Chapter 8: “Open Skies”
After the Chinese guns fell silent, the rest of 1955
seemed to be a notably tranquil era for the United States. The public could see no areas of significant international
conflict or tension. The great event of
the rest of the year, Eisenhower's summit meeting with the leaders of the
Soviet Union at Geneva,
seemed to open a new era of global harmony.
At home, the absence of evident conflict created a unique era of
domestic harmony, giving Eisenhower had an almost totally free hand in the
realm of foreign and national security policy.
Abroad, however, the president still faced mounting
pressures to ease cold war tensions by meeting the Soviet leaders at a summit
meeting, while he and his inner circle still spent every day looking for new
ways to win cold war victories. These
competing pressures created an atmosphere in the White House that was anything
Eisenhower was already contemplating a summit meeting—not
with his enemy, but with his major allies:
Britain, France, and West Germany. He wanted to discuss three issues, he told
Dulles: “the actual rearming of West Germany,
the acceptance of atomic missiles as conventional, and the reconciling of our
European allies to a stronger Asian policy.”
If West Germany were rearmed and made the site of a nuclear striking
force, and if the U.S. could feel free to use nuclear weapons against China
without straining the NATO alliance, then the grand vision of using the nuclear
arsenal to attain full control over the communist bloc might still be
possible. Geopolitical stasis remained
the administration's implicit ideal. But
fear still drove policy, and efforts to make the nation secure through nuclear
armament seemed to make the nation insecure by alienating allies. To forestall
these threats, the president felt a growing urgency to make some public gesture
toward reducing cold war tensions.
By the end of July, the gesture would be made at the Geneva summit: a proposal for the superpowers to exchange
blueprints of their military facilities and inspect each other's facilities
from the air. In the preceding months, as
the pressure for a new inspection proposal mounted, there was an intense
struggle within the administration to determine the particulars of the
plan. On one level, it was a
bureaucratic struggle. But it was also a
struggle to define and control the symbolic meanings of inspection, the summit
meeting, and cold war discourse as a whole.
Once the "Open Skies" proposal was made, the
whole world became involved in the symbolic process. There was an almost universal sense that a
new, more conciliatory era of accommodation had begun, a “spirit of Geneva.” Many historians see this new spirit
reflecting a fundamental change in the cold war. By 1955, they argue, the two superpowers had
reached a de facto balance of power, making some form of coexistence
inevitable. That may seem clear in retrospect. However, Eisenhower and his advisors never
viewed “Open Skies” as a symbol of an acceptable status quo, nor of accommodation
with the enemy through disarmament—except when disarmament and eased tensions
could be used as weapons of cold war.
The president had to be dragged, slowly and painfully,
to the summit. In public, he used a
familiar refrain to justify his resistance:
the Soviets would have to give evidence of their sincerity by deeds, not
words. One deed he suggested was Soviet
acceptance of a disarmament plan with inspection. The other was an Austrian peace treaty that
would remove Soviet troops from that country.
During the second week of May, the Soviet leadership agreed to both
conditions. Yet the U.S. made no
positive response. When the Soviets
signed the Austrian State Treaty, Eisenhower later told an interviewer, Dulles
“came in and he grinned rather ruefully and he said, ‘Well, I think we’ve had
it.’ And I said, “Yes, I can see that; I
knew you were going to say that.’” Many
historians have taken this anecdote to mean that the secretary of state felt
forced into a summit meeting that the president really wanted.
But the sum of the evidence suggests that Eisenhower
was at least as reluctant as Dulles, and perhaps even more reluctant, to go to
the summit. He warned Churchill that a
summit might give “a false impression of accord,” which would probably make it
more difficult to get “support for needed defense appropriations.” And he, like Dulles, feared “such meetings
would be used by the Russians as propaganda opportunities.” But if the dangers lay in the impact on
public opinion, the potential gains lay there too: “World opinion could be allayed or at least
satisfied a bit.” Eisenhower was swayed by appeals from Anthony
Eden, who claimed that his electoral chances in the British elections hinged on
promising a four-power summit. But the president would go to the summit only
if there was a firm agreement that it would be solely “of an exploratory
nature” and a “general exchange of views…with no substantive decisions to be
Once the summit meeting became unavoidable, the
president approached it mainly as an exercise in public relations—“to correct
the false picture of the U.S.
which many people had come to accept.” he explained to the NSC. It was all a matter of finding the right
words, and each of his principal advisors had their own idea about what words
Stassen And Dulles
As Harold Stassen recalled it, he was instrumental in
bringing Eisenhower to the Geneva
summit and initiating the "Open Skies" proposal. Stassen surely exaggerated his role. His work
was scarcely connected with summit plans until almost the very last moment. When he became the so-called secretary of
peace, Stassen was under no illusion that the administration meant to offer any
serious disarmament proposal. On May 19,
Dulles explained to the NSC that “the Soviet had actually gone a long way to
meet the British and French position on disarmament, without realizing that
there was a very wide gap between the United States and the British and
French.” Apparently Eisenhower took so
little interest in disarmament that he had to inquire “as to the nature of this
gap.” Stassen quickly explained that the
British and French wanted a substantive and conciliatory response to the
Soviets' May 10 offer, which the U.S. strongly opposed because of
doubts about “the apparent Soviet change of heart.” Stassen, like everyone else, understood that
he had to frame a program that looked responsive to the Soviet move, while
avoiding any risk of actual disarmament.
Stassen did take seriously a suggestion from a member
of his civilian advisory committee, General James H. Doolittle: “The most important consideration is the
mutual, reciprocal fear of a surprise
attack.” To alleviate that fear and
protect the U.S.
from catastrophe, Doolittle proposed “a formula to permit each side to fly over the other at any time.” But fully open inspection “was not practical
from a political point of view,” Dulles told Stassen; U.S.
politicians and the public would resist opening the nation to Soviet
No proposal in the realm of disarmament could hope to
succeed without the support of Dulles, who had long resisted any substantive
disarmament negotiations. The
unpredictability of negotiations contradicted his desire to be fully in control
at all times. His lawyerly caution led him
to focus on what could be lost rather than what could be gained. His conviction of Soviet duplicity led him to
doubt that any agreements could have real value. He was confident that U.S. military superiority “gives the United States
its maximum bargaining power. … We cannot afford to take, and need not take,
substantial risks.” Therefore, Dulles
wanted disarmament discussions confined to
the UN, where no serious progress was likely to be made. As Bundy notes,
he wanted the summit to be “an exercise in the containment of damage.…He
preferred the limitation of losses to the risk of a false step by the
president.” The president himself fully
Dulles also feared that a cold war thaw would bring
down the Iron Curtain and turn all of Europe into "a fuzzy area…a kind of
mixed zone … not unlike that of Finland.” Then, "it will be very hard to prevent
the Western European nations from engaging in more normal intercourse with the
Soviet bloc.” However, he assumed that the Soviets
would bring up disarmament at Geneva “in more
than procedural form,” and he warned Eisenhower that the U.S. had to
make some proposal of its own to prevent the allies from turning eastward. The best way to finesse this situation was to
make some very preliminary offer at the summit, which sounded good yet entailed
no real commitments: “Present steps to
stabilize or curtail armament should be tentative and exploratory only.” The growing interest in mutual inspection
plans was an ideal answer, he told the NSC.
For Dulles, mutual inspection symbolized a confidence that the U.S. was now
secure enough to take a minimal risk.
But it also symbolized his awareness that, since perfect control was
impossible, a bit of risk would always be needed to keep on managing the
The Quantico Panel
Eisenhower's chief advisor for psychological warfare,
Nelson Rockefeller, had far different ideas.
He had succeeded C.D. Jackson in November, 1954. As his biographer, Cary Reich, puts it,
“Rockefeller was as much of a true believer in the Jackson creed as Jackson himself." He was eager to promote as many brash, even
outrageous, ideas as possible for psychological warfare. In May, Jackson
wrote to Rockefeller: “Something is
happening inside the Soviet Union.… The best way to turn this to our advantage
is…to crowd them and take over.” He
suggested that Robert Bowie, Stassen, “and maybe one or two other guys should
go away somewhere for two or three days and dream up some screwy ones.”
