What happens when Dulles goes?

For six years John Foster Dulles has symbolized to friend and foe alike all that the world dislikes about U. S. leadership. Now the end of his reign is in sight. But his policies may remain, a Maclean’s editor concludes after examining the heirs apparent

BLAIR FRASER January 17 1959

What happens when Dulles goes?

For six years John Foster Dulles has symbolized to friend and foe alike all that the world dislikes about U. S. leadership. Now the end of his reign is in sight. But his policies may remain, a Maclean’s editor concludes after examining the heirs apparent

BLAIR FRASER January 17 1959

What happens when Dulles goes?


For six years John Foster Dulles has symbolized to friend and foe alike all that the world dislikes about U. S. leadership. Now the end of his reign is in sight. But his policies may remain, a Maclean’s editor concludes after examining the heirs apparent


In Washington this month a new Congress of the United States is gathering, the like of which has not been seen since the heyday of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Not for twenty-two years have the Democrats scored such majorities as they rolled up last November, or given such omens of further victory to come.

Of course, the Republican administration of President Eisenhower is still in office for two more years, and already it is used to facing a Democratic majority in Congress. But the magnitude of the Republican defeat has changed the atmosphere in Washington, and the balance of political power. Even with a presidential election still two years away, people are looking for changes in policy—and, for a foreign observer, that means foreign policy.

But when you read the fine print of Democratic statements you begin to wonder what the changes will be. They promise less “rigidity" and more “flexibility" especially in the Far East— Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek in Formosa has some reason to be depressed by the Democrats’ win. But even there the differences are marginal. The expected about-turn in U. S. foreign policy looks more like a minor change of course.

Foreign policy was an issue in November, no doubt of that. Senator John Kennedy, the leading candidate for the Democratic nomination in the battle for the presidency, is also a leading member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Here are some of his recent remarks about Republican foreign policy:

“1 think we are playing a complicated game of bluff (in the crisis over the Chinese islands of Quemoy and Matsu) which could have ruinous results.”

"Responsible members of Congress have no choice but to do everything humanly and constitutionally possible to till the vacuum created by (the administration’s) weakness and indecision . . . two more years of aimless drifting are a luxury the country cannot afford.”

Senator William Fulbright, the Democrat who will be the real chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (the nominal chairman, Senator T. F. Green of Rhode Island, is ninetyone years old) said recently:

“Insofar as a constructive foreign policy is concerned. the administration sags in apathy, a dangerous apathy compounded of a leadership at once aimless and feeble, and a bureaucracy so fearful of change that it clings to ancient pillars of policy even as they rot away under pressure of international developments.”

Those brave words sound as if some drastic changes in American policy were upcoming. Senator Stuart Symington, who in many people’s book is runner-up to Kennedy for the Democratic nomination, lately added this call for a change in personnel:

“The Republicans have been giving us foreign policy by the hunt-and-peck method. Mr. Dulles has ten fingers in the keyboard, but the touch system can’t be used when the ten fingers are all thumbs."

He was speaking of John Foster Dulles, Eisenhower's secretary of state ever since the administration took power, of whom more contradictory

What happens when Dulles goes will depend on these key Democrats. Whoever emerges on top ;he expected about-turn in U. S. foreign policy will probably be only a minor change of course

opinions are held and stories told than of any public figure in the free world.

John Foster Dulles is a large, quiet, grey-faced man who will be seventy-one next month. He talks in the flat voice and careful words of rural upstate New York where he grew up as a smalltown minister’s son. A patient and courteous listener who seldom loses his temper, Dulles has listened in the course of half a million miles of travel to the grievances of every country in the world except maybe Tibet. During six years as U. S. secretary of state and thirteen as a major influence on U. S. policy he has had a big hand in persuading Congress to give away, or lend at low interest, about sixty-two billion American dollars to thirty-seven countries.

“Disliked, distrusted, denounced”

As a result of these and other efforts, Dulles today is disliked, distrusted and denounced by more people in more places than any other man alive. In Communist countries he appears as a combination of vulture, vampire and werewolf. That is to be expected. But it was hardly to be expected that in free countries where Khrushchev and company are detested, and where massive gifts of American arms and money have been received, John Foster Dulles should be detested too.

