Biography for John Foster Dulles
Over the course of a 52-year career, John Foster Dulles fulfilled a wide variety of important international diplomatic roles. As secretary of state in the administration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Dulles became famous for his strong anticommunist views and insistence that the United States help small countries to withstand aggression. Born on February 25, 1888 in Washington, D.C., Dulles had planned to become a minister; but after his grandfather took him, at age 19, to the Second Hague Peace Conference in 1907 (which attempted to establish codes for warfare and steps for disarmament) to serve as secretary to the Chinese delegation, Dulles decided on a diplomatic career. He graduated from Princeton in 1908, attended the Sorbonne in Paris, and obtained his law degree from George Washington University in 1911. That same year, he was admitted to the bar and began working for a New York City law firm. During World War I, Dulles was counsel to the War Trade Board and was one of President Woodrow Wilson's advisers at the negotiations for the Treaty of Versailles (1919). After his work at Versailles, he returned to private law practice in New York City and became a leading international lawyer. Dulles served as a delegate to the United Nations from 1946 to 1948 and in 1950. In 1951, with the rank of ambassador, he helped negotiate the Japanese peace treaty, which formally ended World War II. He was also a special adviser to the secretary of state at the Councils of Foreign Ministers in London in 1945, Moscow in 1947, and Paris in 1949. Governor Thomas E. Dewey of New York appointed Dulles to complete a U.S. Senate term in July 1949, but he lost the general election for the seat that fall. Appointed secretary of state in 1953 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Dulles was given unprecedented authority in shaping American foreign policy. "I think he is the wisest, most dedicated man that I know," said the president. Critics questioned the wisdom of Dulles' belief that communism was a monolithic moral evil that had to be contained through "massive retaliation." Dulles threatened such retaliation against the Soviet Union and China if they attacked any country. It was necessary, he warned, to go to "the brink of war." He believed that his strategy of "brinkmanship" had succeeded in ending the Korean War, settling the Indochina War (between the French and the Vietnamese communists), and ensuring the independence of the Nationalist Chinese forces on the island of Formosa (Taiwan). The inability of the United States to aid the people of Hungary in their 1956 revolt against Soviet domination, however, revealed the limitations of a strategy so dependent on brinkmanship. During his six-year tenure as secretary of state, Dulles argued against compromising with the Soviet Union and China, and he played an important role in keeping China from attacking two islands in the Formosa Strait (Quemoy and Matsu). However, Dulles also understood the need to undertake actions that would reduce the appeal of communism to the Third World. He opposed the 1956 Anglo-French-Israeli invasion of Egypt on these grounds; he also urged Eisenhower to protect the rights of black schoolchildren in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957 to bolster the image of America among the emerging African nations. Dulles was instrumental in the promulgation of the Eisenhower Doctrine, the establishment of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization, and the Baghdad Pact, later called the Central Treaty Organization. Critics dubbed his efforts to encircle the Soviet Union and Communist China by treaty alliances "Pactomania." Dulles was forced to resign from office in April 1959 due to illness. He died the next month, on May 24, 1959, from cancer.