CHRISTIAN HERTER: new face at the summit
In the critical and spotlit weeks of the Paris summit meeting the fate of the West may hang on an unknown quantity — the strengths or weaknesses of U. S. state secretary Christian Herter. A Canadian analyst in Washington tells why the man who will step out from the late John Foster Dulles’ heavy shadow is no rubber-stamp errand boy. as many reporters say. He is a strong man in a quiet way.
C. Knowlton Nash
HOW MUCH or how little will be accomplished at this month's summit meeting in Paris is an open question almost certain to be met by an opaque answer. But one prediction is as safe as diplomatic predictions ever come.
Before the Paris meeting is ended, millions of people now barely aware of his existence will make the discovery that one of the two most important men in the Western World — a man on whom their very lives depend — is a tall shy Boston blue-blood named Christian Archibald Herter.
The sixty-five-year-old senior U. S. negotiator under President Eisenhower, and therefore by definition senior negotiator for the democracies, Herter still stands in the shadow of the late John Foster Dulles, his predecessor as secretary of state. But in the next few critical and spotlit weeks, Herter may be forced to emerge from the shadow in his own likeness. If the likeness is a faithful one. it will disclose not an obedient rubber stamp, but an individual fully capable of being his own
man. showing his own kind of quiet strength, making his own decisions and seeing that they are carried out.
Nevertheless, any study of Herter still must start with Dulles.
On a chilly, drizzling afternoon last winter I stood before the simple, blue-gray marble slab that marked Dulles’ grave.
A couple of hundred yards away three Negro workmen were trimming a tree. A little way apart a handful of silent tourists viewed the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
It was a far cry from the crowds and steamy sunshine of the afternoon a year ago when I watched the body of the late secretary lowered into the ground with all the pomp and ceremony ot a royal burial.
Standing there on the newly sodded grass I had reflected that Dulles was, in fact, a monarch in the western world. He was not a loved one, to be sure, but we all danced, however reluctantly, to the tune
he called. Today that CONTINUED ON PAGE 91
Continued from page 15
ume has changed so drastically it is almost unrecognizable. The incredible thing is that the change has come about almost imperceptibly. Even Washington refuses to recognize it officially, but there has, in fact, been a revolution in American foreign policy since the death of Dulles. It's been a quiet revolution, engineered by the allegedly complaisant chore-boy, Christian Herter.
Both Dulles and Herter were trained as lawyers and both aided Woodrow Wilson in his peace efforts after World War I. But the similarities don’t go much further than that.
Dulles was an egotist; Herter is a retiring man. Dulles was rude and cold; Herter is friendly, kind and warm. Dulles gave long preachy answers to questions; Herter gives short factual replies. Dulles talked; Herter listens. Dulles carried American foreign policy round in his hat; Herter relies heavily on his advisors.
Diplomats see the differences between Herter and Dulles most sharply at international conferences. Where Dulles spoke infrequently, but in solemn, often threatening tones, Herter interjects frequently, softly, and precisely to the point. Where Dulles remained aloof, away from the conference table, taking only an occasional rye on the rocks, or at most two. with his associates. Herter joins his diplomatic colleagues in bridge, cocktails and small talk.
At first, diplomats shook their heads and warned, "Nice guys don't win cold wars.”
Some diplomats still have their doubts. They remember the dictum of John Foster Dulles, who once told a Press Club luncheon, “The state department is not running a popularity contest. As for most of these people, we don't care whether they like us or not, so long as they respect us. And I think they do."
But Herter has shown that inside his velvet glove is a hand of steel.
At the Geneva foreign ministers' conference last summer, Russian delegate Andrei Gromyko tried a few tricks of diplomatic one-upmanship. Once, with Gromyko sitting in the chair and the American delegate next on the list to speak, the Russian switched signals and called upon the East German delegate, leaving a nonplussed Herter fumbling with his glasses. He made no complaint about the snub and some diplomats shook their heads in dismay. I hey shook their heads in wondering approval, however, a few nights later.
The scene was the living room of Gromyko's rambling villa in Geneva, at a private dinner party. The sour Gromyko was feeling out the new American secretary of state, seeing how far he could go, and he said most emphatically that East Germany was a completely sovereign and peace-loving state. Herter cut in brusquely and told Gromyko that Russia holds East Germany down with bayonets and that in view of their sabrerattling. he could think of some more pertinent description for the East Germans than "peace-loving."
