Year
1953

Eisenhower rejects calls for U.S. “isolationism”

In a forceful speech, President Dwight D. Eisenhower strikes back at critics of his Cold War foreign policy. He insisted that the United States was committed to the worldwide battle against communism and that he would maintain a strong U.S. defense. Just a few months into his presidency, and with the Korean War still raging, Eisenhower staked out his basic approach to foreign policy with this speech.

In the weeks prior to Eisenhower’s talk, Senator Robert Taft and Gen. Hoyt Vandenberg issued challenges to the president’s conduct of foreign policy. Taft argued that if efforts to reach a peace agreement in Korea failed, the United States should withdraw from the United Nations forces and make its own policy for dealing with North Korea. Vandenberg was upset over Eisenhower’s proposal to cut $5 billion from the Air Force budget.

Without naming either man, Eisenhower responded to both during a speech at the National Junior Chamber of Commerce meeting in Minneapolis. He began by characterizing the Cold War as a battle “for the soul of man himself.” He rejected Taft’s idea that the United States should pursue a completely independent foreign policy, or what one “might call the ‘fortress’ theory of defense.” Instead, he insisted that all free nations had to stand together: “There is no such thing as partial unity.” To Vandenberg’s criticisms of the new Air Force budget, the president explained that vast numbers of aircraft were not needed in the new atomic age. Just a few planes armed with nuclear weapons could “visit on an enemy as much explosive violence as was hurled against Germany by our entire air effort throughout four years of World War II.”

With this speech, Eisenhower thus enunciated two major points of what came to be known at the time as his “New Look” foreign policy. First was his advocacy of multi-nation responses to communist aggression in preference to unilateral action by the United States. Second was the idea that came to be known as the “bigger bang for the buck” defense strategy. This postulated that a cheaper and more efficient defense could be built around the nation’s nuclear arsenal rather than a massive increase in conventional land, air, and sea forces.

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