- Historic Sites
1. A Good Way To Pick A Fight
August 1977 | Volume 28, Issue 5
“The chief lesson I have learned in a long life is that the only way you can make a man trustworthy is to trust him; and the surest way to make him untrustworthy is to distrust him and show your distrust.”
Men like Stimson—and Henry Wallace, then Secretary of Commerce—were allowed, or forced, to resign. Others, those who tended to believe in an aggressive attitude toward Russia, were spotted, and promoted—young men such as John Foster Dulles and Dean Rusk. George Kennan, then in the American embassy in Moscow, was discovered after he sent a perfervid 8,000-word cable back to Washington: “We have here a political force committed fanatically to the belief that with U.S. there can be no permanent modus vivendi, that it is desirable and necessary that the internal harmony of our society be disrupted, our traditional way of life be destroyed, the international authority of our state be broken.…” In his memoirs, Kennan says that he now looks back on his cable “with horrified amusement.” At the time, however, he was ideal for Truman’s use, and he was recalled from Moscow and made chairman of the State Department’s Policy Planning Committee, or as the New York Times called him, “America’s global planner.”
At Potsdam, the Big Three had all agreed to remove their troops from Iran. They set a deadline of March 2,1946, and, as the deadline approached, the British announced that they would be leaving. The Russians, however, let it be known that they were somewhat reluctant to leave until they had made an agreement with the Iranians for an oil concession, and, regardless even of that agreement, Stalin rather thought he would like to withdraw only from central Iran and keep some troops in northern Iran. Not all these matters were immediately clarified and so, on March 1, 1946, Stalin announced that Russian soldiers would remain in Iran “pending clarification of the situation.”
President Truman, meanwhile, invited Winston Churchill to deliver an address in March, 1946, at Fulton, Missouri: “A shadow has fallen upon the scenes so lately lighted by the Allied victory,” said the former prime minister. “Nobody knows what Soviet Russia and its Communist international organization intends to do in the immediate future, or what are the limits, if any, to their expansive and proselytising tendencies.… From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic [the line, as Churchill neglected to mention, to which he and Truman had agreed at Potsdam], an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe … in what I must call the Soviet sphere.… this is certainly not the Liberated Europe we fought to build up. Nor is it one which contains the essentials of permanent peace.”
In Moscow, a well-rehearsed Russian reporter quizzed Stalin.
QUESTION : “How do you appraise Mr. Churchill’s latest speech in the United States?”
STALIN : “I appraise it as a dangerous act, calculated to sow the seeds of dissension among the Allied states and impede their collaboration.”
QUESTION : “Can it be considered that Mr. Churchill’s speech is prejudicial to the cause of peace and security?”
STALIN : “Yes, unquestionably. As a matter of fact, Mr. Churchill now takes the stand of the warmongers, and in this Mr. Churchill is not alone. He has friends not only in Britain but in the United States of America as well.”
During the winter of 1946–47, a succession of snowstorms hit Britain. Coal was already in short supply; factories had already closed for lack of fuel that winter. With the blizzards came rationing, first of electricity and then of food; finally heat was cut off. Britain, as Louis Halle wrote, “was like a soldier wounded in war who, now that fighting was over, was bleeding to death.” The empire was at last dying.
In Washington, on February 21, 1947, a Friday afternoon, First Secretary H. M. Sichel of the British embassy delivered two notes to Loy Henderson at the State Department. Until that moment, Britain had been the principal support for the economy of Greece and the provider for the Turkish Army. The first of Sichel’s notes said that Britain could no longer support Greece; the second said Britain could no longer underwrite the Turkish Army. “What the two notes reported,” Halle observed, “was the final end of the Pax Britannica .”