When a British night-club entertainer proclaimed in song that she was crazy about John Foster

Dulles she brought down the house. The idea was irresistibly comic—even Dulles laughed when he saw the show in London, though there was nothing more to the joke than just that. Cartoonists abroad portray him as a sand-blinded ostrich, a misguided missile, a brink-clinging cliff climber, and every variety of angry old man.

At home he has more friends, but his enemies draw better pictures. The earnest heavy-footed satire of Moscow’s Krokodil is not nearly as devastating as the Herblock cartoons in the Washington Post and Times-Herald. Like David Low's lethal portrait of Neville Chamberlain in the 1930s, Herblock’s Dulles is a terribly recognizable figure—a pathetic, bewildered old fuddyduddy who is led around (sometimes with a ring in his nose) by Generalissimo C'hiang Kai-shek of Formosa.

Dulles’s successor when the Democrats take power may well be Adlai Stevenson, the twicedefeated Democratic candidate for the presidency who is still, according to Gallup polls, one of the strongest of all Democrats w ith the general public. Stevenson’s losing campaign in 1956 leaned heavily on foreign policy. Lately one of Senator Kennedy’s backers said: “Adlai Stevenson could be secretary of state, if he wants the job, under any Democratic president now in sight.”

But what difference will it make, exactly, in U. S. foreign policy if the Eisenhower-Dulles team is replaced by. say, Kennedy as president and Stevenson as secretary of state, or any other probable combination of Democrats?

What difference did it make, exactly, when Dulles took over six years ago from Dean Acheson, a secretary of state much disliked at home but highly regarded in Canada and abroad?

What is it, exactly, that Dulles has done to be so generally deplored and derided among allied and uncommitted nations?

Many an angry critic can be reduced to silence by these questions, any one of which will bring the average cocktail-party conversation about Dulles to a dead stop. To many people he is merely a symbol for what they don’t like about U. S. foreign policy, or even for what they don’t like about the contemporary world. Often they can't name a single thing for which they hold him personally responsible.

Among professionals who deal with him and with the U. S. state department are plenty who disagree with Dulles and some who dislike him. but the picture these people give of Dulles the man bears no resemblance to the usual cartoon. Whatever else he may be, Dulles is no fuddyduddy. Friend and foe, among those who know him, agree that he is by a wide margin the ablest man in the present U. S. administration, and one of the ablest dealing with international affairs in any country. He tends to dominate meetings of the Western alliance by sheer force of intellect and personality.

Dulles makes Selwyn Lloyd (the British foreign secretary) look like a pipsqueak,” said one who has seen both men in action.

Another, who disagrees with U. S. policy on many important issues, said: “It’s very hard to stand up against Dulles in an argument. Even when you’re convinced that you are in the right and he is in the wrong, he makes you feel out-

argued. The man is a really great advocate.” Last spring, Dulles had to testify in support of the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act, the law that gives the president power to cut tariffs, which was up for renewal. It was before the House ways and means committee, a body of old congressional hands who had been working on tariff laws for years, and who arc really tariff experts. Many of them are diehard protectionists who were out to defeat the bill or cripple it with amendments.

“Such a man is not taken by surprise”

Dulles is no economist, and of all aspects of world affairs the details of trade policy interest him least. His officials worked for weeks on a sheaf of memoranda for him, but he himself spared no time for them until the Friday before he was to testify. Then he listened to official briefings for an hour and a half, and took the memoranda—enough to fill a large, thick looseleaf volume—home to read during the weekend. On the Monday, he faced the committee for five and a half hours, answered the most searching and detailed questions on every clause and implication of the trade agreements act, and only once had to call on his officials for an answer. This, according to the men who work with him, was a fairly typical exploit of the secretary of state.

Such a man is not taken by surprise when a

policy turns out to have some bad effects. After U. S. Marines left Lebanon last autumn, someone asked Dulles if he was satisfied with the results of the American intervention.

