Dulles, John Foster

views updated May 23 2018

John Foster Dulles

Born February 25, 1888
Washington, D.C.
Died May 24, 1959
Washington, D.C.

U.S. secretary of state

J ohn Foster Dulles was perceived by many as cold and combative, but he served six distinguished years as secretary of state for President Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890–1969; served 1953–61; see entry). He worked hard at protecting the West from communist expansion.

A privileged start

John Foster Dulles was born in February 1888 in Washington, D.C., to Elizabeth Foster and the Reverend Allen Macy Dulles, a Presbyterian minister. His family had a rich history of involvement in international diplomacy and the ministry. One grandfather, John Watson Foster (1836–1917), was secretary of state for President Benjamin Harrison (1833–1901; served 1889–93). His other grandfather, John Welsh Dulles, was a prominent missionary. He also had an uncle, Robert Lansing (1864–1928), who was secretary of state for President Woodrow Wilson (1856–1924; served 1913–21). A brother, Allen Dulles (1893–1969), would become director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) from 1953 to 1961. A sister, Eleanor Dulles (1895–1996), would serve in the U.S. State Department as an expert on Central Europe.

Dulles enjoyed a privileged upbringing in Watertown, New York, and entered Princeton University in 1904. His father had always encouraged him to become a minister. However, in 1907, young Dulles traveled with his grandfather John Foster to the Second International Peace Conference in Europe. At the meeting, they served as advisors to the Chinese government. It was a impressionable experience for the nineteen-year-old Dulles, giving him a firsthand taste of international diplomacy. He would eventually choose a career in diplomacy, not ministry.

After graduating at the top of his 1908 Princeton class, Dulles entered George Washington University in Washington, D.C., to study law. While at George Washington, he freely mingled with the city's inner circle of influential people. He left George Washington before receiving a degree and passed the bar exam in 1911. Dulles joined the New York law firm of Sullivan and Cromwell, beginning as a clerk, then working his way up to senior partner by age thirty-eight. Dulles specialized in international law, advising foreign clients and American companies that had foreign holdings. He was respected for his very sharp mind, but at times he oversimplified issues, sometimes to the frustration of others. On June 26, 1912, Dulles married Janet Pomeroy Avery. They had three children.

A search for world peace

Dulles's first diplomatic assignment came in early 1917. President Wilson sent Dulles to Central America on a special mission. Dulles was to request the cooperation of the leaders of Panama, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua in declaring war on Germany. The United States needed these countries to protect the Panama Canal from possible German attempts to gain control of the canal or sabotage it. The United States had built the canal in the early twentieth century to improve transportation between the east and west coasts of the United States. Critical to the U.S. economy, the canal and the area immediately surrounding it were under U.S. control. (This changed in 1977, when U.S. president Jimmy Carter [1924–; served 1977–81; see entry] signed a treaty giving Panama control of the canal beginning on December 31, 1999.)

During World War I (1914–18), Dulles served on the War Trade Board, which was in charge of negotiating trade with other nations under wartime restrictions. Sharpening his skills in international law and finance, Dulles became highly regarded by President Wilson's advisors. As a result, Dulles was sent to the peace treaty negotiations at Versailles, France, in 1919 to act as legal advisor to Bernard Baruch (1870–1965), the U.S. representative. The resulting treaty involved establishment of German war reparations, or payment for war damages, and creation of the League of Nations, an international organization designed to resolve disputes between nations.

Dulles became discouraged by the heavy demands the victorious European countries placed on Germany. He predicted that the demand for reparations would spur yet another war. (Dulles's prediction came true: Germany's bleak economic situation after the war gave rise to the extremist Nazi Party. Led by Adolf Hitler [1889–1945], the Nazis made aggressive moves to take over neighboring countries, drawing nations around the globe into World War II, which lasted from 1939 to 1945.) The U.S. Senate agreed with Dulles and refused to approve the resulting Treaty of Versailles. Dulles and Wilson, however, did support joining the League of Nations, but the Senate did not. Dulles was greatly disappointed with the U.S. decision not to join the League, which became an official entity in January 1920. However, the Versailles experience brought Dulles increased prestige and attracted new international clients to his law firm.

