155. CD. Jackson Log Entry, Monday, July 11, 19551
Dinner with Foster and Janet Dulles—36 hours before he left for Geneva. After dinner Mrs. Dulles left, and Foster unburdened, as expected, because invitation to dinner had been on basis of “alone so we can talk about things”.
His opening gambit was, “I am terribly worried about this Geneva Conference”. I asked for causes of worry. He said: “I have two major causes. First is that I am deathly afraid our allies might not come up to scratch. The French are so uncertain, so unhappy, and in such a mess all over everywhere that they may fall for some Soviet trick which would give France the illusion of being protected against a rearmed Germany.
“Eden is still in love with the idea of an Eden Plan for Germany. You remember in Berlin in ’54 it was an accident of the seating arrangement that made our agreed-upon proposal for the unification of Germany be spoken by Eden, at which time it became labeled ’Eden Plan’. In his case I am very much afraid that he may accept some near disastrous compromise in order to have whatever it is labeled ‘Eden Plan’.
“But what I am most worried about is the President. He and I have a relationship, both personal and operating, that has rarely existed between a Secretary of State and his President. As you know, I have nothing but admiration and respect for him, both as a person and as a man aware of foreign policy and conference pitfalls. Yet he is so inclined to be humanly generous, to accept a superficial tactical smile as evidence of inner warmth, that he might in a personal moment with the Russians accept a promise or a proposition at face value and upset the apple cart. Don’t forget that informal buffet dinners will be the regular procedure every day, at which time I estimate the real work will be done, and it is at that time that I am particularly afraid that the Russians may get in their ‘real work’ with the President.[Page 302]
“We have come such a long way by being firm, occasionally disagreeably firm, that I would hate to see the whole edifice undermined in response to a smile.
“As I was saying to the Senate Committee2 which leaked my phrase about the possibility of Soviet collapse, we are in the situation of being prepared to run a mile in competition with another runner whose distance suddenly appears to be a quarter mile. At the quarter mile mark, the Russian quarter miler says to the American miler, This is really a quarter mile race, you know, and why don’t we call it off now?’
“The President likes things to be right, and pleasant, between people. He tires when an unpleasantness is dragged out indefinitely. For instance, on the Bricker Amendment—that brother of his in the Middle West, the reactionary one, I can’t remember his name—got hold of the President the other day and gave him a long story about giving in on the Bricker Amendment. The President got hold of me and said that he was tired of the endless bickering and wrangling and unpleasantness, and since it didn’t really amount to much anyway, why shouldn’t we give in and accept some kind of compromise language and let Bricker have his amendment.
“I happened to think of some language in George Washington’s Farewell Address, where he made some mention of the fact that only the pragmatic tests of time would tell whether or not the Constitution should be amended, and how, and he urged that no advance theoretical amending be done—and it so happens that since the beginning of our Constitution all Amendments have been as the result of actual experience and need.
“I told this to the President—told him that he would be the first President of the United States who had ever amended the Constitution on the basis of a theory as to the future—that for Bricker to be right it would require the conjunction of a President who gave something away internationally which was unconstitutional, and a Senate which would ratify that agreement, and a Supreme Court which would confirm. If, and I underscore if, all these three things happened, then the danger that Bricker is trying to forestall might exist, and that does not take into account the fact that the Congress could upset it if it wished to.
“The President was impressed, and told me the next day that he had read his brother the particular passage from George Washington.
“But you see what I mean. He was tiring of running the full mile on the Bricker Amendment.”
At that point I interrupted to ask about the “imminent collapse” leak from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee closed hearing. [Page 303] Dulles replied that (a) it was an executive session and off the record, (b) he could not talk convincingly to these Hill committees unless he could talk freely, (c) “I was frankly laying it on thick. After all, I was trying to persuade these men that this was not the time to call off that mile race, just because the quarter miler was getting tired. I pointed out to them with all the vehemence that I could that we had reached this point consciously, expensively, and sometimes painfully, but that it had paid off. Furthermore, I emphasized and reemphasized that what Russia had predicted for our system—namely, collapse— was precisely what appeared to be about to happen to them. I don’t recall using the adjective ‘imminent’, but I certainly elaborated on the deepening cracks in the Soviet political and economic structure.”
After rambling around on various details, Dulles said: “You know, I may have to be the devil at Geneva, and I dread the prospect.”
