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9-08-2015, 22:33

CAUTION AT HOME AND CONTAINMENT ABROAD

Dwight D. Eisenhower was a military hero before he became president. Immensely popular, with an infectious boyish grin, he represented, like Abraham Lincoln, an important aspect of the American tradition. His parents were neither influential nor wealthy. He grew up in Abilene, Kansas, a small farming community where his father managed a creamery. Through sheer force of intelligence and character, Ike (his nickname from boyhood) succeeded in passing the highly competitive entry tests to West Point military academy. Practically his whole adult life was spent in the army, his career reaching its peak when he was appointed allied supreme commander of the D-Day invasion forces in 1944. He stayed in Germany for only a few weeks after accepting the surrender of the Nazi armed forces in May 1945 as American military governor. His European command was far more than a military one. He had to handle temperamental Allied generals as well as American, not to mention statesmen as varied as Churchill and General de Gaulle. He succeeded brilliantly, playing a decisive diplomatic and military role. After three years (1945–8) as US army chief of staff, and an uncomfortable spell as president of Columbia University, he was appointed by Truman in 1951 to the overall command of the allied forces being organised in Europe under NATO. His transition to the political arena, leading to his nomination as Republican presidential candidate in July 1952 at the Chicago Convention, was swift, having been organised behind the scenes by influential Republicans such as Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Governor Dewey and the financier Paul Hoffman. Eisenhower allowed himself to be prevailed upon, despite his misgivings about the participation of the military in politics: American history provided the unhappy example of a military hero turned president – Ulysses S. Grant, whose administration was wracked by scandal. But there was another precedent – George Washington, the wise Founding Father. Eisenhower was persuaded to follow his crusade in Europe with another crusade, to preserve the two-party system and democracy in the US, to free Americans from excessive government and, above all, to ensure that the US would lead the free world against the perils of atheistic communism. The Republican Party machine was dominated by the conservative wing led by Senator Robert Taft, who not only reflected a widely held belief that the Truman administration was soft on communism, but also rather perversely represented the revived isolationist ‘America first’ patriotism. Eisenhower viewed a return to isolationism and to the ‘fortress America’ mentality as a disastrous error. He saw it as his duty to meet this challenge, if his own popularity was all that could prevail over the Taft forces within the Republican Party and over the Democratic candidate Adlai Stevenson in the US at large. In a campaign marred by personal attacks by the foul-mouthed Wisconsin Senator McCarthy and by Republican charges against the failure of the Truman adminis- tration to defend the US within and without from the communist enemy, Eisenhower appeared out of touch, unable to check the excesses of those Republicans he despised. He relied on his personal popularity, on the trust he inspired as a plainspeaking, honest man above partisan politics and on his final vote-winning promise that he would go to Korea to make peace. Eisenhower’s runningmate in the 1952 election was the youthful Senator Richard M. Nixon, who during the campaign survived the accusation that he had accepted a slush fund for his political campaign. The growing importance of television in politics was demonstrated by the success of his emotional appeal for support flanked by his family and his pet dog. Governor Adlai Stevenson, the Democratic candidate, possessed none of Eisenhower’s charisma, which could be exploited on television in the nation’s homes. He did not present himself as an ‘image president’ who, like Eisenhower, blurred issues and relied on projecting himself as a trustworthy father figure. Instead he campaigned on real issues: civil rights, foreign policy and the domestic problems confronting Americans – ‘Let’s talk sense to the American people.’ His speeches analysed problems with intellectual sharpness and wit. His opponents derided him as an ‘egghead’ and distributed buttons bearing the simple slogan ‘I like Ike’. Stevenson lost, but not badly, with 27.3 million voting for him as against 33.8 million for Eisenhower. The Republicans also gained small majorities in the Senate and the House. In 1956 Eisenhower stood for a second term, once more against Stevenson, and won – increasing his own share of the vote but this time losing both Houses of Congress. When it came to domestic issues, the American people trusted Eisenhower more than they trusted the Republican Party. When Eisenhower entered the White House in January 1953, he brought with him a firm set of values without having formulated much in the way of specific policies. American prosperity was based on rugged individualism and self-reliance, on business enterprise and on minimising the weight of government on both citizen and industry. The US was, in the view of Eisenhower and many other Republicans, suffering from creeping socialism and from government waste, which drained resources from the nation’s wealth-producing activities. Increased government spending, moreover, and budget deficits had led to inflation. Eisenhower’s inner Cabinet was composed of successful and practical men, such as the secretary of the treasury, George Humphrey, who were intended to bring to government the effective management skills with which they had run their businesses and banks. Even his international expert, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, a lawyer by training but with considerable experience of foreign affairs, had been closely connected with the corporate world. The spirit of the Eisenhower administration was perhaps encapsulated in the words of the secretary of defense, Charles E. Wilson, formerly president of General Motors: ‘What was good for our country was good for General Motors, and vice versa.’ In domestic affairs Eisenhower conveyed an impression of weakness and indecision, of a simple man more at home on the golf course than dealing with political infighting on Capitol Hill. He certainly wished to avoid confrontations, especially with the ‘old guard’ of the Republican Party; entrenched in Congress, these conservatives were led first by Senator Taft, and after his death by Senator William Knowland. Eisenhower believed in moderation and compromise. Despite the rhetoric uttered during the Republican campaign, he made no efforts to undo the welfare provisions for the poor – indeed he extended social-security payments to another 10.5 million people and raised benefits when unemployment increased under the impact of the recession in 1953 and 1954 that followed the end of the Korean War. He described himself as ‘liberal on human issues, conservative on economic ones’. It is true that he was liberal on some issues, such as social welfare or immigration, but in general he cannot be described as progressive. In fiscal policy, although unable to cut the federal expenditure of the last two years of the Truman administration as much as he had hoped, Eisenhower and George Humphrey refused to consider the Keynesian solution of deficit-financed government spending to stimulate the economy. Eisenhower’s failure to combat Senator McCarthy until much damage had been done at home and to America’s reputation abroad exposed a deficiency in the president’s political skills. As the senator’s accusations grew wilder and bred a destructive