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My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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NEW YORK.—I was asked the other day by some students if I could tell them exactly what the foreign policy of the United States is, particularly as regards the islands of Quemoy and Matsu.

I found this a difficult question.

I read not long ago in connection with Secretary of State Dulles' visit to Canada that we had decided under certain circumstances that we would defend Quemoy and Matsu, and a few days later I read that the Canadians had decided they would not be partners in this defense.

As I understand it, these islands are as close to the Red China mainland as Staten Island is to Manhattan (New York), and I see that President Eisenhower has said that we will not defend these islands against Communist attack unless we are convinced that the attack is preliminary to an attack on Formosa.

Who is to inform us what the Communist intentions may be? That seems a difficult things to discover.

Also, I wonder if it is quite safe even to suggest that we may defend some area and then not carry it through. Far Eastern people think a great deal about saving face.

Certainly, it does not add to our position in their eyes if we tend to let them think that we will defend some area and make up our minds not to do so. Will they not be a little doubtful later on if we say we will defend Formosa and the Pescadores that we will do so?

I keep thinking of those beautiful Chinese paper dragons which look very forbidding and terrifying and are just paper! I wonder if they also will think of us as paper dragons.

This is dangerous business, for what we really want them to be conscious of is our great strength so they will not be tempted into a situation where we have to use that strength.

As I look over the whole world situation it looks to me as though we were afraid to act in our own interest. No one in his sane mind in this country wants to go to war in the Far East and yet we toy with the idea and more or less leave it in the hands of the President to save us at the last minute. In the meantime, we lose infinite prestige in the minds of the Far Eastern people.

Why do we seem afraid to tell Syngman Rhee, Chiang Kai-shek, the Arab governments and Israel where we stand and what we will or will not do? Why do we seem afraid to turn over to the United Nations the solving of questions, rather than try to make some kind of arrangement with the other big powers on world situations, which we will then ask the U.N. to ratify?

Would it not be simpler to start out by asking all the collective wisdom of the U.N. nations to work with us on the shape the world is to take?

What we care about is that all nations shall be treated with justice and charity. We want to keep people free and we want to increase their opportunities for happiness.

This can be done best by cooperation within the U.N., and yet we seem to shy away from it to try every other means. I doubt if any of us actually knows what lies in the minds of our leaders as the real policy that they wish to pursue.

(Distributed by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)


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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, April 9, 1955

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.