6-087 Speech to the Women’s National Press Club, July 1, 1947

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: July 1, 1947

Subject: Postwar

July 1, 1947
Washington, DC

Some people think they see in the evolution of our political life, evidences of radical changes in our policy on international affairs. The past two years have been replete with allegations that with the coming and going of various public officials there has been an alteration of American foreign policy. Actually, the attitude of our people and of this Government has shown a remarkable degree of continuity in the face of a complicated and rapidly changing international situation. The American people emerged from this war with an abiding determination to lay the foundations of a world order in which more could turn their hands to constructive tasks and look with confidence to the development of better lives for themselves and their children. It was for this reason, I think, that they took the prominent part they did in the establishment of the United Nations.

They have been sorely disappointed and disturbed by the setbacks which the principles of international organization have received. They recognize that the conditions of the post-war world have not proved to be as favorable as they had hoped to the development of this concept. They know that the task will be harder than appeared to be in prospect three years ago. But nothing has changed, I am sure, in their determination to create a world in which the principles of the United Nations can have a chance to take root and to flourish. It was on this determination that United States policy rested as the recent hostilities came to an end, and it is on this determination that it is based today.

In a democracy no policy whether foreign or domestic has the slightest chance of being effective unless it enjoys popular support. This, I think, is especially true of foreign affairs where the remoteness of the events, and the strangeness of foreign national traditions makes it very difficult for our people to get a clear understanding of even the elements of the problem. Under these conditions the only way in which general or popular support can be secured for any measure relating to foreign affairs is through the medium of the press and radio.

The more complete the public understanding of the issues the less the public will be swayed by the winds of passion and prejudice. The ideal that we could desire in this country would be a public opinion so well grounded that it would discount propaganda and would insure a steady and consistent support of the fundamental objectives of our foreign policy. We cannot expect one hundred percent support for any particular measure. Our democratic system thrives upon diversity of opinion, and it is this very diversity which operates as a correcting and improving mechanism. With a free press serious departures from fact or principle, however skillfully promoted, cannot survive very long.

In addition to the difficulty of comprehending the multitudinous factors involved in foreign affairs there is the fact of a continuous propaganda of misrepresentation. It is regrettable, but perhaps natural in view of our position in the world today, that much of this propaganda is directed against the United States. Our purposes are distorted, our motives impugned, our traditions and institutions decried and smeared. In countries where a free press operates, as I have remarked, such propaganda has a tendency to correct itself within a reasonable time. But this, unfortunately, is not the case where a free press is suppressed.

There has also been much of misunderstanding abroad of the degree and purpose of American economic assistance to other countries and of the conditions under which it has been extended. Much of this has been due to purposeful misrepresentation. Those responsible for this misrepresentation are doing a grave disservice to the suffering peoples whose future depends directly on the success of international cooperation in the economic field.

Historical records clearly show that no people have ever acted more generously and more unselfishly than the American people in tendering assistance to alleviate distress and suffering. The history of past decades records numerous examples of readiness to lend a helping hand in situations where there could not possibly have been other compensation than the satisfaction that comes from assisting those in need.

But it would not be entirely accurate to say that the efforts of this Government to contribute to the restoration of world economy since the termination of the recent war have been motivated solely by considerations of charity. Our people do realize, I feel sure, that a stable and prosperous world is important to their own well being. They also recognize that a contribution has already been made by many peoples or nations to such a world in the way of tremendous sacrifices in life and property suffered in the course of military operations. Since the United States suffered no such destruction on its own territory, although suffering heavy losses in lives and national wealth, our people felt it right that this country should make a direct contribution to reconstruction abroad. Accordingly, they offered and expended out of the fruits of their own labor the enormous quantities of American goods and services which have gone to other countries during the past two years. And they have voiced no complaint that for a considerable part of this contribution there has been little of favorable reaction from certain areas abroad, that in fact there has been more of criticism than of appreciation.

There could be no more fantastic misrepresentation, no more malicious distortion of the truth than the frequent propaganda assertions or implications that the United States has imperialist aims or that American aid has been offered in order to fasten upon the recipients some form of political and economic domination. At the end of the war our Government demobilized the greatest concentration of military power that the world has even seen. Our armed strength was deployed from the Elbe in Germany to the islands of Japan. This great array was demobilized with amazing rapidity until only comparatively small garrisons of troops were left on the necessary occupation duty in the principal enemy countries. No conditions were attached to this withdrawal. Since the termination of the war, American goods in the amount of some eighty-two million tons, valued at over nine billion dollars, have flowed into Europe from this country. No political parties subservient to United States interests have been left behind in European countries to attempt conquest of governments from within. No American agents have sought to dominate the police establishment of European countries. No “joint American-European companies” have been forced upon reluctant governments. I do not cite this record as evidence of our peaceful intentions by way of indulging in national boasting, but merely because it is true and judging from some of the charges leveled against the United States it may be in danger of being forgotten.

It would be incorrect to say that the people of this country make no demands regarding the utilization of their contribution to world recovery. They emphatically demand that whatever they contribute shall be effectively used for the purpose for which it was intended; that it should not be expended to serve selfish economic or political interests; and that it should be employed specifically to assist in economic rehabilitation; finally, that it should serve a great purpose in restoring hope and confidence among the people concerned that the world will know peace and security in the future.

GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers (Secretary of State, Speeches)

1. Marshall delivered these remarks during a luncheon at the Statler Hotel.

Recommended Citation: The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, ed. Larry I. Bland, Mark A. Stoler, Sharon Ritenour Stevens and Daniel D. Holt (Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 2013- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 6, “The Whole World Hangs in the Balance,” January 8, 1947-September 30, 1949 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013), pp. 165-167.