“Certainly,” he said. “If we'd failed to respond to that appeal (from ex-Presidcnt C'hamoun for help against the rebels) our word would not be trusted again by other nations. As for the disadvantages, they haven’t been as bad as I expected."

Dulles’s admirers applaud this realism, this willingness to recognize that any major policy decision is a choice among evils. Others describe the quality in less flattering terms. James Reston once began his column in the New York l imes with these words:

“Mr. Dulles does not stumble into booby traps. He digs them to size, measures them carefully, and then jumps.”

Critics can reel off a long list of these “booby traps” over the past six years. There were the various trips to “the brink of war” as advertised by Dulles’s embarrassing friend. Life magazine. There was the seemingly abrupt, public refusal to help build Nasser’s Aswan Dam in southern Egypt, for which the U. S. had previously offered help: this was the first direct step toward the Suez crisis in 1956. Lately and most notoriously, there was the involvement of the U. S. with C'hiang Kai-shek in the defense of Quemoy and Matsu, tiny islands on the coast of mainland China, which other nations regard as militarily worthless and politically dangerous.

Quite often, though, it happens that people who agree in denouncing continued on page 51 Dulles are doing so for precisely opposite reasons. Often, too, he is attacked for doing what other American statesmen did before and what any successor would probably do again. There are other U. S. policies and procedures for which Dulles alone is responsible, but they are fewer in number and narrower in range than most Canadians realize. Now that a change of administration is again in sight, it seems a good time to sort them all out and see which is w'hich.

"It is doubtful whether a Democrat could have handled the Suez crises better. . . or as well"

So far as Canada in particular is concerned, Dulles’s arrival at the U. S. state department made little or no difference. True, no Canadian is quite as close to Dulles as the late Canadian ambassador Hume Wrong was to Dean Acheson, Dulles’s predecessor (the two men were lifelong friends, ever since Acheson’s school days) but Dulles too has strong personal ties with Canada. He grew up in Watertown, N.Y., and spent his youthful vacations sailing on Lake Ontario; his much-prized holiday retreat, Duck Island, is in the Canadian half of the lake. Ottawa has had no reason to comI plain of any lack of sympathy or awareness on the part of the U. S. secretary of state.

He quickly reassured all those who feared that the return of the Republican party meant a return to protection and isolation. Dulles no less than Acheson has supported the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act and the policy of enlarging international trade. He has supported the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which as the Republican party’s consultant in the state department he had some part in creating. He has been a steady advocate of the U. S. foreign-aid programs that Dean Acheson originated. In all relations with Canada and with Western Europe, the line of U. S. policy has scarcely a quiver or a wrinkle to show where Acheson left off and Dulles began.

East of the Mediterranean the differences start. Dulles is the author of the so-called Eisenhower Doctrine, the standing offer of aid to any country in the Middle East that is threatened from either outside or inside by an alien foe. (The Communist foe is the intended tar-

get. but in practice the target has been Nasser of Egypt and his pan-Arab nationalists.) Dulles was in office when the U. S. helped to persuade the British to leave the Suez Canal Zone, in 1953 and 1954—a line that seems oddly at variance with Washington’s later attitude toward Colonel Nasser. Dulles helped to organize the Baghdad Pact that united Turkey, Pakistan and Iran with the former pro-Western government of Iraq. Dulles was in hospital, being operated on for cancer, during most of the Suez crisis of 1956, but he was nonetheless the guiding mind of U. S. policy there.

So it is fair to say that Dulles has a large share of responsibility for the present situation in the Middle East, which no one in the West would call a happy one. However, it’s only fair to note also that here, of all places in the world, Dulles’s critics attack him from both sides at once.

One group thinks the great mistake of Anglo-American policy has been to make an enemy of Nasser. These critics argue that Dulles should never have got himself (and us with him) committed to support of corrupt, or unpopular, or obsolete regimes in the Middle East like the Chamoun government in Lebanon, the

Hashemite dynasty in Jordan and Iraq, or the Stone Age kingdom of Saudi Arabia. On the other hand, this group thinks Dulles was entirely right to oppose, and repudiate, Sir Anthony Eden's calamitous adventure in Suez two years ago.