Rockefeller then urged his Planning Coordination Group
to “make a contribution to the Four Power Conference, specifically from the
standpoint of how we could exploit Soviet vulnerabilities at the
conference.” To that end, he would have
his staff meet with a number of “outside consultants” at the Marine base at Quantico, Virginia. Eisenhower told Dulles he supported
Rockefeller's efforts “to create disaffection behind the Iron Curtain, etc.”
On June 5th Rockefeller and Walt Rostow
(the panel’s chairman) opened the Quantico
meeting with a disingenuous claim that it was unrelated to the Geneva summit. But the assembled experts understood the
subterfuge: “We all know our shorthand
pretty well,” Jackson
later said. They used that “shorthand”
to reinforce their shared view that the Geneva
summit could, and should, be a useful a new arena for waging cold war.
Army intelligence expert Ellis Johnson crystallized
the group’s thinking. The Soviets needed
only three to five years to achieve nuclear parity, he argued. The cold war would soon be a “struggle for U.S. survival.…At some unknown time in the
future the military technical dynamics will favor the Soviet
Union enough so that she can destroy us with relative
impunity.” Knowing this, the Soviets had
embarked on a “peace offensive” that was, in Rostow’s words, “merely a clever
playing for time.”
Jackson explained the group’s view to his former aide,
Abbott Washburn: “This is not the moment
to ease the competition in order to give them the only really priceless element
that they must have for their survival – time.…They are in the jam that they
are in because of the competition – military, economic, and occasionally
political – that we set up.” Then he
penned an extremely revealing sentence:
“But when we originally set it up, we thought of it exclusively as
defense – we didn’t realize that it was going to be the kind of competition
that would drive them to the point at which they are today.” The two premises of present Soviet weakness
and future Soviet parity led logically to the report's conclusion: the U.S. effort no longer had to be
strictly defensive. It should press the
Soviets "with heavy demands for major concessions…to exploit to the hilt
this perhaps transitory position of Soviet political vulnerability.” As Jackson
wrote: “Making the competition tougher will deepen their vulnerability”
during this brief period of their weakness, “when they dare not resort to
war.” And if it did push them to war,
“our chances of decisive military victory are at a maximum.”
Jackson and the Quantico
panelists were deeply committed to avoiding war and “prepared to live with the
Cold War indefinitely.” What they wanted
most, however, was to defeat the Soviet Union. Reporting back to Rockefeller, Rostow
enthused that “the cold war can be won within the next ten years” if the U.S. would
accelerate the arms race enough to “make the enemy break his back in the effort
to stay in the race.” With communist
economies stretched to the limit, “give it not more and probably less than five
further years for straining at great internal cost in food, light industry,
housing, transport, etc.,” and their end would come. Moreover, an open inspection system would
dissolve the Iron Curtain, bringing “the foreseeable end of Russian Communism”
(and a “radical change” in Peking as
well). In the same ebullient tone Jackson wrote Luce what he
called a “Smell-of-Victory” memo: “I
see, for the first time, how we can achieve victory with peace.…What we have
never glimpsed before is the outline of their death.” To Jackson,
“victory with peace” meant “the disintegration of the Communist
conspiracy.” “It can happen within ten
years,” he argued, if U.S.
taxpayers would spend another five to ten billion dollars a year on the
The official report of the panel made the same point
in more circumspect language: “The U.S.
can win an ideological-political-economic cold war if the Soviet
Union cannot support subversion with military force.” To achieve
“victory with peace,” the report proposed that the U.S.
should propose reductions in military force on both sides to “a level low
enough so that the feasibility of surprise conquest…is drastically reduced.”
Their goal was only to avoid an attack that would scotch plans for U.S. victory,
and they assumed that the Soviets would know it. When the Kremlin rejected the plan, “as we
expected it would…it will be time to say to the American people that at the
highest level we found no serious intent to end the arms race; and that the protection
of our society requires a higher level of effort or sacrifice.…Upon rejection
of this plan, the U.S. [should] make every effort to win the technological
armaments race as the safest way of forcing the Soviet Union to ultimately
accept satisfactory arms convention.” A
“satisfactory” convention would award “substantial numerical superiority to
US-NATO-SEATO,” which the Soviets would accept only under sufficient duress.”
Whatever disarmament plan the U.S. proposed,
it should provide for a secure system of inspection, the report insisted. Several such systems should be tried out,
“including aerial supervision.” The
report included a proposal for “a convention insuring the right of aircraft of
any nationality to fly freely over the territory of any country for peaceful
purposes.” It agreed with Stassen’s
group in calling for an agreement on inspection “without, in the first
instance, any provisions for arms limitations.”
Stassen was promoting aerial inspection because it
would give the U.S.
a plausible claim to be seeking disarmament and because it would offer
protection against surprise attack.
Dulles liked it because it was a way to win the battle for world opinion
without entering into real disarmament negotiations. Both saw it as a tool and symbol of
apocalypse management, a way to keep the wall of containment firm. The Quantico
panel viewed, on the other hand, saw inspection as a tool and a symbol of U.S. victory in
the impending apocalyptic battle.
Rockefeller’s final report to the president emphasized the point: Negotiations now, if accompanied by
continuing buildup of “free world” strength, “could create the conditions for
victory in the cold war.” Jackson, too, told
Eisenhower, “For the first time victory and peace are both beginning to get
into focus.” To Dulles he wrote: “This summer may indeed be the Summer of
Decision, because for the first time we can begin to see the outlines of
victory with peace.” 
Eisenhower and Dulles must have known, or at least
suspected, that the panel was charting a strategy for Geneva.
But the written record shows no explicit discussion of these matters
until just a few weeks before the summit.
How, then, did Eisenhower stand on the issues of inspection,
disarmament, and cold war strategy?
Eisenhower And The Arms
Until the days immediately before the summit, the
president showed no urgency about developing a U.S. disarmament proposal to take
to the meeting. When the NSC discussed Stassen’s disarmament
proposal, the president focused on the most crucial innovation: “There was little chance of eliminating the
danger we faced through attempting to reach agreement on the elimination or ban
on the use of nuclear and thermonuclear weapons.” In fact, this meeting signaled a tacit
agreement that the U.S. had, as Stephen Ambrose says, “quietly dropped as its
goal the elimination of nuclear weapons from earth, and instead committed
itself to the more modest aim of arms control” by small incremental steps. A technical argument was decisive here: Nuclear weapons were now so small and plentiful
that no agreement for total abolition could ever be adequately policed. By focusing on small initial steps, the U.S. could
maintain a steady stream of pro-disarmament words, yet turn world attention
away from the subject of nuclear abolition.
The president also appreciated Lodge's praise for the
Stassen plan: “The great advantage [is]
that if the Russians agree to it, we will then have inspectors in the Soviet Union whose presence…should make it impossible for
a surprise attack to be made on us.” If the Russians refused the inspection
proposal, Lodge added, it would give the U.S. justification for further
military measures as “self-defense.” In
any event, the U.S.
had to propose something quickly, for propaganda purposes.
Meanwhile, plans for fighting and winning a nuclear
war proceeded apace. In February,
Eisenhower had received a study of the danger of surprise attack from a panel
headed by MIT president James R. Killian.
Within a decade, it predicted, both superpowers would be able to destroy
each other. Excellent intelligence and a
variety of ballistic missiles were the key to defending against such a “world
catastrophe.” Yet the president was not
sure any preparations could help prevent catastrophe. Editing a letter to Wilson, he found the sentence, “The United States has reason, for first time
in its history, to be deeply concerned over the serious effects which a sudden
attack could conceivably inflict upon our country, if we were inadequately
prepared.” He deleted the last five words.
However, the new situation did not spur Eisenhower to
question the arms race. In early March,
he told Dulles that he “felt strongly that we must get the acceptance of the
use of atomic missiles as conventional.”
At the same time, he urged the NSC to approve an
unannounced simulated attack. “Encouraging those who could not evacuate to take
shelter in basements, cellars, etc.” would help to discipline the public, he
explained. June 15 was the starting date for the largest
Civil Defense exercise yet. The
president had once said that if more than 25 or 30 cities were destroyed, there
was no point in any postwar planning.
