Three years of vilification have reduced the prestige of the State Department to a cowering wraith. Inheriting the responsibility of government, the Republican Administration has also to accept the legacy of a Department discredited by unrestrained assaults.
The rehabilitation of State's reputation is a two dimensional problem. Secretary Dulles has shown he is clearly aware of the first, the lack of public confidence in the Department. But he has yet to act on the other: the faltering morale of State's officials. Dulles has this chance, however, in the John Carter Vincent case.
For two reasons, the suspension of Vincent has done more to erode morale within the Department than any other incident of the Department's persecution. The Loyalty Board's findings made public no evidence to support its conclusion that there was "reasonable doubt" as to Vincent's loyalty. Nor was the rebuttal by Vincent's counsel released. Department personnel, and the whole nation for that matter, can hardly assess the justice of Vincent's suspension on the pittance of opinion in the indictment itself.
According to the Christian Science Monitor, the manhandling of the Vincent case has persuaded Department personnel that any official is liable to dismissal without a fair hearing, and that the Department is too weak to adequately defend its own staff.
Freedom of Interpretation
The test of the Review Board's indictment has had a further demoralizing effect. One paragraph "notes" Vincent's praise of the Chinese communists "at a time when it was the declared and established policy of the United States to support Chiang Kai-Shek's government." Without clarification, the meaning of this statement is obscure and highly disturbing. Foreign Service officers wonder whether the Board is accusing Vincent of actively pursuing a contradictory policy, or whether "declared and established policy" means a party line with which private disagreement is suspect. As long as this is unexplained, any foreign officer must question the extent of his freedom to interpret events in his own special area. If his policy reports cannot disagree with a "declared and established" course, his freedom is as limited as that of his colleagues in the Russian foreign service. Although such a concept of guilt by disagreement is alien to all Western diplomacy, the circumstances of the Vincent case has given the idea credence at once a symptom of the debility of State's morale and a cause of further demoralization.
Secretary Dulles has decided to judge the final appeal on the Vincent case himself. He thus has the opportunity to prove he merits the confidence of his Department. If the facts show Vincent acted consciously against U.S. interests, the public should hear them fully. If Dulles finds insufficient grounds for the dismissal, he should reinstate Vincent with an expression of full confidence. In either case, Dulles, who has enough prestige with Congress to defend his department as Acheson could not, must not let political pressure replace diplomatic competence in the Foreign Service. By showing up the Department's confidence in itself he can help it regain the confidence of the public.