Though he chose a career in diplomatic relations rather than ministry, Dulles still held deep religious convictions that greatly influenced his approach to ensuring international peace. Dulles attended numerous international meetings and conferences of church leaders, primarily through his work with the Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America from 1937 to 1946. This organization represented twenty-five million Protestants and one hundred twenty thousand churches. In 1940, the council established the Commission on a Just and Durable Peace and appointed Dulles as chairman. The commission developed a pamphlet titled Six Pillars of Peace in 1943. The pamphlet called for the creation of worldwide organizations to establish international economic and diplomatic cooperation, promote arms control, and ensure religious and political freedoms.

Early Cold War diplomacy

By the end of World War II in 1945, Dulles was considered the top foreign affairs specialist in the Republican Party. Near the close of the war, President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882–1945; served 1933–45) had died suddenly, and Harry S. Truman (1884–1972; served 1945–1953; see entry) became president. President Truman wanted to involve both Democrats and Republicans in shaping postwar U.S. foreign programs. Dulles's disappointments at Versailles after World War I made him determined to try again when postwar planning for World War II began. Truman, a Democrat, would send Dulles, a Republican, along with Secretary of State James F. Byrnes (1879–1972; see entry) to international meetings of top foreign policy makers. Because of the limited success of the League of Nations, Dulles was particularly interested in creating a new international organization to replace the League for the sake of securing world peace. Therefore, Dulles was also appointed as a U.S. delegate to the 1945 United Nations (UN) organizational conference in San Francisco, California.

Despite their party differences, Dulles generally supported Truman, especially as he and Truman both came to realize that the communist Soviet Union and the democratic United States were going in separate and opposing directions. The Soviets had a communist government; this meant that a single political party, the Communist Party, controlled nearly all aspects of Soviet society. Under communist economic principles, private ownership of property and businesses was prohibited so that goods produced and wealth accumulated could be shared equally by all Soviet citizens. In contrast, the United States preferred its democratic system of government consisting of several political parties whose members could be elected to various government offices by vote of the general population. The U.S. economy followed capitalist principles: prices, production, and distribution of goods were determined by competition in a market relatively free of government interference.

Dulles's prominence in the Republican Party continued. In the presidential campaigns of 1944 and 1948, Dulles served as foreign affairs advisor to Republican candidate Thomas Dewey (1902–1971), governor of New York. Dewey lost the elections but selected Dulles in 1949 to complete the term of Democratic U.S. senator Robert Wagner (1877–1953), who had resigned because of poor health. While in the Senate, Dulles strongly promoted congressional approval of the North Atlantic Treaty, which called for the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a military defense alliance consisting of the Western European nations, the United States, and Canada. However, Dulles lost his bid to be elected to the Senate on his own in November 1950.

Dulles returned to serving as an advisor to the Democratic Truman administration. Truman sent Dulles to Japan to negotiate an important peace settlement in 1951. The U.S. military had occupied Japan since the Japanese surrender in August 1945 that ended World War II. The peace settlement restored Japan's independence as a nation and established U.S. military bases in Japan to help contain communist expansion in the Far East. Dulles sought to ease the fears of other West Pacific nations that had suffered from Japanese military expansion in the 1930s and 1940s. He introduced the Australia–New Zealand–United States (ANZUS) Treaty to ensure the future security of the western Pacific region.

The New Look

In the 1952 presidential election, Dulles acted as foreign affairs advisor to the Republican candidate, Dwight D. Eisenhower. By now, Dulles was attacking Truman's Cold War policies, which centered on containing communist expansion. (The Cold War was an intense political and economic rivalry between the democratic United States and the communist Soviet Union that lasted from 1945 to 1991. Containment was a key U.S. Cold War policy to restrict the territorial growth of communist rule.) Claiming that Truman's plan abandoned those already subjected to communist rule, Dulles called containment immoral. He proposed "rolling back" communism rather than just containing it.

Eisenhower won the election and appointed Dulles as his secretary of state. Dulles would become a worldwide symbol of the hard-line anticommunist approach. His dour and forbidding presence was enhanced by an eye tic (sudden muscle contraction) that he had developed after contracting malaria on a business trip to British Guiana earlier in his law career. Dulles spoke briskly and would repeatedly catch the

world's attention by bringing up massive nuclear retaliation as an answer to Soviet aggression. This hard-line position was called brinkmanship. The policy of brinkmanship meant that the United States was willing to push any conflict with the Soviets to the brink of nuclear war in order to deter communist expansion. The brinkmanship strategy was more formally called the "New Look." Critics of the New Look believed this policy would put the world at risk for nuclear war over relatively minor conflicts.

