Harry S. Truman photo

Radio and Television Address to the American People on the Mutual Security Program.

March 06, 1952

[ Broadcast from the White House at 10:30 p.m. ]

My fellow Americans:

I want to talk to you tonight about a message I sent to the Congress today. I hope you will read that message. It's about the mutual security program and it is very important to you.

The mutual security program is just what its name says. It is a way to get security-security against aggression and war-through mutual effort, through the effort of many nations helping one another. This program is already in effect and it is working successfully.

The present authority for the mutual security program will expire on June 30 of this year. Today I asked the Congress for authority to continue the program for another year.

The action the Congress takes on that quest has a great deal to do with our chances of avoiding another world war. It may make the difference between life and death for many of you who are listening to me tonight.

That is because the best insurance we can take out against another world war is to stick together with our friends. Together, we cannot be conquered. The Soviet Union cannot achieve its dream of world conquest unless it picks off the free nations one by one. The Soviet policy is the old one: divide and conquer. Our policy is an old one, too: in unity there is strength.

There are still some people in this country who are so blind they won't see this. They try to tell us we ought to confine ourselves to building up our own defenses. here at home so we can retreat behind them if trouble comes. That's the way to be safe, they say, and save money at the same time. Well, they're wrong on both counts. They are not presenting a low-cost plan for national security. They are trying to sell a high-cost plan for national insecurity. And I don't think the people of this country are going to buy it.

Why, it's as plain as the car in front of your door that we cannot cut ourselves off from the rest of the world. It takes a lot of things to make an automobile. It takes steel and chrome and copper and aluminum and lead. We cannot produce all those things out of our own resources. We have to import every bit of our chrome, two-thirds of our aluminum ore, one-half our lead, and more than a third of our copper and zinc. It takes about 18 pounds of manganese to make the steel that goes into the average automobile. Do you know how much of that 18 pounds we produce in this country? We produce just about 1 pound. And it works the same way when it comes to making a tank, or an airplane, or an aircraft carrier. We have to have materials from abroad.

Now, these are facts. And in the light of these facts, I challenge anyone to tell me how this country is going to defend itself if we abandon our allies and hole up on this continent. It is perfectly plain that it can't be done. And if we tried to do it--we would have to cut our civilian requirements to the bone, we would have to raise huge armed forces to try to protect our shores against all comers, and we would have to clamp on controls that would make anything we've seen so far look pale. Instead of saving money, we would have to spend many times more than we do now, to make up for the loss of materials and armed forces we now get from our allies. What is worse, we would still not be secure.

Now, nobody is saying that we must take over the defense of the free world all by ourselves. That would be just as foolish as trying to get along without any friends at all. We can't defend the whole world by ourselves. We shouldn't try, and we aren't trying. But surely it is to our own self-interest to help our friends to defend themselves, because by defending themselves they are also defending us.

That is what we have been doing ever since 1947. That is the way we have been blocking the Kremlin's conspiracy to undermine and take over the free countries around the world. And we have had a lot of success in this great effort.

We have put a lot into this struggle. It has called for American troops and arms in Europe, and American fleets on the seas, and American bases in foreign lands, and a hard, bitter conflict in Korea.

Our allies are putting a lot into the struggle, too. We and they together have made a great deal of headway in building a solid system for our mutual defense.

Just in this last year we have made great strides in setting up this system of defense, both in the Atlantic and the Pacific areas. The agreement that was made 2 weeks ago at Lisbon to establish a European army represents one of the greatest advances toward European unity that was ever made.

This great defense system--on both sides of the globe--will work if the nations in it have the armed forces to fill it out. And those armed forces have to have the weapons and the equipment they need to be effective.

These are the purposes of this mutual security program--to get weapons and equipment into the hands of our allies, and to help our friends build up their economic strength so they can stand on their own feet as full partners in the cause of freedom.

Our contributions will take different forms, depending on the nature of the need and the nature of the threat. The mutual security program, as I presented it to the Congress today, combines three types of contributions.

To begin with, there is the contribution of straight military equipment and arms to help other nations defend themselves--and thereby help defend us. Of the funds I have asked for, more than two-thirds of the total-over $5 billion--will go for these military items, because the largest gaps in the free world's strength at present are in the actual weapons needed for defense.

