By Westbrook Murphy, General Counsel, Truman Scholarship Foundation
In the words of the old Kingston Trio song: “They’re rioting in
Africa!” And in the Middle East. Tunisia. Egypt. Libya. Yemen. Bahrain. Maybe
even Saudi Arabia and Iraq. What should
we (the Untied States) do?
September, 1953, Dean Acheson—Truman’s former Secretary of State (both
then having been out of office about eight months)—offered advice that still may
Acheson was concerned about what he called the “liberation ideas” of
his successor, John Foster Dulles.
Acheson feared that Dulles’ talk of “rolling back communism” in Central
and Eastern Europe would give the peoples of those countries false hope of U.S.
support should they revolt against their Moscow-controlled dictators. Such a hope, in fact, may have influenced the
1956 abortive Hungarian revolution, which was brutally crushed by the Soviet
On September 24, 1953, Acheson sent Truman comments on draft of a
speech Truman was to give four days later when accepting the Franklin D. Roosevelt
Four Freedoms Award. Acheson worried
that—as written—the speech seemed to commit former President Truman—
. . .to an impossibility broad program
and one which I am afraid will get you tangled up with the Dulles liberation
ideas. I do not think that you want to
say that it is our task to establish the Four Freedoms everywhere in the
world—Russia, China, South Africa, etc.—and that there is no end save victory
in the struggle. . . . Therefore, I suggest
that this whole section be written as follows:
“It is not enough to defend our freedoms
at home only. We must be concerned with a world environment in which free men
can live free lives. Franklin Roosevelt
knew that we could not exist in an oasis of freedom in a world of
totalitarianism. ‘The world order which
we seek,’ he said, ‘is the cooperation of free countries, working together in a
friendly, civilized society.’ The Four
Freedoms for us, as for all free nations, depend upon a world in which peace
and justice are maintained by the concerted effort of free nations.”
Good approach to today’s problems?
serves as General Counsel of the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation.