122. Editorial Note

On June 14 and 15, the annual Department of Defense (or Military) Secretaries’ Conference was held in Quantico, Virginia. The featured speaker on the morning of June 14 was Secretary of State John Foster Dulles. The Secretary spoke on the free world collective security system and its relationship to the strategic concepts of massive retaliation with nuclear weapons which brought “a higher degree of security at lesser cost than we could get if each had to try to get that for himself” and the need to counter peripheral acts of aggression with more limited warfare. Dulles acknowledged that massive retaliation, “which has served us so well and which will continue to serve us well, has certain weaknesses which have become increasingly apparent during the last two or three years as the Soviet Union as well as we have developed the increasingly massive destructive capability of nuclear weapons.” Citing the old adage, “the punishment should fit the crime,” he noted that “there is, I think, a growing question in the minds of some of our allies at least as to whether or not we would, in fact, invoke the power of retaliation which is represented by these terrible weapons which with their fallout capacity could perhaps destroy human life on the northern half of the globe,” especially if this retaliation seems to be excessive in relation to the aggression.

Fortunately, Dulles continued, the United States was gradually developing tactical (or small yield) nuclear weapons which would effectively counter “nibbling operations” undertaken by the Russians “on the theory that we would not, in fact, respond with the only weapon at hand because that would involve excessive cost to humanity.” He was hopeful that “these new possibilities for strengthening the free world” would provide “an adequate deterrent, an adequate defense,” without the United States and other free nations facing the choice of spending heavily on defense at the expense of other needs or burdening the populace with taxes or inflation which would “destroy the economic foundation which is one of the indispensable requisites of a vigorous and free society.”

[Page 527]

Dulles concluded: “Now all of this that I have been talking about requires, as I think you can readily see, the closest cooperation between those of us who are primarily responsible for the political conduct of foreign affairs and those who are responsible for our military strategy and its implementation.”

Responding to questions following his talk, Dulles elaborated on the complicated problems arising from the stationing of United States forces abroad, the need for United States bases abroad, the financial costs of such bases, and the national resentments of United States presence in foreign countries. He also commented on Western colonialism which had brought racial discrimination abroad and had resulted in an anti-colonial legacy in Africa and Asia. The United States, he believed, “has been relatively free from the practice of those discriminations abroad although by no means wholly so, but in any event we are just lumped with the western Europeans, the whites, in that respect.” Therefore, “we have not only our own sins to bear but also the sins attributed to us by association and that is one of the very grave liabilities to which we are exposed and, of course, it is sought to be used for propaganda purposes by the Communists as they portray our own racial problems here at home; that is used to indicate this sense of white supremacy and it is a very grave problem and it affects our whole military-political strategy particularly in Asia.”

One consequence of the anti-colonial mentality related to atomic weapons is, Dulles noted, that “there is in the feelings of the [Asian] masses identification of the atomic weapon with this white supremacy and its having been used first by the United States against members of the so-called yellow race, and there is a greater measure of tolerance toward the development of atomic weapons, the testing of atomic weapons, by the Soviet Union than there is to that development and testing by the United States or Great Britain because a good many of the Asians take a certain degree of quiet satisfaction over the fact that a nation which is at least partly Asiatic, which has never been identified with the white Europeans in terms of colonialism, that that is now getting in a position to challenge the power which heretofore has been a monopoly of western whites.”

A typescript of Dulles’ untitled address, including the question-and-answer session, is in Department of State, Central Files, 740.5/6–1457.

On June 15 Admiral Arthur Radford delivered an address, entitled “Defense Planning,” to the conference. Radford, noting that he would be completing his four-year term as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in two months, offered his reflections on various planning problems facing the United States armed forces. He stressed the need for coordinated team work in the military in approaching these problems. He also referred to “certain restrictions and limitations” on the military, [Page 528]such as “valid objections from a political point of view” by civilian departments, which caused “unavoidable delay in our planning and programming.” Radford emphasized, however: “I am not complaining—I am explaining—why it is that the Joint Chiefs have great difficulties in coming up with the best solution to some of our more pressing problems.”

Radford went on to cite budgetary restrictions requiring “a reasonable ceiling to be put on our military expenditures,” and he affirmed that “there are better and more economical ways of planning for the future.” He added: “I am certain that there are actions which can be taken which will result in sizable reductions in our annual military expenditures and which will not materially or dangerously reduce our capabilities to successfully fight a global war or the kind of limited war that we should fight. I am also certain that if the Joint Chiefs of Staff do not take all or most of these actions, some more drastic and less justified actions may be taken outside the JCS.”

Finally, Radford made more specific remarks advocating reduction of United States deployments abroad, assistance to indigenous ground forces with small mobile support forces, dispersal of United States forces and SAC bases, prudent procurement programs, “maintenance of sufficient atomic striking power—our essential deterrent,” including more rapid development of “clean” nuclear weapons, and programs designed to retain skilled officers in the military, a more important concern because of future reductions in personnel in all the military services.

A copy of Radford’s address is in the Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, Administration Series, Radford.