National Affairs: Gesture

In a last-minute attempt to unravel the aid-to-China knot, the Senate Appropriations Committee last week summoned the man best qualified to present some firsthand facts. He was Lieut. General Albert C. Wedemeyer, whose report on his China mission had been locked up in State Department files ever since his return 14 weeks ago (TIME, Sept. 29).

If the committeemen hoped to get a peek at the Wedemeyer report, they were disappointed. The President, explained General Wedemeyer, had bound him to secrecy. But as an "ordinary observer," Fact-Finder Wedemeyer made no bones about his personal opinions.

He urged all-out aid to China now—in arms as well as in dollars. The arms, he pointed out, were already available, scattered in U.S. surplus dumps throughout the Pacific. Much of it was light equipment, ideally suited to China's guerrilla-style warfare.

Wedemeyer frankly made his case on a straight anti-Communist line. To him, it seemed essential that the U.S. should oppose Communist aggression wherever it threatened. The only criterion should be the ability of the U.S. to supply aid and the ability of the recipient to use it. Said he: "It doesn't matter whether Chiang is a benevolent despot—which he is—or a republican or a democrat. The fact is, the man has fought Communism all his life. He stood by us as an ally in the war when he might have accepted favorable peace terms from Japan in 1944."

There was a dangerous oversimplification in that theory. If carried to extremes, it would bind the U.S. to help any unsavory opportunist professing antiCommunism. But Wedemeyer saw no such danger in Chiang's case: "I personally think he is a fine character. He is the logical leader of China today. I went there prepared not to like him, from things I had heard. He needs our help and he should get it."

By the time General Wedemeyer had finished, most committeemen seemed convinced. Committee Chairman Styles Bridges promptly wrote into the interim aid bill a $20 million appropriation for China, as "a gesture to show Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist government that we are interested," settled for $18 million in the final version (see The Congress). The State Department had already admitted that the U.S. is prepared to grant export licenses to China for U.S.-made arms and ammunition.*For almost-forgotten China, it was not much. But it was a start.

*One continuing aspect of U.S. military aid to Chiang is MAGIC, the corps of 750 officers & men of the U.S. Military Advisory Group in China. In theory operating under strict orders to remain "neutral," MAGIC has in practice been advising—at the noncombat level—the only military establishment it could reach, the Nationalist army. A fortnight ago, MAGIC's commander, Major General John P. Lucas, with whom Chiang had long been dissatisfied, was relieved by bluff, hearty Major General David G. Barr.

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