Posted by: Lister | June 23, 2007

Eisenhower — The Chance for Peace

This is also via Winter Patriot. I like to check out a blog before linking to it. And, in doing so, I found a second interesting article: Bob Koehler’s The Hearts of All Sane Men, the title of which is taken from a speech by Eisenhower.

Eisenhower was speaking in April 1953, just 12 weeks after becoming President.

The way chosen by the United States was plainly marked by a few clear precepts, which govern its conduct in world affairs. First: No people on earth can be held, as a people, to be an enemy, for all humanity shares the common hunger for peace and fellowship and justice.

Second: No nation’s security and well-being can be lastingly achieved in isolation but only in effective cooperation with fellow-nations.

Third: Every nation’s right to a form of government and an economic system of its own choosing is inalienable.

Fourth: Any nation’s attempt to dictate to other nations their form of government is indefensible.

And fifth: A nation’s hope of lasting peace cannot be firmly based upon any race in armaments but rather upon just relations and honest understanding with all other nations.

[…] The Soviet government held a vastly different vision of the future. In the world of its design, security was to be found, not in mutual trust and mutual aid but in force: huge armies, subversion, rule of neighbor nations. The goal was power superiority at all cost. Security was to be sought by denying it to all others.

Tough to say who started the arms race. At one point, the Soviets had some nuclear catch-up to do.

The free nations, most solemnly and repeatedly, have assured the Soviet Union that their firm association has never had any aggressive purpose whatsoever. Soviet leaders, however, have seemed to persuade themselves, or tried to persuade their people, otherwise.

And so it has come to pass that the Soviet Union itself has shared and suffered the very fears it has fostered in the rest of the world. This has been the way of life forged by 8 years of fear and force.

What can the world, or any nation in it, hope for if no turning is found on this dread road? The worst to be feared and the best to be expected 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; a wasting of strength that defies the American system or the Soviet system or any system to achieve true abundance and happiness for the peoples of this earth.

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 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement.

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 8,000 people.

This is, I repeat, the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.

Joseph Stalin died in March 1953. That’s about a month before this speech. And Einsenhower refers to the new leadership soon after this comment:

This is one of those times in the affairs of nations when the gravest choices must be made, if there is to be a turning toward a just and lasting peace.

It is a moment that calls upon the governments of the world to speak their intentions with simplicity and with honesty. It calls upon them to answer the question that stirs the hearts of all sane men: is there no other way the world may live?

[Eisenhower gives examples like “aggression in Korea and in southeast Asia are threats to the whole free community to be met only through united action”]

This is the kind of free world which the new Soviet leadership confronts. It is a world that demands and expects the fullest respect of its rights and interests. It is a world that will always accord the same respect to all others. So the new Soviet leadership now has a precious opportunity to awaken, with the rest of the world, to the point of peril reached and to help turn the tide of history.

Will it do this?

Eisenhower cares nothing for Soviet rhetoric, he wants sincerity demonstrated by deeds: release of WWII prisoners; armistice in Korea leading to elections in a united Korea; an end to the direct and indirect attacks upon the security of Indochina and Malaya. He goes on to talk of agreements limiting armaments, etc. Re-focus attention to a war on poverty:

The peace we seek, founded upon decent trust and cooperative effort among nations, can be fortified, not by weapons of war but by wheat and by cotton, by milk and by wool, by meat and timber and rice. These are words that translate into every language on earth. These are the needs that challenge this world in arms.

[…] This Government is ready to ask its people to join with all nations in devoting a substantial percentage of any savings achieved by real disarmament to a fund for world aid and reconstruction. The purposes of this great work would be to help other peoples to develop the undeveloped areas of the world, to stimulate profitable and fair world trade, to assist all peoples to know the blessings of productive freedom.

The monuments to this new war would be roads and schools, hospitals and homes, food and health. We are ready, in short, to dedicate our strength to serving the needs, rather than the fears, of the world.

I know of nothing I can add to make plainer the sincere purposes of the United States. I know of no course, other than that marked by these and similar actions, that can be called the highway of peace.

I know of only one question upon which progress waits. It is this: What is the Soviet Union ready to do?

I think that answers Koehler’s point:

But what’s most disturbing about Ike’s speech is that either he delivered it with his fingers crossed or he had no control over the malevolent forces then operating in America’s name. Even as he spoke, for instance, the CIA was meddling with Mohammad Mossadegh’s democratically elected, populist government in Iran, which fell four months later; and the next year, the CIA engineered a similar coup in Guatemala.

Even as he spoke, fallout from the U.S. military’s above-ground nuclear-testing program in Nevada was poisoning livestock, milk and people — and government spokesmen were assuring millions of irradiated downwinders, privately dismissed by the Atomic Energy Commission as “a low-use segment of the population,” that they were perfectly safe. In fact, they were guinea pigs.

The Soviets didn’t play ball. At least, that’s the answer implied by Eisenhower’s question: “What is the Soviet Union ready to do?”

I don’t agree with blaming everything on the Soviets. They may well have been looking for sincerity shown by deeds rather than rhetoric, just as Eisenhower was. It’s just that neither side was able to win the trust of the other. And so each justifies it actions. Kind of like “the devil made me do it” argument.

And the world continued to hang from a cross of iron.



  1. Submited post on – “Eisenhower ? The Chance for Peace”

  2. I have to disagree with you on some of this.

    The Soviets were always WAY BEHIND in the “arms race”. There was never any “missile gap”; it was a work of fiction. JFK won in 1960 in part by casting Nixon as “soft on communism” because of the so-called “missile gap” which according to JFK’s rhetoric occurred during Nixon’s watch i.e. while Nixon was VP.

    Kennedy pledged to get serious about building more missiles faster in order to catch up to the Soviets. After JFK got elected he got a “real” briefing and found out that the Soviets only had four missiles! Four!! The missile gap was fiction, JFK and indeed the entire world have always been deceived about Soviet capabilities … and about Soviet intentions, too.

    One of the big lies that came after the “missile gap” was “international monolithic communism”. The talking points of the day lumped USSR and China together as “the communists” and ignored the ongoing and never really resolved disputes between the two countries, which share a long and often tense border. And so on.

    In much the same way the current GWOT focuses all US attention on al-Q and neglects or even buries the fact that there are all sorts of small terrorist groups. It’s not all al-Q just as it wasn’t all the USSR … the lie is more refined now but the style remains the same.

    BTW Nice blog you got here!

  3. Most philosophers know what should be, but they are always challenged by the reality of human behavior.

  4. Winter Patriot,
    Well, okay. I’ll concede that America started the nuclear arms race. And that they were ahead at the time Eisenhower was speaking. The graph at wiki makes that clear. (But, of course, doesn’t show that Eisenhower knew).

    …the lie is more refined now but the style remains the same.

    I agree. You may want to read the examples at: Glenn Greenwald — Demonizing The Enemy as a Unique, Unprecedented Threat is routine.

    BTW Nice blog you got here!

    Thanks. I like yours too. Just found it, and I’ve already pinched two articles! 🙂

    Fred Slocombe,
    I don’t think anyone could get far in politics without understanding human behaviour. But I guess there have to be limits. Nobody’s worked it all out.

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