Eisenhower Library, Jackson papers

No. 106
The Ambassador in Italy (Luce) to the President’s Special Assistant (Jackson)

Dear C. D.: You will remember how profoundly concerned I was about Trieste in Washington six months ago. Since that time, the situation has progressively worsened.

Harry 1 will be leaving here on Wednesday2 and will carry voluminous footnotes on this current “Message to Garcia” to you, for your further clarification …3 and concern.

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Meanwhile I’d like to make a few observations in what now seems (in G.O.P. season and out) to be my role of Cassandra.

An adverse decision for Italy on Trieste would be a moral blow to Eisenhower’s foreign policy. Eisenhower has pitched his whole approach to world questions on a high moral and spiritual note. On moral and spiritual grounds, in a world of the relative virtue of nations, no one can choose Tito, the Communist Dictator in preference to still Democratic Italy. The loss of Italian friendship for the U.S. which must inevitably follow an adverse decision for Italy on Trieste, would divest Eisenhower’s foreign policy of much moral coherence.
It would be a diplomatic blow. British foreign policy scoffed at the Tripartite Declaration from the beginning warning of the danger of promising what we couldn’t probably deliver. Since that time they have made their own position clear in Italy. We never really have. Our failure since 1948, to settle a question which we have increasingly helped to complicate by our aid and support to Tito, has fortified the view in many chanceries that we are amateurs in diplomacy. To win a weak Italy in 1948 with a promise we refuse to live up to, even partially, is to lose a stronger Italy in 1953, when—as is now happening—the chips are being put down.
It would be a strategic blow. For the present Italian pro-NATO government could no more survive the Trieste issue if it went against Italy than De Gasperi’s did. The next government would go Left—towards Nenni neutralism (this is what the British hope!) and eventually Communist. However great a case the Pentagon can make for Tito’s divisions in the event of a war with the Kremlin, a greater case can be made for the wisdom of not letting Italy check out of NATO.
It would be a political blow. Many of Connecticut’s (and other States’) hundreds of thousands of Catholic and Italian voters would begin to go back to the Democrat fold. One of the greatest reasons why Catholic voters in the USA left the Democratic Party was their deep-seated suspicion that the Acheson buildup of Tito was the effort to further anti-Kremlin Communism, and that Ike would reverse this policy.

I have every reason to believe there is a solution to Trieste, that will lose to us neither Italy’s pro-American government nor Yugoslavia’s divisions. The Department is fully informed of it.4 But it is one that can only be achieved now—quickly, and in the present context. Will the Secretary act swiftly? I know and sympathize with the terrible pressures on him—but time is of the essence in this matter.

Naturally, C.D., I do not cheerfully face the fact that if the Trieste issue goes sour I must bear the onus in Italy, as Ike’s Ambassador. But that is only as it should be. I would proudly endure the failure of my mission here if I believed that I had failed because [Page 266] the Italians would not cooperate with sound American policy—in short, if we were on the right track about Ital-Yugo relations. But my heart is heavy indeed when I consider that we may be on the wrong one. Indeed, I fear we are.

Believe me, the Democrats will be well within their rights to attack me and the policy I represent with everything they’ve got if it loses Italy to NATO. When before could Democrats rightfully claim that Republican policy was appeasing totalitarian dictatorship, scuttling freedom in Europe, selling Democracy down the river to the Commies?

If Pella falls (which, as I say, he will probably do if the Trieste issue is decided against Italy) the pro-Cominform Socialists will probably triumph in the next election—and with them neutralist-socialist views in international affairs. Churchill and Malenkov between them will then decide Europe’s foreign policy.

What makes all this particularly painful is that no question of dollar handouts is involved here, or Congressional action. What is involved is statesmanship, and resolution, foresight, and fast diplomatic footwork.

Do we then only know how to pursue dollar diplomacy? Must we always lose in the international field the minute sheer diplomacy is put to the test? If that is true, we may do better frankly to abandon world leadership and revert to isolation which will make much less strain on the purse of our people, and the brains of their leaders.

I wish I were in Washington now, or Denver. I would feel I could then thrash all this out vigorously with Foster and Ike. Frankly, I never know how much of what is sent to the Department gets through to the top, without being watered down or sold short on the way up. Moreover, cablese seldom conveys the real urgency of these matters.

State Department cablese is an especially ineffectual and inappropriate idiom in which to tell the President that if he doesn’t settle Trieste in the next few weeks, he may lose his next Congress.5

All best

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The Ambassador in Italy (Luce) to the President’s Special Assistant (Jackson)

Dear CD—I know the President likes to have even the most urgent matters summed up on one page. The following is a brief if unorthodoxically phrased estimate of the situation in Italy, based on the assumption that nothing ever will be done to bring about a satisfactory solution to the Trieste question.

Estimate of the Situation:

For the want of Trieste, an Issue was lost.

For the want of an Issue, the Election was lost.

For the want of the Election, DeGasperi was lost.

For the want of DeGasperi, his NATO policies were lost.

For the want of his NATO policies, Italy was lost.

For the want of Italy, Europe was lost.

For the want of Europe, America . . . . . . .?6

And all for the want of a two-penny town.


That something be done to save DeGasperi’s policies—EDC, and the Facilities Program—which can be done by giving in exchange a satisfactory solution of Trieste to the next Italian government.

Can you, CD, bring this to the attention of the President at an opportune moment?


Clare Boothe Luce
  1. Presumably a reference to Henry R. Luce.
  2. Sept. 9.
  3. Ellipsis in the source text.
  4. Presumably a reference to the views which Luce expressed in Document 104.
  5. Luce added the following handwritten postscript: “I wrote the enclosed letter to you June 30—two months ago, when the new gov’t was being formed. I did not send it because the Korean pot was boiling, and I felt it was one thing more to harass the President. I wish I had sent it!”
  6. The first seven lines of Luce’s “Estimate of the Situation” were quoted in Eisenhower’s Mandate for Change, p. 409.