Dean G. Acheson
April 22, 1950
I would like to discuss with you the thing that is most important to all of us: the well-being and happiness and security of the United States. I ask you to put aside, for the moment, all considerations that are less important, to forget all differences of opinion that are less than vital…
We are faced with a threat—in all a sober truth I say this—we are faced with a threat not only to our country but to the civilization in which we live and to the whole physical environment in which that civilization can exist. This threat is the principal problem that confronts the whole United States in the world today…
There is no miracle that will make it disappear from the earth. Having recognized this truth, we need not for a moment be discouraged or downhearted. We have open to us, and we are now pursuing, many lines of action that will meet the challenge confronting us. May I mention six lines of action.
Our first line of action—and this seems to me the basis of all the others I shall discuss—is to demonstrate that our own faith in freedom is a burning and a fighting faith. We are children of freedom. We cannot be safe except in an environment of freedom. We believe in it for everyone in our country. And we don’t restrict this belief to freedom for ourselves. We believe that all people in the world are entitled to as much freedom, to develop in their own way, as we want ourselves…
We must use every means we know to communicate the value of freedom to the four corners of the earth. Our message must go out through leaflets, through our free press, radio programs and films, through exchange of students and teachers with other countries, and through a hundred other ways…
Thirdly, it is not enough that one should have a faith and should make that faith articulate. It is also essential that we, and those who think like us, should have the power to make safe the area in which we carry that faith into action. This means that we must look to our defenses. It means that we must organize our defenses wisely and prudently, with all the ingenuity and all the methods in which we are best versed to make ourselves strong.
Every element of promise is present in our situation. We have the ingenuity, we have the productive power, we have the determination, we have the resources. But this is not a subject on which I am competent to dwell at length. The President’s chief advisors in this field are our Secretary of Defense and our service secretaries, in whom we can have complete faith and confidence.
Fourthly, beyond faith and preachment and defense there lies the necessity of translating all of these into terms of the daily lives of hundreds of millions of people who live in this free world of ours. I am talking about the effort we are now making to help create a better material life for ourselves and for other people in many parts of the world.
One part of this effort has to do with setting in operation again the great workshops of the free world. Since the end of the war, we have worked steadily at this problem and we have had a vast measure of success. The chimneys of these factories are smoking again, raw materials are moving into them, finished goods are moving out. Hundreds of millions of people see the specter of insecurity in their daily lives being pushed further back.
Now while we are helping to get workshops going—old and new—and to get people producing in Europe and other parts of the world, we have to do still another thing. And that is to develop a sensible system of trade to exchange the foods which are being and will be produced.
We are going to have to make a great national effort, also, to get our own trade with the rest of the world into balance, to get out of the situation where we are selling broad much more than we are buying and making up the difference out of the pockets of American taxpayers. Nobody here or abroad wants that situation to continue indefinitely. As part of the remedy we shall have to buy more from abroad, and that will demand a concerted national effort.
The fifth line of action is in the political field. In this political field we have so far only scratched the surface of what can be done to being the free world closer together, to make it stronger and more secure and more effective.
There are many ways of organizing the free world for common action and many different opinions on how it should be done. But I think it is important in this hour of danger to concentrate our minds and our energies on using the machinery we have at hand, on expanding it and making it work. When you look over the field, you will see that we now have created a great deal of good machinery.
There is the whole machinery of the United Nations which we are continually learning to use more effectively. Within the framework of the United Nations we have other machinery, like the North Atlantic Treaty and the Organization of American States.
The free nations of Europe have banded together in the Council of Europe, in the Marshall Plan organization, and in a smaller group know as the Western Union. We can work with all of these organizations. We can use whichever is best suited to accomplish a particular purpose. What we need to do is to expand the machinery we have, to improve it, to use it with boldness and imagination, and, when necessary, to supplement it with new machinery.
Now our program of action would not be complete if I did not go on to a sixth field, and that is the area of our relations with the Soviet Union and the countries that have fallen under Communist control. In this field, as in our relations with the free nations, we have the machinery of negotiation at hand. In the United Nations we have a dozen or more conference tables at which our differences could be thrashed out, where unfortunately the Soviet chair stands empty at the present time. We Shall go on trying to find a common ground for agreement, not perfect or eternal agreement, but at least a better arrangement for living together in greater safety—
We do not purpose to subvert the Soviet Union. We shall not attempt to undermine Soviet independence. And we are just as determined that Communism shall not by hook or crook or trickery undermine our country or any other free country that desires to maintain its freedom. That real and present threat of aggression stands in the way of every attempt at understanding with the Soviet Union. For it has been wisely said that there can be no greater disagreement than when someone wants to eliminate your existence altogether.
If, as, and when that idea of aggression, by one means or another, can be ruled out of our relations with the Soviet Union, then the greatest single obstacle to agreement will be out of the way. As the results of our actions become clear and the free world becomes stronger, it will, I believe, become progressively easier to get agreements with the Soviet Union—