Eisenhower was significantly less harsh in expressing his viewpoints on foreign matters; nonetheless, he and Dulles grew closer together through the years. Despite Dulles's reputation for tough talk, the United States avoided major military conflict while Dulles was secretary of state. Dulles passed over opportunities to support Eastern European revolts against communism, such as a workers' strike against the East German communist government in 1953 and a broader rebellion in Hungary in 1956. Even though the Soviets used force in both cases to suppress the revolts and killed thousands of Hungarians in the streets of Budapest, the United States failed to take action. Eisenhower feared that intervention could lead to a bigger conflict; it was also October, a month before his reelection bid, and he did not want to risk war at that time.

In early 1954, rather than sending U.S. support for French troops under siege in Vietnam, Dulles worked out a cease-fire with the Soviets, the People's Republic of China (PRC), and the Vietnamese rebel forces. However, Dulles was criticized for not shaking the hand of PRC representative Zhou Enlai (1898–1976; see entry) at the negotiations—an illustration of how tiny details loom large in foreign diplomacy. The cease-fire led to the division of Vietnam into North Vietnam and South Vietnam. Dulles then began funneling substantial U.S. aid to South Vietnam, a first step toward the later U.S. role in the costly Vietnam War (1954–75).

Dulles also promoted the creation of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) in September 1954 to help contain communism in the region. Dulles continued building a system of alliances around the world, adding the Baghdad Pact in 1955. The pact was a military alliance between Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Pakistan. Using the Baghdad Pact, SEATO, ANZUS, and the treaty with Japan, Dulles had surrounded the communist world—the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and the PRC—with alliances of countries friendly to the United States.

Cold War hot spots

Several limited confrontations occurred during Dulles's time as secretary of state. Two confrontations came in 1954 and 1958 between the communist PRC of Mainland China and the noncommunist Republic of China (ROC), which was located off the coast of Mainland China on the island of Taiwan. In both instances, the PRC shelled, or bombed, two small islands controlled by the ROC. President Eisenhower refused to commit the U.S. military, even though Dulles thought a PRC invasion of the ROC was imminent both times. As part of his brinkmanship philosophy, Dulles issued threats of nuclear war toward the PRC, and on each occasion, the PRC stopped the shelling after a period of time. To ease tensions in the area, Dulles obtained a guarantee from ROC leaders that they would never invade the PRC.

Another major Cold War crisis happened in the Middle East. In October 1956, Israel, Britain, and France attacked Egypt to regain control of the British-owned Suez Canal. The Suez Canal is the main shipping lane connecting the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, a critical route from the Middle East oil fields to Western Europe. A few months earlier, in July, Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser (1918–1970) had seized control of the canal; he intended to charge fees for its use. Dulles and Eisenhower were irate over the military response, believing it would push Nasser to seek support from the Soviet Union. They believed diplomacy would have been much more appropriate In a rare instance of Cold War cooperation, the United States and the Soviet Union obtained a UN resolution for a cease-fire, and the canal was placed under UN control. Britain, France, and Israel were very upset with Dulles for not supporting their actions, and their relations with the United States became strained.

Dulles's response to the Suez Canal crisis unsettled the members of the Baghdad Pact; they were confused about what to expect from the United States. To clarify the U.S. position in the Middle East and settle their confusion, Dulles issued the Eisenhower Doctrine in January 1957. The Eisenhower Doctrine stated that, when requested, the United States would assist any Middle East nation engaged in combating armed communist aggression. This policy would lead to Dulles's only use of force as secretary of state: At the request of the Lebanese leader, he sent troops to Lebanon in the summer of 1958 to put down a rebellion thought to be supported by communists.

Yet another crisis came in November 1958, when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev (1894–1971; see entry) demanded that the Western nations pull out of West Berlin. Since the end of World War II, Berlin had been divided among the victors of the war. The Western allies (the United States, France, and Great Britain) had retained control of West Berlin; the Soviets controlled East Berlin. This arrangement had been a nagging problem for the Soviets, because the entire city of Berlin was located well within Soviet-controlled East Germany. West Berlin was a capitalist island within a communist state. In his ultimatum, Khrushchev stated that if the Western allies did not leave West Berlin, he would turn over control of access to West Berlin to Communist East Germany, forcing the West to deal with a country it did not formally recognize. However, Dulles and Eisenhower refused to withdraw, and eventually Khrushchev backed down on his demand.

