Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

Radio and Television Address to the American People on the Need for Mutual Security in Waging the Peace.

May 21, 1957

[Delivered from the President's Office at 8:30 p.m.]

My Fellow Citizens:

Just one week ago I talked with you about our Federal budget as a whole. Tonight I want to talk with you about one part of it: our Mutual Security programs. These programs are the source of military and economic strength for our alliances throughout the free world. They form, in fact, a saving shield of freedom.

Although the cost of these programs amounts to only 5 percent of the budget, I am talking exclusively about them tonight for two simple reasons.

First: In my judgment these programs do more than any other--dollar for dollar--in securing the safety of our country and the peaceful lives of all of us.

Second: They are the most misunderstood of any of the Federal Government's activities. Their nature, their purposes, their results are vitally important to all of us--but little known to many of us.

The common label of "foreign aid" is gravely misleading--for it inspires a picture of bounty for foreign countries at the expense of our own. No misconception could be further from reality. These programs serve our own basic national and personal interests.

They do this both immediately and lastingly.

In the long term, the ending or the weakening of these programs would vastly increase the risk of future war.

And--in the immediate sense--it would impose upon us additional defense expenditures many times greater than the cost of mutual security today.

This evening it is my purpose to give you incontestable proof of these assertions.

We have, during this century, twice spent our blood and our treasure fighting in Europe--and twice in Asia. We fought cause we saw--too late to prevent war--that our own peace and security were imperilled, by the urgent danger--or the ruthless conquest--of other lands.

We have gained wisdom from that suffering. We know, and the world knows, that the American people will fight hostile and aggressive despotisms when their force is thrown against the barriers of freedom, when they seek to gain the high ground of power from which to destroy us. But we also know that to fight is the most costly way to keep America secure and free. Even an America victorious in atomic war could scarcely escape disastrous destruction of her cities and a fearful loss of life. Victory itself could be agony.

Plainly, we must seek less tragic, less costly ways to defend ourselves. We must recognize that whenever any country falls under the domination of Communism, the strength of the Free World--and of America--is by that amount weakened and Communism strengthened. If this process, through our neglect or indifference, should proceed unchecked, our continent would be gradually encircled. Our safety depends upon recognition of the fact that the Communist design for such encirclement must be stopped before it gains momentum--before it is again too late to save the peace.

This recognition dictates two tasks. We must maintain a common world-wide defense against the menace of International Communism. And we must demonstrate and spread the blessings of liberty--to be cherished by those who enjoy these blessings, to be sought by those now denied them.

This is not a new policy nor a partisan policy.

This is a policy for America that began ten years ago when a Democratic President and a Republican Congress united in an historic declaration. They then declared that the independence and survival of two countries menaced by Communist aggression-Greece and Turkey--were so important to the security of America that we would give them military and economic aid.

That policy saved those nations. And it did so without the cost of American lives.

That policy has since been extended to all critical areas of the world. It recognizes that America cannot exist as an island of freedom in a surrounding sea of Communism. It is expressed concretely by mutual security treaties embracing 42 other nations. And these treaties reflect a solemn finding by the President and by the Senate that our own peace would be endangered if any of these countries were conquered by International Communism.

The lesson of the defense of Greece and Turkey ten years ago has since been repeated in the saving of other lands and peoples. A recent example is the Southeast Asian country of Viet-Nam, whose President has just visited us as our honored guest.

Two years ago it appeared that all Southeast Asia might be over-run by the forces of International Communism. The freedom and security of nations for which we had fought throughout World War II and the Korean War again stood in danger. The people of Viet-Nam responded bravely--under steadfast leadership.

But bravery alone could not have prevailed.

We gave military and economic assistance to the Republic of Viet-Nam. We entered into a treaty--the Southeast Asia Security Treaty--which plainly warned that an armed attack against this area would endanger our own peace and safety, and that we would act accordingly. Thus Viet-Nam has been saved for freedom.

This is one of the nations where we have been spending the largest amounts of so-called "foreign aid." What could be plainer than the fact that this aid has served not only the safety of another nation--but also the security of our own.

