April 22, 1957 – Secretary Of State John Foster Dulles – Foreign Policy In The 1950s – Past Daily Reference Room
The issue of American Foreign Policy has been in the spotlight recently, with the recent developments in our relations with North Korea as well as the ongoing issues with Iran and seemingly everywhere else.
Has our Foreign Policy always been problematic? If so, when did it start? Many feel we’ve never had an adequate or comprehensive Foreign Policy, especially now with the quickly shrinking world, by way of communication and information. While some feel our Foreign Policy took a nosedive somewhere around the formation of The League Of Nations right after World War 1. My feeling is that our Foreign Policy got derailed during the years directly after World War 2– when a combination of the Cold War and Independence movements made it imperative that our State Department take a more active and case-by-case approach to drafting a comprehensive foreign policy, particularly in light of the changing complexion of the world and the dismantling of Colonial rule throughout the world. The trouble was, our State Department was overtaken by the Cold War, and it left very little wiggle room with countries seeking independence and those wrestling with potential civil wars. Also, the State Department (in conjunction with the CIA, who had Dulles’ brother Allen Dulles as head of the CIA) actively engaged in nation-shaping (i.e., the overthrow of the legitimately elected government of Mohamed Mossaddegh and the issue of oil (the British/Iranian Oil Company) and The Shah. And the various overthrows in South America, the issue of Southeast Asia and Vietnam; the “Domino Theory”. The list is extensive and the decisions have had negative repercussions for years, if not decades after.
But to get an idea of who John Foster Dulles was, and what his position was in the bigger picture, here is an address, given at the annual Associated Press luncheon in Washington D.C. on April 22, 1957.
Here’s a text excerpt from the full address:
John Foster Dulles: “Communism in practice has proved to be oppressive, reactionary, unimaginative. Its despotism, far from being revolutionary, is as old as history. Those subject to it, in vast majority, hate the system and yearn for a free society.The question of how the United States should deal with this matter is not easily answered. Our history, however, offers us a guide. The United States came into being when much of the world was ruled by alien despots. That was a fact we hoped to change. We wanted our example to stimulate liberating forces throughout the world and create a climate in which despotism would shrink. In fact, we did just that.I believe that that early conception can usefully guide us now. .Let us also make apparent to the Soviet rulers our real purpose. We condemn and oppose their imperialism. We seek the liberation of the captive nations. We seek this, however, not in order to encircle Russia with hostile forces but because peace is in jeopardy and freedom a word of mockery until the divided nations are reunited and the captive nations are set free. . . .Events of the past year indicate that the pressures of liberty are rising.Within the Soviet Union there is increasing demand for greater personal security, for greater intellectual freedom, and for greater enjoyment of the fruits of labor.International communism has become beset with doctrinal difficulties. And the cruel performance of Soviet communism in Hungary led many to desert Communist parties throughout the world.The satellite countries no longer provide a submissive source of added Soviet strength. Indeed, Soviet strength, both military and economic, has now to be expanded to repress those who openly show their revulsion against Soviet rule.And the Soviet Government pays a heavy price in terms of moral isolation.Soviet rulers are supposed to be hardheaded. For how long, we may ask, will they expend their resources in combating historic forces for national unity and freedom which are bound ultimately to prevail? . . .Surely the stakes justify that effort. As I am briefed on the capacity of modern weapons for destruction, I recognize the impossibility of grasping the full, and indeed awful, significance of the words and figures used. Yet we would be reckless not to recognize that this calamity is a possibility. Indeed history suggests that a conflict as basic as that dividing the world of freedom and the world of international communism ultimately erupts in war.That suggestion we reject. But to reject in terms of words or of hopes is not enough. We must also exert ourselves to the full to prevent it.”
Here is that complete address.