While fighting Cold War crises, Dulles was also fighting a personal crisis of his own. Shortly after the Suez crisis in the fall of 1956, Dulles was diagnosed with abdominal cancer. He had an operation to remove it, but the cancer returned two years later, in late 1958. Bedridden by February 1959, he finally resigned on April 15. He died the following month in Washington, D.C.

For More Information


Gerson, Louis L. John Foster Dulles. New York: Cooper Square Publishers, 1967.

Guhin, Michael. John Foster Dulles: A Statesman and His Times. New York: Columbia University Press, 1972.

Hoopes, Townsend. The Devil and John Foster Dulles. Boston: Little, Brown, 1973.

Immerman, Richard H. John Foster Dulles: Piety, Pragmatism, and Power in U.S. Foreign Policy. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 1999.

Marks, Frederick W., III. Power and Peace: The Diplomacy of John Foster Dulles. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1993.

Pruessen, Ronald W. John Foster Dulles: The Road to Power. New York: Free Press, 1982.

Web Site

Dwight D. Eisenhower Library.http://www.eisenhower.utexas.edu (accessed on August 28, 2003).

A Tribute

During the first few months of 1959, John Foster Dulles sometimes experienced intense pain from his abdominal cancer. Nevertheless, he refused to take painkillers. He did not want to impair his judgment in any way while still serving as secretary of state. He took one last trip to Europe from January 30 to February 8 to meet with West German chancellor Konrad Adenauer (1876–1967; see entry). At that meeting, Dulles guaranteed Adenauer continued U.S. commitment to the security of West Germany. Confined to bed by late February, Dulles submitted his resignation, but President Dwight Eisenhower refused to accept it until mid-April. At that time, Eisenhower appointed Dulles as special advisor within the presidential administration.

When Dulles died in May, Eisenhower ordered a full military funeral. Dulles lay in state at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. Despite the cold mannerisms Dulles had displayed and the belligerent speeches he made throughout the Cold War years, the funeral was attended by almost all top U.S. government officials as well as world leaders from all the NATO countries and Japan, the United Nations secretary general, and even Soviet foreign minister Andrey Gromyko (1909–1989; see entry). In 1950, Congress authorized the construction of a new airport to serve the Washington, D.C., area. On November 17, 1962, President John F. Kennedy (1917–1963; served 1961–63; see entry) dedicated the newly completed Washington Dulles International Airport, named in honor of John Foster Dulles. Former president Eisenhower was also in attendance, along with many of Dulles's friends and associates. Dulles had won a deep respect from his colleagues for his years of commitment to protecting the West from communist expansion.

John Foster Dulles

views updated May 18 2018

John Foster Dulles

John Foster Dulles (1888-1959), American diplomat, was secretary of state under Eisenhower. He strove to create a United States policy of "containing" communism.

John Foster Dulles was born in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 25, 1888. His grandfather, John W. Foster, had been secretary of state under Benjamin Harrison, and his uncle, Robert Lansing, had been secretary of state under Woodrow Wilson. Educated at Princeton and the law school of George Washington University, Dulles joined the international law firm of Sullivan and Cromwell in 1911, became a partner in 1920, and was head of the firm in 1927. He was eminent in his field.

Dulles's interest in foreign affairs was of long standing; at the age of 31, he had attended the 1919 Paris Peace Conference as legal counsel to the American delegation. In 1945 he was appointed legal adviser to the United States delegation at the San Francisco conference which drew up the Charter of the United Nations.

A Republican, Dulles served in the U.S. Senate in 1949-1950. In 1951, as ambassador-at-large, he negotiated a peace treaty with Japan acquitting himself brilliantly in overcoming Soviet opposition and other difficulties.

In 1952 Dulles was an ardent partisan of Dwight D. Eisenhower for president and was rewarded the next year with the office of secretary of state, which he held until his death. In his first months in office Dulles brought about an armistice in the Korean War, probably by the threat of the resumption of the war if the negotiations did not succeed. Less successful was his effort to roll back the Iron Curtain: in the East German revolt of 1953 and the Hungarian revolt of 1956 the United States was unable to offer any support to the rebels.

Dulles was a firm supporter of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and supported the proposal for an international defense force in Europe. This project failed, however, and it was Anthony Eden, rather than Dulles, who played the leading role in forging a new treaty that invigorated the European alliance and admitted Germany to full membership.

