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Which Way America? Dulles Always Knew
The job ran in the family; both his uncle and grandfather were Secretaries of State. Home life in a parsonage taught him piety, and the law precision. The rigid views of a world divided between good and evil he worked out, apparently, himself. Private letters and new taped recollections help explain the shaping of the man who set our Cold War foreign policy
June 1971 | Volume 22, Issue 4
Then he went off into a spiel about what these same elements had done to him on the Hiss case. And he said, “Don’t you know that I went through this kind of thing with all these people? You can’t pacify these people; there’s no reasoning with [them]. They’ve got the cards in their hands. They can stop our appropriations. They can do a great many things.” And so on.
I realized, the more I talked, the more I was dealing with a man who was determined to put an end to this thing, and the way to put an end to it was to run away from it.
These incidents, to be sure, occurred early in the new administration, at a time when things often go wrong for Washington newcomers. With the passage of time many of these problems were solved, sorted out, or simply shelved. With the fall of Senator McCarthy the attack on the State Department waned, and departmental morale improved. Dulles himself gained increased respect for the Foreign Service. His relationship with the President firmed; indeed, it became exceptionally close. Emmet Hughes, returning to the White House in 1956, found a harmony he had never expected. President Eisenhower later recalled that “there were so many telephone calls with Dulles, that you just didn’t attempt to keep track of the number. I’d just reach for the phone myself and call, and he’d do the same thing. … We’d be in close touch all the time. I suppose some days eight or ten times … I’d call him, or he’d drop in, or send somebody over, just for a few moments about something. … But always—I suppose there was no one I kept in as close touch with as I did with Foster.”
All of this was to the occasional annoyance of Sherman Adams, the granite Cerberus from New Hampshire, whose task it was to guard access to Dwight Eisenhower. Adams was devoted to keeping the President’s schedule “orderly,” a chore made all the more difficult because, in his words, Eisenhower was “a friendly man who would have welcomed all”:
Dulles was the only member of the Cabinet who took literally Ike’s invitation to come in any time and, when not occupied, simply to walk in. Dulles would walk in here, ask Shanley, Stevens, etc. if the President was busy, and, if not, Dulles just opened the door and walked in.
Once, Adams barred Gerard Smith, Dulles’ adviser on nuclear matters and disarmament, from a White House meeting despite Smith’s insistence that Dulles had sent him over as his personal representative. Said Smith:
… I went back and reported the thing … to Foster. And then he said, ”You know, Gerry, Adams talks to me that way sometimes.” And then he added, “But not verv often.”
Dulles soon established himself, in both the Cabinet and National Security Council, as one of the most influential and respected members of the administration. His reputation was based upon his mastery of facts and detail, his total command of every aspect of a problem under discussion, his ability to marshal evidence and mount his case. The laconic Sherman Adams was eloquent on the point:
There were occasions, when, at the Cabinet table, Mr. Dulles really took his hair down. … Although he would not show impatience toward some remark which Mr. [Ezra] Benson or some other member of the Cabinet would make, he nevertheless occasionally gave the Cabinet a—well, I thought they were grand lectures. He would start with the various elements that made up a situation with which we were faced, to look at the alternatives, and so unmistakenly bring the Cabinet to a conclusion that he really took Mr. Humphrey and some of the others into camp.
What impressed General Matthew Ridgway, himself no stranger to professional briefings, about Dulles’ presentations in the National Security Council was his “ability to take the whole complex international situation and, in the course of fifteen or twenty minutes … brief the NSC without a note before him, in a most lucid manner, with beautiful continuity. It was a really marvelous display of intellect and memory and grasp of the whole situation.”
It was quite simple to Dwight Eisenhower:
I admired the man from the very beginning for two reasons. One, his obvious sincerity and dedication to the problems that were put before him, and secondly, the orderliness of his mind. He had a little habit before he started to speak—probably in his youth, he may have had a little bit of stammering—he waited, sometimes it would be three or four seconds, before he’d start to talk. But when he did, it was almost like a printed page.
There was also a certain ineffable quality about Dulles that made him both the spokesman for and symbol of the foreign policies of the Eisenhower administration. It was his successor, Christian Herter, the gentle man from Massachusetts, who most clearly sensed this quality:
The major differences between ourselves was my own feeling that the President was the constitutional officer responsible for foreign affairs. Whether he made the policy, or didn’t make the policy, he still ought to be out in front in connection with it. I didn’t want it to be known as a Herter policy; I’d much rather have it an Eisenhower policy … [pause] … I think Foster rather liked it being a Dulles policy.