NO OTHER public appointment within the experience of this observer has received such sincere and unqualified acclaim from all political factions as General George C. Marshall’s to the Secretaryship of State. This really tremendous expression of confidence in his integrity and wisdom will help him in his new tasks, up to a point.
He has further fortified his position by his unequivocal statement that he would never accept a political office. By that he meant axx elective office filled by the nomixxee of a political party. His declaration quashed conjecture that President Truman wanted to build him up for the Democratic presidential or vice-presidential nomination in 1948. This makes it easier for the Republicans, who control Congress, to co-operate with him.
However, all this applause has its dangers for the new Secretary of State. The principal oxxe is that it will lead the public to expect him to perforixx miracles. Although modest in bearing, he is a man of great self-confidence. He knows, though, that he is xxot a miracle-worker—that, indeed, there is no short sure road to a firm peace.
Marshall probably felt encouraged to subject his reputation to the risks of his xxew job by the public reaction to his diplomatic missioxx to China. He went there as ttie President’s special envoy to effect, peace between the Central Government and the Communists and their merger into a united regime. After a few months, he returned to Washington filled with optimism. But when he went back to China he found that the obstacles were more stubborn than he had expected. He failed. Nobody blamed him. On the contrary, he was applauded for his extraordinarily frank analysis of his failure.
Very few Americans,
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however, know much about China or feel qualified to express definite views about our policy there. As Secretary of State, Marshall will be dealing with many problems with which the public feels more familiar and on which it has strong views. Moreover, he will not be negotiating entirely behind closed doors as he did during the war as a member of the Combined (U.S.-British) Chiefs of Staff. He will not be protected by censorship as he was during his wartime years as Chief of Staff.
Although he was not so well known to the public as MacArthur and Eisenhower and others who held field commands, Marshall emerged from the war with the reputation in Washington of being the greatest of U. S. military figures. When he took hold of the Army, it had only 175,000 officers and men, the air force included. He organized and built the wartime army of more than 8 millions. He was the chief U. S. strategist of the war and eventually the most influential member of the Combined Chiefs of Staff.
Eisenhower, Omar Bradley, Mark Clark, W. Bedell Smith, and many other outstanding generals were his hand-picked protégés, most of them jumped over the heads of older, higherranking officers—just as Roosevelt had jumped Marshall, a junior brigadiergeneral at the time, over the heads of the senior generals of the U. S. Army when he made him Chief of Staff in 1939.
When the war closed, Marshall had a secure place in history. He was 64 and entitled to a rest. Yet within 24 hours after he went into retirement, he responded to a request from President Truman that he go to China. He expected to be gone only three or four months, and averred that then he would surely retire, once and for all. More than a year later he was still in China, and now, at 66, he has accepted the most difficult position in the government next to the Presidency.
No Sharp Changes
If Mr. Truman should die or become incapacitated before the end of his term, Marshall would become President. His statement that he would never accept political office is taken to mean that should chance put him in the White House, he would serve as a nonpartisan caretaker and only until the inauguration of a duly elected successor in January, 1949. In fact, he might even call a special presidential election. There has never been one, but nothing in the Constitution prevents Congress from calling one.
Marshall will not make any sudden
or sharp changes in U. S. foreign policy. On the contrary, the conduct of foreign policy will become even more completely bipartisan than it was during 1946. Not only its broad outlines but its major tactics will be determined by consultation between Marshall and the leaders of the Senate, especially Senator Vandenberg, president pro tern of the Senate and chairman of the foreign relations committee. Former Senator Warren R. Austin, another Republican, now U. S. delegate to the Security Council, also will have an influential voice.
Within the State Department, Marshall is retaining former Secretary Byrnes’ two chief deputies: Undersecretaries Dean Acheson and Will Clayton. Acheson was at the point of resigning for a reason wholly unconnected with Marshall’s appointment— he wanted to return to private law practice to restore his personal finances. But Marshall prevailed on him to stay a while and promptly clothed him with more authority than he had ever enjoyed before. As in the past, Clayton will be in charge of economic affairs.
Acheson favors a more “positive” foreign policy. In general, this means worrying less about negotiating agreements with the Russians. It does not signify either appeasement or greater toughness. It signifies, rather, paying a little less obvious attention to the Russians and more to using our economic resources and other means to further our own ideas and interests.
Acheson favors generous economic aid to western Europe and other areas outside Soviet control. He favors a program designed to improve gradually the standard of living in the Middle East. In general, he would tie up with liberal and democratic forces—not with reactionaries merely because they are anti-Communist.
These are not new ideas. They have been implicit in American policy. But they have not been fully activated.
Marshall’s report on China showed that he was thinking along these same lines. He would no longer make economic aid to the Generalissimo conditional upon coming to terms with the Communists. He would make it dependent upon the liberalization of the National Government by the suppression or removal of the extreme right wing and the introduction of liberal non-Communists. He would control economic aid by making it available only for specific projects for the economic improvement of China, such as the restoration of port facilities and the repair and extension of the railway system.
Although Marshall will attend the Foreign Ministers’ Conference in Moscow in March, he will not devote as much of his own time to international negotiations as Secretary Byrnes did.
A number of high U. S. officials think a frank canvass of outstanding problems by Stalin and Marshall would be useful. They know each other from the conferences at Teheran, Yalta, and Potsdam. They are both blunt. Marshall likes bluntness in others and Stalin is reputed to do so.
Stalin also has sometimes seemed readier than Molotov to make compromises. Offsetting this is the unfortunate fact that the Soviet Government has refused to honor some of Stalin’s pledges, such as those made at Yalta concerning free elections in Poland and other parts of liberated Europe. Marshall is forthright enough to tell Stalin to his face that if the Soviet Union wants to live in comfortable friendship with the United States it will have to convince the American people that it can be relied upon to live up to its promises.
It is clear that the Republicans in Congress will follow Vandenberg in support of a bipartisan or national foreign policy. But their zeal for reducing federal expenditures and taxes may impair somewhat the instruments for making this policy effective. To meet their budget goals they will have to trim, if not slash, outlays for economic aid abroad, for the State Department’s information services overseas, and for the armed services. They will try to avoid cuts so deep that they create issues.
What About Tariffs?
The bipartisan front has never extended to questions of international trade. The Republicans have no party policy on the tariff. Most of them in the past have voted against the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act and its renewals—except during the war when this law had no practical effects. On the other hand, the Republican presidential nominees in the last three elections have favored lower tariff barriers. The Republican members of the present Congress range all the way from unreconstructed high tariff advocates to outright supporters of the Roosevelt - Hull - Clayton reciprocal trade program. Many of them are in the middle in the sense that they do not favor higher tariffs or the return of tariff making to Congress but are uneasy lest the State Department use its discretionary powers to lower tariffs to the point where important American industries suffer. Some do not know where they stand.
Marshall, who knows little about economics anyway, will try to leave international trade questions in the hands of the President, Clayton and the Commerce and Treasury Departments. He will try to prevent disagreements over foreign economic policy from injuring the bipartisan alignment on political aspects of foreign policy. ★
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