John Paton Wu Ningkun
INTERVIEW WITH AMBASSADOR MARSHALL GREEN - 15/1/97
INTERVIEWER: If I could start, Ambassador Green, by asking you about the Taiwan Straits crisis of 1958. This is the time that you've said there was an enormous amount of cooperation between the different aspects of the government, the State Department and the White House. Can you say more about that: why was that so? Was it because Dulles and Eisenhower were particularly close?
AMBASSADOR MARSHALL GREEN: Dulles and Eisenhower had a very close working relationship. For example, I remember at meetings that I had with Mr. Dulles in his conference room, when the meeting was over and before anybody was allowed to leave, he would call up the President at the White House and tell him about the meeting - it was on a secure phone - and get the President's approval or comments. And having got them, he would then communicate to the group that "The President agrees," and then people would leave. They wouldn't leave until he did it. Now, the great advantage of handling it that way was that he and the President were known to be working together, something that didn't happen very often in subsequent years, by the way - very much part of the problems that I had - but at that time it was great to work for a Secretary of State who had that relationship. Now, handling it that way also made it clear to everybody that Dulles had the President's ear, so when he spoke, he was speaking for the President. So Dulles assumed a great deal of authority by virtue of his close relationship with the President, and I don't think their views were very far apart, as far as I'm aware. Of course, I only saw a small tranche of that, at a particularly intense moment, during the second offshore islands crisis, when I was his so-called "crisis manager". And what had happened was that just before the Taiwan crisis in August 1958, I had been regional planning adviser in the State Department and was working closely with my opposites in the Pentagon and in CIA, and coming up with scenarios all around the world where we saw a potential threat and how we would deal it - in other words, war gaming. We did a war gaming exercise on the offshore islands. It was not an artillery interdiction, it was an aerial interdiction, but the problem was substantially the same. So when this suddenly sprang up, we already had agreement between the State Department, Defense and CIA on what we should do, and this turned out to be enormously helpful from the point of view of getting coordinated action. Now one of the things that interested me about Dulles's approach to that problem... he was on vacation when it occurred, up in St Lawrence River where he had a summer home; he came racing down to Washington, and we got together in his conference room, and he knew of course that I had prepared this paper, and we had all of our recommendations before him. He didn't seem to pay any attention to those. His first concern was legal: "What are our legal obligations to Taiwan in this situation? To what extent do we have a mandate from Congress to do whatever we want to do?" And when he had clearly established that Peking, through its own announcements, had said that their objective was Taiwan, then it was quite clear that under the existing 1954 security treaty with the Republic of China on Taiwan, that we immediately had a responsibility for the defense of the offshore islands, because they were seen as a stepping-stone to Taiwan, which was the real objective as announced by the Chinese communists themselves. So Dulles immediately established a legal basis, which was very important in bringing the Congress along with whatever he did. So Dulles, in my opinion, although I certainly didn't agree with him at the beginning, and I thought that his views, when he first became Secretary of State, were an abomination - massive retaliation and all that stuff - he changed with the years. And so I was talking about the last full year of his life, when I was very close to him and working on these issues, and I saw a Secretary of State who I thought was functioning with the authority that was required of secretaries of state, with close co-operation with the White House.
INT: I think most historians have... most commentators have viewed Dulles as very much a hawk, but they're seems to be a revisionism now saying that actually he wasn't. What's your view?
MG: I did not view him as a hawk. Again, it goes back to the beginning, and I'm talking about later days. The earlier times, I was in Sweden, but when you're talking about 1956 onward, I was back dealing with issues of East Asia; and as far as I was concerned, he was not a hawk. When you look at his role in Vietnam, for example, and his view about the French getting quickly out of North Vietnam and the consequences of that, and holding elections... of course, they were never held ... but it seemed to me he was rather restrained, and he was certainly not like some of the hawks that existed in Congress or my own Assistant Secretary, Mr. Robertson, the job that I was to hold many years later. Walter Robertson was a dominant figure in this whole case - in fact, in some ways he was more important than Dulles as far as authority was concerned. And the reason for that was that Walter Robertson, Assistant Secretary of State for the Far East, was very close to the China lobby, very close to Admiral Radford, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, (Clears throat) and to key senators: Senator Nolan - I think he was head of the Foreign Relations Committee - and other senators, and to Walter Judd in the House of Representatives; and these were all very close colleagues of his, and together they represented a very dominant force.
