Department of State Administrative Files, Lot 54 D 2911

Special Report on American Opinion, Prepared by the Division of Public Studies 2

Public Attitudes Toward U.S. Aid Program

Opinion Concerning Aid For The Four Regions:
Europe, Far East, Near East, Latin America

Public discussion about U.S. foreign aid plans and programs during recent weeks has been chiefly in the context of the security problems now confronting the U.S. and the other free countries.

In regional terms, the military reverses in Korea have stimulated a major debate as to the aid program which the U.S. should follow for Europe and for the Far East. Some who doubt the wisdom of large-scale aid to Europe at this time have stressed the importance of strengthening the Western Hemisphere without giving much specific discussion to a new aid program for the Latin American states. Direct Communist threats to particular countries have flavored much of the discussion on aid to the Near East and South Asia.

U.S. aid to Europe is today envisaged chiefly in military terms—continuance of some economic aid to most of the ERP countries being more taken for granted than discussed. Respecting the Far East, however, economic aid receives as much (or more) attention as does military aid, the two forms of aid often being discussed at the same time. Military aid is quite prominent in discussion of U.S. assistance [Page 271] to certain areas of the Near East, although economic help is frequently considered in the case of India.3 Respecting Latin America, economic aid receives greater public discussion than military assistance, although neither has attained much prominence in recent weeks.


Despite the national debate about the future of U.S. security policy, the bulk of both the press and the general public adhere to the fundamental position expressed in the North Atlantic Treaty.4 Seeing the defense of Europe as vitally related to American security, the public supports the continuance of both arms aid and economic aid. Although there is some doubt about the wisdom of the newer policy of sending large numbers of American troops to a Europe which is thought to be “laggard” in its own defense, this doubt does not seem to extend to the material items envisaged for the single-package foreign aid bill.

There is difference of opinion as to the amount of aid—especially economic aid—which should be sent to Europe. Here the chief considerations are the need and the amount of self-help shown by recipient countries and also the more general factors of depleting American resources and raising American taxes.

On the question of arms aid, an early January opinion survey shows 7 out of 10 Americans approving the dispatch of military supplies to the countries of Western Europe. This sustained support exists despite the fact that a majority of the general public feels that these countries “are not doing all they should to build up their own defense.”

Suspension of ERP aid to Britain has been widely acclaimed in the American press, and there is some hope that the amount of aid required by other countries may be cut also. In the past, France and Italy have been the European ERP recipients most criticized for alleged failures to make best use of their aid; but it seems to be expected that these nations will continue to need economic, as well as military assistance from the U.S. A majority of the public believes that Western Europe will need economic aid at least until 1952, according to a recent opinion survey.

Spain.5 Although the questions of economic and military assistance to Spain remain controversial, the recent loan to Spain has been, for [Page 272] the most part, endorsed or acquiesced in. A number of editors and Congressmen favor bringing Spain into West European defense plans; but this question has not been widely discussed. A recent Gallup Poll indicates majority acceptance for admitting Spain into the North Atlantic Treaty system.

Current Questions

Will Eisenhower’s6 prestige and talents be enough to enable him to bring about unity and action in Western Europe?
How far and how fast can the British and French governments increase the pace of rearmament?
With the increase in Europe’s productivity brought about by the Marshall Plan, cannot European countries finance much of their own rearmament programs?
Considering the burden of the U.S. rearmament program, how much can the U.S. afford for economic aid to Europe?
Should the U.S. make greater cooperation among the European countries a condition of further American aid?
Shouldn’t it be a condition of further aid, that the European nations cease sending strategic (or other) materials to the Soviet bloc?
Shouldn’t the U.S. “face realities” and help Spain develop her military potential? How would such a move be received by the NATO countries?

far east

The Korean aggression served to heighten public discussion of how the United States could most effectively assist Far Eastern countries to prevent Communist expansion in that area. Military aid has been discussed chiefly in connection with specific countries: Nationalist China, Indochina, Philippines—with sporadic discussion of a Pacific Pact and increasing advocacy of the rearming of Japan. A January opinion survey shows that a majority of the general public still favors arms aid to “governments in Asia threatened by Communism”. Another survey shows popular sentiment fairly evenly divided on rearming Japan.7