The second type of contribution consists of raw materials, commodities, and machinery needed to support the military effort. For example, we might send steel to help another country make its own guns instead of sending it the finished weapons. This is one example of what we call "defense support," for which I am asking $1,700,000,000. These funds will enable our friends in Western Europe to produce more military equipment and maintain larger armed forces. Our support for their defense efforts will hasten the day when they can maintain their defense effort without our help.

Some people say we should not send our partners such things as raw materials and machinery. They make a great point of saying this is where we can economize. They claim we can save money by sending our partners only things that shoot. What these people don't realize is that this would not be saving money at all. On the contrary, it would cost us more money.

Because if we don't make it possible for other nations to increase their own defense efforts, we would have to send more arms from our own production. And that would cost us a great deal more.

There is a third kind of contribution we are making to attain mutual security. There are parts of the world where plows can do a better job in maintaining stability and democracy than tanks or warplanes or machine guns. There the Communist makes his bid for power not as a conqueror, but in the guise of a friend offering an end to the torments of famine and disease. We know the Communist promises are false; but it would be ridiculous to go to the peoples of Asia, Africa, and the Near East and say "Here are guns, use them to drive away the men who are promising you what you have always wanted." Stomach communism cannot be halted with weapons of war. We must meet the challenge with more appropriate means. That is what the point 4 program does.

The people of the underdeveloped countries are hungry. We can show them how to grow more food. They are sick. We can show them how they may be healed. Their countries are rich in resources, but their people are very poor. We can show them how to use their resources in a way that will raise their standards of living. This is the first line of defense against communism in those areas of the world.

I have therefore included in my message to Congress a request for some $600,000,000 in economic and technical assistance. It is only a fraction of the amount I have asked for military purposes, but who can say that in the long run it may not have a greater effect ?

The victories that can be won in this battle with a relatively small amount of assistance on our part are fantastic. I'd like to give you some examples of what we have done to show what we can do.

Over in Indochina, the rice bowl of that unhappy land is the Red River valley. Since the war in Indochina, the Red River valley hasn't been able to produce the rice it should because the irrigation of the district depends on electricity to operate its pumps, and the power lines run through territory held by the Communists who, of course, cut them. So, Harold E. Schwartz, one of our technical advisers from South Dakota, had some diesel engines brought in to pump the water. Today, 15,000 farm families have 25,000 acres of rice they didn't have last year. This project only cost us $75,000. But one rice crop from this area will be worth $2 million. Now there's an example of how a little ingenuity and a small outlay of funds can produce results on a big scale.

Another example is Turkey, where a veritable agricultural revolution is being brought about with the help of a team of 9 American experts led by Elmer Starch of Lincoln, Nebr. In 3 years Turkey has raised its grain production by over 50 percent and has tripled its cotton production.

Now let us look for a minute at India. Since the shadow of Communist control has darkened China, India stands as the largest democratic nation in all Asia. But India is faced with the same kind of threat which overpowered the Chinese. We have a chance to help stop that threat in India. Not by sending guns and planes, but by doing just the kind of thing I've been telling you about.

The first essential step in India is to boost food output so there won't be any more famines, and daily living won't be so hard for people as it is now. The Indian Government has a concrete plan to get this done. They are moving right ahead on it. And we are backing them up with technical assistance and fertilizer and supplies for irrigation projects, tube wells, and the like. Already, projects have been set up to bring point 4 help to 15,000 villages. These projects will bring modern methods to 3 million farms. They will make available on a large scale the marvelous results that have been achieved by one of our agricultural experts, Horace Holmes of Tennessee, in working with the Indian farmers. They will attack disease, illiteracy, and poverty where they must be attacked, at the village grass roots.

All these things I've been telling you about are part of the mutual security program. These are the three interrelated parts: first, direct military assistance, which is the biggest part right now; second, the contributions we make to support the defense efforts of other nations; and, third, our programs of economic and technical assistance.

This is not a program to carry the world on our shoulders. It is a program to make it possible for the world to stand on its own feet.

