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This Week in History
January 13-19, 1953:
President Eisenhower and Nuclear Policy:
Toe to Toe with the Utopians

January 2013

Dwight David Eisenhower
Dwight David Eisehnower.

When Dwight D. Eisenhower was inaugurated as President of the United States on Jan. 20, 1953, the doctrine of preventive nuclear war had already gained a dangerous foothold in the thinking of many in the military and Congress. Contrary to popular myths about the peaceful, uneventful Eisenhower years, that period of time saw a massive attempt to legitimize and use nuclear weapons by any means possible. An escalating arms race between the U.S. and the Soviets was underway, and the Utopians of the day were itching to use the new atomic weapons, as they had in 1945, for terror, population control, and ultimate world government by a modern model of the British Empire. General Eisenhower had not approved of using the atomic bomb against Japan in 1945, and in his inaugural address of 1953 he promised that his Administration would "neither compromise, nor tire, nor ever cease" to seek an honorable worldwide peace. This quest was urgent because "science seems ready to confer upon us, as its final gift, the power to erase human life from this planet."

Eisenhower got an early taste of what was arrayed against him during the first six months of his Presidency, when he attempted to end the Korean War. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles advised letting the war go on, as did President Syngman Rhee of South Korea. According to Emmet John Hughes, an Eisenhower speechwriter, Dulles went so far as to say, "I don't think we can get much out of a Korean settlement until we have shown—before all Asia—our clear superiority by giving the Chinese one hell of a licking."

When the Chinese government submitted a proposal on June 4 which was in substantial agreement with the last United Nations offer on allowing "voluntary repatriation" for POWs, it looked like peace was at hand. But then Rhee freed some 25,000 POWs, both Chinese and Korean, who scattered all over the countryside, thus breaking the terms of the armistice agreements. Simultaneously, the Republican "Old Guard" in the U.S. praised Rhee for his action, and a resolution was introduced in the House commending Rhee for releasing the prisoners. But each week after the prisoners' release, almost 1,000 American soldiers were killed, and Eisenhower stood his ground against the outcry in favor of continued war, including from most of his advisers. The truce was signed on July 27, 1953.

That same spring, President Eisenhower had been working out a policy on nuclear power that could free the world from ever-escalating terror. When Soviet leader Josef Stalin died in March 1953, his heir apparent, Georgi Malenkov, let the Americans know that he believed, "There is not one disputed or undecided question that cannot be decided by peaceful means." In response to Malenkov, Eisenhower developed a two-pronged initiative. The first was a major speech entitled "The Chance for Peace," delivered before the American Society of Newspaper Editors on April 16, which warned about the dangers and real cost of the arms race.

"The worst to be feared and the best to be expected," said Eisenhower, "can be simply stated. The worst is atomic war. The best would be this: a life of perpetual fear and tension; a burden of arms draining the wealth and the labor of all peoples. Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

"This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than thirty cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of sixty thousand population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half-million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than eight thousand people."

In conclusion, Eisenhower proposed that if the Soviets showed by deeds that they, too, were ready for peace, the United States would devote "a substantial percentage of the savings achieved by disarmament to a fund for world aid and reconstruction: to assist all peoples to know the blessings of productive freedom. The monuments to this new kind of war would be these: roads and schools, hospitals and homes, food and health."

But Eisenhower had put conditions on this proposal that the Soviets would not, and in some cases, could not, fulfill. After rethinking his offer, he eliminated such conditions and delivered a speech to the United Nations on Dec. 8, where he proposed his "Atoms for Peace" plan before the General Assembly. Describing the multiplication of powerful nuclear weapons, the President said that, "A single air group can now deliver to any reachable target a destructive cargo exceeding in power all the bombs that fell on Britain in all of World War II." Atomic weapons had now achieved "virtually conventional status within our armed services." To continue the atomic arms race "would be to confirm the hopeless finality of a belief that two atomic colossi are doomed malevolently to eye each other indefinitely across a trembling world."

Then Eisenhower proposed that the U.S., the U.K., and the U.S.S.R. make joint contributions from their stockpiles of fissionable materials to an International Atomic Energy Agency, set up under the United Nations. "Experts would be mobilized to apply atomic energy to the needs of agriculture, medicine, and other peaceful activities. A special purpose would be to provide abundant electrical energy in the power-starved areas of the world. To the making of these fateful decisions, the United States pledges before you, and therefore before the world, its determination to help solve the fearful atomic dilemma—to devote its entire heart and mind to finding the way by which the miraculous inventiveness of man shall not be dedicated to his death, but consecrated to his life."

No applause interrupted Eisenhower's speech, and after he finished there was total silence. Then the delegates, including the Russians, stood and cheered. As the Russians debated the offer over the following months, the Utopian faction struck back against Eisenhower's proposal with a vengeance. From the early spring of 1954 until winter of the next year, virtually the entire National Security Council, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the State Department fought for U.S. intervention in Asia, including using nuclear weapons against China. The triggers were the French defeat in Vietnam, and the Chinese shelling of Quemoy and Matsu Islands.

Eisenhower stated that he would never have the U.S. go into Vietnam alone. Admiral Arthur Radford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, proposed to save the French at Dienbienphu by sending in sixty B-29 bombers on night raids. Eisenhower replied that the idea must be approved by Congress and other Western allies. Providing a useful piece of advice for future Presidents, he said that "Without allies and associates, the leader is just an adventurer, like Genghis Khan."

Then the desperate French told the Americans they were sure that China was about to enter the fight. In a meeting with the Joint Chiefs, Eisenhower told them that if the U.S. launched a preventive nuclear war against China, it would also have to simultaneously launch one against the Soviet Union. Looking directly at Admiral Radford, a supporter of preventive nuclear war, Eisenhower asked the group to suppose that it were possible to destroy Russia. "I want you to carry this question home with you. Gain such a victory, and what do you do with it? Here would be a great area from the Elbe to Vladivostok, torn up and destroyed, without government, without its communications, just an area of starvation and disaster. I ask you what would the civilized world do about it? I repeat, there is no victory except through our imaginations."

Rumors of what was going on reached the press corps, and Eisenhower was asked at a press conference to comment on preventive war. He replied, "I don't believe there is such a thing; and, frankly, I wouldn't even listen to anyone seriously that came in and talked about such a thing." The reporter persisted, and asked whether the President's answer was based on military or moral considerations. "It seems to me," said Eisenhower, "that when by definition, a term is just ridiculous in itself, there is no use in going any further."

Although the Utopians got around Eisenhower in other, more limited, but still dangerous, ways, they were never able to panic him into coming around to their way of thinking. And they have probably never forgiven him for shattering, even temporarily, their nuclear terror operation, by enabling the world to see the shining future that was possible through Atoms for Peace.



The original article was published in the EIR Online’s Electronic Intelligence Weekly, as part of an ongoing series on history, with a special emphasis on American history. We are reprinting and updating these articles now to assist our readers in understanding of the American System of Economy.