Economic aid to strengthen Far Eastern countries has been widely discussed and approved, although relatively few have supported Mr. Stassen’s8 large-scale proposal of a “Marshall Plan for Asia”. [Page 273] Commentators also applauded the vigorous U.S. leadership in securing adoption of a UN program of economic reconstruction for the Republic of Korea. In a November survey, 6 out of 10 Americans supported assistance to help backward peoples; and nearly half mentioned the Far East or Asia in indicating the parts of the world which should be included in such an aid program. In the case of Japan, it is generally presumed that U.S. economic aid will continue as part of a plan to maintain strength and stability in this critical area.

Southeast Asia. Sympathy for moderate-scaled economic aid to the countries of Southeast Asia, based on the Point Four or “self-help” ideas, has remained high. The Commonwealth’s “Colombo Plan”9 has been warmly applauded by a number of prominent observers, and some have urged the U.S. to help share the expenses of this program. However, observers have been shy of large-size assistance in this area in view of U.S. commitments elsewhere and uncertainty that aid would be effectively utilized. Many have specifically endorsed the “realism” of the Bell Mission recommendations for aid to the Philippines,10 and some have termed them a “yardstick” for granting aid to other Southeast Asian countries.

Less attention has centered on arms aid to Southeast Asia, but such aid for Indochina has been consistently approved in limited discussion.11 However, commentators have been pessimistic over the situation there, and, aware of the demands made by the Korean conflict, have not pressed for large-scale military help. Almost no specific discussion of military aid has centered on Malaya, Burma or Indonesia, and only very light attention on Thailand. The handful commenting have appeared favorable.

China.12 An increasing number of observers, including others than the traditional pro-Chiang13 group, have favored military aid to the Nationalist army and its use in the struggle against Chinese Communists. Some have also called for arms aid to the guerrilla forces reportedly operating on the Chinese mainland. However, an articulate group of “moderates” and “liberals” have continued to disapprove support of the “discredited” Chiang regime. There is almost no current discussion of economic aid to the Nationalists.

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Current Questions

What are the reasons that the U.S. refuses to aid Chiang and use his troops in fighting the Chinese Communists?
Should the U.S. grant military aid to the colonial powers or to the native regimes in Southeast Asia?
Could U.S. military aid to Asia be more effectively organized if there were a Pacific Pact comparable to the North Atlantic Pact?
How carefully can the U.S. supervise aid to Southeast Asian countries, and yet not be accused of “economic imperialism” or “intervention”?
How can the limited number of dollars the U.S. can grant Southeast Asia be most effectively used in its underdeveloped countries?

near east, south asia, and africa 14

Iran is frequently referred to as a likely “next spot” for Communist aggression. The press has devoted considerable attention to U.S. arms aid to Iran—as well as to Greece and Turkey—with occasional consideration also of sending military supplies to India, Pakistan, and Israel. The NEA region is also often discussed, in broad terms, as an appropriate area for U.S. economic assistance; but very little press discussion was prompted by the inauguration of Point Four aid in Iran.

Greece, Turkey, Iran. Military and economic aid to Greece and Turkey have been consistently supported in limited comment over the past three years. Many commentators have cited the excellent performance of the Turkish troops in Korea as evidence of the soundness of the military aid program. Reduction in ERP funds to Greece, in view of insufficient Greek recovery efforts, has been generally approved. Observers hope that this action may inspire other nations to redouble efforts.

Seeing in recent Iranian policy a “pro-Russian trend”, some observers have urged the U.S. to expedite economic and military aid to Iran. Others, in this limited discussion, have bitterly complained that Iran was “offering nothing in return” for previous aid.

Near East. Both economic and military aid to Israel receive support, chiefly from the group of commentators who have consistently favored the new state. Others, in light comment, have also been sympathetic to helping Israel—particularly through loans and other economic aid.