In 1955 came the Big Four Conference at Geneva, attended by the four heads of government—Eden of England, Edgar Faure of France, N. A. Bulganin of the U.S.S.R., and Eisenhower of the United States—with a view to bettering understanding with the Soviet Union. Dulles had a part in the proceedings, but little was accomplished. As a matter of fact, from the outset the secretary of state had regarded the project with pessimism.

In 1956 came one of the most serious crises of Dulles's career. In the summer of that year Gamal Abdel Nasser, the Egyptian dictator, seized and nationalized the Suez Canal, creating great resentment in France and Britain. Dulles labored manfully to find a peaceful solution of the problem, but in December the British and the French, using an Israeli attack on Egypt as a pretext, landed forces in the canal zone. With great courage Dulles protested this violation of the peace and brought the situation before the United Nations. As a result, the invaders were compelled to withdraw.

Dulles's activities were by no means confined to Europe. The United States played a part in the overthrow of a Communist regime in Guatemala. In the Far East, Dulles played a leading role in the formation of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization, an alliance of the United States, Britain, France, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Thailand and Pakistan. This alliance did not explicitly call for armed action, but it bound the signatories to consult whenever the integrity of any country in Southeast Asia was menaced. Importantly, it marked the extension of United States commitments in this area. Dulles also signed a defense treaty with the Chinese Nationalist government on Taiwan (Formosa) and twice thwarted hostile attacks by the (Communist) Chinese People's Republic on the Nationalists' island of Quemoy. Dulles's attempt to bring together some of the countries of the Middle East in opposition to communism resulted in an alliance that soon disintegrated.

A believer in keeping firm opposition to the Communist menace, Dulles based his diplomacy on strong ideology. He was ready to use force or the threat of force (as in the Formosa Strait) when he believed that such action would balk aggression. His diplomacy was highly personal. He was not a great administrator, but he was a dedicated public servant. In the last year of his life he suffered from cancer, which he bore with real heroism. He died on May 24, 1959.

Further Reading

Louis L. Gerson, John Foster Dulles, vol. 17 in Samuel F. Bemis and Robert H. Ferrell, eds., The American Secretaries of State and Their Diplomacy (1967), is recommended. See also John Robinson Beal, John Foster Dulles (1957); Roscoe Drummond and Gaston Coblentz, Duel at the Brink: John Foster Dulles Command of American Power (1960); and Richard Goold-Adams, John Foster Dulles: A Reappraisal (1962). □

Dulles, John Foster

views updated May 11 2018

Dulles, John Foster (1888–1959), lawyer, senator, diplomat, and secretary of state.Deeply influenced by his grandfather and uncle, secretaries of state under Benjamin Harrison and Woodrow Wilson, Dulles devoted his life to foreign affairs. As a young lawyer, he was counsel to the Reparations Commission that helped draft the Treaty of Versailles (1919). As chairman of the Federal Council of Churches' Commission to Study the Bases of a Just and Durable Peace, he presented to President Franklin D. Roosevelt a blueprint for the postwar order.

An internationalist, the Republican Dulles frequently served in a bipartisan capacity. From the 1945 United Nations conference, he represented Democratic President Harry S. Truman at virtually every major international meeting. Dulles was foreign policy adviser to Republican nominee Thomas Dewey (1948), but after a brief Senate stint, he negotiated for Truman the Japan Peace Treaty (1951) that ended the occupation while retaining U.S. military bases there.

In the 1952 U.S. election campaign, Dulles attacked the Truman administration for failing to exploit U.S. atomic supremacy in the Cold War, insisting that liberation should replace “containment” as America's strategy toward the Soviet bloc. In 1953, he became President Dwight D. Eisenhower's secretary of state.

Dulles did not dominate Eisenhower on foreign policy, as the conventional wisdom once held. The two were agreed on collective security and the need to build strength and cohesion among non‐Communist nations. Nor was Dulles a reckless saber‐rattler. He did strongly believe in what came to be called the “New Look”: the threat of U.S. “massive retaliation” as the most effective means to deter Soviet expansion and aggression. Yet he understood that the threat of nuclear weapons was not always an appropriate response, and that overseas deployment of U.S. conventional forces was both militarily and politically necessary. Indeed, by the late 1950s he was anticipating the “flexible response” strategy associated with John F. Kennedy's presidency. Moreover, although Dulles was a covert operations enthusiast like his brother, Allen Welsh Dulles, the CIA director, he opposed direct U.S. military intervention, notably during the 1954 Indochina crisis, but he supported South Vietnam and refused to sign the Geneva Agreement on Indochina (1954).

