Luce files, lot 64 F 26, “Letters 1953”

No. 754
The President to the Ambassador in Italy (Luce)1

top secret

Dear Mrs. Luce: Almost the entire story of the potentialities of the Italian situation is clearly stated in your first paragraph2 in [Page 1635] the sentence, “If it (the Cominform Left) gains only 4% more from the Center to Right parties by the next elections, the President of Italy will be required by the Constitution to call upon a Cominform leader to form the next government.” Consequently, I jump immediately to your Section VIII.

. . . . . . .

Going on to other things that you feel the United States can do to delay the encroachment of Communism, I assure you first that, so far as I know, we have no intention of weaseling on our October eighth decision on Trieste. Because there were some unexpected reactions, there has been a corresponding amount of delay, coupled with some confusion, in trying to get things on the rails again. Specifically, we did not expect the enthusiastic official and public reaction from the Italian side. This unquestionably made Tito feel that he had to react adversely and much more vehemently than he otherwise would have. But whether or not the Italian attitude affected him, a situation has been created where we must observe sufficient caution that we do not almost force Italy and Yugoslavia into even deeper trouble in order to save face on one or both sides. However, I think the State Department is moving as rapidly as it can to correct the current situation.

It is difficult for me to discern how the United States can take “decisive leadership in worldwide measures to solve the over-population problem.” As I see it, there are only two approaches. The first is to distribute better the population that now exists, and the second is to encourage birth control in those areas where economic levels will not support current birth rates.

The second of these runs instantly into important religious objection, especially on the part of the Catholic Church; while the first presents a solution that can be only gradually effective.

So far as this government is concerned, we fought through the entire Congressional session last year to obtain authority for admitting additional immigrants on an emergency basis during the next two years.3 While we were largely successful, the bitterness of the fight and the restrictive amendments added to the original bill indicate that the United States itself will not measureably increase, over a period of time, its established normal quotas for immigrants.

In many other countries where natural resources are ample and the area is under-populated, physical conditions are such as to frighten prospective immigrants. Only some months ago a group of Italian immigrants in Brazil—or some other South American country—insisted [Page 1636] on returning to their own country because the areas in which they were settled did not have modern utilities, roads, and services for “civilized” living. (Shades of our pioneer ancestors!)

There is another comment to be made with respect to projects for relieving population pressures through emigration. I recently read that there is no single modern instance in which the population of any country—other than Ireland—was ever diminished by this means. While I cannot vouch for the accuracy of this statement, it is clear that if real relief from its over-population problems is to be obtained for a country such as Italy, there must leave its shores in one year not only a number equivalent to the expected natural increase but, in addition, make a dent in the current surplus. Without reciting all the difficulties in the way of such large movements, it still seems clear that the salutary effect, if any, would be most gradually felt.

As to the stabilization of world currencies and the liberalization of trade polices throughout the world, these will be major efforts of the United States in the coming months. Again, of course, results will not be spectacular; even if we are successful in having enacted in the law some of the measures that we believe desirable, the effect for a time will be more psychological than material.

In a way it seems odd that of all the countries in which we have been opposing Communism, we have had less success in Italy than in any other. The entire area of Western Europe, including Italy, has experienced a great rise in economic activity during the last few years and a great part of this result has come about because of American help. Yet every new report from Italy bears evidence of an increasing resentment against us and increased respect for the Soviets. This I suspect comes about because in the average mind the American is rich, pampered, spoiled, and, in spite of all his advantages, is socially and culturally little better than a barbarian. Some of this kind of criticizing—at least as applied to isolated cases—may be accurate, and for this we can only have regret and a hope that the populations that think themselves wiser and more sophisticated will get things in better perspective. But the constant complaints from abroad of the failure of the United States to cooperate and of its lack of understanding give to our people, who feel that after all they have been rather generous, an added excuse for embracing isolationism.

So while I accept in its general sense your argument that the United States must give to Italy increased concern and interest—to say nothing of money—I believe also that a great burden of responsibility rests upon the leaders in those countries. Just as we here have to precede every projected action with a long campaign of information and education, so must they try to mold public opinion [Page 1637] instead of merely pleading existing public opinion as an excuse for inaction.

You are quite right in your assumption that we want accurate, truthful, unvarnished opinion and fact reflected in Ambassadorial reports. But in addition to information as to the material, moral, and political assistance that we should give …, it would also be useful to know what kind of pressure we should put on these governments to do something themselves.4


Dwight D. Eisenhower
  1. President Eisenhower attached a copy of this letter to a memorandum to Under Secretary of State Smith, dated Nov. 7, in which he stated, “as you can see, this unnecessarily long letter to Mrs. Luce has really one purpose. That purpose is to get over to her in roundabout fashion that it would be a good thing to analyze and specify what Italy could do for herself as well as to point out what we must do in the situation. I think it would be wrong to try to get such a thing done by direct instruction, but I would hope that she would get the point in this letter. However, if you disagree—just let me know and I shall probably burn the letter”. A handwritten notation in the margin of the memorandum indicates, “Mr. Merchant Sent. W.B.S.” (765.00/11–753)
  2. Reference is to the memorandum printed as an enclosure to a letter from Luce to President Eisenhower, supra.
  3. On Aug. 7, President Eisenhower signed into law the Refugee Relief Act, which permitted the entry into the United States of 214,000 aliens over a 2-year period.
  4. A handwritten postscript reads as follows: “With all the best to Harry [Henry B. Luce]—you are really going good according to all the travellers. DE”