JULY 19, 1961
ROCHESTER, N.Y.—Reports in the last few days about Chester Bowles leaving the State Department must have given not only his friends but many other people in the United States food for thought.
The one valid reason for the undersecretary dismissal or removal to an ambassadorship, a story in the New York Times implied, was that he was responsible for the organization of the State Department and did not prove to be a good organizer.
(He bears the title of undersecretary in charge of political affairs, whatever that may mean. I presume it means he is in charge of relations with Congress and with the people of the U.S., responsible for explaining policies on matters that concern the State Department.)
Other reasons given for dismissing Mr. Bowles were that he had disapproved of the invasion of Cuba and had talked too frankly about our relations with Communist China. These two reasons do not seem to me very valid.
As far as the Cuban invasion is concerned, it would appear that if it had been carried out along certain suggested lines, U.S. personnel and coverage of the landings by our Air Force and ships might have been involved. These factors probably would have insured a successful invasion, but we would have gone back on our commitments to the Organization of American States and to the United Nations. We would have found ourselves apologizing to the world in much the same way that Britain and France had to do after the Suez incident. We seem to have forgotten that we voted to condemn these two nations for just these reasons!
As it was, the mere fact that one branch of our government trained and equipped the Cuban nationals violated our commitments to the OAS, as I understand them.
It may well be that Under Secretary Bowles warned against doing this. And although I recognize the fact that a government employee must never speak out publicly against a government policy, a public servant would not be loyal if he did not express his opinions honestly to those responsible for making and carrying out policy.
Latest reports have Mr. Bowles remaining in office, with the sword of removal hanging over his head. What an unpleasant situation! How could anyone hope to do really constructive work in the difficult field of foreign affairs under such circumstances?
When press reports such as this one appear as it did, one wonders whether the whole story was planted to effect a change at this time or what other underlying factors may have been at work. In any case, I would believe that thinking people would be grateful to have one man in foreign relations who did not approve of our part in the Cuban invasion.
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Now we come to the question of China.
There is only one way to insure peace in the world, and that is by genuine disarmament and a rule of law. We cannot possibly achieve disarmament and leave any nation armed outside of the agreement. So willy-nilly, whether we like the government of any particular country or not, a disarmament agreement has to be joined by all countries.
In our newspapers and over the air, we are reading and hearing more and more statements from our public officials on the need for arms, on the possibility of what some call a preventive war. There is no such thing and we had better face it.
At the moment the U.S. and Soviet governments are playing a game of poker, a very dangerous game. The peoples of both countries had better understand that unless this game comes to an end soon, annihilation is the probable fate of our civilization.
You may laugh, but a man wrote me the other day suggesting that we pick out an island and get all nations to agree to keep any nuclear attack far away from it and never otherwise to attack it.
The people to populate this island, he suggested, would be selected from the best of every species on this planet. They would be placed on the island to live with our support so that after the rest of the world's people are destroyed in war, this island group would wait until after the end of radioactivity danger and then begin to repopulate the world.
This sounds ridiculous, but it is not one bit more ridiculous than to talk of using nuclear power for war.
This generation has the challenge of being sufficiently matured to submit to law and to negotiate its difficulties. We might as well face the fundamental question: How do we get along together? And Russia had better be as realistic about this as we are.
There is no middle way. A poker game comes to an end at some point.