It is very doubtful whether a Democratic secretary of state could have pleased this school of thought any better, or even half as well. One man who has worked very closely with Acheson as well as with Dulles, and who admires both men, said: “I don’t think Dean Acheson or any Democrat could have done what Dulles and Eisenhower did in the Suez crisis. A Democrat would have been much more the prisoner of the Zionist point of view.”

From the Zionist point of view, of course, Dulles is attacked and applauded on opposite grounds—he was dead right in Lebanon and Jordan, dead wrong in Sinai and Suez. Obviously no matter what he had done from 1956 to 1958, he would have been fiercely attacked by one faction or the other.

As it is, by one of the ironies of history, he has become a unifying scapegoat for both. Especially in England and in Canada, people who differ about Eden

tend to resolve their quarrel by clicking glasses to the toast “Down with Dulles.”

There have been some occasions when Dulles has suffered at the hands of friendly journalists. The most famous was Life magazine’s “brink of war” article in January 1956, subtitled “How Dulles Gambled and Won.” This added a new word, “brinkmanship,” to the Anglo-American language, and conjured up among the allies a picture of Dulles playing poker with other people’s lives.

What he actually said was, “You have to take chances for peace, just as you must take chances in war . . . The ability to get to the verge without getting into the war is the necessary art. If you can't master it you inevitably get into war. If you try to run away from it, if you're scared to go to the brink, you are lost.”

Life listed three trips to “the brink” that Dulles had made up to that time, in Korea, Indo-China and the Formosa Straits. It was unlucky that all these incidents took place in the Far East. In Europe, challenges from the Soviet bloc have tended to unify and strengthen the Western alliance, cause it to close ranks against the common enemy. (An example was the Berlin airlift in 1948, by which Stalin's attempt to throttle West Berlin was successfully defied.) On the other side of the world things are different. Nowhere is U. S. foreign policy so little approved, so loudly deplored by the major allies as in southern and eastern Asia, most of all in China.

Dulles and the U. S. chiefs of staff alarmed most people in the allied countries, and a good many in the U. S. too, by their “firmness” over Quemoy and Matsu last autumn. They were so firm that it looked for a while as if they were willing to undertake a major war in order to keep Chiang’s troops—something over eighty thousand of them — on those tiny little islands that are within rowing distance of the Chinese mainland, and a hundred miles away from Chiang’s own fortress, Formosa. Dulles and Eisenhower both said publicly that they thought the islands were of little military value, and they did not conceal their wish that Chiang would get out of such worthless and vulnerable outposts, but since Chiang refused to get out they were ready to stand by him anyway. This baffled the rest of the free world completely.

So far as we can tell from their speeches in opposition, U. S. Far Eastern policy is one thing that the Democrats would change if they were in office now. Senator John Kennedy, the leading candidate for the Democratic nomination in the presidential election next year, has been sharply critical of this dangerous involvement in the offshore islands, and so have other influential Democrats including several members of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee. At the United Nations in New York, any Chinese Nationalist delegate will tell you that a victory for the Democrats would be “not so good for us” as Republican rule has been.

But the change would not be as great as Dulles’s more optimistic detractors imagine. Democrats may ridicule his “firm” stand on the coastal islands, but few question the wisdom of standing firm on Formosa itself. They may think Chiang has too much of his own way, but most of them stand by Chiang just the same. A case in point is Senator Mike Mansfield of Montana, a leading internationalist and a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Mansfield didn’t like the Dulles policy in Quemoy, but he says, “We can’t go back on President Chiang. We remember how he stood by us, during the war.”

Dulles himself has said many times, cautiously in public, roundly and bluntly in private, that he wants Chiang to get out of the offshore islands. Four years ago during the last Quemoy-Matsu crisis he let it be known through various intermediaries, including Canada, that if everybody would support the status quo until the threat of violence by Red China was removed, the U. S. would undertake thereafter to withdraw Chiang's troops to the other side of the Formosa Straits.