atmosphere of suspicion and denunciation among tens of thousands of loyal American citizens, many appeals reached the White House demanding that the president speak out against McCarthy. Eisenhower’s response was that it was the task of McCarthy’s fellow senators to discipline one of their own; the presidency, he claimed, should not interfere in Congress. He loathed McCarthy’s smear tactics and hated the man, but he to some extent also shared the belief that communist subversion of America’s free society needed to be checked by loyalty oaths, by investigations and, where necessary, by other stern measures. His main reason for non-intervention was undoubtedly political: he wished to curry favour with the Republican conservatives even when he privately disagreed with them. He rationalised his lack of political courage in various ways. He would claim that even to mention McCarthy’s name would increase the senator’s importance. A leader’s job was to win goodwill; it followed, so Eisenhower explained, that the leader should reserve all criticism to private discussion and in public should utter only favourable sentiments. But in the end McCarthy’s continued attacks forced Eisenhower to defend some of the senator’s targets. Even so, McCarthy went on unchecked until the Senate in December 1954 at last censured him after he had overreached himself in levelling indiscriminate charges against the army and the administration. By then, McCarthyism had lost credibility and public support, and the senator himself had become a political liability, his methods and behaviour condemned by a majority of senators, many of whom nevertheless still shared the exaggerated fear of the ‘communist traitors’ within. Although the senator tried to continue his crusade, after December 1954 the media gave him less and less attention. By the time of his death only three years later in 1957, this once feared and powerful man had lost all his influence. McCarthyism unjustly ruined many lives and many brilliant careers. The smear of ‘guilt by association’ cast the net so widely that thousands of innocents suffered. Against these thousands of loyal citizens, how many real traitors who meant harm to their country were really uncovered? It is right that a free society should defend itself. That national security has to be protected is equally incontestable, and it was perfectly reasonable to conclude that the Soviet Union posed a danger to the West that had to be guarded against. But in defending itself against dangers, a society should not destroy the very values it seeks to uphold. What was ‘unAmerican’ and counter to the ideals of American values was McCarthyism itself. McCarthyism also proved a temptation: it pandered to the resentment of the less well-off against the privileged, the so-called eastern establishment. McCarthy declared that the traitors were to be found not among the poor or the minority groups but among ‘those who have had all the benefits’. Those who identified themselves with McCarthyism thereby automatically proclaimed their ‘patriotism’. The pre-eminent significance of the McCarthy years, however, is that the senator and his works were in the end rejected, that American institutions proved sufficiently strong to cleanse themselves after a period of weakness. But there was another issue, of much longer standing, going back to America’s colonial past, which starkly revealed the contrast between the constitutionally endorsed aspirations of a free and democratic people and the reality. The issue of civil rights and equality came to dominate American political life in the 1950s and 1960s. About one in nine Americans was classified by the census as non-white, the great majority of these being black: in 1950 some 15 million, in 1960 18.9 million and in 1970 (out of a total US population of 203.2 million) 22.7 million. African Americans were denied civil rights not only in the South but also in the North, where they were increasingly crowded into city ghettos. They suffered more than their share of poverty; social deprivation as well as segregation and the prejudice of the majority whites meant that from one generation to the next opportunities for advancement were limited. The shared experience of the Second World War began to shift attitudes. Black and white soldiers had died for the same cause. In particular they had fought against the ‘master race’ and all its crimes against those it held to be ‘inferior races’. But black GIs stationed in the Nazi citadel of Nürnberg at the end of the war could not share their quarters with white GIs; and most of their officers were white. This of course reflected the superior and inferior racial attitudes that still prevailed in the US. Not until the Vietnam War were black servicemen truly integrated in the armed services, yet at home black and white Americans did not mix socially and were segregated in schools, for housing, on transport and, generally, in worship. In a thousand and one ways a black American was made to feel separate and inferior. In the nation’s capital a black person could not enter a good restaurant and expect to be served. This became particularly embarrassing when black diplomats from the newly independent African nations were being sent to Washington. Segregation, moreover, was a gift the Soviet Union did not fail to exploit, for example by honouring the great black American singer Paul Robeson, who spoke up for black equality and expressed his admiration for the USSR. During the 1950s and 1960s agitation in the South by African Americans and by whites, many of the latter college students from the east, made headlines. Police truncheoning defenceless civilians, bombings and riots presented the dark side of American civilisation. But more and more whites supported black protests against injustice, and those with faith in the American people and institutions believed they would overcome the entrenched prejudice. The success of the civil rights movement in changing laws and procedures – making itself felt slowly, despite many setbacks, in the 1950s before gathering force in the 1960s – provided striking evidence that traditional discrimination had to yield to reform. The bastions of ‘Jim Crow’, discriminatory anti-black practices in the South, began falling one by one. The US shares with many other countries the problems caused by racial or religious intolerance. But few could have foretold the changes in attitudes that have taken place in the US within just one generation. Black Americans now wield significant political power. Even so, practical as opposed to legal discrimination in education, job opportunities and housing remain to be overcome. In conditions of unemployment and recession African Americans continue to suffer far more severely than their fellow citizens. The landmarks of black protest in the 1950s and 1960s are clearly delineated. Lawyers of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People won a Supreme Court ruling in 1954 that swept away the segregationist subterfuge of ‘separate but equal’ in public schooling. There would no longer be any justification for separating children solely on account of their race, a principle already applicable to higher education. But a ruling, no matter how valuable, is one thing, its enforcement – in a country where state rights and community control over local services is strong – quite another. Integration was fiercely resisted everywhere; racial prejudice, of course, played a large part, but resistance was also sparked by social and educational tensions as better-off families found themselves being forced to share their facilities with the deprived. The bussing of children between the more affluent parts of a city and the worse off aroused fierce resentment, for example, when it proved more difficult to maintain the educational