Now, informed that 53 cities had been “destroyed or badly damaged,” with
“great fallout all over the country,” he retreated to a secret hiding place
beneath the Appalachian Mountains where he
told the NSC: “Our great objective here
is (a) to avert disaster, and (b) to win the war.” The next day he told his cabinet (meeting
underground) that, although “all the ordinary processes by which we run this
country simply will not work…our great fundamental problem will be how to
mobilize what is left of 165 million people and win a war.…He was coming more
and more to the conclusion that, under the circumstances of chaos assumed in
Operation Alert, we would have to run this country as one big camp—severely
regimented.” When “Dr. Flemming pointed
out that the problem was: What would
happen to the credit structure of the country?” the president took the question
To the NSC, he raised another concern just as
The President, referring to the wartime problem of
assuring the continuity of essential functions, expressed the view that the
Vice President should never be allowed within ten miles of the President during
wartime. He noted that if the President
and the Vice President were “knocked off,” the “damnable” law of succession
would result in the Speaker of the House (or, in the event of his death, the
Speaker [sic] Pro Tempore of the Senate) succeeding to the presidency. The President observed that this would result
in “the other team” getting into office and, to assure against that happening,
the President thought the Vice President should be put in cotton batting.
As he traveled to Geneva ostensibly to seek peace,
Eisenhower was still denying the unique novelty of the hydrogen bomb, still
pressing it and its unprecedented effects into familiar patterns of
discourse: Civilization was in danger of
collapse, but it was perfectly sensible, indeed imperative, to plan for its
resurrection—as long as civilization was under U.S. control.
The president continued to believe that the best way
to maintain U.S.
control was to launch an effective counter-attack, and the sooner the
better. Although this was rarely discussed
openly, even for the secret record, planning for it proceeded. In early April, the NSC had promulgated an
official policy on “Possible Hostile Soviet Actions,” which gave the president
some guidance on when to launch a preemptive strike. He assumed he would have the time to do
it: “He would think it odd if we receive
no warning at all, mentioning that our Air Force was unable to effect attacks
with complete surprise during WW II.”
As he approached the summit meeting, then, Eisenhower
still insisted that the security of the “free world” required a growing nuclear
arsenal. He was planning not only to
survive, but to win, World War III. But
these plans would work only if the U.S. could somehow avert or fend
off the most crippling initial effects of a surprise attack. So Eisenhower continued to prepare for a
surprise attack, to seek the best possible intelligence information, and to
plan to strike first if he thought a Soviet attack was imminent.
He also continued to urge his allies to accept a nuclearized
NATO that included Germany, while
to embrace membership in a nuclearized NATO.
Unfortunately for Eisenhower, his own military planners seemed to be
making that task harder. Just a week
after Operation Alert came Operation Carte Blanche, NATO’s largest war game to
date in Europe. The simulated full-scale war, assuming that
each superpower had 200 atomic bombs, resulted in an estimated 1.7 million
Germans killed and 3.5 million wounded. Now the allies knew, more concretely than ever,
just what the U.S.
was asking of them. And Eisenhower knew,
more clearly than ever, that the weapons he relied on might undo the
alliance. To hold together the
contradictory elements of his grand strategy, he had to take the risk of going
to the summit.
Eisenhower And The Quantico Panel
Eisenhower’s worry about the allies was heightened by
his changing views on the nature of the cold war. On June 30, he told the NSC that the Russians
still aimed at “world revolution and Communist domination.” But they were not willing to risk war, nor
could they afford the great expense of the arms race. Now that they had achieved “a stalemate in
the military field,” they were pursuing world domination by non-military means. “If the United States rejects this attitude
and seems to prefer a military solution, it would lose the support of the
world.” This only underscored the premise of NSC
162/2 and 5501: U.S. policies imposed upon limits
upon the administration's own freedom of
action. Containment—the static balance
of military stalemate, preventing any movement on the other side—was the best
to hope for.
JCS chief Admiral Arthur Radford disagreed, arguing
forcefully that the U.S.
should leverage its military advantage to gain “important political settlements
and agreements…a major change in the attitudes and policies of the Soviet
Union,” with no compromise from the U.S. The danger of surprise attack “had been
somewhat overemphasized,” he contended.
The Soviets, in a weakened state, might now be forced to accept “an
adequate system of supervision and inspection in an armaments limitation
agreement.” With “considerable warmth,”
Eisenhower responded that “so far as he could see, Radford believed that the United States
should proceed as at present in the arms race despite the fact that this was a
mounting spiral towards war.… He was at a loss to grasp what political
agreement with the Soviet Union could lead to
the adoption of an acceptable inspection system which was not already capable
of being inserted in the agreement.”
This exchange reflected a serious difference of views
about inspection. The forces aligned
with Radford and Rockefeller wanted inspection only as a step toward an
aggressive policy of cold war victory.
They knew that the Soviets would not achieve an actual military
stalemate for at least five years. But
the president was already adopting the defensive stance the future would
require. His greatest concern was preventing
the most threatening kind of movement from the other side—a Soviet surprise
attack. Above all, he desperately wanted
a chance to see the military preparations inside the Soviet
Union: “We have got to find
out what these Soviet villains will do to find out what could be achieved by
way of an acceptable inspection system.”
So he wanted a political agreement of any kind mainly as a step toward
inspection. He wanted the NSC to “consider what kind of a [inspection] system
we think would work and modify our plan to conform to such a system of
inspection.” If a direct agreement on inspection could be
reached, he proclaimed, no other agreements would be needed.
At the very end of the meeting Vice-President Nixon,
making his first contribution to the discussion, commented that the most
important thing was “the formulation of an inspection system which offered the
hope of penetrating the Iron Curtain.
This would also be the best propaganda position for the United States.” Nixon’s remark echoed the views of Eisenhower
and Stassen, calling for a plan that would protect the U.S. against
perceived threats of impending disaster.
The upshot of the meeting was a presidential directive to Stassen to
modify his proposal, so that it included a method of reciprocal inspection that
was feasible and acceptable to the U.S. The inspection method should drive the plan,
not vice versa. The president asked
Stassen to be available in Paris during the
summit, “for quick consultation at Geneva,”
along with Undersecretary of Defense Robert Anderson and JCS chief Radford.
On July 7, the NSC finalized NSC 5524/1, “Basic U.S.
Policy in Relation to Four-Power Negotiations.” Its stated goal was to promote U.S. interests and “the over-all U.S. security position” by deterring
communist aggression, strengthening the “free world” alliance, and preventing total
war “as far as compatible with U.S.
security.” “Supplementing” these goals,
should also try to break up communist alliances and get communist nations to
change their policies. So the summit
meeting would be, above all, another tool for apocalypse management.
NSC 5524/1 reflected the administration's uncertainty
about how to pursue its goal. “Not all
elements of strength in [the U.S.]
position vis-a-vis the Soviet Bloc are static,” it acknowledged. Building up one kind of strength might entail
weakening another area. But neither the
text nor the NSC discussion of it showed any hint of compromise or any significant
interest in disarmament from the U.S. side. The U.S.
would negotiate with the Soviets only when “it clearly appears that U.S.
security interests will be served.”
NSC 5524/1 recognized the problem that U.S.
intransigence created: European fears of
war and “popular pressure for a reduction of tension…[could] give rise to
frictions between the U.S.
and its allies." Eisenhower told
the NSC “this was perhaps the most important paragraph in the whole
paper.” At a State Department briefing,
he said his “only thought” about the summit was “one thing that disturbs me
greatly…Ever since 1945 hostile propaganda has made us appear as a militaristic
and materialistic people.…We are thought of as worshipers of might, people with
no culture and no real longing for peace.”
He wanted to “prove to the world…that we are truly a peace loving
nation…almost pacifistic.” He wanted to
turn the public’s nuclear fear into fear of communist aggression, in order to
ward off a public perception of him and his nation that might weaken the “free
world” alliance. He was still intent not
on attack, but on defense.
Dulles confided to C. D. Jackson: “We have come such a long way by being firm,
occasionally disagreeably firm, that I would hate to see the whole edifice
undermined in response to a smile” from the affable president. This remark is often cited to demonstrate a
basic divergence between the president and the secretary of state. But Jackson himself saw little divergence,
and with good reason. Eisenhower fully
agreed with Dulles that serious disarmament negotiations would enhance the
Soviets’ respectability and thus endanger the Western alliance.