Dulles was largely responsible for negotiating U.S. security pacts with Middle Eastern countries and Southeast Asia. But he was usually reluctant to negotiate with the Soviets, and he thrived on crises—the last over Berlin in 1958–59 even as he battled with cancer. He died in May 1959.
[See also Berlin Crises.]


Ronald W. Pruessen , John Foster Dulles: The Road to Power, 1982.
Richard H. Immerman, ed., John Foster Dulles and the Diplomacy of the Cold War, 1990.
Richard H. Immerman , John Foster Dulles: Piety, Pragmatism, and Power in U.S. Foreign Policy, 1998.

Richard H. Immerman

Dulles, John Foster

views updated May 17 2018


John Foster Dulles served as U.S. secretary of state from 1953 to 1959. A prominent New York City attorney, Dulles participated in international affairs for much of his legal career. His term as secretary of state occurred during the height of the cold war and was marked by his strong anti-Communist policies and rhetoric.

Dulles was born in Washington, D.C., on February 25, 1888, at the home of his maternal grandfather, John W. Foster, secretary of state under President benjamin harrison. Dulles was raised in Watertown, New York, where his father, the Reverend Allen M. Dulles, served as a Presbyterian minister. Known as Foster, the young Dulles was a precocious student, graduating from high school at age fifteen and attending Princeton University at age sixteen. He graduated in 1908 and then entered george washington University Law School. Again, he worked quickly, and graduated in two years.

Through the efforts of his well-connected grandfather, Dulles joined the New York City law firm of Sullivan and Cromwell, which has been called the greatest corporate law firm of the early twentieth century. In 1919 family friend and international financier Bernard M. Baruch invited Dulles to be his aide at the Paris Peace Conference. This conference, which was convened to negotiate the terms of peace to end world war i, stimulated Dulles's interest in international politics and diplomacy.

"The ability to get to the verge of war without getting into the war is the necessary art… if you are scared to go to the brink, you are lost."
—John F. Dulles

In the 1920s Dulles quickly moved ahead at Sullivan and Cromwell. In 1926, at the age of only thirty-eight, Dulles was made head of the firm. Representing many of the largest U.S. corporations, Dulles became a very wealthy man. As

his stature rose, he became a prominent figure in the republican party. A confidant of New York governor thomas e. dewey, Dulles was promised the position of secretary of state if Dewey was elected president in 1948, but Dewey was unsuccessful and Dulles lost that opportunity.

Dulles was an active participant in the effort to reshape foreign relations after world war ii. He helped form the united nations and was a U.S. member to the General Assembly from 1945 to 1949. He performed the duties of U.S. ambassador-at-large and was the chief author of the 1951 Japanese peace treaty. He also negotiated the Australian, New Zealand, Philippine, and Japanese security treaties in 1950 and 1951.

In 1949 he filled a vacancy in the Senate created by the death of Senator robert wagner, of New York, but was unsuccessful in his attempt the same year to win election to a six-year term. Dulles's political fortunes im proved when he aligned himself with the 1952 presidential candidacy of dwight d. eisenhower. He helped Eisenhower defeat conservative senator Robert Taft, of Ohio, at the nominating convention and was rewarded with his long-desired appointment as head of the state department.

As secretary of state, Dulles exhibited a rigid opposition to communism. He advocated going to the brink of war to achieve results—a position that led to the coinage of the term brinkmanship to describe his foreign policy.

Dulles is also remembered for his doctrine of "massive retaliation," which warned the Soviet Union that the United States would react instantaneously with nuclear weapons to even the smallest provocation. Dulles believed that such a policy would discourage aggressive acts, though many allies were concerned that it would turn small wars into much larger and much more destructive ones.

Dulles died May 24, 1959, in Washington, D.C.

further readings

Halberstam, David. 1993. The Fifties. New York: Villard Books.

Merry, Robert W. 1996. Taking on the World: Joseph and Stewart Alsop—Guardians of the American Century. New York: Viking.


Cold War.

Dulles, John Foster

views updated May 21 2018

Dulles, John Foster (1888–1959) US statesman, secretary of state (1953–59) under Dwight D. Eisenhower. A powerful opponent of communism, he became a back-room influence on the Republican Party in the 1940s, and served briefly in the Senate. He was a member of the US delegation at the San Francisco Conference that founded the United Nations (1945).

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