standards of mixed social groups. The real test came in the South on the issue of whether local communities could defy Supreme Court rulings when African Americans were courageous enough to insist on the rights accorded by them. The struggle could not just be left to lawyers. In 1956 a black girl was prevented by force and intimidation from entering the University of Alabama. In the following year there was a dramatic confrontation between federal authorities and the State of Arkansas when school officials at Little Rock demanded that nine black girls be prevented from entering the Central High School. Governor Orval Faubus backed the school officials, and only when Eisenhower reluctantly met the challenge by ordering federal troops to ensure the black children’s safety in entering the school did the state authorities back off. The crisis as far as the children were concerned festered on for many months, as the troops remained to protect their rights: sensational conflicts reached the newspapers and other media, but thousands of less newsworthy incidents across the US did their damage in obscurity. The change in attitudes was brought about by black leadership, championed by ardent groups of white Americans and backed by mass black support. Federal authorities, the presidency and Congress were slow to act. Eisenhower, more cautious on the issue than Truman had been, claimed that it was a question of changing hearts and minds, which could not be accomplished by law or by force. So, before they could receive justice, the African Americans would have to wait for the gradual reformation of their fellow citizens. Eisenhower had his eyes fixed on the political repercussions in the South of forcing the issue and so provided little leadership, except where federal authority was directly challenged, as it had been at Little Rock. In the 1960s the Kennedy brothers and President Johnson were to take a much more positive attitude to the demands of the emerging black leaders. The Reverend Martin Luther King, a Baptist minister, rose to prominence in organising a black boycott of buses in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955, after Rosa Parks, a courageous black seamstress, had refused to give up her seat to a white man and move to the back of the bus. The black boycott hit the pockets of the bus company, until a year later the Supreme Court ruled that segregation of transport, state as well as interstate, was unconstitutional. Blacks were flexing their economic muscles and soon other businesses were similarly placed under pressure. All aspects of segregation, in schools, restaurants, housing and political rights, became the targets of the organised protest movement in the decade that followed. The 1950s was the decade of the Cold War, when for the first time the world lived under the shadow of two countries, now called ‘superpowers’, both possessing nuclear weapons. In August 1949 the Soviet Union tested an atomic bomb and by the mid-1950s had perfected the hydrogen bomb. The testing of these weapons by the nuclear countries was poisoning the environment, though at the time few were aware of the additional cancers that were being caused. Research and testing of the necessary intercontinental missiles to deliver destruction progressed equally fast. The Soviet Union was catching up with the US, though not as rapidly in missiles as the Americans supposed. The year 1950 was crucial in the history of the Cold War. The US administration reached the conclusion that economic and military aid alone were no longer enough to defend the West. American strategy made its priority the containment of communism within the Asian mainland. Troops were sent to Korea, the only territory on the mainland defended by US troops, in order to prove that communist aggression did not pay. In September 1950 the decision was taken in Washington to send US combat troops to Europe as well, to form part of the military defence of NATO; three months later Dwight D. Eisenhower was appointed the alliance’s supreme commander. This marked a radical new commitment. So, by the time Eisenhower was inaugurated as president on 20 January 1953, the Cold War in Europe and the hot war in Korea faced the US with global challenges and the prospect of huge military expenditures. Now that the US had a president who was a general of great experience, perhaps the Cold War would be waged not emotionally but with careful military planning. Eisenhower was a cautious man, fully aware of the immense dangers of war, but also conscious of the dangers inherent in constantly preparing for a war. The ending of the Korean War, wasteful of both lives and resources, became an obvious priority. Eisenhower had become convinced that it was military folly to allow the American forces to remain bogged down in the face of the Chinese and North Koreans. Armistice negotiations had dragged on at Kaesong and Panmunjon since the summer of 1951. The issue of 22,000 North Korean and Chinese prisoners of war in UN camps who did not wish to return home deadlocked all negotiations, which India, as honest broker, attempted to facilitate. Eventually on 27 July 1953, following more than three years of war, after bitter wrangling and despite the resis- tance of Syngman Rhee, who did not want to end the war short of unification on South Korea’s terms, a truce was concluded. The fighting stopped and Korea was effectively partitioned. The Eisenhower administration on 10 October signed another security treaty, with the Republic of Korea (South Korea), to provide a guarantee of joint defence if an attack was renewed from the north. The US also promised economic aid to restore the south. But the truce did not prove a preliminary step towards unification, despite endless negotiations. South Korean ‘democracy’, moreover, was a mockery during Syngman Rhee’s eight years of rule and even after he was driven from power in 1960. The link with the West and the US in particular, however, provided the basis for South Korea’s economic miracle of the succeeding three decades. Until his death in May 1959, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles exerted a commanding influence over US foreign policy during the two Eisenhower administrations, especially over its style and tone. A Presbyterian layman, a lawyer with experience of international affairs, he represented a tradition in US foreign policy of asserting that morality and principle must underlie all America’s dealings in the world. He criticised Truman’s policy of containment of communism, insisting that it was no more than a negative reaction to an evil. The communists should be made to give up what they had illegally seized; the Soviet Union’s sphere of influence should be rolled back in Eastern and central Europe; there could be no accommodation with Russia. Nor did Dulles shrink from threatening the use of nuclear weapons in defence of the free world. He condemned neutralism in the Third World – as he saw it, the choice was between two kinds of societies, the good and the evil. In meeting the communist challenge Dulles came to be regarded as a ‘Cold War warrior’, as his rhetoric and deliberate brinkmanship in threatening war proved to be thoroughly alarming. It was verbal deterrence to back up nuclear deterrence. Dulles was skilful, tough and predictable. In a world of upheaval and uncertainty the policies he advocated – the creation of defensive alliances in Asia and Europe – contributed to the stabilisation of the status quo, except in Indo-China. For all the talk of rolling back communism, caution prevailed when unrest spread through the Soviet satellites of East Germany, Poland and Hungary; Dulles, though, must share some blame for encouraging revolt and then denying all material assistance. Eisenhower presented the more conciliatory side of