I think our money is well spent on a program like this. It's the cheapest and most effective way to achieve security. But there are those among us who say we can't afford it. We've heard that one before. They are the same people who have been saying "we can't afford it" to every worthwhile thing this Nation has undertaken in the last 20 years. If they had been right, we would be bankrupt now. But they weren't right and we aren't bankrupt.

Then, there are others, both in Congress and out, who are saying, "Sure, I'm all for the mutual security program. It's a fine thing, and we must support it. But we'll have to cut it by several billion dollars."

Now I know this is a very popular point of view, especially in an election year--just as popular as a campaign pledge to reduce taxes. But I think most of you will agree with me that we'd be better off to win the fight against communism than to win any particular election.

The figure of $7,900,000,000 that I am recommending was not just taken out of the air. It is the result of many months of careful study. I would not recommend that the Congress spend a single dollar more than our national security requires. Neither would I recommend spending a single dollar less than our national security requires. I am convinced that we cannot afford the policy of "too little and too late." The risks in such a policy are too great.

The cost of the entire mutual security program I have recommended is less than 2½ percent of our national output. And this country is raising its output by something like 5 percent every year. We can afford this program.

No, the real threat to our security isn't the danger of bankruptcy. It's the danger of Communist aggression. If communism is allowed to absorb the free nations, one by one, then we would be isolated from our sources of supply and detached from our friends. Then we would have to take defense measures which might really bankrupt our economy, and change our way of life so that we wouldn't recognize it as American any longer. That's the very thing we're trying to keep from happening. It doesn't have to happen. It won't happen if we stand together with our friends.

The essence of this whole effort is that it's a joint effort. We do our part, and others do theirs. You may hear the critics saying that we are doing more than our share, and that our allies are not doing theirs. It is no secret that we are continually urging our allies to do more. But that does not mean that they are not already doing a great deal. They are. And they're making real sacrifices.

Take the British. They're down to 16 cents worth of meat a week. That makes a mighty small package when the butcher wraps it up. They would have more if it weren't for their defense effort. Do you think we ought to ask them to cut that 16 cents worth of meat a week down to a dime's worth--or a nickel's worth? Do they have to do that to do their share? Would you want to tell them that they ought to spend less than 16 cents a week on meat?

The real questions we ought to ask about our allies are these: Do they work hard in the common cause? Are they moving in the right direction? I think we can say yes to both questions. During the last 2 years our European allies have doubled their defense budgets. They have more than tripled their military production. They have lengthened their periods of compulsory military service. The number of European divisions available to General Eisenhower has already more than doubled.

We have good allies, and they have not failed us. Some people ask: "Will they fight?" Look at the Greeks and the Turks. They fight. The french are spending their blood and their treasure in Indochina. The British are fighting communism in the jungles of Malaya. And in Korea itself, where we bear the major burden, our allies have joined us with what they can provide. We have good and gallant friends on our side, and they will be there if the test comes.

What I have been trying to say to you tonight is this: We and the other nations who are ranged beside us have set our feet upon the right road. The mutual security program, in conjunction with our efforts to build up our own forces, is the best and cheapest way to ensure our security. It is a carefully thought-out plan of action to meet the challenge--not only the challenge of Soviet Russia but the challenge of our time.

The mutual security program has already made solid achievements. We are not losing, we are winning our fight. We would be foolish from our own point of view and guilty in the eyes of history if we were to stop now.

The program I recommended to the Congress today is a necessity if we are going to block the plans of the Soviet rulers to dominate the world. Make no mistake about it-this is the way we can strike the hardest blows against Russian communism.

That is why the action the Congress takes on my recommendations is going to mean so much to you and to me--to every American. I want you to understand this well, so you will know who it is that just talks against the Communists and who it is that actually votes against them when the roll is called in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

It is awfully easy to "demagogue" in favor of economy and against what is scornfully referred to as "foreign aid." Congressional action on our mutual security program will be a real test of statesmanship.

If the Congress meets that test, it is in our power to leave our children the most priceless legacy of all--a peaceful world and a better life. History has given us this responsibility and this opportunity.

God grant that we may have the courage and the strength to do our duty.

Note: See also Item 55.

Harry S Truman, Radio and Television Address to the American People on the Mutual Security Program. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/231499

Filed Under




Washington, DC

Simple Search of Our Archives