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John Foster Dulles

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John Foster Dulles

John Foster Dulles (February 2, 1888May 24, 1959) was an American statesman who served as Secretary of State under President Dwight D. Eisenhower from 1953 - 1959. He was a noted Cold Warrior advocating an aggressive stance against communism around the world. He advocated support of the French in their war against the Viet Minh in Indochina and famously refused to shake the hand of Zhou Enlai at the Geneva Conference in 1954.

He was also the older brother of Allen Welsh Dulles, head of the CIA under Eisenhower.

John Foster Dulles, the son of a Presbyterian minister, was born in Washington D.C., and attended public schools in New York. After attending Princeton University and George Washington University he joined the New York law firm of Sullivan & Cromwell, where he specialized in international law. He tried to join the United States Army during the First World War but was rejected because of poor eyesight.

In 1918 Woodrow Wilson appointed Dulles as legal counsel to the United States delegation to the Versailles Peace Conference. Afterwards he served as a member of the War Reparations Committee. Dulles, a deeply religious man, attended numerous international conferences of churchmen during the 1920s and 1930s. He also became a partner in the Sullivan & Cromwell law firm.

Dulles was a close associate of Thomas E. Dewey who became the presidential candidate of the Republican Party in 1944. During the election Dulles served as Dewey's foreign policy adviser.

In 1945 Dulles participated in the San Francisco Conference and worked as adviser to Arthur H. Vandenberg and helped draft the preamble to the United Nations Charter. He subsequently attended the United Nations General Assembly as a United States delegate in 1946, 1947 and 1950. Dulles was appointed to the United States Senate as a Republican on July 7, 1949, to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Democrat Robert F. Wagner. Dulles served from July 7, 1949, to November 8, 1949, when a succesor Democrat Herbert Lehman was elected, having beaten Dulles in a special election to fill the senate vacancy.

In 1950, Dulles published War or Peace, a critical analysis of the American policy of containment, which at the time was favored by many of the foreign policy elites in Washington. Dulles criticized the foreign policy of Harry S. Truman. He argued that the policy of "containment" should be replaced by a policy of "liberation". However, he still carried out Truman's policy in neutralizing Formosa during the Korea War in the Treaty of Peace with Japan of 1951. When Dwight Eisenhower became President in January, 1953, he appointed Dulles as his Secretary of State.

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Dulles with president Eisenhower in 1956

As Secretary of State Dulles spent considerable time building up NATO as part of his strategy of controlling Soviet expansion by threatening massive retaliation in event of a war. Dulles was also the architect of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) that was created in 1954. The treaty, signed by representatives of the United States, Australia, Britain, France, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines and Thailand, provided for collective action against aggression.

Dulles was one of the pioneers of Mutually Assured Destruction and brinkmanship. In an article written for Life Magazine Dulles defined his policy of brinkmanship: "The ability to get to the verge without getting into the war is the necessary art." His critics blamed him for damaging relations with communist states and contributing to the Cold War.

Dulles upset the leaders of several non-aligned countries when on 9 June, 1955, he argued in one speech that "neutrality has increasingly become an obsolete and except under very exceptional circumstances, it is an immoral and shortsighted conception."

In 1956 Dulles strongly opposed the Anglo-French invasion of Egypt (October-November). However, by 1958 he was an outspoken opponent of President Gamal Abdel Nasser and stopped him from receiving weapons from the United States. This policy seemingly backfired, enabling the Soviet Union to gain influence in the Middle East.

Dulles, suffering from cancer, was forced by his declining health to resign from office in April, 1959 and died in Washington on 24 May, 1959.

He also served as the former Chairman and Co-founder of the Federal Council of Churches, a former Senior Partner of one of Wall Street's most powerful law firms - Sullivan & Cromwell, Chairman of the Board for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, he is the namesake for both the Washington Dulles International Airport (located in Dulles, Virginia) & John Foster Dulles High School (Sugar Land, Texas), a former Trustee of the Rockefeller Foundation, and a founding member of the Council of Foreign Relations (CFR).

He was the father of Avery Robert Dulles, the first American priest to be directly appointed to cardinal.

Carol Burnett first rose to prominence in the 1950s singing a novelty song, "I Made a Fool of Myself Over John Foster Dulles"; more recently, Gil Scott Heron commented "John Foster Dulles ain't nothing but the name of an airport now" in the song "B-Movie".

See also


Preceded by:
Robert F. Wagner
U.S. Senator (Class 3) from New York
1949-1949
Succeeded by:
Herbert H. Lehman
Preceded by:
Dean Acheson
United States Secretary of State
1953–1959
Succeeded by:
Christian Herter

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