Now. he says the U. S. fried to do this and failed. Chiang would not go, arguing that to do so would make his government’s political position untenable. Apparently Chiang convinced Dulles that to insist on a withdrawal from Quemoy woidd be to lose Formosa itself, as a friendly ally—either the Chiang government would fall, or else it would itself turn against its ex-friend the United States. Therefore, according to Dulles, the suggestion that the U. S. abandon the coastal islands, while retaining Formosa as an ally, is “a counsel of perfection."

To most people in other countries, of course, this argument sounds preposterous. They regard Chiang as an American puppet, and they do not believe that he wouldn’t do as he was told if the U. S. were stern enough with him. Certainly a Democratic regime would be more likely to be stern than the Republican has been—but it would not be as stern as foreign critics think it shotdd be. Americans of both political parties, and of l eft as well as Right persuasion, have an emotional involvement in C hina that outsiders tend to overlook.

For example. Senator Paul Douglas of Illinois is a leading senate "liberal,’ a long way left of most Democrats, but he is also an ex-Marine who served in the Pacific and who looks upon Chiang as a comrade-in-arms. Douglas is a member of the Committee of One Million, a volunteer propaganda agency that sends out bales of material against the recognition of Red China. Two out of three American citizens agree—the latest Gallup Poll showed sixty-nine percent opposed to admitting Red China to the United Nations. Any American govern-

ment that followed a different line, now or in the near future, would do so at some political peril.

At least, though, a Democratic regime might stop twisting the arms of other Western delegations to get them to back U. S. policy on China. Under Dulles’s guidance, Ainerican efforts to keep the allies in line have become more earnest at each meeting of the UN General Assembly. So far, the Americans have managed with much difficulty to keep their friends from bolting, but they find it harder each year.

“Nobody wants to make a speech any longer in support of the U. S. position,” a NATO delegate said during the UN assembly last autumn. “We still vote for it, reluctantly, but we won’t speak.”

The reason why the allies stay in line, against their own judgment in many cases, is that they are warned how serious the reaction would be in Washington if

they did otherwise. An American official explained it this way:

“We feel that since we have been carrying the whole load of defense in the Pacific, we have a right to ask our allies to accept our judgment out there. If Canada, for instance, were to recognize Communist China now, it would certainly be regarded in this country as a deliberate slap in the face. I think it would be a moot question whether we’d be willing to remain in the United Nations, and to carry the burden there that we have been carrying. It might be a question of choosing which you’d rather have as a member of the UN, the United States or Communist China.”

No matter how politely spoken, this is the language of coercion. Allies who bow to it do so resentfully, with shame and an increasing tendency to mock each other’s docility. At the 1958 UN assembly the British were more co-operative

with the U. S. on China than were the other allies; one delegate said “Britain is behaving more like a satellite than Poland.”

This is the reaction among friends; it’s easy to imagine the reaction among neutralists. Far Eastern policy has largely undone the work of U. S. foreign aid. India, for example, got $419 million from the U. S. between 1955 and 1958, but their disapproval of American policy absolved the Indians (in their own opinion, anyway) from the normal obligation of gratitude.

Dulles's efforts have completed a ring of anti-Communist pacts right around the globe. Dulles knows perfectly well, of course, that the Asian allies add little or nothing to the military strength of his side. His globe-girdling system is designed not to recruit Asian mercenaries, but to draw a clear line everywhere that the Communist bloc will cross at its peril.

He is almost obsessively aware that on three occasions in this century, an enemy was allowed to doubt that powerful allies would move to help a victim of aggression. He thinks three wars might have been prevented if the Kaiser in 1914, Hitler in 1939, Stalin and Mao in Korea in 1950 had all known in advance, with certainty, that Britain and the United States would fight. Dulles is determined that Khrushchev shall have no illusions on this score.