The issue, then, is solemn and serious and clear.

When our young men were dying in the Argonne in 1918 and on the beaches of Normandy and in the Western Pacific in 1944 and at Pusan in 1950--and when the battlefields of Europe and Africa and Asia were strewn with billions of dollars worth of American military equipment, representing the toil and the skills of millions of workers--no one for an instant doubted the need and the rightness of this sacrifice of blood and labor and treasure.

Precisely the same needs and purposes are served by our Mutual Security programs today--whether these operate on a military or an economic front. For on both fronts they are truly defense programs.

To the truth of this, a number of thoughtful and qualified Americans have recently testified.

When the Congress last year approved the Mutual Security programs, I believed--as did many others--that it was time to review their whole concept. Since then, careful studies have been completed by Committees of the Congress, by competent private groups and by two public groups of leading citizens from all walks of life.

All these studies unanimously agreed that these programs are vital to our national interest and must be continued.

Some important revisions in the structure of our programs were recommended by these various studies. And with the benefit of these recommendations, my Message to the Congress today has proposed certain changes.

The whole design of this defense against Communist conspiracy and encirclement cannot be with guns alone. For the freedom of nations can be menaced not only by grins--but by the poverty that Communism can exploit.

You cannot fight poverty with guns.

You cannot satisfy hunger with deadly ammunition.

Economic stability and progress--essential to any nation's peace and well-being--cannot be assured merely by the firepower of artillery or the speed of jets.

And so our Mutual Security programs today--at a cost of some 4 billion dollars--are designed to meet dangers in whatever form they may appear. Thus, their key purposes are three.

First: To help friendly nations equip and support armed forces for their own and our defense.

Second: To help, in a sustained effort, less advanced countries grow in the strength that can sustain freedom as their way of life.

And third: To meet emergencies and special needs affecting our own national interest.


Examining each of these purposes briefly, I first speak of the military aspect of these programs.

This accounts for about three-fourths of their total cost--just under 3 billion dollars. This sum serves--indeed it belongs to-our own national defense. And to recognize that plain fact, I have today requested the Congress henceforth to appropriate funds for military assistance as part of the regular budget of our Department of Defense.

Our system of collective defense unites us with all those 42 countries with whom we have defense treaties. It embraces the Organization of American States in this Western Hemisphere, and defense arrangements with many Far Eastern countries like Korea and the Republic of China. It includes our readiness to cooperate in the Middle East with any free country. threatened by Communist aggression and seeking our aid.

In Europe this collective effort is symbolized by NATO--the 15 countries of the North Atlantic Treaty alliance. And NATO's strength involves much more than symbols. In addition to our forces, NATO has more than 80 trained divisions, active and reserve, some 5 thousand modern aircraft, 600 major naval vessels. Here--as elsewhere throughout the world--our allies provide manpower, resources, and bases, while we help with weapons and military training.

Here again we see in the most concrete and practical way how collective effort and collective security serve our own national good. For our nation to try, completely alone, to counter the Communist military threat would be not only more hazardous strategy; it would also be far more costly.

It would demand many billions of dollars more in defense expenditures.

It would mean raising the draft calls throughout our land. It would mean more of our sons in uniform. It would mean longer service for them.

And even if we did all these things--and I do not hear the critics of Mutual Security publicly proposing such alternatives-even then we would finally provide a defense inferior in strength to the collective defense we share with our allies today.

Around the world we have provided our allies, over the past 7 years, some 17 billion dollars in direct military assistance. Over the same period, the defense budgets of our allies have totalled some 107 billion dollars.

Let us see what this united effort has achieved in 8 years.

In 1950, the strength of our allies totalled 1,000 combat vessels, 3.5 million men in their ground forces, and 500 jet aircraft. Now, in 1957, they have: 2,500 combat vessels, 5 million men, and 13 thousand jets.

Within this world-wide program, our own contribution is vital. There are free countries in danger which--if thrown back completely on their own resources--would have to cut their armed forces. They would at once become targets for renewed Communist pressures. We would have to increase our own military strength--and in the process we would suffer in terms of both cost and security. And the endangered nations would suffer a slow strangulation quite as fateful as sudden aggression.