American diplomacy. Their partnership was formidable and, on the whole, successful. Reducing American armed forces in Korea fitted in with Eisenhower’s and Dulles’s perception of how best to meet the threat of world communism. While they recognised that there were national differences within the communist alliance that might be advantageously exploited, they also subscribed to the view that communism was a coherent and dangerous ideology, and that the Kremlin was coordinating a policy of global thrusts wherever the West was weak. That coordination might not be complete, but Eisenhower and Dulles believed that all the Kremlin’s policies were purposeful and could be seen at work in what appeared to be unrelated events: the Korean invasion, the Huk activities in the Philippines, the determined effort to overrun Vietnam, the attempted subversion of Laos, Cambodia and Burma, the well-nigh successful attempt to take over Iran, the exploitation of the trouble spot of Trieste, and the penetration attempted in Guatemala. Dulles concluded that the communist leaders knew that their system could not survive side by side with the ‘free world’; consequently they had no alternative but to try to destroy freedom in the world. The death of Stalin in March 1953, he thought, had only made Soviet policies towards the rest of the world more subtle, without altering their essential goal. Dulles urged that a policy of maximum pressure on Russia’s allies was more likely to move them away from the Soviet Union than a competition for their favour. Communist China in particular was recognised as a potentially unstable Soviet ally. America’s China policy was one of unrelenting hostility. In his first State of the Union message to Congress, Eisenhower declared that the Seventh Fleet ‘would no longer be employed to shield communist China’. This was, however, pure verbal hostility, since the prospect of the aged Chiang Kai-shek successfully reconquering the mainland from his Taiwanese base was no longer credible. The following December an American–Nationalist Chinese defence alliance was concluded, and in January 1955 Eisenhower even secured the passing of a joint resolution of Congress declaring that American forces would be deployed, if necessary, to protect from invasion two small islands, Matsu and Quemoy, lying just off the Chinese mainland and garrisoned by Chiang Kai-shek’s troops. Warfare between the Nationalists and the communist Chinese was now confined to ineffectual ritual shelling between the two islands and the mainland. It seems extraordinary now that Eisenhower and Dulles seriously considered war, even nuclear war, with China in defence of the two small islands, but for the Americans they were of enormous significance. The containment barrier of Red China must be drawn in the Pacific, restraining it from adventures beyond its mainland coastline, otherwise it could extend its attacks not only to Taiwan but to Japan and even the Philippines. Communist China became such a bogey that even Eisenhower’s cautious judgement was affected. Dulles came to regard the successful defence of Quemoy and Matsu as his greatest triumph and believed that brinkmanship had, here, saved the peace. Eisenhower was following a broad spectrum of policies to meet what he saw as the communist global threat. As an experienced military commander he was ready to employ all the weapons and means at his disposal and rejected as naive the view that spying or covert operations should be avoided by the West on moral grounds, even though the communist nations, unconstrained by Western morality, made full use of them. He recognised as well as anyone that a nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the US could not be won and would spell the end of civilisation. That, however, was precisely why he was prepared to ‘wage peace’ as he had waged war, using every available method at his disposal. The Central Intelligence Agency under Allen Dulles, the brother of Foster Dulles, was now given a much expanded secret role that could not be publicly admitted. Subversion of foreign countries became a part of the CIA’s task even while the State Department conducted normal diplomacy with them. Eisenhower authorised the overthrow of the Mossadeq regime, which he believed was opening Iran and its vital oil to Soviet penetration. The president authorised the covert operation (codenamed Ajax) to restore the young pro-Western Shah to power. In carrying out Ajax, the CIA acted in concert with the Iranian army, which arrested Mossadeq and restored the Shah in August 1953. That same year Eisenhower and Dulles became concerned about reports that Guatemala was ‘succumbing to communist infiltration’. Central America was nearer home than Iran, and the domino theory, though not enunciated by Eisenhower until April 1954, was very much in his mind. If Guatemala was allowed to fall to the communists, then communism would spread to its neighbours and perhaps even eventually to Mexico and the borders of the US. This cataclysmic picture drove Eisenhower into action. Colonel Jacobo Arbenz, president of Guatemala since 1951, had embarked on a policy of economic nationalism, taking over uncultivated land and transport and docking facilities belonging to American corporations, of which the most powerful was the United Fruit Company of Boston. Business interests were implacably opposed to economic reform and, for the implementation of his measures, Arbenz increasingly relied on communists within the trade unions and government departments who were certainly not interested in seeking compromises with the US. The Soviet Union saw an opportunity to fish in troubled water. Eisenhower and Dulles concluded that the international communist movement, by subverting Guatemala’s political and economic structure, posed a threat to the hemisphere. Unable to persuade the Latin American states to take collective action against Guatemala, the president called in the CIA to organise the overthrow of Arbenz. Exiles were armed in Honduras and with American air support drove Arbenz into exile, the population remaining passive and the Guatemalan army staying on the sidelines. Guatemala now fell under the control of a right-wing military dictatorship. The mass of the country’s poor were the principal losers in these power struggles. Governed by corrupt military regimes, Guatemala cried out for political, social and economic reform. The Eisenhower administration, meanwhile, was accused of having acted in the interests of the United Fruit Company, which grew the bananas that constituted Guatemala’s principal export. Yet that was untrue. Eisenhower had acted because he believed that Guatemala was falling under communist control and because he assumed that the strings were being pulled by Moscow. As he saw it, he had in 1954 successfully defended the Monroe Doctrine. But the inherent weakness of American policy in Guatemala and elsewhere in Latin America lay in the contempt felt by the right-wing militarists, helped to power by the US, for Western democratic values, and their opposition to economic and social reforms. They were prepared to protect US corporations, however, as part of the bargain to gain American support. In this expectation they were not disappointed. American aid poured into Guatemala after the coup. The strategy of combating global communism, and so ensuring that those in power professed friendship with America, overshadowed in administration policy the need of the great majority of Guatemalans for basic reforms. As long as pro-American governments retained power in the Latin American republics, however corrupt or dictatorial, the Eisenhower administration turned a blind eye and ignored the fundamental problems besetting the continent. Latin American radicals were equally unrealistic in blaming the mass