MARCH 29, 1961
NEW YORK—The question of Laos is uppermost in everybody's mind and, while we know that certain steps may be taken to resolve the crisis, the United States is still faced with the possibility of sending troops to this area of the world.
This is not a pleasant prospect nor one that any American citizen enjoys contemplating, least of all the President, and for that reason he is taking every possible step to prevent active participation in a war so far away from home.
The Soviets may reason that such a war would sap our strength and not be a great burden on them, particularly as they could turn over to the Communist Chinese much of the military activity. But I hope that the Soviets will realize that any war anywhere is highly dangerous today.
President Kennedy's weekend conference with British Prime Minister Macmillan is reported to have ended in full agreement, and the Prime Minister and the President again made an appeal to the Soviets to back a neutral Laos. India also has made such an appeal.
It was satisfying to read that the SEATO leaders feel that Laos must be kept from control by the Communist rebels, and an even greater satisfaction to read that Premier Khrushchev's message reportedly agreed to a cease-fire and neutrality for Laos. Apparently, however, there is no agreement on the methods to be used. It is evident that when the West stands together solidly against using force the Communist nations also think rather carefully about putting themselves into the position where they will be blamed for the use of force.
If one can bring about the neutralization of the country and an acceptance of civilian aid from the various United Nations agencies, perhaps some of the grievances of the rebels can be met and better conditions for the people can be brought about in Laos. There is no doubt that, given the proper support financially, the U.N. could bring about some improvement in the life of the people more rapidly than can any other agency at the present time.
The U.N. is facing again an acute financial problem to raise the $120,000,000 needed to maintain the U.N. force in the Congo in 1961. The Soviet Union has refused consistently to pay its assessment for the Congo force or for the emergency force that was sent in 1956 to take over from the British, French and Israeli expeditions. The U.S. cannot be assessed more than a certain percentage and in this case the percentage was 32.5 of the cost. But we have made voluntary extra contributions to those operations, raising our total share for the emergency force to about 48 percent.
Up to December 31 we had supplied about 50 percent, or $60,000,000, toward the Congo force. These extra expenses are outside the regular U.N. budget and exceed the regular budget. Now it looks as though the Soviets are using this pressure to force the acceptance of their plans for the U.N.
It is perfectly understandable that the Soviets should try to use this financial weapon to obtain their own ends. But it looks as though the rest of the world would have to unite more firmly to raise the necessary funds unless they wish to be forced by purely financial means to knuckle under to whatever demands the Soviets may make now or in the future.
* * *
The one thing that gives us real concern in the defeat of the President's minimum wage bill is not the fact of the $1.25 or the $1.15, but the fact of the very small increase in coverage. More and more people should be covered who are in the white-collar area of workers, but very little improvement in that direction will be made in this bill.
The Democrats did not show up very well in the House vote except for the staunch and always-to-be-relied-upon liberals. It is depressing to see the old coalition beginning its extremely harmful work again. Reactionaries seem to be reactionaries first; their parties seem to matter very little in the long run.