Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

Remarks and Address at Dinner of the National Conference on the Foreign Aspects of National Security

February 25, 1958

Mr. Chairman, My friends:

Rarely have I asked personally for an opportunity to appear before the microphone of a public address system. But I did so this evening for special circumstances.

I am scheduled to give an address over the radio that you people here have heard several times today. It is my effort this evening to try and give the essence--the thoughts, the ideas, the convictions--that have been uttered during the day by speakers of far greater ability than that 'I possess.

This would preclude me from speaking to you personally about a few things that are on my heart in the period that has been allotted me for the radio address. So, this is what I want to say:

My first words, and I think my last ones, will be "Thank you."

I am so proud of this gathering, what it means in a cross-section of the United States to come together. You have laid aside your own personal preoccupations and your personal businesses to devote this time to public service, to the good of the United States and to the free world. I am so proud of you that, frankly, I believe this is, in many respects, the most unique occasion at which I have ever been present.

It is difficult to think of any body of this size that represents here such a level of devotion, of dedication and of ability. And because of this, I believe that from this meeting--from people of both political parties, leaders in every walk of life--will flow a great wave of knowledge, of education to the American people so that they will truly understand what we mean when we say: only in peace for the whole world can there be peace for any one nation, no matter how great.

And so I want to thank Chairman Johnston--all of the staff that is helping--and each of you that has come here to do your part and to carry the message out as far as the remotest hamlet in this whole country. And therefore, this simple message again to you: thank you.


[ Address delivered over the radio at 9:30 p.m. ]

Mr. Chairman, Mr. Vice President, Mr. Chief Justice, Speaker Rayburn, Governor Stevenson, Senator Johnson, Senator Knowland, Congressman Martin--other guests of this distinguished audience, and My Fellow Americans:

I am speaking tonight at a unique dinner in Washington. At this dinner are national leaders from all walks of life, every sector of our land, and from both political parties.

They have been meeting all day in our nation's Capital, considering one of the most critical and embracing problems of our times--that of furthering the peace.

I am honored to join with them tonight, for they are dedicated people. They are dedicated to this proposition: in the last analysis, we can have positive security only through positive peace.

Today a principal deterrent to war is adequate military strength. We are sustaining it; we will keep on sustaining it.

But positive peace is one brought about by active work to create the living conditions, the level of education and health, the mutual understanding, and the sense of common purpose that make possible the genuine and everyday substance of living in harmony with our neighbors.

Peace is an affirmative, constructive, continuing development. Its foundation is an educational process that will give to all peoples a fuller understanding of the shadows of fear under which we live, and a united determination to dispel them.

To maintain America's military strength during the next five years, with no great or early change in the world situation, we shall spend more than 200 billion dollars. This almost unimaginable sum will, together with similar but smaller expenditures of our allies, keep us in a strong security posture. But these sums, great as they are, cannot produce a single constructive, useful thing for human beings. Indeed they can give us no more than relative security; only true peace can give us true security.

For the past four decades the primary goal of American foreign policy--overriding all others--has been to bring about this kind of peace.

The methods we use are many and varied. They include day-to-day diplomacy, talks with heads of friendly governments, tireless efforts to work out amicably the dashes of interest that naturally arise even among friends. They include building the mechanisms of peace, such as treaties of friendship and the United Nations. They involve the effort to take specific steps toward peace, among them, satisfactory disarmament plans. They include information activities, cultural programs, educational exchanges and promotion of mutually profitable trade. And they involve the program of mutual security.

It is with this last item that I shall principally deal.

It is my conviction that, urgent as the outlay for our own missiles and other modern weapons may be, a strong program of military and economic aid is equally urgent.

This is a strong statement. But it is bare, plain, fact.

My friends, we are talking about a program that has been proving its worth in practice for over ten years. And yet, every time another year comes round, the mutual security program is compelled to engage in a life-and-death struggle for its very existence.

Why? The reason is that the attack is based, not on the record, not on the facts. It is based on slogans, prejudices, penny-wise economy and above all, an outright refusal to look at the world of 1958 as it really is.

What the ostrich-like opponents of mutual security seem to be saying is this: "Billions for armament, but not one cent for peace !" Now let's get away from sloganeering; let's look at facts.

To do so, let us seek answers to three simple questions.

What is the mutual security program?

What good has it done?

What is its present function?


Now mutual aid is of two kinds: military and economic.

Of these, the military side is much the larger. In our request for 1959, the sum needed for direct military assistance to others is one billion eight hundred million dollars. "Defense support," which is the financial assistance we give certain countries in order to help them maintain military forces, accounts for another 830 million dollars. The military strength maintained by these friendly countries is as necessary to our security as it is to theirs. We depend on that strength. Moreover, the unit costs in sustaining this allied power are far less than in producing similar strength from our own resources.

If we should attempt to do the whole task ourselves our over-all costs would go up at an appalling rate. The number of young men inducted into our armed forces would be sharply increased.