Meanwhile, Rockefeller was lobbying the president even
harder to offer a vaguely worded inspection plan “without any arms limitations
provisions.” In his memos to the
president, Rockefeller detached the idea from the Quantico vision of a final push to win the
cold war. Instead, he argued that
inspection would seize the psychological advantage, give the U.S. valuable
information, show the Soviets the full extent of “our greater war potential,”
and force a difficult decision upon the Soviet leaders. Eisenhower was drawn to these arguments and
especially to Rockefeller’s punch line:
If the Soviets, not the U.S.,
offered a big new proposal, it would spark “excessive French and British
conciliatoriness.” The president was
unlikely to embrace the goals of Rockefeller and the Quantico panel. But he was just as committed as they were to
for cold war advantage. He simply
defined the nature of that advantage in different ways. One sign of Rockefeller's growing influence
was that Eisenhower invited him to join the standby delegation in Paris.
The Summit And Public Rhetoric
Changes in the world situation brought corresponding
changes in Eisenhower's public language.
Some of his words still spoke of great peril (“The unprecedented crises
of these days … are a recurrent international diet”) and the need for rational,
self-controlled fear. By late spring,
though, this theme was muted. With the
Formosa Straits crisis over and so much apparent movement toward peace, open
talk of using nuclear weapons like bullets would no longer do. Through the spring and early summer,
therefore, Eisenhower spoke mainly about “the fixed, unwavering objective” of U.S.
policy: “a just, prosperous, enduring
peace.” The approaching Big Four meeting
had to be depicted as a great opportunity.
Yet it also presented a great problem. No president had met Soviet leaders in a
decade; the controversy over the Yalta
agreements still made headlines. So
Eisenhower had to refute any suspicion of appeasement. He and his speechwriters solved the problem
by framing the summit firmly within the prevailing tenets of cold war
discourse. If peace required a more
vigorous struggle and a more solid wall of containment, there could be little
fear of appeasement. The more time he
spent pursuing peace, even if face-to-face with the Russians, the more
effectively he would be waging cold war.
When he spoke of “co-operative partnership among the nations,” he
quickly qualified it to mean “friendly nations” and added that his chief
foreign policy goal was “the strongest possible coalition among free nations.”
Eisenhower insisted publicly that peace still required
a barrier of non-communist European nations to the Soviets’ west, paralleling
the Pacific island barrier to China’s
east. (He might accept a neutral central
Europe, he said, but only if those nations
were armed neutrals, able to fight for their own freedom.) By now, though, he could take it for granted,
publicly as well as privately, that the U.S. would not fight to free those
nations: “You are certainly not going to
declare war, are you? So there instantly
you fix for yourself limitations on how far we, as a people, will go in
accomplishing this thing.” Words would
have to be the principal U.S.
weapons. This meant a further conflation
of war, peace, and victory, as the president now openly acknowledged: “If we are going to win this war for peace,
let’s stop talking about cold war. We
are trying to wage a war for peace.”
The seeming contradiction of a “war for peace” was resolved
in his principal theme: the United
States was fighting only to gain peace. “Americans everywhere are the same,” he
proclaimed, “in their longing for peace…All of us want the institutions of America
preserved.” And when Americans serve
their own interests they were also serving the good of the whole world, since
their values were universal values. He
told the United Nations (in what he termed an “authoritative statement of what
we are trying to do”) that the values underlying American institutions could
fulfill “man’s ancient dream” because they were universal and sacred—the
“divinely bestowed” values that made man a “spiritual being…above the beasts of
the field.” These “munitions of peace”
were the only possible basis for a successful summit meeting. There could be no enduring peace “until the
spiritual aspirations of mankind for liberty and opportunity and growth are
recognized as prior to and paramount to the material appetites which Communism
Yet when he spoke of opportunity and growth he often
referred to material appetites, too. He
allowed no difference between attaining peace and protecting the American
institution of free-market capitalism.
“All mankind possesses…a like demand for economic advancement. The divisions between us are artificial and
transient. Our common humanity is
God-made and enduring.” Lower tariffs
and expanded international trade were the route to world prosperity and thus
the crucial “step on the road to
universal peace.” “We cannot have
prosperity without peace. And there can
be no peace unless we are prosperous.”
Therefore, the U.S.
intended to help other nations “achieve and maintain the values that we see in
The president identified the U.S. cause, not
with specific religious claims, but with the very idea that there is some
universal religious truth. Thus he made
that idea—which most people are loathe to abandon, even if they despair of
defining the universal truth—a part of the “free world” arsenal, a
justification for and spur to the anticommunist crusade. Surely, he implied, the very existence of
religious truth was worth fighting for.
Yet he consistently advised that the fulfillment of American ideals
would be a long time coming. Until then,
the world would have to settle for the vagaries of apocalypse management, with
its delicate discursive balance of war and peace.
The effort to maintain that balance must have cost the
president an emotional price. In an
unguarded moment, at a press conference on the 10th anniversary of
VE day, he burst out: “I wish that in
this cold war we could now get some victory that would make us feel as good as
we did that day of May 1945.” C.D.
Jackson suggested a link between Eisenhower's emotion and his policy when he
told Rostow that, at the White House, “the policy of ‘pressure brings the
payoff’ continues to be the order of the day.”
Drama At Paris And Geneva
Since Eisenhower viewed the summit meeting largely as
a public relations exercise, he gave special attention to the speech he would
give as he departed for Geneva.
His drafts vacillated between rhetorical toughness, to appease the
domestic right, and a more pacific tone for the allies. The final version tried to strike a perfect
balance. The president complained sharply about
“captive states,” the threat of “subversion,” and the danger of war. Yet he promised that he and Dulles would be
“conciliatory” and “try to see the other fellow’s viewpoint.” If the conference were conducted in this
spirit, he said, it would be the greatest step toward peace, prosperity and
tranquility in the history of mankind.
This peace required belief in “a divine power…a
supreme being”—precisely what communism did not allow, he clearly implied. If “165 million of us” all went to pray on
“the next sabbath day,” it would demonstrate “to all the world the sincerity
and depth of our aspirations for peace.” He intended his call for prayer to give each
American something concrete to do, to dramatize the powerful U.S. desire for peace, to prove that the U.S. cause was righteous and that U.S. values
were the universally true path to peace.
Eisenhower flew to Geneva on July 16 with overwhelming domestic
support. But he had not yet indicated
(and perhaps had not decided) what he would say at the conference table. Several of his advisors were still working
hard to influence those choices. The
most important, as it turned out, were those standing by in Paris.
There Stefan Possony, the Pentagon representative on the OCB, explained
the Quantico approach to Radford, who quickly
realized that aerial inspection would give the U.S. “a decided intelligence
advantage.” “You’re trying to open up
the Soviet Union,” Radford exclaimed. He expected the Soviets to realize this too
and turn down the plan, giving the U.S. a propaganda victory. Possony and Kintner spent much of the night
drafting a “Presidential Statement on Disarmament” that included an “open
skies” plan. Rockefeller sent this draft
to Eisenhower's trusted aide, Andrew Goodpaster, arguing that it was a fine
“psychological strategy” that would promote allied unity. Radford and Undersecretary of Defense
Anderson urged on Dulles that an “open skies” proposal would create a positive
image and test Soviet intentions.
The president had arrived in Geneva already thinking about aerial
inspection. At his first meeting with
British prime minister Eden and French prime minister Edgar Faure, he suggested
that a plan for inspecting nuclear weapon delivery systems could create “a
great area of confidence.” He knew that
this was what the French wanted to hear.
Moreover, if those systems were all under observation, “What would be
left to a potential aggressor[?] His
capability for surprise would be severely limited.”
Eisenhower still expressed hesitation about proposing
any specific disarmament plan, because he could not trust the Soviets to
“behave like the civilized nations."
Without a guarantee of the enemy’s civilized behavior, he “did not want
to see us commit ourselves to any specific organization or method” on
disarmament. This was the official U.S. policy, as national security advisor Dillon
Anderson understood it: “We would be
prepared to explore mutually acceptable inspection systems, but not to agree at
Geneva to a
particular plan.” For the U.S., the crucial topic was Germany. Dulles told Eisenhower that if the Soviets
would not agree to a unified Germany,
understanding that it would be a U.S. ally, “our conference here
will, I think, be a failure.” Eisenhower
explained to Eden and Faure, "There was no possibility of having 80
million hard-working people in the center of Europe
as neutrals. It simply could not be
done. He did not feel we could accept
this for intelligent discussion."
The Soviets likewise refused to accept the U.S. view as a matter for
By the 19th, there seemed nothing else to
talk about. This was the opening the Paris contingent had
hoped for. After hurried consultations,
they were invited to Geneva.