This gave me my cue to jump in and throw the mile-quarter mile simile right back at him. It was not a question of being a devil, but running that full mile, which he had so successfully started.
I added that for the first time in many, many years the United States had a real Secretary of State, and furthermore had a real Secretary of State as a close partner rather than a competitor of the President. I reminded him of the words and the warmth of tone that Eisenhower had used many times, most recently in San Francisco, referring to his “good friend and trusted adviser, the Secretary of State”. That relationship had come about largely as a result of Foster’s courage and wisdom. I reminded him of the flap over “agonizing reappraisal”, and the worse than flap over his refusal to stop off in Paris en route to see Adenauer in Bonn after the defeat of EDC …3 reminded him of his intelligent generosity in throwing bouquet after bouquet to Eden during the development of the Paris Accords plan after the defeat of EDC. All these things he had been blamed for, and yet the passage of time had proved him absolutely right. If that meant being a devil, well, then, let him be a devil again at Geneva, but a devil with his chin up.
Dulles then went into a rather pathetic little rumination about columnists, who repeatedly had descended upon him like wolves and then 3–4–5 months later when he had been proved right, had never uttered a word of correction. I told him that he should not worry about this at all, or certainly not beyond the initial irritation of whatever it was they printed. After all, columnists are in the business of going out on a limb 1–2–3–4–5 times a week, and it is again the nature of the human animal 3-4-5 months later to type out “Folks, I was wrong about that fellow Dulles”.[Page 304]
Interspersed in all the above was reference to Trieste, for which Dulles took full credit as something he had wanted to do ever since he got his job. Also a very interesting reference to the heat that Eden turned on during the British campaign to get the U.S. to agree to the parley at the Summit. Dulles said that at one moment when he could hardly believe that it was as important as Eden was apparently making it, he got hold of Harold Macmillan and put the question bluntly to him in terms of “I am amazed at these repeated requests from Eden—will you please tell me straight whether this is simply one of a half dozen things the Conservatives have thought of which might be of help to them in the campaign, or whether this is really of utmost importance”. Macmillan replied, “It is of the utmost importance; in fact, if we don’t get it, we may very well lose the election”. So Dulles agreed then and there.
Picking up from the “devil at Geneva” dialogue, Dulles then said, “To my mind this is much more serious than the way we have been discussing it. In fact, this is something that I have never breathed to a soul, or even intimated, and I suppose there is not anybody else I could actually say it to. My big problem is a personal problem. I am afraid that either something will go wrong in Geneva, some slip of the allies, some slip of the President’s, which will put me in the position of having to go along with a kind of foreign policy for the U.S. which could be described as appeasement—no, appeasement is too strong a word, but you know what I mean—or, on the other hand, I may have to behave in such a way at Geneva that my usefulness as Secretary of State, both domestically and abroad, will come to an end.”
This was said with a depth of emotion on his part such as I had never heard before, and I was quite shocked.
I thought it was time to really give him a fight talk, so I picked up all over again on the mile race, on the success of the Dulles foreign policy, on his relationship with the President, on the status of his stock vis-à-vis Eden, on the fact that the President was no bubble head, that sure, he might get a little over-cozy with Zhukov if Zhukov turned up at the conference (Dulles interrupted to say that although the Soviet Delegation had not yet been announced, he had heard that Zhukov would probably be a member of the delegation for the express purpose of softening up the President), that Dulles’ stock in the U.S. was very high (Dulles interrupted glowingly, “Yes, the latest Gallup Poll puts approval of my policies at 65%), that his stock with the man in the street abroad was probably considerably higher than he thought, and anyhow, what the hell had he done all these things for—for the greater glory of John Foster Dulles or for the United States of America?[Page 305]
It was quite corny and somewhat like a football coach between the halves, but it seemed to work, because as I then had to leave, he took me to the door, grabbed me by both arms, and said, “I am so grateful to you for having come down”.
I told him that I was grateful to him for having been taken so tremendously into his innermost confidence, and added that I thought I would send him an edelweiss, which as he knew, was the reward of courage in Switzerland.
Footnote to this is that I commissioned Laguerre to purchase some kind of edelweiss good luck charm in Geneva and send it to Foster with a note from me saying, “As you know, only the most steadfast and courageous climber gets his edelweiss. I am sending you this one before the climb because I know you will earn a whole bouquet.”