JUNE 29, 1957
HYDE PARK—The new responsibilities accepted by the United States in the Near East have been analyzed well in a column by Joseph Alsop in which the writer describes the situation as much more complicated and one of more varied responsibility than has been generally pictured.
In the Near East the question is not simply one of communism versus democracy. It is nationalism first and a tug-of-war as to who shall be paramount among the Arab nations.
In each case Soviet domination lies in the background, and Arab nationalism is encouraged by the Soviets because it fits in with their own game. But this makes it impossible for us to expect the same kind of situation to exist in our relationship with any one of the Near East countries.
These countries may prefer to be anti-Communist, but they cannot afford to be pro-U.S. or pro-West. So, in spite of the Eisenhower Doctrine, our diplomacy becomes more complicated and we must move with extreme caution.
As our country takes on greater responsibilities, it must become wiser and more adept in adapting its behavior to meet special situations. At the same time, our people as a whole must become more understanding of our foreign policy.
A number of publications covering the present situation in Puerto Rico have just been brought to my attention.
Sometimes we feel that we have not moved as well as we should in dealing with our overseas situations, but such should not be the case with Puerto Rico.
The association between the U.S. and Puerto Rico is that of a Commonwealth and the basis is a common citizenship. The Governor of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, in a speech on November 12, 1954, explained the political status of Puerto Rico this way:
"The Commonwealth, whose basic characteristic is voluntary association with the U.S. on the basis of common citizenship, is not perfect, just as there is nothing perfect under the sun, and we Puerto Ricans who created it are desirous of finding, at the proper time and after calm study, means of perfecting it within the association which is the basic part of the concept."
This makes very clear our association with Puerto Rico, and I think we ought to be proud of the manner in which this association has been carried on, particularly of the famous self-help program known as Operation Bootstrap, which is solving many of the island's most difficult economic situations.
Puerto Ricans are expanding their industry, new factories are being built constantly there by U.S. firms, the island is attracting more tourists, and one important product—rum—is being promoted and being received well in the U.S.
The island is small. It covers only 3,435 square miles and its population as of July 1, 1956 was 2,276,000, or 663 inhabitants per square mile.
Many of its people came to this country because they could not find work on the island which they love, so industrialization is essential to the improvement of living standards.
These standards are going up. In 1950 the average Puerto Rican family had an income of $600 a year; today it is $2,500. I think both Puerto Rico and the U.S. are to be congratulated for these achievements.