“A No-Risk Proposition”
At 6 PM on July 20th, Eisenhower met with his top
aides. They were given copies of a
speech draft written by Stassen, in which the U.S. would propose “trial
inspection of units of our armed forces…test aerial photographic inspection.” The sketchy records of the meeting give the
impression that it was called to ratify
a decision that had (as Eisenhower later acknowledged) already been made. The president began by announcing himself
“entirely in agreement” with Stassen’s draft and its stress on “effective
inspection.” Its “great value” was
promoting confidence “as to just what military forces and installations existed
in the other countries.” Overflights
“would undoubtedly benefit us more than the Russians because we knew very little
about their installations,” while they knew the location of “virtually all our
Dulles could endorse the proposal because it was
presented as a no-risk proposition with obvious propaganda value. It might “have a spectacular appearance,” he
cabled the State Department, “which will perhaps deprive the Soviet
Union of their propaganda advantage in slogan ‘ban the
bomb.’” And it could “allay fear of
surprise attack.…Military advisors agree that we would gain more information
than would Soviets.”
"Open Skies" had now become a symbol of a
lowest-common-denominator consensus within the administration. Eisenhower was careful not to exclude or
contradict anyone’s views. All agreed
that there would be no serious effort to promote disarmament. Beyond that, the differences among them would
be temporarily ignored.
The speech that Eisenhower made at the Geneva summit continued
the trajectory traced by “The Chance for Peace” and “Atoms for Peace.” The U.S. still wanted to “ease the
fears of war in the anxious hearts of people everywhere,” he proclaimed. The enemy was not the Soviet
Union or communism, but fear and poverty. The U.S.
and the Soviet Union were both sources of the
problems, “because our two great countries admittedly possess new and terrible
weapons.” And the Soviets were again
invited—now face-to-face—to join with the U.S. in a common effort to solve
those problems. The stance and style seemed more conciliatory
than ever. Confrontive and dualistic
language had nearly vanished—but not entirely.
The text blamed the Soviets for forcing the U.S. to “maintain and if necessary
increase” its military strength, “for as long a period as is necessary to
safeguard peace and to maintain our security.”
desired disarmament, but “agreements without adequate reciprocal inspection
increase the dangers of war.” Only
“sound and reliable” mutual inspection could avert war.
The speech thus began by setting forth three
dualisms: communist expansionism versus
“free world” security; war versus peace; open, honest inspection versus secrecy
and cheating. Between the lines,
Eisenhower's private view was clearly expressed: peace depended on inspection because the
Soviet leaders were willing to lie and cheat to expand their power. Only the U.S., which was inherently honest,
could present a trustworthy inspection plan that would lead toward peace. The president then posed the major question
he would ask of any inspection plan:
whether it provided “certainty against surprise aggression.” Again, the argument was implicit but clear: Fears of war were essentially fears of
surprise attack. Only the Soviets were
capable of launching such a dastardly attack.
"Open Skies" became a symbol of the need to see through and
forestall communist duplicity in order to prevent catastrophe. Peace meant preventing war, communist
expansion, and weakening of the “free world” alliance simultaneously.
At this point, Eisenhower looked up from his printed
text. Seeming to speak extemporaneously, he voiced
his desire to “convince everyone of the great sincerity of the United States.” Mutual aerial photography would “convince the
world that we are providing as between ourselves against the possibility of
great surprise attack, thus lessening danger and relaxing tension.” He then proposed that the two superpowers
“give each other a complete blueprint of our military establishments, from
beginning to end, from one end of our countries to the other.” (He probably meant an exchange of maps
showing the locations of military installations, not architectural blueprints
of each installation.)
The call for aerial overflights and exchange of
blueprints “very quickly -- as between ourselves, immediately,” was almost a
contradiction of Stassen’s text, which proposed only a trial period to study
and experiment with different modes of inspection. Yet the contradiction reflected the truth
that the U.S.
was in a rush to get its particular proposal adopted, but in no rush to proceed
to comprehensive disarmament.
Eisenhower closed with a brief, eloquent peroration
written at the last minute by Stassen, who drew his words directly from the Quantico panel’s
report. The president, probably not
recognizing the source text, followed it fairly closely. “Practical progress to lasting peace” could
not come at the cost of any weakening of national security. For the Quantico
panelists, “practical and “lasting” were code words for a peace achieved
through Soviet concessions. The U.S. stood for
values it held to be universal: “a sound
peace, with security, justice, wellbeing, and freedom for the people of the
world.” These, too, were code words
denoting the “free world” side in the great global confrontation. As Robert Dallek says, Eisenhower used the
“Open Skies” proposal as symbol of U.S.
moral superiority, a way "to insist that the Soviets become more like the United States." By the overall logic of the speech, no
reasonable person who wanted peace could reach any other conclusion.
“Open Skies” In Retrospect
Reporting from Geneva
for the New Yorker, Richard Rovere
found that most of the Americans there saw “Open Skies” as “only a gimmick, and
there was a good deal of hilarity on the subject of Batten, Barton, Durstine
& Osborn’s intervention in world affairs.”
Few could understand why foreigners were hailing the speech as “a master
stroke.” But, Rovere concluded archly,
most agreed that “if all the world thinks it’s wonderful, then wonderful it
is.” Rovere credited the public relations
triumph to Eisenhower's “absolutely unique ability to convince people that he
has no talent for duplicity.”
But was it just a slick advertising gimmick? Or was it meant as a proposal for serious
diplomatic discussion? Goodpaster, who
was as close to Eisenhower as anyone, insisted that the president had felt
there was “at least a chance” that the Russians might accept the plan. After he left the White House, Eisenhower
himself later claimed that psychological warfare was “one part of it, but he
also had thought there was a possibility they might accept it.”
Yet in 1960 he told the NSC: “We thought that they would probably not
accept it because they have good maps of the United States and we have nothing
comparable.” Similarly, he told an
interviewer: “We knew the Soviets
wouldn’t accept it. We were sure of
that.” Radford, who spent several hours
with the president as the proposal was being finalized, confirmed this: “We were pretty sure they wouldn’t take
it.” Robert Matteson, interviewing Rockefeller,
got “the impression he believed ‘Open Skies’ more a propaganda move than an
offer he expected the Soviet Union might accept.” Robert Bowie, too, called it “a clever ploy
but never in the least negotiable.”
Even if administration officials expected the proposal
to be rejected, however, this hardly means that they wanted it rejected; the
evidence points in the opposite direction.
Eisenhower challenged Khruschev to take him up on his offer, and agreed
in return to accept the Soviets’ May 10 proposal. He seems to have been genuinely distressed
when Khrushchev bluntly rejected “Open Skies” because it “was nothing more than
a bald espionage plot against the USSR.” According to the president's secretary, Ann
Whitman, he made another last-minute effort to find Khrushchev and Bulganin,
perhaps to try to persuade them, only to discover that they had left Geneva.
Upon his return home, Eisenhower told the NSC that “we
should keep pushing the U.S.
proposal, even to the extent of accepting some of the Soviet inspection
proposals if necessary.” Dulles agreed
that "Open Skies" should not be treated as “a propaganda
stunt.…Although the proposal was dramatic, it was also a serious means of
initiating a program of disarmament.”
Yet he recommended that the Soviets be given no more than one month
before the U.S.
berated their rejection and reaped another propaganda harvest. As Kenneth Osgood rightly concludes, the
administration “designed a lop-sided proposal that everyone knew the Russians
would reject. When the proposal was
rejected, however, it was taken as proof of the insincerity of Soviet
intentions. This was not a true test of
Soviet intentions; it was a self-fulfilling prophecy.” If the administration could have achieved a
guarantee against surprise attack along with more solid support from the
allies, it would have perceived a definite easing of international
tensions. Then it might well have talked
seriously about arms reduction, as long as an agreement promoted U.S. aims and
Yet the “Open Skies” speech itself did mark a
significant innovation. It openly confessed
a growing U.S. sense of vulnerability to
nuclear weapons. Behind that lay the
continuing, unspoken sense of vulnerability to international opinion. To remedy both and make the U.S. less
vulnerable, Eisenhower employed an image of a nation admitting its
vulnerability and reaching out to its equally vulnerable enemy. He offered his enemy a partnership that would
eventually make each totally vulnerable to the eyes and cameras of the other. As usual, Eisenhower spoke in absolutes,
offering total vulnerability as the way to total invulnerability.
