new American consensus on our relationships with the world is in the making, but what it will be remains cloudy. It is, however, for all these reasons, domestic and foreign, that the Battle of the Budget, 1957, represents far, far more than a battle over the taxpayer’s dollar.
The attack on Ike’s Republicanism
When Eisenhower entered the White House, a lot of Democrats and independents were fearful that the GOP would attempt to repeal the social gains of the New and Fair Deals. Not a single law was taken off the books, though some were watered down as a result of their administration by men appointed to executive branch and quasi independent agency posts. Looked at in the sweep of history, the Eisenhower Administration represented acceptance of what has come to be known as the American version of the welfare stale.
The 1956 Republican party platform enshrined the GOP version of the welfare state. Eisenhower’s acceptance speech, written (and delivered exactly as written) by Arthur Larson, the then newly discovered articulator of “modern Republicanism,” seemingly nailed it down. The President went on to an almost unprecedented victory coupled with an unprecedented loss of both houses of Congress to the opposition.
The $71.8 billion 1958 budget was, as the President has said, based on the 1956 Republican platform. But then something happened. Those Republicans who had been largely mute since the death of Robert A. Taft sprang forth in noisy clamor the instant the trumpet was sounded by one of their own within the Administration— Treasury Secretary George Humphrey, the man whose hero is Andrew W. Mellon. The day Humphrey attached the budget with his warning of a “hair-curling depression,” the President was faced with a historic choice: he could crack down on the rebellion by his strongest Cabinet member either through a public spanking or a call for his resignation; or he could pretend that no real difference in fact existed between himself and Humphrey. He chose the latter course.
From that moment the Old Guard both in and out of Congress was off; off in a reckless and irresponsible attackon the budget — an attack which Taft would never have approved. It went so far that members of the House Judiciary Committee were swamped with demands for a measure to repeal the Constitution’s Sixteenth Amendment, which made the income tax possible.
Eisenhower’s chief handicap has been his own concept of the Presidency. At the height of the budget battle he told reporters he would neither “punish” the party recalcitrants nor work with the minority of “modern Republicans” in Congress except through their leaders. Together with his failure to discipline Humphrey at the outset, the President thus gave free rein to his critics. He was accused of abdicating his authority, and thus allowing Congress to undercut his program.
When the President realized how much was at stake, he reversed his tactics and came out lighting in a speech (this one by Emmet Hughes) which was vigorous and appealing. The President was in earnest and the country responded, reinforcing Eisenhower’s supporters in Congress.
Two diplomatic appointments by President Eisenhower this spring centered attention on what has been a wholesale shifting of American diplomatic representatives abroad. Both the changes were unfortunate, to put it mildly.
The appointment of Scott McLeod as envoy to Eire raised eyebrows in Washington not so much because McLeod lacked any qualifications for the post as because it appeared to be a form of reward for what he had done as the State Department’s security chief. Certainly to those who survived his purges at State it was an ill-conceived reward. His senatorial confirmation was less a tribute to his own ability than to senatorial reluctance to turn down presidential appointments, especially among the conservative Southern Democrats.
The appointment of Charles E. (Chip) Bohlen as envoy to the Philippines was criticized for an almost opposite reason: a wasteful use of excellent talent. The Philippines are entitled to a competent ambassador, especially after the tragic death of President Magsaysay, but Bohlen’s talents he in the Soviet sphere, to which he has devoted all his long professional life. It is true that a switch from Moscow, bis post for the past four years, was not out of line with precedent. But it was expected that he would get another post where his know ledge would be useful.
Bohlen’s own preference was the NATO ambassadorship, but that was not open, nor was any move made to make it available. Next to that, Paris was a natural spot, but here he ran into the failure of Congress to provide enough expense money for a career man in the chief Western European posts — and into the politics of rewarding the party contributors with such posts, a philosophy which this Administration has carried over from its Democratic predecessors.
The one happy aspect of the Bohlen affair, as he has been the first publicly to acknowledge, was the appointment of Llewellyn E. (Tommy) Thompson, Jr., to the Moscow post. Thompson is rated as among the half dozen or so top career men; he speaks Russian; he has had plenty of experience with the Soviets, both during a 19401944 term of service in Moscow and during his recent ambassadorship in Austria when he played a quiet but important role in the Austrian Treaty talks. Thompson is the kind of envoy the United States needs in the Soviet Union, just as was Bohlen.