poverty and repressive dictatorships entirely on the US. In Iran and Guatemala the CIA had successfully accomplished its mission. When it began to adopt the same technique in Cuba, however, it experienced humiliating failure and thereby damaged the interests and prestige of the US. Cuba was ruled by another corrupt and brutal dictator, Fulgencio Batista. Its economy was dominated by sugar cane, whose growth and production were owned and controlled by American companies. Here also land reform and the raising of the living standard of the poor peasantry could not be accomplished without clashing with the interests of American corporations. Even so, the Eisenhower administration once again was motivated not by a desire to support the American owners but rather by dread of communism and of its control from the Kremlin. Since the 1890s American administrations had feared that the conflicts in Cuba could allow a powerful European nation a base a mere ninety miles from the coast of Florida. US interests determined official attitudes to Cuban leaders and as long as they safeguarded those interests even brutal dictators enjoyed American support. But there was also public sympathy in the US for Fidel Castro’s revolutionary fight against Batista, a sympathy that was combined with a growing recognition that the US should support popular and democratic regimes. The CIA, on the other hand, warned the president of communist infiltration of Castro’s guerrilla movement. On 1 January 1959 Castro overthrew Batista and took control of the government in Havana. The executions of his opponents which followed produced a feeling of revulsion in the US. The Cuban Communist Party was legalised, two prominent communist associates of Castro, Che Guevara and Antonia Jiménez, were brought into the government and Castro, in the Latin American tradition, made himself the leader of the country. Clearly a leader of charisma with genuine popular support, he promised radical reform to the poor masses and proceeded to expropriate large estates and factories, many of which were American-owned. The earlier American support for Batista, moreover, had provoked strong anti-American feelings in Cuba. The US responded to its perception of the pro-communist and anti-American sentiments of Castro’s rule with a trade embargo against Cuban sugar. But this policy of economic sanctions badly misfired because it offered Russia the opening to step into the breach by giving aid to Cuba and buying its sugar. It also drove Castro to seek closer relations with the Soviet Union. There was an obvious alternative for the US which had been frequently resorted to: intervention. Eisenhower turned once more to the CIA. Cuban exiles were trained in what was now friendly Guatemala to support a Cuban challenger to Castro. But the Guatemalan operation could not be repeated, for there was no exiled Cuban leader of sufficient stature and popularity available to rally anti-Castro political groups. Eisenhower therefore withheld his approval of military intervention. Castro’s defiance of ‘Yankee imperialism’ meanwhile was gaining much popular support throughout Latin America. But the fuse that led to the Bay of Pigs in 1961 had been laid. During the two Eisenhower administrations the credibility gap widened between the publicly professed policy aims and the actual policies adopted in dealing with the world’s problems. This eroded one of Eisenhower’s main personal assets, his reputation for honesty. The impact was greater on American public perceptions and on America’s allies than on the Soviet Union, whose leaders had no high regard for capitalist moral protestations: even without this credibility gap the Russians were not willing to respond to Eisenhower’s various disarmament proposals as long as the Soviet Union lagged behind in nuclear capability. But by making the CIA the secret arm of US policies and greatly extending its role, Eisenhower left a dangerous legacy to his successors. To deter communist expansion, Eisenhower increasingly relied on allies in Asia and Europe to help shoulder the burdens of fighting on the ground as well as on America’s growing nuclear armoury. By raising the possibility that the nuclear threshold would quickly be crossed he sought to prevent even local wars in Asia and Europe. Nuclear weapons were stockpiled in Western Europe, though they remained under American control. Britain possessed its own nuclear deterrent and France was developing an independent nuclear striking force as well. It was part of Eisenhower’s and Dulles’s psychological deterrent to keep the Soviet Union, China and the North Koreans guessing at what stage of conflict nuclear weapons would be used. The president was fully aware of the serious consequences that would follow battlefield nuclear exchanges and therefore regarded the maintenance of local conventional forces as indispensable. But he hoped to build up West European, South Korean and Nationalist Chinese forces to obviate so far as possible reliance on American conventional forces. These he reduced to strengthen the American economy, while promoting alliances in Asia and in Europe and providing military and economic aid. In the last resort the US would counter communist aggression with its own nuclear capabilities. The US and the Soviet Union would survive if nuclear weapons were used on battlefields beyond their territories. But densely populated Germany, France and Britain, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan, where the Western bases were located and the armed forces assembled, would be destroyed. So the administration had to provide an alternative strategic plan, however implausible. This Dulles did in his famous speech to the Council of Foreign Relations on 12 January 1954, declaring that ‘local defence had to be reinforced by the further deterrent of massive retaliatory power’. That last phrase, which became shortened to ‘massive retaliation’, when coupled with other statements that nuclear strikes would be made against targets of American choosing, was clearly intended to warn Moscow and Beijing that war might not be confined to the regions that the communists decided to subvert or attack. Thus the US implied that a communist attack on one of its allies in Asia or Europe would lead to an American counterstrike against China or Russia. In due course the Soviet Union threatened the reverse. An attack from a European base on the Soviet Union would lead to Soviet retaliatory attack on the US. Thus ran the logic of nuclear diplomacy. Tough anti-communist speeches, Dulles’s rhetoric about American readiness to go to the brink of war and talk of rolling back communism were part of the psychological dimension of the Eisenhower administration’s foreign policy. But these robust verbal stands also had a domestic political purpose. Despite the cuts in the defence budget Eisenhower wished to convince Congress and the country that this did not mean that his administration was soft on communism. In particular, he wished to reconcile an isolationist ‘old guard’ of conservative Republicans in his own party who repudiated Yalta and Roosevelt’s policy as a sell-out to Russia and blamed Truman, Acheson and their ‘red’ advisers for the ‘loss’ of China. But these policies also had negative repercussions abroad. Dulles was misread as being ‘trigger happy’, a man who might through miscalculation plunge the world over the precipice into a nuclear holocaust. In 1954, as secret British Cabinet minutes reveal, one senior minister in Churchill’s government thought that Dulles was a greater danger to world peace than the Russians. It was a sentiment shared throughout the world. Furthermore, the Soviet leaders were made to feel Russia’s technological inferiority, especially in the nuclear field. Was this wise? With a national economy far weaker