These are the harsh and inescapable facts of international life in this mid-twentieth century. We must face these facts and act accordingly--or face, instead, ultimate disaster as a people.


Now let us look at Mutual Security on the economic front.

The peril here can be just as great to us as in the military arena.

Today in many countries one billion free people--across three continents--live in lands where the average yearly income of each man is one hundred dollars or less. These lands include the 19 nations that have won their independence since World War II. Most of them are on the frontier of the Communist world, close to the pressure of Communist power. For centuries the peoples of these countries have borne a burden of poverty. Now they are resolved to hold on to political independence--to achieve the economic strength to sustain that independence, and to support rising standards of living.

In these lands no government can justly rule, or even survive, which does not reflect this resolve, which does not offer its people hope of progress. And wherever moderate government disappears, Communist extremists will extend their brand of despotic imperialism.

Our own strength would suffer severely from the loss of these lands--their people and their resources--to Communist domination. As these lands improve their own standards of living they will be stronger allies in defense of freedom. And there will be widening opportunity for trade with them.

We seek to help these people to help themselves.

We cannot export progress and security to them.

Essentially, they must achieve these for themselves. But there are practical ways by which we can help--especially in the early struggles of these young nations to survive.

For one thing, they need the knowledge of skilled people-farm experts, doctors, engineers--to teach new techniques to their people. Our program of technical cooperation aims to do this. It will cost 150 million dollars next year.

At the same time--because their inherited poverty leaves these peoples so little for saving--they need the help of some capital to begin essential investment in roads, dams, railroads, utilities-the sinews of economic strength.

Already many of these countries, like India and Pakistan, are with great difficulty devoting substantial amounts of their limited resources to this kind of long-range investment. But at this critical moment of their economic growth a relatively small amount of outside capital can fatefully decide the difference between success and failure. What is critical now is to start and to maintain momentum.

While we want and intend to see that private investors and other lending agencies supply as much as possible of this outside capital, our Development Assistance Program under Mutual Security has a vital role to play.

Here I am convinced that we should rely more upon loans than upon gifts. This is the sound and proper way for free allies to work together--to respect and to encourage the pride of each nation, to inspire in each nation greater zeal and sense of responsibility, to encourage thoughtful long-term planning rather than frantic emergency action.

This outlook signifies a fundamental shift of emphasis from the practice of past years.

I have accordingly asked the Congress to create a Development Loan Fund with enough capital to allow orderly and continuing operations. Only this kind of sustained operations will allow for the prudent and thoughtful use of money. Only such operations will assure priority to the most sound and necessary projects.

To assure this continuity and coherence of action, I have specifically requested for the first year 500 million dollars already in the budget, and authority for 750 million dollars for each of the two succeeding years.

In this whole program, we do not seek to buy friends.

We do not seek to make satellites.

We do seek to help other peoples to become strong and stay free--and learn, through living in freedom, how to conquer poverty, how to know the blessings of peace and progress.

This purpose--I repeat--serves our own national interest.

It also reflects our own national character. We are stirred not only by calculations of self-interest but also by decent regard for the needs and the hopes of all our fellowmen. I am proud of this fact, as you are. None of us would wish it to be otherwise.

This is not mere sentimentality. This is the very nature of America--realistically understood and applied.

If ever we were to lose our sense of brotherhood, of kinship with all free men, we would have entered upon our nation's period of decline. Without vision--without a quick sense of justice and compassion--no people can claim greatness.

There remains--in addition to continuing defense and economic aid--a final aspect to our mutual security programs. This entails assistance to meet various special needs, including sudden crises against which prior planning is impossible. Such crises generally demand the swiftest action.

We have seen several such examples in recent years.

In the Middle East, the freedom of Iran only 4 years ago was threatened by the rule of a Government inclined toward Communism. Under the courageous leadership of the Shah, the people of Iran met that danger. In their effort to restore economic stability, they received indispensable help from us. Iran remains free. And its freedom continues to prove of vital importance to our own freedom.

In our own hemisphere, Guatemala not long ago faced a similar peril, with heavy Communist infiltration into the Government. Here, too, the people rose to repel this threat, but they needed--and they received--the help without which their efforts could have been in vain.

Most recently, we have witnessed a like instance in the Middle East. The Kingdom of Jordan came under the sway of a succession of Cabinets, each one seemingly more tolerant of Communist infiltration and subversion. King Hussein has acted swiftly and resolutely to forestall disaster, and the peril now seems checked.

Yet this victory would surely be lost without economic aid from outside Jordan. Jordan's armed forces must be paid. The nation's utilities must function. And, above all, the people must have hope.

Some necessary aid can come from neighboring Arab countries, such as Saudi Arabia, but some also must come from the United States. For the security of Jordan means strength for all the forces of freedom in the Middle East.

Now, you have undoubtedly heard charges of waste and inefficiency in some of these programs of assistance such as that in Iran. I do not doubt that isolated incidents could be cited to support such charges.

On this I have two convictions.

First: the remarkable truth is not that a few Americans working abroad may have been inefficient, but that so many thousands of patriotic Americans have willingly and competently done their jobs in distant lands, under the most difficult conditions, often in the presence of real danger.

And second: when we speak of waste, let none of us forget that there is no waste so colossal as war itself--and these programs are totally dedicated to the prevention of that most appalling kind of waste.

All such situations--as in Iran, Guatemala, Jordan--have been tense moments in the world struggle. Each such moment has vitally touched our own national interest.

I have asked the Congress for the sum of 300 million dollars to enable us to act--and to act swiftly--in any such moment as it may strike.

Only such part of that sum will be used as is clearly needed to serve our national interest. But the history of these years surely means one thing: to give saving help at such moments is true economy on a world scale--for it can mean the saving of whole nations and the promotion of peace.


These, then, are the kinds of help and action that make up our Mutual Security programs, for which I have asked the Congress to appropriate less than 4 billion dollars--one-twentieth of our national budget. This is not a mathematical guess or an arbitrary sum. It reflects economies already achieved in some aspects of military aid.

It is a reasoned figure.

And, considering the issues at stake, it is a minimum figure.

I know of no more sound or necessary investment that our Nation can make. I know of no expenditure that can contribute so much--in the words of the Constitution--to our "common defense" and to securing the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity.

To see all the day-to-day results of these programs in concrete terms is not always easy. They operate in distant lands whose histories, even their names, seem remote. Often the results are not swift and dramatic, but gradual and steady. They operate in a way rather like police or fire protection in our own cities. When they are least in the news, they are really doing the most effective work.

We live at a time when our plainest task is to put first things first. Of all our current domestic concerns--lower taxes, bigger dams, deeper harbors, higher pensions, better housing--not one of these will matter if our nation is put in peril. For all that we cherish and justly desire--for ourselves or for our children--the securing of peace is the first requisite.

We live in a time when the cost of peace is high.

Yet the price of war is higher and is paid in different coin-with the lives of our youth and the devastation of our cities.

The road to this disaster could easily be paved with the good intentions of those blindly striving to save the money that must be spent as the price of peace.

It is no accident that those who have most intimately lived with the horrors of war are generally the most earnest supporters of these programs to secure peace.

To cripple our programs for Mutual Security in the false name of "economy" can mean nothing less than a weakening of our nation.

To try to save money at the risk of such damage is neither conservative nor constructive.

It is reckless.

It could mean the loss of peace. It could mean the loss of freedom. It could mean the loss of both.

I know that you would not wish your government to take such a reckless gamble.

I do not intend that your government take that gamble.

I am convinced of the necessity of these programs of Mutual Security--for the very safety of our nation. For upon them critically depends all that we hold most dear--the heritage of freedom from our fathers, the peace and well-being of the sons who will come after us.

Thank you--and good night.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Radio and Television Address to the American People on the Need for Mutual Security in Waging the Peace. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/233300

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