In short, I know of no responsible military authority who would for one moment consider abandoning or weakening our program of military aid.

But having provided, with the cooperation of our friends, for safety against military assault, we face only a bleak future of indefinite support of huge armaments unless we get on with the constructive work of peace. One of the major tools available to us, which serves both defensive and constructive purposes, is economic aid.

Economic and technical aid totals one billion three hundred million dollars. This is about one-half of what we spend for the military portions of our programs.

The larger part of this activity falls under three headings.

One is technical assistance. often these countries have the needed funds, and labor, and determination, to carry out splendid development programs. These include improvements in irrigation, agriculture, roads, dams, health projects, schools and industrial facilities. Our small investment in providing the special skills of our experts supplies the necessary spark to release all this creative energy.

Another major part of economic aid is loans. Many of the newly-developing countries cannot, in the early stages, borrow money from investors or banks. The new Development Loan fund will tide them over this difficult period, until their own economies become stronger.

Now still another category of economic aid is called Special Assistance.

This includes, among other things, grants where loan repayment would be impossible.

In short, economic aid is designed to bridge the two great gaps that stand in the path of most of the newly-developing countries: lack of trained manpower, the lack of capital.


Now, the second question is: what good has all our mutual aid done? The answer is this. Mutual aid has repeatedly played a major part in keeping free-world countries from losing their freedom. It has thwarted the communist hope of encircling and isolating us by taking over vulnerable smaller countries, through aggression or subversion. I give a few examples.

Consider Greece, in the winter of 1947• Some 30,000 communist guerrillas, financed from foreign sources, had seized control of large parts of the country. The government did not have the resources to strengthen either its small, poorly-equipped forces or the crumbling economy.

At that point, under the Truman Doctrine, United States economic and military aid went to work.

With that help, by the fall of 1949 the number of guerrillas was reduced to less than a thousand, and later wiped out altogether. And, during the years that followed, the tottering economy was restored to pre-war levels.

The result: freedom saved in a crucial sector, communist imperialism checked.

Recall the critical situation in Iran before the fall of Mossadegh. The economy was in chaos. Pro-communist elements within the country were strong. The stage was set for a communist take-over of this strategic country.

But the Shah and his people reacted vigorously, deposed Mossadegh and re-established law and order. American economic and military aid were promptly given and greatly bolstered the new government. Now, the country's oil, so important to our European allies, is flowing once again. A vigorous development program is in progress. Iran has found strength as a nation.

The result: again, freedom saved at a crucial point--communist imperialism checked.

In 1954, we saw a clear case of the connection between mutual aid and peace in Viet-Nam. When Viet-Nam was partitioned in July 1954, South Viet-Nam faced the threat of overt aggression. It had the problem of absorbing nearly a million refugees. The country was full of private armies and subversive groups.

In spite of these appalling difficulties, communist efforts to dominate South Viet-Nam have entirely failed. for this modern miracle, the Viet-Namese people under the dedicated leadership of President Diem deserve great credit. At the same time, American aid of all kinds played an indispensable role. With our help a National Army was organized and trained. Technicians helped the government to set up institutions needed for healthy business and national life.

The result: once more, freedom saved at a highly critical point-communist imperialism checked.

These examples could be multiplied in their number.

Now ask yourselves: if this flood had not been stemmed at these points through these years, where would it be now?

Can there really be anyone left in America who will say: "Never mind. Let these countries go one by one. We shall find peace and security in fortress America."

We might as well try to find peace by building another Chinese Wall. Our hope for permanent security and peace today is not in fortifications and walls. It is in the hearts and minds and unity of purpose of the people whose ideals we share throughout the world.


Our third question is: what is the present function of mutual aid?

As our mutual aid programs have shifted from meeting post-war emergencies to building the long-range basis for peace, the scene of operations has shifted. Our technical and economic aid is now concentrated heavily in the newly-developing countries of Asia and Africa.

Throughout large parts of these continents, vast reserves of human energy are opening up in a way that has not happened for centuries.

Now this poses a blunt question. Is this tremendous force to become funneled into violence, rioting, destruction of orderly government, and communist exploitation? Or will this force be channeled into producing better education, wider sharing of prosperity, improved health and living standards, and greater freedom, self-determination and self-respect? Is our goal a just and permanent peace or is it merely a precarious security built on arms alone?

If you wonder why there is so much restlessness in such places as the Middle East, South Asia and the far East, look at a single statistic.

Over a large part of this area, the average individual has twenty cents a day to live on.

Now some have asked, and still ask: "Hasn't this been true for centuries? Why then is it suddenly such a problem?" they say.

One reason is that most of the countries involved have recently become independent. The world has seen twenty new countries born since World War II. With independence and with greater knowledge of the outside world there has been a new hope, and a new determination to have a better life.

In these countries the trained communist agent is always present, trying to make communist capital out of this normal and healthy dissatisfaction with needless poverty.