Herter can play "dirty pool” in the cold war when and if this becomes necessary. He is willing to be politically
provocative if the rewards and risks are worthwhile. But unlike Dulles, who played "dirty pool” at almost every turn, Herter reserves this gambit for rare occasions.
To correspondents, the differences between Herter and Dulles seem most sharp at press conferences. Dulles gave lengthy, sermonizing answers and his press conferences usually lasted forty-five or fifty minutes. He obviously enjoyed the catand-mouse game with reporters, his eyes sparkling when he scored what he considered a good point. Herter. on the other hand, is unhappy at his press conferences. He does not hold them as frequently as Dulles did and they last only twenty-five or thirty minutes. He does not have the Dulles flair for propaganda or for floating diplomatic trial balloons.
At his press conferences, Herter hobbles down the aisle in the state department auditorium on black-painted aluminum crutches. He is in constant pain from arthritis of the hips, a fact that seems to have helped mellow him. "I’ve been in pain so long, I don't think of it any longer," he says. Washington’s cocktail-party and formal-function circuit wears him down with its endless standing. "After fifteen minutes I begin to sweat; look for a place to sit down; and get embarrassed about walking badly,” he admits.
His aides now carry a high stool on which he can rest, and he perches on this at press conferences, answering questions quietly and briefly in his deep soft voice. He nervously rubs his nicotine-stained fingers. He clenches and unclenches his fists. String bean in shape, Herter has a sad-looking face, with bushy brown-gray eyebrows and the pouchy melancholy eyes of a St. Bernard.
While he is uneasy at his press conferences, he is charming when out of the public spotlight. Canada's minister for external affairs, Howard Green, found that out when he first met Herter, aboard Queen Elizabeth’s yacht Britannia during the dedication ceremonies for the St. Lawrence Seaway.
The two men hit it off right away and held a long conversation aboard the royal yacht. They are similar in their quiet friendliness and were on a first - name basis from the start.
The state department undoubtedly pays far more attention to Canada under Herter's guidance than it did under Dulles’. This is partly due to the Herter attitude and partly to the fact that the former U. S. ambassador to Canada, Livingston Merchant, is now the number-three man in the state department as under secretary of state for political affairs. The former
U. S. consul-general in Toronto, Ivan White, is now the deputy assistant secretary of state for European affairs. With such good friends of Canada so high up in the state department, Canada has achieved more understanding and attention.
Herter’s foreign policy ideas closely parallel those of both major political parties in Canada. And he recognizes the need to cater to Canada’s sensitivity about “being consulted.” For instance, at his own initiative, he flew to Europe via Ottawa last July before a Big Four foreign ministers’ conference so he could have a few hours conversation with "my friend Howard.”
Herter’s earlier contact with Canada was not so happy. An uncle of his owned a molybdenum mining operation in Quebec. which Herter took over and operated himself. He almost lost his shirt. Today he chuckles about the loss but he admits it wasn't funny at the time.
Herter puts a visitor at ease immediately. He likes to hear your ideas on a subject, although one feels a twinge of the ridiculous in suggesting, to the secretary of state, ways in which foreign policy can be improved. At the end of a private conversation, he thanks you for taking time to see him. You come away with the impression that you did him a favor by dropping by.
As one Canadian diplomat has put it, “You just can’t help taking to him immediately. He’s an unaffected charmer.”
Charming, however, was not the word for East-West relations a year ago, when the U. S. and the West seemed frozen into an ice-jam of irreconcilable attitudes toward the Russians. The sabre rattling of Khrushchov was equaled in intensity only by the thunder and lightning from Dulles.
According to the "Dulles line.” if we all closed our eyes tightly for long enough, while Dulles took us by the hand, on guided tours to and from the brink, the Kremlin walls would soon come tumbling down. Freedom would flood into the Communist world.
Following this line, we would not go to the summit. We would not talk to Khrushchov. "No truck or trade with the Communists,” was the rallying cry.
But death came to Mr. Dulles. And death came, too. to this “Dulles line." There is an academic argument among diplomats as to whether Dulles would have changed his line. Some say he was changing just before his death. But proof is hard to find.
This is what has happened during the quiet Herter revolution: Vice-president
Nixon went to Moscow; Khrushchov
carae to the U. S.; Eisenhower decided to go to Moscow; a summit meeting was arranged; the immediate threat to Berlin was lifted; there was a serious effort made on disarmament; and Eisenhower went to India. Pakistan, the Middle East. Europe and South America to win the friendship of those people of whom Dulles said he didn’t care whether they liked Uncle Sam or not. Herter. of course, cannot claim sole credit for all these changes but it is inescapable that they did occur under him and did not occur under Dulles.