(Non-i/v talk. Cut.)
INT: We were talking about Robertson and Dulles. You were saying that Robertson, in your view, was, as well as being close to the China lobby, possibly more influential in the policy towards...
MG: As far as the Far East is concerned, yes. And I say that for two reasons. One is that Dulles really was a Europe man, and he didn't have much experience, because he'd worked on the Japan treaty very successfully, very effectively, but that was really his first exposure to East Asian affairs. Robertson, on the other hand, although he was a banker from Richmond by background, had been with Marshall in China, and so he had that kind of a China background to him. But quite apart from his relationship with George Marshall, he had his own strong convictions about foreign policy.
(B/g talk. Cut.)
INT: So Dulles was a Europe man, and Robertson was a...
MG: Far Eastern man.
INT: Far Eastern man.
MG: As far as foreign policy is concerned, yes. Well, he hadn't had any great depth of experience in the Far East; it had been really confined to China when he came aboard. But he was a man of very strong convictions, and I didn't always agree with the depth of his convictions. For example, he was a very, very strong supporter of Chiang Kai-shek; so much so that I think that it was unbalanced and it didn't admit for a lot of problems that might arise if we were to give Chiang Kai-shek the feeling that he could do anything with impunity. After all, we would then be pawns in his hands, if he felt that he had our support irregardless. I think it was very important to enter a note of caution in our relationship with him, and I don't think that Robertson did that adequately. That was one thing. The other was Syngman Rhee in Korea. Syngman Rhee had a motto in Korean, called "puk shin": that means "march north". That was the last thing we wanted to do, with the Korean War over and so forth. And suddenly he was involved in the seizure of Japanese fishing vessels in ill-defined Korean waters, and this meant that our relationship with Korea and with Japan... both of them were terribly important; to have bad relations between two countries where we had an enormous amount of forces and commitments, was a very serious flaw in our policy, and this is the kind of thing Ikept trying to bring to Robertson's attention: that we ought to do a lot more about trying to improve relationships between Japan and Korea, and that basiwas the reason why I accepted going to Korea, was in order to try to influence that factor, though of course a lot of other issues arose when I got to Korea. Eventually that came about, but it took some doing. Now Robertson had these fixations on Chiang Kai-shek and on Syngman Rhee, which I as regional planning adviser did what little I could, as well as Jeff Parsons who was my immediate superior as deputy assistant secretary, also sought to soften. Robertson had this extraordinary capacity of charm, real southern charm - he was, as I say, from Richmond - together with shrewdness, and a position of considerable authority beyond what would normally obtain in a situation like that, largely because the people above him were European-oriented and didn't know much about the Far East. Nor did he, really, for that matter. So he had in Congress a very strong support, both Senate and in the House. He had strong support in the Pentagon - Admiral Radford in particular, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff - and in CIA, which at that time was headed by Allen Dulles's [sic], who was (Clears throat) John Foster Dulles's brother. So he had this very strong constituency, so strong that for the only time in my recollection, every single ambassador in the 14 posts that we had in what we called the Far East at that time, were career diplomats. That was Robertson influence.
(Pause. Non-i/v talk. Cut.)
INT: Going back to Dulles - he was a Europe specialist. You were saying that you didn't find him to be particularly hawkish. But of course, there's the famous incident that the Chinese remember, where he failed to shake Zhou Enlai's (Overlap) hand.
MG: (Overlap) That was in 1954. But as I say, as he came along in years, he became wiser. In other words, his views became more akin to my own. (Laughter)