The language of absolutes made sense only if one
heard, between the lines, the threat of a surprise attack bringing the absolute
destruction of the U.S. The best way to avoid destruction—the best to
hope for, he had admitted to the NSC—was a stalemate in both the military and
non-military arenas. "Open
Skies" offered a vivid image of that stalemate. Thus it reaffirmed the goal first announced
in the “Chance” speech: an immutable
stasis guaranteed by a static rational balance.
Under the press of changed world circumstances, however, Eisenhower had
to propose this goal in the limited and symbolic language of a plan to render
the superpowers so vulnerable to each other that neither could gain any
Though Eisenhower was still grasping at the ideal of
absolute security, the "Open Skies" proposal actually acknowledged
that there was no absolute security.
Dulles reminded the president up to the last minute that the inspection
proposal presented a serious risk. But
he was overcome by Rockefeller's argument that not making it posed an even
greater risk. In order to forestall
serious disarmament negotiations, he had to commit the U.S. more
strongly to seeking disarmament. As with
the “Chance” and “Atoms” speeches, the appearance of a U.S. desire for compromise created more
pressures for the U.S.
to act upon it. "Open Skies,"
an effort to create discursive stability within the administration, created an
image of the global discursive stability that the president wanted so badly
wanted. But it could not turn the image
Notes to Chapter 8
Memorandum of Conversation, 3/7/55, John Foster Dulles Papers, White House
Memoranda Series, Box 2, “Meetings with the President 1955 (6). Eisenhower was especially worried that U.S. reliance on nuclear weapons would make
Soviet peace moves sound very appealing in Mexico. He told Dulles, “I probably have written you
more often on the subject of Mexico
than any other single matter”: 6/14/55,
AWF, DDE Diaries, Box
10, “DDE Diary June 1955 (1).”
With typical alarmism, he warned Congressional leaders: “If we would sit by and let Mexico go
Communistic, it would be one hell of a mess”:
Ferrell, The Diary of James C.
Hagerty, 219. The best survey of
growing world concern about nuclear weapons in 1955 is in Wittner, The Struggle Against the Bomb, 1-28,
See, e.g., Blacker, Reluctant Warriors,
79; Ambrose, Rise to Globalism,
151-153; Loth, The Division of the World,
299-301; Young, “The Geneva Conference of Foreign Ministers,” 290. Some historians still credit the change
largely to Eisenhower's supposed desire to avoid nuclear catastrophe by easing
cold war tensions; see, e.g., May, “Background:
The Early Cold War,” 34.
Bischof, “Eisenhower, the Summit,
and the Austrian Treaty,” 160;
Eisenhower Oral History, OH-14, 42. Kenneth Osgood suggests that Eisenhower
thought accepting Soviet proposals “would make the United States appear weak, raise
questions of appeasement, and add respectability to the Soviet regime”: Total
Cold War, 150. See also Parmet, Eisenhower
and the American Crusades, 402. For
a good summary of U.S.
attitudes toward a summit meeting in 1953 and 1954, see Bischof, “Eisenhower,
the Summit, and
the Austrian Treaty,” 143-147, 151-153.
Eisenhower to Churchill, 12/14/54, FRUS 1955-1957, 1952-1954, 5: 1499; Eisenhower Oral History,
OH-14. See also Eisenhower to Hazlett,
8/15/55, PDDE 16: 1821; Bipartisan Congressional Luncheon Meeting, 3/30/55,
AWF, Legislative Meetings Series, Box
1, “Legislative meetings 1955 (2) March – April.” Eisenhower also feared that a summit would
legitimize the present Soviet leaders, minimizing the power struggle in the
Kremlin: Ferrell, The Diary of James C. Hagerty, 187.
The promise of a summit was a major reward to the French for approving Germany’s
entry into NATO the Paris accords; see Bipartisan Legislative Meeting, 7/12/55,
AWF, Legislative Meetings Series, Box 2, “Legislative Meetings 1955 (4)” and
FRUS 1955-1957, 5: 306-309; Hoover to Embassy in UK, 2/1/55, FRUS 1955-1957, 5:
130-131; Achilles to State Department, 3/22/55, FRUS 1955-1957, 5: 134; NYT,
3/27/55, 1; NYT, 3/28/55, 1; NYT, 3/29/55, 1; draft (never sent) of Eisenhower
to Coty, 3/11/55, PDDE, 16: 1612 and 1614, n. 5.
Eden to Eisenhower, 5/6/55, FRUS 1955-1957, 5: 164; Eden
quoted in Pruessen, “Beyond the Cold War,” 64.
See also Robert E. Matteson, “1955—A Watershed Year in the History of
U.S. Disarmament Policy,” Nuclear History Project, Box 12, 149, 116, NSA; C. D.
Jackson Log, 7/11/55, in Rostow, Open
Skies, 162; MacMillan, Tides of
Eisenhower, Oral History, OH-14, 42-43; Hoover to Dulles, 5/9/55, FRUS
1955-1957, 5: 177, 178. See also
Memorandum of Conversation (with Senator George), 5/19/55; Memorandum of
Conversation, 5/20/55, John Foster Dulles Papers, White House Memoranda Series,
Box 3, “Meetings with the President 1955 (4)”; NSC, 5/19/55, FRUS 1955-1957, 5:
185; Hoover to Dulles, 5/8/55, FRUS 1955-1957, 5: 173; Ann C. Whitman Diary,
5/14/55, AWF, Ann Whitman Diary Series, Box 5, “ACW Diary May 1955 (4)”; Dulles
to MacMillan and Pinay, 5/23/55, AWF, International Meetings, Box 1, “Four
Power Meeting Mesages”; Dulles to MacMillan, 7/12/55, AWF, International Meetings,
Box 2, “Geneva Conference July 18-23,
1955 (1) [#2].” Dulles strongly agreed
with Eisenhower on this point: Dulles to
Eisenhower, 5/9/55, FRUS 1955-1957, 5: 174; Dulles to Eisenhower, 5/10/55, AWF,
Dulles-Herter Series, Box
5, “Dulles, John Foster,
NSC, 7/28/55, FRUS 1955-1957, 5: 535.
See also NSC, 5/19/55, FRUS 1955-1957, 5: 188. Occasionally Eisenhower voiced a hope that
“possibly a new attitude might be developed in the conduct of foreign
relations.” But he insisted that all the
changes would have to come from the other side.
And he doubted those changes would come: see Eisenhower to Hazlett,
8/15/55, PDDE, 16: 1821. Although he
rarely spoke of it, he was also concerned about how it would affect his
personal image. In an early June letter
to Swede Hazlett, he mentioned the summit only incidentally, in the context of
his preoccupation with whether to run for a second term: Eisenhower to Hazlett, 6/4/55, PDDE, 16:
Stassen and Houts, Eisenhower,
NSC, 5/19/55, FRUS 1955-1957, 19: 184.
After Stassen briefed Eisenhower's chief of staff, Sherman Adams, on his
work, Adams noted: “1. No reliance on good faith of any country;
2. Assume bad faith USSR & China.”:
Stassen, Staff Study Progress Report, 5/26/55, Nuclear History Project, Box 1, “1955,” NSA.
Stassen and Houts, Eisenhower,
295-96; NSC, 5/26/55, FRUS 1955-1957, 20: 110.
Dulles to Eisenhower, 6/18/55, FRUS 1955-1957, 5: 239; Memorandum, 6/29/55,
FRUS 1955-1957, 20: 141-142; Bundy, Danger
and Survival, 296. See also Dulles’
memorandum, 6/29/55, FRUS 1955-1957, 20: 140-142; Immerman, “‘Trust in the Lord
but Keep Your Powder Dry,’” 49; NSC, 6/30/55, FRUS 1955-1957, 20: 150; Dillon
Anderson to Dulles, 7/8/55, White House Office, OSANSA, Special Assistant
Series, Chronological Subseries, Box 1, “July 1955 (1).”
NSC, 5/19/55, FRUS 1955-1957, 5: 184; NSC, 5/19/55, AWF, NSC Series, Box 6,
“249th Meeting of the NSC, May 19, 1955.”
For further sources, see the discussion in Immerman, “‘Trust in the Lord
but Keep Your Powder Dry,’” 48-49.
Dulles also expressed fears that liberation of the Soviet satellite
states would create a “mixed area.” For
a different analysis of Dulles' views on liberation, see Pruessen, “Beyond the
Cold War,” 70.