There have been two specific and important basic changes in American foreign policy under Herter. First, under Dulles it was policy that there should be no East-West summit meeting without evidence in advance that it would be productive. Second, it was policy under Dulles that the U. S. should not commit itseli to any more than one summit conference and only that one if it became absolutely unavoidable. Now. not only have the Americans leaped on the summil band wagon broadcasting in advance that they expect nothing productive, but also they are saying it will take a whole senes of summits before anything can be really accomplished.
Under Herter, East-West relations have improved in several smaller ways, such as the end of Russian jamming of the Voice of America and the BBC; the increasing flow of East - West travel by artists, scientists, politicians, sportsmen and tourists; the end of the "eye-for-aneye" attitude of Washington in reaction to every petty annoyance inflicted by the Soviets; the end of Washington’s automatic rejection of almost every Moscow proposal; and the return to Washington of Soviet expert Charles "Chip" Bohlen, probably the most knowledgeable U. S. official on Soviet affairs, whom Dulles had exiled to the Philippines.
Dulles likely would have laughed off Khrushchov's ambitious total disarmament proposal. But not so Herter. He took it seriously and added. "I have been a little impatient at those who merely waved off Mr. Khrushchov’s suggestions as propaganda.”
In fact, Herter went further. He told the U. S. that the Russians may well honestly want disarmament and he explained why they have been so sticky on the question of control. Such control would allow behind the iron curtain a considerable number of "outsiders." Thus, much of the very real military advantage the Soviets have had so far, in keeping "outsiders” on the other side of the curtan. would be gone. They will, lie said, want a very large quid for granting the West that quo.
The significance of this Herter comment is that it shows the Soviets are not opposing disarmament inspection simply because they are devious, but because they have something very real and important to lose and want to be sure the bargain is worthwhile before they lose it. What Herter is doing, in effect, is to make a start on trying to educate the American people to have a little more sense in their attitudes toward the Soviets. All is not as black and white as Dulles liked to paint it.
Herter simply is trying to bring into play the element of trust. Herter already has been willing to make the first move on trust and he has been banking on the Russians’ taking him up on it.
For Herter, the ex-lawyer, ex-editor, ex-congressman, and ex-governor of Massachusetts. the job of following in the footsteps of John Foster Dulles as secretary of state was all but impossible. President Eisenhower made it even more difficult by delaying the nomination and
then making it only half-heartedly because he was so disheartened by the departure of Dulles, whom he had called the best secretary of state in history. Herter realized that no one could ever fill the shoes of John Foster Dulles. Herter solved that problem by bringing his own shoes.
Before appointing him. Eisenhower put Herter through the humiliation of having to undergo a physical examination to see if he were fit for the job. The president insisted on this despite the fact he was quite willing to have the cancer-wracked
Dulles carry on virtually to the end and despite the fact that the president himself operates on a sharply curtailed work schedule because of his heart trouble and recent history of poor health.
While Eisenhower vacillated in appointing Herter, the U. S. senate gave an unprecedented endorsement to Herter as secretary of state by rushing through unanimous approval. Herter. in fact, accomplished more then by this extraordinary. unanimous endorsement by the senate, and has accomplished more since in building good relations with congress.
than Dulles ever did with all his appeasement of the violently anti-Soviet McCarthys. Knowlands, Jenners and Welkers.
One demonstration of the sharply different tactics used by Herter and his exboss, Dulles, was seen last summer in a Far Eastern crisis.
Whenever the Red Chinese on the mainland threatened the islands of Matsu and Quemoy or stirred up oth«r Far East troubles, Dulles thundered back, sending the U. S. Seventh Fleet steaming around the Formosa Strait, with flags waving and all the loud publicity he could muster. In
the summer of 1959 when, again, the Communists were stirring up the troubled waters of the Far East, this time in Laos, the same thing was done, only differently.
The Seventh Fleet went steaming to the potential assistance of Laos, but this time it was done quietly with little advance publicity. The unaccustomed quietness of the Seventh Fleet's manoeuvre made it much easier for the other side to end its probing into Laos with a minimum of lost face. A definite Herter style emerged from that incident. It was a style of calm and silent resolution.
The combination of Ike's prestige and Herter’s diplomatic gamesmanship has edged the world back from the brink on which it was so precariously perched one year ago.
Western leaders have talked directly to the Russian people over radio and television, from public platforms and on street corners. They have explained in detail the Western attitudes toward Russia. On a lower, but equally effective plane, more Western tourists are talking to the Russian people.
