To President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the national security of the United States could best be maintained by an interventionist international policy. Under the guidance of Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, his administration abandoned the Cold War policy of containment that had been adopted by President Harry S. Truman in favor of a two way approach to the communist menace. The U.S. would respond militarily to overt communist aggression while advocating active measures to promote the liberation of countries that had converted to communism. This new policy required a much stronger military and Eisenhower accordingly increased the production of nuclear weapons as a cost-effective way to meet his administration’s goals (Kuznick, 253).
Eisenhower won the presidency in 1952 partly because of his record as one of the military heroes of World War II. He was very anti-Soviet Union and anti-communism, and made himself appear that he would not be weak by advocating for Liberation instead of simply containing the spread of communism (Kuznick, 254). David Rosenberg notes, “Dwight D. Eisenhower entered the presidency in January 1953 with a more thorough knowledge of nuclear weapons than any President before or since.” Eisenhower was determined to build up the United States lead in the nuclear arms race, and considered the decrease in standing military and increase in nuclear weapons a cost effective way of maintaining a strong military (Kuznick, 253).
Upon entering office in 1953, Eisenhower immediately had to confront the stalemated Korean War. His administration informed China that further delays in the truce negotiations would enlarge the scale of the war and that a resumption of full-scale fighting might include the American use of nuclear weapons. The Chinese signed an armistice in July 1953. In 1955, Eisenhower responded to a reporters questions about using tactical atomic weapons: “Yes, of course they would be used. In any combat where these things can be used I see no reason why they shouldn’t be used just exactly as you would use a bullet or anything else “(Kuznick, 255).
Is this really the man who said in a Newsweek interview: “…the Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing.” As a man who knew the destructive power of such attacks, especially on civilian populations, his attitude completely changed by the time he was in office.
In 1953, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) helped stage a coup in oil-rich Iran to replace nationalist and Cold War-neutral Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh with the American-allied Shah of Iran. In 1954, the CIA staged another coup to get rid of Guatemalan President Jacabo Arbenz Guzman, a land reformer who had communists among his supporters but lacked any particular ideological ties to the Soviet Union. The involvement of the American government in both operations quickly became widely known. Eisenhower commissioned World War II hero Lt. Gen James Doolittle to study the legality of these covert operations. The 1954 Doolittle Report provided an early justification for covert action against communists by stating that no rules applied when faced with an implacable enemy set upon world domination by whatever means and whatever cost (Kuznick, 263-267).
Eisenhower left office in 1961.While the Eisenhower administration succeeded in reducing communist influence in the 1950s, the use of covert operations, increase in nuclear arms, and escalation of cold war tactics may have caused damage to the long-term national security interests of the United States.
Stone, Oliver , and Peter Kuznick. The Untold History of the United States. New York: Gallery Books, 2012. Print.