than America’s, the Russian leaders redoubled their efforts to convince the US that America’s economic superiority did not mean that the Soviet Union was bound to remain militarily the weaker. The Soviet Union and the US began to stockpile nuclear weapons in such quantities that they would be able to destroy each other’s population centres several times over. Though the USSR in the 1950s had fewer nuclear weapons than the US, it switched successfully from aircraft to rockets. It tested the first intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) in 1957 but serious problems remained to be overcome and they were not deployed until the 1960s. The Soviet Union concentrated on Western Europe first, where its more reliable intermediate ballistic missiles were targeted in ever increasing numbers from 1959. The Russians had scored a psychological victory when on 5 October 1957 they had sent the first earth satellite, Sputnik, through space. After early failures an American satellite was successfully launched from Cape Canaveral three months later in January 1958. But the Soviet scientific first gave a rude jolt to American confidence and created the myth that the US was lagging behind and that Eisenhower had allowed a ‘missile gap’ to develop. In this way propaganda and achievement stimulated the nuclear-arms race from the 1950s onwards. The impression America gave of ruthlessness, even recklessness, in being prepared to escalate every local conflict between communist and noncommunist nations to all-out nuclear conflict was in fact a false one. Both the Soviet Union and the US clung to the need for the ultimate deterrent, but Eisenhower and Malenkov (and his successor Khrushchev) were agreed that nuclear war offered no hope of victory to either side. A first surprise strike would not eliminate all the nuclear capabilities of the other side, so sufficient nuclear weapons would remain to inflict a catastrophic retaliatory strike on the attacker. By the mid- 1950s a new era in superpower relations and so in world history had thus been reached. It is graphically summed up by three letters: MAD, or mutual assured destruction. The fact that a nuclear exchange would destroy both countries thereafter dominated Soviet–American relations. Their awesome nuclear capabilities make direct war between them inconceivable. Unhappily, however, wars were not banished between smaller nations. What Eisenhower and Dulles achieved during the years from January 1953 to the end of the Eisenhower presidency in January 1961 was to end American involvement in the Korean War and to keep the US out of further conflict. The contrast between bellicose rhetoric and the actual record became evident as early as the first year of the administration when on Stalin’s death the first cracks in Soviet control became visible in East Germany. There was not even a hint that military action would be taken by the US on behalf of Soviet satellites that rebelled. On 16 and 17 June 1953 Berlin workers rose in revolt against their communist regime. Throughout Eastern Germany other industrial towns followed. If its rhetoric meant anything, this was the moment for the West, led by the US, to respond to appeals for help. There was a short, chaotic interlude while the East German regime showed itself quite unable to suppress the rising. Then the Russians, who had large troop concentrations on the spot, intervened and quickly quelled the revolt. Apart from offering pious declarations of moral support, the US did nothing. It was a tacit admission that an acceptance of the divisions agreed at Yalta was the basis of continuing peace, and that greatpower intervention in the sphere assigned to the other side carried with it the risk of nuclear war. In reality there could be no rolling back of frontiers by force. But Radio Free Europe, financed almost entirely by the CIA, nevertheless kept up the barrage of propaganda directed towards Eastern Europe. While Europe was seen as the primary scene of action in the Cold War, America’s Western allies were fighting communism in Asia: Britain in Malaya, and France in Indo-China (as Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia were then known). Eisenhower shared the traditional American antipathy towards colonialism, which was seen as a sin confined mainly to the old European empires. The granting of independence, the president believed, would undermine the support the communists were receiving in their fight against the French. On the other hand, he also agreed with Foster Dulles that the national communist struggles in that part of Asia were controlled by the Kremlin, which could call them off if it wished. The Soviet purpose, they believed, was to weaken the West. Eisenhower concluded that the US would be playing the Kremlin’s game if it allowed its armed forces to become embroiled in the endless land mass of Asia. Instead, the US would provide finance, arms and advice to European and Asian allies to fight their own wars against communist expansion. The question left unanswered was what should be done if America’s allies proved too weak or too unwilling to resist. American perceptions also over-simplified the problems confronting Beijing and Moscow, whose control over events in their spheres of influence was not nearly as complete as the US believed. The French struggle in Vietnam went from bad to worse. The greater the effort the French devoted militarily in Vietnam, moreover, the less would be their capacity to play their part in the defence of Western Europe against the Soviet Union. Military logic suggested that they should pull out. Yet the defence of Vietnam too seemed vital. Dulles and Eisenhower subscribed to the domino theory, that if Vietnam fell to the communists then the rest of south Asia would be lost. But increased American aid to France was not turning the tide. By 1954 the French wanted not only US bombers but also the personnel to keep them flying. And so in response Eisenhower, despite his misgivings, sent the first American servicemen to Vietnam. He was still determined, however, to keep America out of any large-scale involvement: his military judgement was against it and furthermore he did not wish to identify the US with a colonialist cause. The key struggle in the spring of 1954 was taking place around the fortified French position at Dien Bien Phu, invested by the Vietminh. In March and April 1954 the French requested the direct intervention of American armed forces, but Eisenhower procrastinated. There was even talk of using atomic bombs: this he rejected decisively. Dien Bien Phu surrendered on 7 May 1954. Eisenhower now accepted the inevitability of a compromise peace, a partition of Vietnam that would draw a new line against communist expansion. He had made peace in Korea; he would not start a new war in Vietnam, with the US taking over the role of France. By the time of Dien Bien Phu’s fall the Geneva Conference (attended by France, Britain, the Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China and both Vietnams) had already been in session for some days. Realising that the US was not going to provide the military help needed to win the war against the Vietminh, the French decided to make the best bargain they could with the Vietnamese communists. While negotiations dragged on in Geneva the French and Americans thought they faced the danger that Ho Chi-minh would order his victorious forces to drive the French out of the whole of Vietnam. In Washington, in May 1954, a real war-scare ballooned. The National Security Council came to the drastic conclusion that US power should not be used in defence of south-east Asia but should be directed against ‘the source of the peril’, China, ‘and that in this connection atomic weapons should be used’. Dulles appeared to agree, saying that any Chinese intervention in Vietnam would be the ‘equivalent of a declaration of war against the US’. In the supercharged Washington atmosphere, Eisenhower now proved that he was his own man. At this fateful moment in world history it was fortunate that the president was a man of great military prestige. An all-out nuclear war, Eisenhower told the joint chiefs of staff, would have to be fought not only against China but also against its ally, Russia. He brought his advisers back to reality with a rhetorical question: ‘If Russia were destroyed, what would be the result of such a victory?’ From the Elbe to Vladivostock there would be starvation and disas- ter, no government or communications. ‘I ask you’, Eisenhower challenged his military chiefs, ‘what would the civilised world do about it?’ He then supplied the answer, ‘I repeat, there is no victory except through our imaginations.’ In charge of policy at this critical time for the world, the president firmly rejected the use of atomic weapons in Asia and refused to consider wild notions of launching a pre-emptive nuclear war against Russia or China. The superiority the US enjoyed in stockpiles of nuclear weapons in the 1950s could be employed only in defence of the West’s most vital interests, not to attack weaker opponents. Eisenhower would have used them if the Red Army had attempted to overrun Western Europe or if China had invaded Taiwan or, improbably, had attacked Japan. But for Eisenhower their real value lay in their deterrent effect – he was not trigger happy and prayed they would never be used. Yet he did not believe peace in Asia could be restored by peaceful negotiation and compromise. That, in the president’s judgement, was the appeasement policy of Munich. When in July 1954 an armistice was finally concluded at Geneva between the North Vietnamese and the French, and Vietnam was partitioned close to the 17th parallel, the US would not participate in the settlement because it left the future of the whole of Vietnam to be settled by elections in 1956. In 1954 Eisenhower’s and Dulles’s main effort was directed to bringing to life an Asian defensive alliance similar to NATO in Europe. By September the South-East Asian Collective Defence Treaty was concluded and signed in Manila by the US, Britain, France, Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Thailand and the Philippines. It promised self-help and mutual aid to develop the signatories’ individual and collective capacity to resist armed attack or subversion; an attack on one was held to be a threat to all, and the allies undertook to act to meet the common danger. Cambodia, Laos and South Vietnam were included in the region to be defended. But SEATO never achieved the credibility of NATO. There was no automatic provision of military aid and Britain and France withdrew from providing any military support. The contrast between Europe and Asia in the 1950s and after is striking. NATO became an effective alliance; SEATO did not, but relied for its teeth on the US. In Europe policy decisions had to be shared with allies where questions of European defence were concerned. In Asia, the US took its own decisions in the face of lukewarm support from Western European allies. US policy fulfilled most of its aims in Western Europe. For example, it was largely American pressure and Adenauer’s unequivocal decision to side with the Western powers that restored the Federal Republic to full sovereignty and brought it to membership of NATO in 1955. And, despite threats and diplomatic confrontations, there was no war between communist states and the West in Europe. The Asian peoples, by contrast, suffered turmoil and wars. America, after Eisenhower left the presidency, became increasingly involved in the renewed Vietnamese Civil War. In 1956, the hollowness of the political rhetoric of ‘freeing the enslaved nations’ from communist control was so forcibly exposed that it was not seriously employed again. The Soviet Union proved itself strong enough to impose its will on the central and Eastern European nations. In October of that year the Poles defied the Russians, and this encouraged the Hungarians, who took the notion of independence from Soviet control much further. During the last week of that month fighting broke out between Soviet troops and the Hungarians. Unbelievably, the Russians withdrew from Budapest only to return in force on Sunday, 3 November 1956. Eisenhower, with Dulles in hospital after his first operation for cancer, was dealing simultaneously with the problems of the British–French–Israeli war against Egypt, with the Hungarian revolution and with his approaching re-election (6 November). Increasingly desperate Hungarian appeals for American help were rejected by Eisenhower, although the CIA were eager to supply air drops of arms. Eisenhower acknowledged that Hungary lay within the Soviet orbit and that the Soviet Union might well prefer to fight rather than accept the disintegration of the Warsaw Pact. The US thus confined itself to resolutions that would be vetoed by the Russians in the UN, and to accepting some of the Hungarian refugees fleeing across the Austrian frontier. Eisenhower’s and Dulles’s Middle Eastern policies were less successful. America’s overriding concern was to keep the Soviet Union out of this vital region with its huge oil reserves, though the US also wished to be regarded as the friend of the Arabs, sympathetic to their strivings to free themselves from a semi-colonial status, above all in relation to Britain. But the unstinting support the US gave to Israel aroused Arab suspicion and hostility. Moreover, Britain was America’s most important ally in Europe. The US could not escape the inconsistencies in its position. Nonetheless, each policy sought to preserve the peace and the post-1949 status quo in the region. These aims served the interests of Britain too, and the two countries worked together to this end until their cooperation became undone in the aftermath of Suez. Eisenhower and Dulles had coordinated their policy with Eden to combat Nasser, who was leaning to Moscow. They agreed in the spring of 1956 to withdraw their financial backing for the Aswan High Dam, making this public in July, and when Nasser nationalised the Suez Canal Dulles exerted what pressure he could to coordinate the international reaction. Eisenhower and Dulles wanted to get rid of Nasser, but not at the price of arousing the whole Arab world against the West. They were, therefore, unenthused by British suggestions that military action could become necessary. They urged caution and delay. But Britain and France in collusion with Israel went ahead on 31 October with the bombing of Egypt and kept Washington in the dark about their precise military plans. Suez represented a serious crisis in the US’s relationship with its principal European allies. After some initial hesitation Eisenhower decided that he had to try to end the British–French– Israeli invasion of Egypt and so backed a UN call for a ceasefire in November 1956. He exploited Britain’s financial weakness to force the Eden Cabinet to accept the UN resolution. The Israelis and the French bowed to the inevitable. The US managed to mend fences with Britain the following year, but there was no disguising that in dealing with Nasser’s Egypt, American diplomacy had been inconsistent. After Suez, despite efforts to persuade the invaders to withdraw, the US did not gain many plaudits from the Arab world. US policy in the Middle East continued to be hampered by the question of how support for Israel could be reconciled with Arab friendship. Then in 1958 the US landed troops in the Lebanon, at the same time pronouncing the Eisenhower Doctrine which committed the Americans to providing help to Middle Eastern states threatened by communist aggression or subversion. As