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Portrait of John Foster Dulles

Dulles, John Foster 1888- 1959

John Foster Dulles was an opponent of Truman's containment policy, and became Secretary of State under Eisenhower from 1953-1959. Dulles and Eisenhower began to speak of the "rollback" instead of the containment of communism.

Biography

Portrait of John Foster Dulles

John Foster Dulles was born in Washington, D.C. on February 25, 1888. As a youth, Dulles was extremely talented. He studied at Princeton, and before graduating in 1908 got his first taste of international politics when his grandfather brought him along to the Hague Peace Conference of 1907. He also studied at the Sorbonne in Paris and George Washington University Law School. He passed the bar in New York, and in 1911 he entered into law practice there and engaged in several quasi-diplomatic missions.

During World War I Dulles worked at the War Industries Board and later served at the Versailles Peace Conference. Upon his return, he became a partner in his law firm, working primarily on international cases.

In the late 1930s, Dulles’ religious feelings quickened, and he came to believe in a combination of international “institutional mechanisms” and the Christian gospel as an antidote to war and unrest. In 1940, he chaired the Commission on a Just and Durable Peace for the Federal Council of Churches. By the end of World War II, Dulles had become recognized as a leading Republican spokesman on foreign policy issues, and served on several bipartisan delegations. He served as the senior U.S. adviser to the 1945 San Francisco conference of the United Nations, and was a great supporter of international cooperation. Dulles quickly became disillusioned with the Soviet Union after World War II when he experienced Soviet intransigence firsthand at various international meetings.

In 1948, Dulles was widely touted as the next Secretary of State in the “new Dewey administration,” a forecast upset by that November’s election of President Harry S. Truman. Further disappointment followed when he lost his bid for re-election as a Senator from New York, for a seat which he had been appointed to fill in order to finish the term of the late Senator Robert E. Wagner Sr. He then returned to writing and authored War or Peace in 1950, a critical assessment of the American containment policy- then in much favor among the more sophisticated in the Washington/New York foreign policy establishment.

Truman appointed him as special representative to negotiate a treaty of peace with Japan. Dulles completed this task with skill and dispatch. He not only negotiated peace with Japan (which hardly had much say in the matter at the time), but also sorted out equitably the disposition of the lands conquered by the Japanese in World War II. He further saw to it that although the Soviet Union retained the Kuril Islands and southern Sakhalin, the U.S. continued to exercise control over the Ryukyu, Bonin, Marianas, and Caroline Islands and maintained military base rights in Japan and Okinawa.

Domestically, Dulles proved effective in convincing the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the necessity to give up control of Japan. (The JCS apparently had plans secretly to rearm the Japanese.)

Dulles enthusiastically supported Truman’s decision to intervene in the Korean War, which appeared in print a mere five days after the North Korean invasion. Typically, Dulles termed Truman’s decision as “courageous, righteous and in the national interest” in his New York Times article entitled “To Save Humanity from the Deep Abyss.” But by 1952, Dulles was characteristically denouncing Truman’s containment policy as “negative, futile, and immoral.”

Dulles was the inevitable choice by Eisenhower as Secretary of State. The two soon forged a close personal bond, although the President frequently felt constrained to moderate his Secretary’s more perfervid evulsions. They developed a "New Look" defense policy, which sought to combine fiscal solvency and a credible deterrent through heavy reliance on nuclear weapons. Although both called publicly for the “roll back” of communism, and the “liberation” of those held captive by its “despotism and godless terrorism,” Eisenhower cautioned his Secretary of State to add the phrase “by all peaceful means.” Alas, there was to be no roll back or liberation, and the new administration settled for a near-status quo antebellum truce in Korea, and later did nothing except protest the Soviet crushing of Hungary’s attempt to liberate itself from communism.

The first Eisenhower administration is generally credited with ending the Korean War by quietly letting the communists know that the administration had been seriously contemplating an extension of the war, and even the potential use of nuclear weapons. Here was an early example of the “brinksmanship” that was to prove so controversial a part of Dulles’ dealings with the Soviet Union as Secretary of State. But the death of Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin in March 1953 seems to have had much to do with weakening communist resolution to continue the struggle.

Dulles and Eisenhower in some ways proved as tough with their ROK ally as with the communists. As ROK President Syngman Rhee planned to sabotage the truce talks at Panmunjom, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, with Dulles’ compliance, drew up a contingency plan to overthrow Rhee if this were deemed necessary to keep the truce talks going.

Dulles retained the respect and affection of Eisenhower to the end of his life. He never moderated his moral anti-communism, and claimed to be perfectly willing to “go to the brink” of nuclear war to demonstrate America’s resolution against communist aggression.

John Foster Dulles died on May 24, 1959, after a long and courageous struggle with cancer, at the age of 71.

Popular Documents

August 3, 1953

Confidential Memorandum, Before Agreeing to the Armistice Agreement

When the United States agreed to a truce talk to end the Korea War, President Syngman Rhee disapproved. He opposed the truce and tried to attack these peace proceedings through a serious of events- such as releasing thousands of prisoners of war and creating turmoil for the US government. In order to persuade Rhee to accept the armistice defense, the US dispatches Assistant Secretary of State Walter Robertson to meet with the South Korean president in a series of bargaining discussions. Eventually, under certain conditions and a mutual defense pact with the US, Rhee agrees to the armistice.

July 27, 1953

The President of the Republic of Korea (Rhee) to President Eisenhower

Rhee thanks Eisenhower for US appropriations for South Korea and congratulates him on the Korean War armistice.

October 12, 1973

Verbatim Transcript of the Third Meeting between Prime Minister Trudeau and Premier Zhou Enlai

Zhou Enlai and Trudeau have a wideranging conversation on international politics, covering the Vietnam War, Sino-Japanese relations, Nixon's visit to China, the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Arctic circle, and nuclear energy safeguards, among other topics.

August 2, 1958

Third Conversation of N.S. Khrushchev with Mao Zedong, August 2, 1958, in Fengziyuan

Mao and Khrushchev have a conversation about about international affairs, including NATO, CENTO, and SEATO, relations with the USA and Japan, and the situation in the Near East. They also expressed their views on the situation in Latin America, and preparations for a third world war. According to the Soviet record of the conversation, they also discussed domestic problems in the two countries. Specifically, Mao spoke at length to Khrushchev about the successes of the Great Leap.

August 1, 1958

Second Conversation of N.S. Khrushchev with Mao Zedong, August 1, 1958, in Zhongnanhai

On this second day of the talks, international affairs were the main topic of conversation. From the Soviet record, which like those of the first and the next discussion, was made by Fedorenko and the third secretary of the USSR Ministry of Foreign Affairs Anatolii I. Filyov, it is evident that the atmosphere was fully relaxed, anti-imperialism brought the communist leaders together. Both hated America, Great Britain, France, West Germany, Japan, and their leaders. They discussed the situation in the Near East in detail and were heartened by the victory of leftist forces in Iraq. They joked a lot. And only at the end did Mao lightly touch upon his claims to Khrushchev, who at once reminded the Chinese leader of the Soviet advisors. It was obvious that this question continued to bother him, and Khrushchev exacerbated his grievance.