Letter to Senator Theodore Francis Green Concerning the Situation in the Far East.
[ Released October 5, 1958. Dated October 2, 1958 ]
Dear Senator Green:
I acknowledge your letter of September twenty-ninth with reference to the situation in the far East. I note that you are concerned that the United States might become involved in hostilities in defense of Quemoy and Matsu; that it does not appear to you that Quemoy is vital to the defense of formosa or the United States; that in such hostilities we would be without allies, and, finally, that military involvement in the defense of Quemoy would not command that support of the American people essential to successful military action.
Let me take up these points in order:
1. Neither you nor any other American need feel that the United States will be involved in military hostilities merely in defense of Quemoy or Matsu. I am quite aware of the fact that the Joint Resolution of Congress (January 29, 1955), which authorized the President to employ the armed forces of the United States in the formosa area, authorized the securing and protection of such positions as Quemoy and Matsu only if the President judges that to be required or appropriate in assuring the defense of formosa and the Pescadores.
I shall scrupulously observe that limitation contained in the Congressional authority granted me.
2. The Congressional Resolution had, of course, not merely negative but positive implications. I shall also observe these. I note that it does not appear to you that Quemoy is vital to the defense of Formosa or the United States. But the test which the Congress established was whether or not the defense of these positions was judged by the President to be required or appropriate in assuring the defense of Formosa. The Congressional Resolution conferring that responsibility on the President was adopted by almost unanimous vote of both Houses of the Congress. Since then the people of the United States reelected me to be that President. I shall, as President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed forces of the United States, exercise my lawful authority and judgment in discharging the responsibility thus laid upon me.
I welcome the opinions and counsel of others. But in the last analysis such opinions cannot legally replace my own.
The Chinese and Soviet Communist leaders assert, and have reason to believe, that if they can take Quemoy and Matsu by armed assault that will open the way for them to take formosa and the Pescadores and, as they put it, "expel" the United States from the West Pacific and cause its fleet to leave international waters and "go home."
I cannot dismiss these boastings as mere bluff. Certainly there is always the possibility that it may in certain contingencies, after taking account of all relevant facts, become necessary or appropriate for the defense of formosa and the Pescadores also to take measures to secure and protect the related positions of Quemoy and Matsu.
I am striving to the best of my ability to avoid hostilities; to achieve a cease-fire, and a reasonable adjustment of the situation. You, I think, know my deep dedication to peace. It is second only to my dedication to the safety of the United States and its honorable discharge of obligations to its allies and to world order which have been assumed by constitutional process. We must not forget that the whole formosa Straits situation is intimately connected with the security of the United States and the free world.
3. You say that in the event of hostilities we would be without allies "in fact or in heart." Of course, no nation other than the Republic of China has a treaty alliance with us in relation to the formosa area. That is a well known fact--known to the Congress when it adopted the formosa Joint Resolution and known to the Senate when it approved of our Treaty of Mutual Security with the Republic of China. But if you mean that the United States action in standing firm against armed Communist assault would not have the approval of our allies, then I believe that you are misinformed. Not only do I believe that our friends and allies would support the United States if hostilities should tragically, and against our will, be forced upon us, I believe that most of them would be appalled if the United States were spinelessly to retreat before the threat of Sino-Soviet armed aggression.
4. Finally, you state that even if the United States should become engaged in hostilities, there would not be "that support of the American people essential to successful military action."
With respect to those islands, I have often pointed out that the only way the United States could become involved in hostilities would be because of its firm stand against Communist attempts to gain their declared aims by force. I have also often said that firmness in supporting principle makes war less, rather than more, likely of occurrence.
I feel certain, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that if the United States became engaged in hostilities on account of the evil and aggressive assaults of the forces of Communism, the American people would unite as one to assure the success and triumph of our effort.
I deeply deplore the effect upon hostile forces of a statement that if we became engaged in battle, the United States would be defeated because of disunity at home. If that were believed, it would embolden our enemies and make almost inevitable the conflict which, I am sure, we both seek to avoid provided it can be avoided consistently with the honor and security of our country.
Though in this letter I have explained the facts and the principles that guide the government in dealing with the critical formosa Straits situation, I cannot close without saying that our whole effort is now, and has always been, the preservation of a peace with honor and with justice. After all, this is the basic aspiration of all Americans, indeed of all peoples.
Inasmuch as there have been public reports on the essence of your letter, I feel I should make this reply public.
With great respect and best wishes,
DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER
Note: Senator Green's letter of September 29 was published in the Department of State Bulletin (vol. 39, p. 606).
Dwight D. Eisenhower, Letter to Senator Theodore Francis Green Concerning the Situation in the Far East. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/234046