In the last few years the communists have added a new technique: blocked in their efforts to use military force for expansion, they have turned to offers of economic loans and credits--and this in spite of their own low standard of living at home. They are trying to imitate a valuable and needed program we began ten years ago.

But there is a vast difference between the purpose of Russian loans and credits and the purpose of our own economic aid.

The Soviet Union wants to gain economic, and ultimately political, control of the countries she pretends to help.

We, on the other hand, want these countries to stand on their own feet as proud, robust friends and partners with whom we can live in mutual respect.

Improved agriculture and industry raise living standards and give more and more people a solid stake in peace.

Improved education brings greater political stability and international understanding.

Improved health cuts down poverty and misery which are well-known breeding-grounds of disorder and communism.

If we are to find the world we seek, we must catch the vision of the neighborhood of the world. When we have done this, all such measures as mutual world security will seem as natural and as logical--or as necessary to our own good--as our activities for community prosperity, health, and education now seem.

While economic aid undeniably helps other nations, it likewise strengthens our own security and economic position. It establishes good relations with nations from whom we obtain important raw materials and other goods. Asia, for example, supplies five-sixths of the world's natural rubber and half of its tin. Moreover, the countries principally concerned represent the greatest potential market for future trade relations. Already they are buying five times as much from us as they did in 1938.

If anyone, then, wants to judge this entire program only on a "what's-in-it-for-me" basis, he can find all the justification he needs. But beyond this, if others want to add another element, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," I see no reason to apologize for acknowledging this kind of motive.

I can see no great evidence of intelligence in sneering at "do-gooders" if their "do-gooding" helps America at the same time that it helps our friends.

But it is not a primary purpose of mutual aid to produce expressions of gratitude and affection.

We should rather look for these things: is economic aid helping these countries to hold off communist attempts to turn discontent into subversion? Is it helping them to become sturdy, self-respecting members of a peaceful free-world community? Is it helping to win, for all of us, a secure and just peace?

The answer is "Yes."

Tonight I am not discussing the importance to peace and to our own domestic prosperity of the fullest possible trade with other nations-trade which means jobs to more than 4½ million Americans. That would take another speech all by itself. But let me try to pack my views into one or two sentences.

Under current conditions, the urgency of both our mutual security and our reciprocal trade agreements legislation leaves no margin for error. They are not merely useful suggestions or helpful hints.

They are Iron Imperatives of Security and the building of true peace.


Of course, in the last analysis, the success of our efforts for peace depends heavily on our relations with the Soviet Union. We urgently want these relations improved.

We have urged that orderly preparatory discussions be undertaken to lay the groundwork for a productive high-level conference. A start has been made toward increased exchanges of people and ideas. A greatly increased flow, in both directions, of leaders of thought in the two countries would be productive in making the voices of our two peoples more influential than are the pronouncements of governments. In line with this thought I suggested, in a recent letter, that visitors to us by such non-governmental Soviet leaders would be welcomed.

Another American proposal is that, beginning perhaps with cooperative projects aimed at conquering major diseases, we might embark upon a broad program of Science for Peace.

Moreover, our country proposes that we seek without delay to work out practical mechanisms to ensure that Outer Space will be devoted only to peaceful uses.

But whatever the subject, whatever the means, we will spare no exertion, we will neglect no approach whenever there is any promise of another step, large or small, toward a world of prosperity, justice and harmony.

In conclusion, my fellow Americans, the action I would like to ask of you is simple. It is your fullest support of the pending programs of mutual military and economic aid.

Success in these fields, as always in a democracy, depends on you.

It depends on the fullest understanding by every American of the importance of these programs to our country, as well as an understanding of the hopes and needs and views of our friends overseas. It depends not only on what we are willing to give, but on what we are willing to receive and to learn from others. It depends on our realization of the indispensable role played by mutual aid to produce a safe and peaceful world.

And remember this: as our aid program goes forward with your support, people all over the world will know that it is not a maneuver carried out by dictators--it is rather an expression of good will and basic common sense coming from the voluntary act of a great and free people.

This is no time for shortsighted narrowness. The array of leaders of both parties who have come together here today is eloquent proof that on this issue partisanship has indeed taken a holiday. The urgency of the times and the opportunity before us call for greatness of spirit transcending all Party considerations.

The tasks of building and sustaining a mighty military shield are hard, and tremendously costly. The tasks of patiently building a sound place in a sound world are less costly, but even harder.

Americans have always shown a greatness of spirit and capacity of understanding equal to the demands of both war and peace. With faith in their God, and with unshakable devotion to their country, Americans will show these qualities now, and in the years ahead.

Thank you and good night.

Note: The President spoke at the Statler Hotel, Washington, D.C. His opening words "Mr. Chairman" referred to Eric A. Johnston. The President's letter appointing Mr. Johnston as Chairman appears as Item 4.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Remarks and Address at Dinner of the National Conference on the Foreign Aspects of National Security Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/234491

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