Eisenhower Library, Eisenhower papers, Whitman file, international file

No. 1122
President Eisenhower to the British Foreign Secretary (Eden) 1


Dear Anthony : Thank you very much for your nice message, which was sent to me by Sir Roger Makins.2

I was really disturbed this morning to find that the question I had personally raised about the planned Joint Conference in Cairo had obviously not been successfully answered.3 You will recall I expressed a reluctance to get publicly involved in the initial phases of this matter until the United States could be assured of the agreement of General Naguib—preferably an official invitation from him—to participate in the negotiations.

It seems to me that we should have been able to achieve this. Now we are told the proposal—apparently coming jointly from our two governments—is not acceptable. I feel we have been clumsy.

This brings to mind again my concern over the way we present to the world the picture of British-American association, which association in our joint view will mean so much to progress in the development of collective security and to the best interests of the whole free world, including, of course, ourselves.

We must, by all means, avoid the appearance of attempting to dominate the Councils of the free world. This, I think, is just as necessary as is the prior study of common problems, by joint effort, before we go into multilateral conferences. Over the past decade I [Page 2021] have had some experience, in the military field, with international conferences. I am certain that nothing infuriates an individual in one of these meetings so much as an insinuation or implication that they may be representing a country, whose convictions, because of some national reason, are not really important. I know, for example, that the French frequently feel that the United States and Britain are guilty of power politics on this point, and they resent it fiercely. (You remember the Malta Conference!) At the same time their willingness to go along with us is tremendously important; not only because of their responsibility in the Indo-China war but because of their central, key position in Western Europe.

I am repeating these thoughts merely so that you and your associates will not forget the conviction we hold that our two nations will get much further along toward a satisfactory solution to our common problems if each of us preserves, consciously an attitude of absolute equality with all other nations, in every kind of multilateral conference in which we jointly participate.

I am, of course, hopeful that the Egyptian tangle will be straightened out and that we can get forward with our negotiations. The proposed plan, if adopted, will operate to the advantage of Egypt and is in keeping with their just claims to sovereignty and equality. It will likewise give the free world assurance that the Canal will remain available for use. I feel certain that no justifiable criticism of the plan itself can be made; consequently it is doubly important that the methods we use do not defeat it.

I once had a very wise commander who would use a very simple illustration to point out to me the difference between “command” and leadership. Maybe you can try it sometime on some your associates and assistants, just as I do on mine. It goes:

“Put a piece of cooked spaghetti on a platter. Take hold of one end and try to push it in a straight line across the plate. You get only a snarled up and knotty looking thing that resembles nothing on earth.

“Take hold of the other end and gently lead the piece of spaghetti across the plate. Simple!”

I did not mean to get into a long letter like this in acknowledging your nice note, but in conformity with our agreement to unload our minds when we feel like it, I send this on to you.

As ever,4

P. S. My warm regard to W. C.

  1. The draft copy of this letter, also dated Mar. 16, in the Eisenhower papers clearly indicates that this message was addressed to Foreign Secretary Eden. (Eisenhower Library, Eisenhower papers, Whitman file)
  2. No copy of Foreign Secretary Eden’s message to President Eisenhower has been found in Department of State files. However, according to a telephone conversation which Secretary Dulles had with President Eisenhower on Mar. 16, “The President said that he has a message from Eden, thanking him for courtesies while here, etc. Wouldn’t this give him [the President] an opportunity to write Eden rather than Churchill about the Egyptian thing? Mr. Dulles said that there was a feud on between them and it might strengthen Eden’s hand. He then read a message which General Smith had about the Egyptian situation, and also said that Smith agreed that writing to Eden would be good.” (Eisenhower Library, Dulles papers, “Telephone Conversations”)
  3. See telegram 2064, Mar. 15, supra .
  4. No signature on the source text.