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Point Four aid for the Arab states has received some support in limited discussion. In addition, a small group has favored increased relief aid for the Arab refugees and further UN efforts to “resettle” them with U.S. financial assistance. There is virtually no support for arms aid to the Arab states; and a few observers with pro-Israel sympathies are sharply opposed.

India, Pakistan. As compared to other Middle Eastern countries, discussion of aid to India has been fairly sizable. Despite anxiety over India’s “neutral position” in the East-West struggle, those commenting have favored strengthening India by Point Four aid and other developmental assistance. India’s “tremendous” domestic problems are frequently stressed, and observers usually point out that U.S. aid, though helpful, will only be “a drop in the bucket” to India’s actual needs. Discussion of arms aid to India is very limited but not unfavorable. Much less discussion centers on aid to Pakistan. The few commentators discussing the matter have generally been sympathetic to small amounts of economic aid based on the “self-help” principle.

Africa. While there has been some interest in the “development” of Africa, and in its “strategic” importance, almost no observers in recent months have specifically called for economic or arms aid.

Current Questions

In view of our limited resources, is it wise to send military and economic aid to the small, “feudal” countries of the Near and Middle East?
How can we be sure military aid to the Arab states and to Israel would be used to strengthen them against the common enemy—communism, rather than in the Arab-Israeli conflict?
Can the amount of aid America can grant India be of any good in view of the tremendous poverty and backwardness in India?
Should aid be given India and Pakistan when both are straining their economies in the struggle over Kashmir?

latin america 15

Relatively little public attention is devoted to Latin American affairs in general. Most of the comment comes from specialists who concern themselves solely with this area. In the past, these commentators as well as most of those discussing U.S.-Latin American relations have been enthusiastic supporters of continued and, often, of more extensive programs of economic cooperation. The question of military aid, however, has received scant attention.

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In recent discussion, emphasis has been placed upon the desirability of developing Latin American resources for the military defense program and, in general, on better and more permanent U.S. “good-neighbor” ties. This comment has shown sympathy for giving greater stress to the Point IV principles in Latin America and for reducing trade barriers and foreign investment restrictions. But, in the recent opinion survey which showed popular approval of U.S. help to “backward countries”, only 6% of the national sample mentioned Latin America as a region which “should come under such a program”.

Current Questions

How much of a direct economic aid program is actually needed by the countries of Latin America? Wouldn’t it be better for the U.S. to encourage foreign and local private enterprise in those countries?
How can the U.S. strengthen the ability of the Americas to defend themselves without adding to the power of military dictatorships?

  1. Consolidated administrative files of the Department of State for the years 1949–1960.
  2. Circulated as Foreign Aid Steering Group document SG D–8/2, January 18, 1951.
  3. For documentation on economic aid and famine relief to India, see vol. vi, Part 2, pp. 2085 ff.
  4. For documentation on U.S. participation in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, see vol. iii, pp. 1 ff.
  5. Documentation on the questions of aid to Spain and Spanish membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is included in material on United States relations with Spain in volume iv.
  6. General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander, Europe.
  7. For documentation on this subject, see vol. vi, Part 1, pp. 777 ff.
  8. Harold E. Stassen, President of the University of Pennsylvania; Governor of Minnesota, 1939–1943; prominent national political figure (Republican Party).
  9. For documentation on the Colombo Plan, see vol. vi, Part 1, pp. 1 ff.
  10. For documentation on aid to the Philippines, see ibid., Part 2, pp. 1491 ff.
  11. For documentation on U.S. policy with regard to Indochina, including material on aid to the forces of the French Union and the Associated States, see ibid., Part 1, pp. 332 ff.
  12. Documentation on United States policy regarding China, including the question of aid to the Republic of China, appears in volume vii.
  13. Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, President of the Republic of China.
  14. Documentation on United States policy with respect to the nations of the Near East and Africa, including material on economic and military aid is presented in volume v. Documentation on South Asia appears in volume vi.
  15. For documentation on U.S. relations with the American Republics, including material on questions of economic and military assistance, see vol. ii, pp. 925 ff.