Dulles to Hoover,
5/14/55, marked “seen by President 16 May 55,” AWF, Dulles-Herter Series, Box 5, “Dulles, John
Foster, May 1955”; NSC, 6/30/55, FRUS
1955-1957, 20: 150. See also Prados, “Open Skies and Closed Minds,” 219.
Reich, Rockefeller, 555, 562; C. D.
Jackson to Rockefeller, 5/20/55, C. D. Jackson Papers, Box 91, “Rockefeller,
Nelson A.” See also Jackson to Rockefeller, 1/13/55 and 2/16/55,
C.D. Jackson Papers, Box
91, “Rockefeller, Nelson
A.” Rockefeller, who was always trying
to gain more power in the executive branch, was also trying to outmaneuver
Stassen in bureaucratic infighting:
Reich, Rockefeller, 579. In Rockefeller’s office, Stassen was
sneeringly called “the Prince of Peace.”
T. B. Koons to D. Anderson, 5/24/55, and Anderson to Rockefeller, 5/24/55, both
in White Office, OSANSA, NSC Series, Briefing Notes, Box 8, “Four-Power Heads
of Government Meeting (1)”; Ann C. Whitman Diary, 5/24/55, AWF, Ann Whitman
Diary Series, Box 5, “ACW Diary, May 1955 (2)”; Telephone Call from the
President, 5/24/55, John Foster Dulles Papers, Telephone Calls Series, Box 10,
“Telephone Conversations - White House March 7, 1955 - August 29, 1955
(2).” To insure a warm reception,
Rockefeller was plying his boss with gifts—most notably the furnishings from
the room in which Eisenhower had planned the D-Day invasion, purchased at a
very high price: Eisenhower to
Rockefeller, 5/9/55, PDDE, 16: 1704; Reich, Rockefeller,
Jackson to Luce, 6/21/55, AWF, Administration
Series, Box 22, “Jackson, C.D. 1955 (1)”; Jackson,
From Quantico to Geneva, in Rostow, Open Skies, 121. Rostow
suggested a report that would contain “our proposals for the summit”: Rostow, Open
Skies, 28-30. See also Reich, Rockefeller, 583.
Rostow, Open Skies, 147-151; Appendix
D, A Proposal for Graduated Disarmament, 6/10/55, White House Office, National
Security Council Staff Papers, NSC Registry Series, 1947-1962, Box 17,
“Quantico Vulnerabilities Panel, Report of the (2)”; Rostow to Rockefeller,
6/17/55, in Rostow, Open Skies, 157.
Jackson to Washburn, 6/21/55, C. D. Jackson Papers,
Box 68, “Log – 1955 (1)”; Report of the Quantico
Vulnerabilities Panel, 6/10/55, FRUS 1955-1957, 5: 216 ff.; Jackson to Luce, 6/21/55, AWF, Administration
Series, Box 22, “Jackson, C.D. 1955 (1).” It is striking to read one of Eisenhower's
most trusted advisors writing quite straightforwardly in mid-1955 about
“military victory” over the Soviet Union. In the same year Eisenhower wrote of Jackson: “I miss him so”: undated note (in Eisenhower's handwriting),
C. D. Jackson Papers, Box
50, “Eisenhower, Dwight D. — Correspondence, 1955.”
Rostow to Rockefeller, 6/17/55, in Rostow, Open
Skies, 155-157; Jackson to Luce, 6/21/55,
AWF, Administration Series, Box 22, “Jackson, C.D. 1955 (1)”; Jackson,
From Quantico to Geneva,
in Rostow, Open Skies, 125; Jackson to Washburn,
6/21/55, C. D. Jackson Papers, Box
68, “Log – 1955 (1).” Jackson argued that the
public would willingly accept the needed tax increases for a few years if it
knew that it would avert future tax hikes because “the cold war need not go on
for fifty years.”
Report of the Quantico Vulnerabilities Panel, 6/10/55, FRUS 1955-1957, 5: 216
ff.; Appendix D, A Proposal for Graduated Disarmament, 6/10/55, White House
Office, National Security Council Staff Papers, NSC Registry Series, 1947-1962,
Box 17, “Quantico Vulnerabilities Panel, Report of the (2).”
C. D. Jackson, From Quantico to Geneva, in Rostow, Open Skies, 123, 122, 32. See also Reich, Rockefeller, 840. Max
Millikan, an MIT colleague of Rostow’s, first suggested the aerial inspection
idea at Quantico. He later told Jackson
that he had heard the idea discussed a year earlier in Cambridge.
In 1954, the CIA had already drafted a presidential speech that stressed
air as well as ground inspection as the key to disarmament: undated draft, Nuclear History Project, Box 1, NSA.
Rockefeller to Eisenhower, 6/13/55, AWF, Administration Series, Box 30,
“Rockefeller, Nelson A. 1952-1955 (4)”; Jackson
to Eisenhower, 6/13/55, and Jackson
to Dulles, 6/13/55, both in Rostow, Open
Skies, 166. Rockefeller also sent
Eisenhower Rostow's letter, laying out a vision of cold war victory, and Jackson sent Eisenhower a
copy of the “smell-of-victory” memo he wrote for Luce.
Perhaps Eisenhower was exercising what Fred Greenstein has called The Hidden-Hand Presidency. He was well aware that the issue of
inspection was enmeshed in serious bureaucratic in-fighting. Had he taken a clear stand early on, he would
have enhanced the power of one contender over the others. By remaining aloof, he allowed each contender
to develop its own thoughts and proposals fully. On the other hand, it is possible that he
simply had no well-formed opinions on or interest in the matter.
Ambrose, Eisenhower, 246.
Lodge to Eisenhower, 6/14/55, FRUS 1955-1957, 20: 116. Eisenhower sent Lodge’s memo to Stassen: Ann Whitman to Mildred Coleman, 6/15/55, AWF,
Administration Series, Box
34, “Stassen, Harold E. 1954-1955 (1).”
; Eisenhower to Charles
Wilson, undated draft, AWF, Drafts
Series, Box 2,
“Drafts January – March, 1955 (3).” See also
Hogan, A Cross Of Iron, 379,
383. ’s finding that the
hydrogen bomb made war more likely, because it put a premium on preemptive
surprise attack, , Before the study was completed, Killian and
inventor Edwin Land told Eisenhower they were already convinced that the U.S. needed a
better spy plane to provide early warning of any Soviet mobilization. The president readily agreed to fund the
U-2: Beschloss, Mayday, 79-83.
Memorandum, 3/7/55, John Foster Dulles Papers, White House Memoranda Series, Box 3, “Meetings
with the President 1955 (6)”; Memorandum of Conversation with the President,
3/7/55, John Foster Dulles Papers, White House Memoranda Series, Box 3, “Meetings with
the President 1955 (7).” The U.S. news media
were willing to help out in this effort.
When Time said that a
newly-tested 40-kiloton bomb “renders U.S. conventional [sic] forces more
powerful than those of any enemy,” it was a sign that, as Robert Divine has
written, “the hydrogen age had truly arrived”:
Blowing on the Wind, 46.
NSC, 3/3/55, AWF, NSC Series, Box 6, “239th Meeting of the NSC, March 3, 1955.” Eisenhower wanted simulated evacuations to
continue “until they became a regular part of our lives.” After reading plans for placing the nation
under martial law, giving the president power to “requisition all of the
nation’s resources–human and material,” he pronounced them “sound”: Flemming to Eisenhower, 4/7/55, AWF, DDE
Diaries Series, Box 10, “DDE Diary April 1955 (2)”; Eisenhower to Flemming,
4/7/55, PDDE, 16: 1665.
Ambrose, Eisenhower, 256; NSC,
1/28/54, AWF, NSC Series, Box 5, "182nd Meeting, 1/28/54"; NSC,
6/16/55, FRUS 1955-1957, 19: 89; AWF, Cabinet Series, Box 5, “Special Cabinet Meeting of June
NSC, 6/9/55, AWF, NSC Series, Box 7, “251st Meeting of NSC, June 9, 1955.” At an NSC meeting early in 1954, Eisenhower
and Secretary of the Treasury Humphrey had discussed how to print and sell war
bonds to finance the next war if Washington were destroyed: NSC, 1/28/54, AWF, NSC Series, Box 5,
"182nd Meeting, 1/28/54."