In short, the Kremlin walls already have begun to crack open to let in some Western ideology and Western way of life. Unquestionably Herter deserves a very large slice of the credit for all this, along with British prime minister Harold Macmillan.
Herter and Ike started badly
Whal has been the cost of these accomplishments? Herter gave Russia the five-five parity she had been seeking on the special disarmament committee; Herter gave up the previous American demand for "real progress’’ at lower levels before a summit would be agreed to; the U. S. agreed to a series of summits; Khrushchov got his long-cherished "grand tour” of the United States; there have been indications that Washington is willing to see some structural change in the Western position on Berlin.
Is the price worth the gains? Only time will tell. Herter has been able to rack up these accomplishments through the increasing friendship and sympathy between himself and Eisenhower. Their relationship got off to a poor start and, at first, Herter and Ike talked on the telephone only a couple of times a week. Now, the White House phone on Herter's big mahogany desk jangles every day.
Actually, the Herter philosophy appeals to Eisenhower's own deep feelings about East-West relations, which were submerged by the overwhelming Dulles. Now, Eisenhower is able to say and do things which are not heading in a direction opposite to U. S. foreign policy, as was often the case in recent years. Ike took the diplomatic high road and Dulles the low road.
"What we arc talking about now," the president said recently, "is finding some little break, some little avenue yet unexplored, through which we can possibly move toward a better situation ... we are talking about the human race and what's going to happen to it." Dulles never let the President look for that "little avenue." Herter is pushing him toward it.
Herter, the man. is not too much different from Herter, the diplomat. He is a conservative, tweedy dresser who shares with his former Canadian counterpart, Lester Pearson, a somewhat incongruous love for polka-dot bow ties.
At the end of a long day — and all his days are long — Herter likes nothing better than a Scotch and soda with his wife in the book-lined den of their 140year - old fashionable home in George-
town, part of Washington. Then he settles down to read the paper.
"After I have read all the bad news at the front of the paper, I turn to the back and read the bridge column,” he says. "It helps me relax when I study how I would have played the hand.”
He is an inveterate bridge player. He once bid and made a grand slam against Eisenhower himself.
If he is not on the Washington diplomatic cocktail party merry - go - round, Herter comes home around 8 p.m. to his wife Mary Caroline whom he calls "Mac.” They met and married in school forty-two years ago. As a Standard Oil heiress she inherited a plantation in South Carolina where the Herters go to get away from it all. When not looking after the cattle he raises on their twelve thousand acres, Herter goes shooting duck, quail, fox or raccoon.
The somewhat Bohemian upbringing of Herter — born in Paris to an artistic family — may have given him a much broader outlook on the human family than John Foster Dulles ever had. Like Dulles, however, Herter is an avid “whodunit” reader. But where Dulles did homework on his plane travels, Herter prefers to settle back with a paperback detective story. Before any long trip, he sends his secretary to a local bookstore for an armful of the paperback mysteries.
The state department today is a far different place than it was under Dulles. As under secretary, Herter himself chafed under the one-man operation of his late boss. With Dulles, ambassadors were often high-class messenger boys, and advisors did more paper shuffling than policy formulation.
The difference at staff meetings is described this way by one official: "Secretary Dulles would let everyone say something and then he'd blast in with a wellrounded argument, every piece in place, and that would be that. But Herter contributes a little here and a little there, directing things as he goes.”
The Dulles shadow passes very slowly from the state department, however, and to many people at "state," Dulles still is “the secretary” and Herter is known as "the governor," from his term in Massachusetts half a dozen years ago. A portrait of Dulles still peers down at Herter while he works in his big highdomed office on the fifth floor of the state department. To the side of his desk, Herter has an illuminated globe which he occasionally twirls.
During his term as governor of Massachusetts he won considerable fame and some dismay by conducting one of the cleanest governments ever in that state's rough and tumble political history. "He wouldn't even fix a library card for you,” one associate recalled.
Herter came to the state department as under secretary from Massachusetts. He was one of the basic architects of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, as a congressman years before. In what was nick-named "Herter’s Circus,” he took a group of investigating congressmen to Europe for on-the-spot examinations as a prelude to establishment of NATO.
While this may have been his most important contribution to world peace so far, Herter now has a greater moment in history. He does not have much time to make his mark since presumably he will leave office next January when the new president takes over. But until then, it is on his shoulders that much of the peace of the world rests. The shoulders are much broader than they look and, contrary to a fairly common suspicion, they are his own. Ar