August 24, 2010

John Foster Dulles in 1954 - even he thought we were lousy at waging peace.

1954 became something of a pivotal year with regards to our presence in Asia. The Korean conflict had come to an end, but the one in Vietnam was about to heat up. Only earlier in the year the French suffered a paralyzing defeat at Dien bien Phu, bringing about their withdrawal from the former colony and our increased presence in the form of aid (military and economic) to the South Vietnamese government. China was again saber rattling with the island of Formosa. It was an uneasy time.

So on September 23, 1954, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles addressed the United Nations General Assembly.

John Foster Dulles: “The people of the United States believe wholeheartedly in the purposes and the principles set out by the charter of the United Nations. And that document marks a milestone in an understanding of the nature of peace. It recognizes that peace is not merely a passive concept. But peace is a call to action. It is not enough to dislike war and to denounce it, war has been hated throughout the ages, yet war has been recurrent throughout the ages. One reason is that men have never put into winning the peace efforts comparable to those which they put into winning a war.”

Lofty words, yet given the amount of "meddling" we were involved in at the time, it would seem a somewhat hollow gesture. Granted, there was a Cold War raging. The Independence movement was going full-tilt in Africa and the Soviet Union were doing their level best to influence those newly discovered rights of self-determination with both financial and military aid and it was something of a popularity contest. But we weren't making the world any safer by our support of regimes and dictatorships with endless lists of human rights violations. In our somewhat bungling quest to wage world peace, we were doing much to sow the seeds of discontent simply because we were always helping out the wrong guy. Were we, in 1954 just lousy judges of character? Or did we really think dictatorships, such as those in Cuba and Nicaragua, would see the error of their ways and magically embrace democracy with the Batista's and Somoza's stepping down "for the good of the people"?

We're still trying to figure that one out.

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