Eisenhower’s New-Look National Security Policy, 1953–61

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Winning Peace by Threatening Nuclear War: The Foreign Policy of Eisenhower and Dulles About this book

In his early Army career, he excelled in staff assignments, serving under Generals John J. Marshall called him to Washington for a war plans assignment. After the war, he became President of Columbia University, then took leave to assume supreme command over the new NATO forces being assembled in Republican emissaries to his headquarters near Paris persuaded him to run for President in Negotiating from military strength, he tried to reduce the strains of the Cold War.

Strategic Studies Institute

In , the signing of a truce brought an armed peace along the border of South Korea. The death of Stalin the same year caused shifts in relations with Russia. New Russian leaders consented to a peace treaty neutralizing Austria. Meanwhile, both Russia and the United States had developed hydrogen bombs.

Dwight D. Eisenhower

With the threat of such destructive force hanging over the world, Eisenhower, with the leaders of the British, French, and Russian governments, met at Geneva in July Suddenly, in September , Eisenhower suffered a heart attack in Denver, Colorado. After seven weeks he left the hospital, and in February doctors reported his recovery. In November he was elected for his second term. In domestic policy the President pursued a middle course, continuing most of the New Deal and Fair Deal programs, emphasizing a balanced budget.

This meant that "no nation outside the Iron Curtain can afford to be indifferent to the fate of any other nation devoted to freedom.

The political component of the New Look also called for continued American support for international organizations. Eisenhower advocated collective security through international organizations well before his presidency. In fact, his enthusiasm for the United Nations was somewhat at odds with his conservative peers.

Security Council, the Eisenhower Administration also supported collective security by regional international organizations. The final component of the New Look was psychological. Eisenhower saw the cold war as "an attack on the minds of men" with world opinion the battlefield.

Eisenhower understood the essential psychological structure of the cold war at least as relates to Europe and North America much better than Truman. The old soldier recognized that even the best trained and equipped troops were useless without good morale, and set out to integrate this simple truth into American grand strategy. The Truman Administration created the institutional structure for psychological warfare.

The actual content of the New Look's psychological strategy was built on the intrinsic appeal of the American system. If the differences in the American and Soviet systems are publicized, Eisenhower believed, our system will prevail.

Eisenhower / Truman

Liberation was the key theme of the psychological strategy. As the New Look initially took shape, this meant liberation of Soviet satellites. Moscow's divide-and-conquer techniques were to be turned around; American strategy would "place the maximum strain on Soviet-satellite relations and try to weaken Soviet control over the satellite countries. Thus while Eisenhower promised "to render unreliable in the mind of the Kremlin rulers the hundreds of millions enslaved in the occupied and satellite nations," he was not willing to back it with military force.

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Failure to aid the Hungarian uprising of proved this and eroded any remaining psychological value of liberation in the Soviet bloc. Support for liberation in the Third World proved equally shallow.

Privately, at least, Eisenhower prodded the European powers on the pace of decolonization. The domestic component of the psychological strategy was even more central. Eisenhower fully grasped the transitory nature of American support for the costs of global responsibility. Fear of isolationism played a large part in convincing Eisenhower to seek the presidency in , and he believed that it still lurked just below apparent public support for the cold war. Thus the New Look called for explicit steps to preserve support for American strategy, and Eisenhower himself pursued this tirelessly.

He recognized that in an environment of constrained resources and amorphous threat, the linear component of strategy was secondary. The threshold where the cost of more resources seemed to outweigh the benefits was simply lower than in wartime. Thus the focus was on the dyadic. Here Eisenhower continued his stress on the managerial rather than the entrepreneurial. Despite some dynamic early rhetoric, there was almost nothing that was creative or bold in his grand strategy.

It was steady, cautious, and persistent. Given all this, a final assessment of the strategic coherence of the New Look is necessarily mixed. It was not markedly worse than the strategies which preceded and followed it, but then again, it was not fundamentally different.

Eisenhower's new-look national security policy, in SearchWorks catalog

In many ways, Dwight Eisenhower was the archetypical American military strategist. Though unusual in the extent and length of his influence, the enduring characteristics of his approach to strategy were those of several generations of American strategists. Put differently, he was unique only in the level of his accomplishments. This is part of his allure. We may study more atypical commanders such as MacArthur and Patton and draw lessons from them, but it is Eisenhower who best shows us the ultimate strengths and shortcomings of American military strategy.

Despite fits of self-criticism, there are many strengths in the American approach to military strategy. Resistance to the full blending of the military and the political is consummately American. After all, one of the reasons that Clausewitz is given so much attention in American military education is because his dictums concerning the relationship of policy and war are not intuitively obvious to officers reared in our peculiar strategic culture.

Eisenhower's military strategy also exhibited the enduring weaknesses of the American approach to strategy. He was inconsistent at harmonizing the dyadic elements of strategy and almost always stressed the tangible results of the application of military power over the psychological.

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The greater the ambiguity of the context in which military power was applied, the more serious these weaknesses. They did not drastically inhibit Eisenhower's warfighting strategy, but placed limitations on his approach to deterrence. Without a temporary monopoly of nuclear weapons and superiority in methods for their delivery, these weaknesses could have proven deadly.

We were, in a very real sense, lucky. Eisenhower was a skilled practitioner of precisely those things which worked in the security environment of the s and early s. What lessons, then, can we draw from Eisenhower's career as a military strategist? There are many, but a few are most stark. First, Eisenhower showed the vital nature of symbiotic relationships among strategists. He recognized his shortcomings and developed functional ties with counterparts strong in talents where he was weak--Bedell Smith, Patton, Marshall, etc. Ironically, this penchant for developing symbiotic relationships showed strength in an often-overlooked dimension of the dyadic realm.

Put simply, great leaders regulate their egos with a sense of their weaknesses. No one reaches the pinnacle of power without a robust ego which gives them the confidence to lead and to create the command presence which causes others to follow. But nearly all leaders who sustain their greatness over time also have an accurate notion of their own shortcomings.

Supreme commander

Leaders such as Napoleon and Hitler did not have this, and ultimately they failed. Eisenhower recognized his faults and thus took steps to transcend them. This is a process which all truly great strategists must follow. Second, Eisenhower's career as a military strategist illustrated the difficulty and the importance of careful attention to the dyadic realm of strategy. It is natural for humans to prefer one pole of strategic dyads over the other, to be either hard or soft, entrepreneurial or managerial.

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Successful strategists sublimate or transcend these natural feelings and develop instead a sense of harmony and balance. To slip into cliche, "all things in their place.

Eisenhower’s New-Look National Security Policy, 1953–61 Eisenhower’s New-Look National Security Policy, 1953–61
Eisenhower’s New-Look National Security Policy, 1953–61 Eisenhower’s New-Look National Security Policy, 1953–61
Eisenhower’s New-Look National Security Policy, 1953–61 Eisenhower’s New-Look National Security Policy, 1953–61
Eisenhower’s New-Look National Security Policy, 1953–61 Eisenhower’s New-Look National Security Policy, 1953–61
Eisenhower’s New-Look National Security Policy, 1953–61 Eisenhower’s New-Look National Security Policy, 1953–61
Eisenhower’s New-Look National Security Policy, 1953–61 Eisenhower’s New-Look National Security Policy, 1953–61
Eisenhower’s New-Look National Security Policy, 1953–61 Eisenhower’s New-Look National Security Policy, 1953–61

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