MAN OF THE YEAR: Challenge of the East

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Other Men of 1951. Nor was it Dean Acheson's year—except in the sense that he survived it. By his firm and skillful handling of the Japanese Treaty conference at San Francisco, Acheson got at least his forepaws out of the public's doghouse, and proved once again that he would be a masterful Secretary of State if all the U.S.'s enemies could be disposed of with a gavel. Yet all through 1951, Acheson's State Department was still caught as tight as Brer Rabbit in Tar Baby. The useless and impossible effort to justify its past mistakes consumed its energies. In this year-long waste of time, Senator Joe McCarthy, the poor man's Torquemada, played Tar Baby.

Credit for the big diplomatic achievement of the year goes not to the State Department but to a Republican—John Foster Dulles, who, step by careful step, won nearly all of the free world to accept the Japanese Peace Treaty, and thereby handed Communism a stunning diplomatic defeat. But the Japanese Treaty was more a beginning than an end. Whether it became the keystone of a more successful U.S. policy in the Far East would depend on how well U.S.-Japanese relations were handled in the future.

Matthew Ridgway and his valiant men in Korea did all that men could be expected to do—and more. But the Korean war had been in an uneasy stalemate since May.

France's General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny turned the tide against the Communist advance in Indo-China. At year's end, however, De Lattre lay ill in Paris, and the Indo-China war was far from won.

In 1951's first months, it looked as if Eisenhower would certainly be the Man of the Year. Never in recent history has Europe experienced such a lifting of heart as it got from Ike's inspiring presence and his skillful, patient incubation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. In December 1950, NATO seemed just another paper plan doomed to failure. By April 1951 it was a psychological reality: Europeans began to believe that Europe could and would be defended. By year's end, NATO was a military reality, with six U.S. and twelve European divisions in the field. Defeatism faded, neutralism began to fade, because arms came into being; and the fading of defeatism made more arms possible. Europe, for a change, was moving in a virtuous circle.

Through no fault of Ike's, the heart-lift and the arming both slowed down. At year's end, Britain and France were in bad economic trouble. Headway had been made on the German problem, but the Germans, with the tragic consistency of their character, were again pushing and shoving into a bargaining position.

Ike in Europe registered a big net gain, although Europe was still in no position to beat off a Russian attack. Ike in the U.S. was a fascinating political riddle, and, to millions, the best hope in 18 years of replacing the New-Fair Deal. On the record, Ike was not the Man of 1951; 1952 might be his year. Or Robert Taft's. Or, in spite of 1951'S scandals, Harry Truman's.

The outstanding comeback of 1951 was Winston Churchill's. In his first two months of office he moved with the utmost caution, apparently trying to prove that he could be almost as colorless as a Socialist. This might be good politics, but it did not make big news.

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