He has said often that his policy does not mean atomic retaliation to any and every Soviet move. Local pressures would be met by local resistance as required; all-out war would be a last resort. Unhappily, few people in other countries are aware of this distinction. Assisted by the periodic outbursts of fire-eating American generals and admirals, they have concluded that the “massive retaliation" policy means that every international crisis, however remote its location or trivial its cause, makes all-out nuclear warfare imminent.

In Asia, communism is more a political than a military threat, and military assets tend to be political liabilities. Giving arms to Pakistan and Thailand and Chiang Kai-shek’s “China,” the U. S. lays itself open to charges of “plotting aggression.” Arms to Pakistan make enemies in India, arms to Thailand make enemies in Laos and Cambodia. In some cases military aid makes enemies even within the beneficiary country. Several established governments—in Jordan, for example, and Iran—face powerful movements of opposition at home, the kind that scored a bloody triumph in Baghdad last July. Standing as the strong friend of an unpopular regime, the U. S. makes itself—and often the whole Western alliance—the hated foe of a popular opposition.

Dulles of course knows all this as well as do any of his critics. To him these drawbacks are the regrettable but unavoidable price of an indispensable asset—clear unmistakable warning, everywhere, to an aggressive international communism. But the price would not be quite so high, at least among Western nations, if Dulles’s exposition of American policy were a little less sanctimonious.

Among many astonishing facts about this man Dulles, the most astonishing of all to strangers is the fact that he has a lively sense of humor. In private, he gives it full play. On the one occasion that I have heard him speak to a smallish private gathering he made one of the funniest speeches I ever listened to, a deliberate burlesque of then-current clichés of American policy.

He can be engagingly indifferent to personal criticism or even misrepresentation, too. A reporter once asked Dulles whether there were any specific inaccuracies in a recently published book-length biography. There are in fact one or two quite serious errors, but Dulles laughed and said:

“Well, he says I hold U. S. Passport No. 1. That’s not correct. My passport is No. 2; my wife has No. 1. That’s as it should be, don’t you think?”

In conversation he argues in such homely common-sense terms that he almost conceals the adroitness, the flexibility, the consummate professional skill that he commands. But in public he expounds U. S. policy as if it were engraved on tablets of stone by Jehovah’s own hand, and as if he, Dulles, were another Moses reporting God’s will to the chosen people and others.

From anybody, this tone would be hard to take. From Dulles it goes down particularly badly, because of some other attitudes he has struck in the recent past. One example is the foreign-policy plank in the Republican platform of 1952, a plank of which Dulles was the principal draftsman. It said among other things:

“The present (Truman) administration in seven years has squandered the unprecedented power and prestige which were ours at the close of World War II . . . We charge that the leaders of the administration in power lost the peace so dearly earned by World War II . . .” and so on through clause after clause.

Not only was this utter poppycock, not only did Dulles know it was poppycock, but Dulles himself had been an active participant in the foreign policies that

“lost the peace.” Even his warmest admirers squirm a bit when they try to explain the subtlety of a mind that could thus deny and contradict its own constructions. Their explanation is that Dulles is after all a lawyer, an advocate, and on this occasion he was simply drafting a brief for his client, the Republican party.

Recently, a Canadian diplomat remarked: “Dulles is a great advocate all right. It’s too bad he hasn't a better client.”

But the Western world has to accept the cold fact that the Republican party is Dulles’s “client,” and that neither he nor any other secretary of state can go far beyond his party as represented in Congress. Dean Acheson as secretary of state was very popular abroad, as he well deserved to be: the enlightened and generous policy typified by the Marshall Plan was mainly Acheson's handiwork. But Acheson lost the confidence of Congress, and became almost totally helpless as a result.

Dulles resolved not to make that mistake. He has treated Congress and the American voter with the utmost deference. "I think perhaps he has overcompensated in this direction,” one of his warmest admirers said recently.

Perhaps his Democratic successor will be able to strike the happy medium, and be liked both at home and abroad. On the other hand, perhaps this happy medium doesn't exist. Perhaps the U. S. secretary of state, as the man who must guide and take the blame for the policies of a global alliance, is foredoomed to be everybody's scapegoat. ★