this did not reflect the reality of the conflicts within the Middle East, the doctrine was ineffectual. But uncertainty about how best to handle the Middle East in the light of America’s conflicting interests was not unique to the Eisenhower administrations and continued long after. During his two terms (1953–7 and 1957–61) as president, Eisenhower, skilfully supported by Dulles, was generally able to establish clear US policies for the rest of the decade and beyond. There could be no military intervention in the regions of the world under effective Soviet and Chinese military control, even when rebellion broke out within the Soviet camp. In Europe, the US was committed to the defence of the NATO alliance countries. In Asia, the defensive line had been drawn close to the Chinese mainland, protecting the islands of Quemoy and Matsu as well as Taiwan. In August and September 1958 a new crisis broke out with mainland China over the offshore islands, which Chiang Kai-shek, who still believed that internal disruption would allow him to reconquer China, had heavily reinforced. When the Chinese communists blockaded and shelled the islands, he saw an opportunity of embroiling the US in a war with China. Eisenhower ordered the Seventh Fleet to sail in support of the Nationalist Chinese, but once again he scotched the advice of the joint chiefs of staff to use atomic weapons against mainland China. Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai abandoned their assault on the islands, thus ending all question of a war with China. But Eisenhower continued Truman’s policy of refusing to recognise the communist republic as the legitimate state of China. With American support, Chiang Kai-shek’s Taiwan continued to occupy China’s seat on the Security Council of the United Nations. Meanwhile, in south-east Asia, SEATO defined the limits of Chinese and communist expansion, and in the Middle East the Baghdad Pact created a military barrier along the frontiers between Turkey, Iran and the Soviet Union supported by Iraq and Pakistan. The future of Germany was a critical problem for both the East and the West, as well as for the Germans. Was there any real possibility of disengagement and agreement, of German unification on conditions of neutrality? Soviet leaders from Stalin to Khrushchev strove to achieve this objective as long as the Soviet regime in East Germany was preserved. The Soviet Union above all attempted to prevent West German rearmament and integration in NATO. To this end Khrushchev worked hard to relax tension in Europe. Eisenhower asked for proof of Soviet sincerity, for example the conclusion of an Austrian peace treaty, which had been fruitlessly discussed for years. A few weeks later, to the West’s astonishment, Khrushchev agreed and the Austrian Treaty was signed in May 1955. But the subsequent Geneva Conference in July of that year made no real progress on the more important German question. Eisenhower rejected the principle, insisted on by Khrushchev, that a unified Germany could not join NATO. Khrushchev in turn refused to accept Eisenhower’s ‘open skies’ proposal, under which the Americans could inspect Soviet military sites and vice versa. Nor was the nuclear-arms race halted. But Khrushchev and Eisenhower did agree to conduct relations in a conciliatory spirit – the so-called ‘spirit of Geneva’. The first stage of detente had begun. But it did not last long: there were warlike exchanges during the Suez Crisis of 1956; relations were strained by the Eisenhower Doctrine in the Middle East; and new tensions arose when in November 1958 the mercurial Soviet leader threatened that the Soviet Union would conclude a peace treaty with East Germany and end Western rights in Berlin. But Khrushchev remained personally friendly, inviting Eisenhower to visit the Soviet Union. Eisenhower responded by indicating to Khrushchev that, provided Western interests were preserved, he was ready to negotiate over Berlin and German unification and over an atomic test-ban treaty. Test-ban negotiations were accordingly started in Geneva, and Khrushchev postponed the unilateral alteration of Berlin’s status. Eisenhower wanted to crown his presidency as it drew to its close by establishing a firm basis for world peace. John Foster Dulles’s last illness had reduced his influence, though he was careful to warn Eisenhower against adopting any policy that smacked of appeasement. In May 1959 Dulles died and was replaced as secretary of state by Christian Herter. Detente seemed assured when Khrushchev accepted Eisenhower’s invitation to visit the US in September 1959. It was an unprecedented event for a Kremlin leader to come to see for himself the country perceived by the Soviet Union as the leader of the anti-communist capitalist bloc of powers. The visit was a success, though Khrushchev tried not to show that he was impressed by the achievements of capitalism. He and Eisenhower agreed to hold a summit meeting in Paris the following May, after which Eisenhower and his family were to visit the Soviet Union. Eisenhower’s hopes were soon to be dashed by Khrushchev. The US had since 1955 been sending spy planes over the Soviet Union at such high altitudes that the Russians could not bring them down. But just before the Paris summit was to take place in May 1960 they at last succeeded in shooting one down with a missile. Believing the pilot dead and the plane destroyed, the US administration impaled itself on the falsehood that the plane – the U-2 – was a weather-research plane that had strayed off course. The Russians then triumphantly displayed the captured pilot together with incontrovertible evidence that the plane was spying. Khrushchev, who had arrived by this time for the conference in Paris, demanded an apology and a statement from Eisenhower that the spying missions had been conducted without the president’s knowledge. They had not. But the president was not to be caught in a lie, nor trapped in a position where he had to admit publicly that he did not know what was going on. So, unable to humiliate Eisenhower, Khrushchev broke off the summit meeting before it had got properly started. Not that the U-2 issue was a new one: the Russians had known about these missions for three years. In any case, satellites from both sides would soon be able to pass unimpeded over any region they chose. Possibly Khrushchev had simply decided that there was no point in dealing with a president in the last months of his administration, and that it would be necessary to postpone serious negotiations. Eisenhower had dominated the Western side in global international relations for eight years. His greatest achievement was a negative one: to have resisted all temptation to use atomic weapons and to start a war against China, as some of his advisers had urged. Nor had he panicked his country into seeking excessive nuclear-weapons leadership over the USSR. And although he wanted genuine disarmament, it is difficult to see how he could have halted the arms race, given the circumstances and the fears prevailing at the time. In his memorable ‘farewell’ address he alerted his countrymen to the power of the industrial–military establishment, which had grown up as a result of the Cold War, and warned of the ‘potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power’, which should never be allowed to ‘endanger our liberties or democratic processes’. Both the armaments industry and the military, he believed, would always demand more than was necessary. It was fortunate for the world that a president of unchallengeable military prestige was in a position to control a military establishment prone to advocating, at times of crisis, policies that might have endangered the peace of the world in the nuclear age.

 

 

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