Study of NSC 5515/1, 4/1/55, FRUS 1955-1957, 19: 71-75 (see Trachtenberg, A Constructed Peace, 165, n.68); NSC,
6/16/55, FRUS 1955-1957, 19: 93.
See Trachtenberg, A Constructed Peace,
162 ff. The prospect of using nuclear
weapons against China
did not influence Eisenhower's overall views on nuclear war and nuclear
weapons. There is no documentary
evidence of any significant link between the administration's discussion of the
Formosa Straits crisis and its discussion of arms and disarmament policies.
Dockrill, Eisenhower's New-Look, 135.
NSC, 6/30/55, FRUS 1955-1957, 20: 145, 152.
Ibid., 149, 151, 153. Eisenhower said that if the Soviets rejected an
inspection proposal, he would send the U-2 spy plane into operation to get the
information he wanted: Beschloss, Mayday, 105; Prados, “Open Skies and
Closed Minds,” 222-224.
NSC, 6/30/55, FRUS 1955-1957, 20: 153; Dulles to Eisenhower, 6/28/55, AWF,
Dulles-Herter Series, Box 5, “Dulles, John Foster, June 1955”; Stassen and
Houts, Eisenhower, 321-23. See also Matteson, “1955—A Watershed Year in
the History of U.S. Disarmament Policy,” Nuclear History Project, Box 12, 33, NSA.
NSC 5524/1, 7/11/55, FRUS 1955-1957, 5: 287-290.
The NSC discussion is in FRUS 1955-1957, 5: 269-273. The president directed that the text should
note that “concrete Soviet deeds at Geneva” might indicate “a contrary state of
mind.…the struggle for power in the ruling group in the Kremlin had tended to
make for compromises.” He added that “we
were going to the Geneva Conference hoping to see if we could not penetrate the
veil of Soviet intentions.” He wrote to
Swede Hazlett, “Foster and I should be able to detect whether the Soviets
really intend to introduce a tactical change that could mean, for the next few
years at least, some real easing of tensions”:
Eisenhower to Hazlett, 6/4/55, PDDE, 16: 1729-1730 and AWF, Drafts
Series, Box 2, “Drafts Apr - Dec 55
(3).” See also Eisenhower, Mandate for Change, 607.
NSC 5524/1, 7/11/55, FRUS 1955-1957, 5: 290; NSC, 7/7/55, FRUS 1955-1957, 5:
272-73; State Department Briefing, 7/11/55, AWF, DDE Diaries Series, Box 11, “DDE Diary,
July 1955 (2).” See also Notes on a
Bipartisan Conference, 7/12/55, FRUS 1955-1957, 5: 306-9; NSC, 7/14/55, AWF,
NSC Series, Box 7, “225th meeting of NSC, July 14, 1955.” Eisenhower was alarmed by European public
opinion polls showing strong opposition to nuclear weapons and U.S. cold war
policies: Rockefeller to Eisenhower,
7/7/55, White House Office, OSANSA, NSC Series, Briefing Notes Subseries, Box
8, “Four Power Heads of Government meeting (1)”; “Latest Opinion Trends,”
7/1/55, WHCF, Confidential File, Subject Series, Box 29, “Geneva Conference
(Big Four Conference, July 1955) (3).”
State Department officials at the briefing seemed to think the president
was being unduly alarmist.
C. D. Jackson Log, 7/11/55, in Rostow, Open
Skies, 159-63; Jackson, From Quantico to Geneva,
in Rostow, Open Skies, 126. The day after Dulles talked with Jackson, he
and the president met with Congressional leaders; there was little difference
in the views expressed by the two:
Bipartisan Legislative Meeting, 7/12/55, AWF, Legislative Meetings
Series, Box 2,
“Legislative Meetings 1955 (4)”; Notes on a Bipartisan Conference, 7/12/55,
FRUS 1955-1957, 5: 306-9. See also
Pruessen “Beyond the Cold War,” 79.
Rockefeller to Eisenhower, 7/6/55, in Rostow, Open Skies, 133-35; Rockefeller to Eisenhower, 7/11/55, FRUS
1955-1957, 5: 300; Stassen and Houts, Eisenhower,
325; Reich, Rockefeller, 591. Eisenhower described the plan to Dulles: “We open up ours; they do likewise for
us.…[It] might open a tiny gate in the disarmament fence”: Telephone calls from the President, 7/6/55,
John Foster Dulles Papers, Telephone Calls Series, Box 10, “White House
Telephone Memoranda, March 7 - August 25, 1955 (1)”; diary entry, 7/6/55, AWF,
DDE Diaries Series, Box 9, “Phone calls - January-July 1955 (1).” The president knew that the U.S. was
committed to avoiding genuine disarmament negotiations. So the operative word was “tiny.” Fearing that he might be outflanked, Dulles
protested: “That was going to be his
suggestion.” Dulles had already endorsed
the idea in a conversation with Stassen:
Rostow, Open Skies, 46;
Memorandum of Conversation, 7/5/66, Nuclear History Project, Box 6, “1955 -
Disarmament – July,” NSA.
conference, 6/29/55, PPP, 1955, 648, 650; Press
conference, 5/18/55, PPP, 1955, 518 See also Press conference, 6/8/55, PPP, 1955,
Remarks at Vermont State Dairy Festival, 6/22/55, PPP, 1955, 618; ;
Address to United Nations, 6/20/55, PPP, 1955, 605-611; Message to Congress on
Mutual Security Program, 4/20/55, PPP, 1955, 413. Occasionally Eisenhower identified universal
truth with the Christian tradition: “Let
us meet in what we like to term the Christian spirit and reach an answer that
is for the good of all”: Remarks to AFL,
4/30/55, PPP, 1955, 444.
at Penn State University, 6/11/55, PPP, 1955, 600; Remarks at Skowhegan, Maine, 6/27/55, PPP,
1955, 636; In the latter speech, Eisenhower added,
perhaps paradoxically: “Everybody has
got to take these great principles [of private enterprise] and interpret them
in his own way.…Otherwise it would not be freedom.”
to Rostow, 6/25/55, C.D. Jackson
Papers, Box 91, “Rostow, Walt W., 1955 (2).”
Ann Whitman diary, 7/15/55, AWF, International Meetings Series, Box 1, “Geneva
Conference July 18-23, 1955 (4)”; Outline for Talk Friday Night, 7/13/55, AWF,
Speech Series, Box 13, “Departure for Geneva TV 7/15/55 (2)”; Draft, 7/15/55,
AWF, Speech Series, Box 13, “Departure for Geneva TV 7/15/55 (2).” In his notes, Eisenhower used the word spirit six times, equating universal
religious values with “American ideals, history and customs” as the source of
world hope, all being blocked by Soviet Union. Dulles also encouraged frequent use of the
word spirit: Secretary Dulles' verbal suggestion for
Friday TV, 7/13/55, John Foster Dulles Papers, Draft Presidential
Correspondence and Speeches Series, Box 1, “President's Opening Statement at
Radio and Television Address to the American People, 7/15/55, PPP, 1955, 701-5.
Eisenhower wrote the closing paragraph, with the promise to be “conciliatory,”
himself: Ann Whitman diary, 7/15/55, AWF,
International Meetings Series, Box
1, “Geneva Conference July 18-23, 1955 (4).”
Radio and Television Address to the American People, 7/15/55, PPP, 1955, 705; State
Department Briefing, 7/11/55, AWF, DDE Diaries Series, Box 11, “DDE Diary, July 1955 (2)”;
Memorandum, 7/11/55, AWF, International Meetings Series, Box 1, “Four Power
Meeting Messages.” See also NSC, 7/7/55,
FRUS 1955-1957, 5: 282; Eisenhower, Mandate
for Change, 607. Piers Brendon suggests
that, by linking religious language to an assurance that there would be no
appeasement, Eisenhower provided “a celestial guarantee that Geneva
would be no Yalta”: Ike,
There is no single authoritative record of what transpired in Paris.
This account draws on Parker, Memorandum, 7/18/55; Rockefeller to
Goodpaster, 7/19/55; Parker to Rostow, 6/12/81; Kintner to Rostow, 5/4/81;
Jackson, “Quantico to Geneva”; Presidential Statement on Disarmament, 7/19/55
(all in Rostow, Open Skies); Anderson
& Radford to Dulles, 7/19/55, FRUS 1955-1957, 5: 385-86; Memorandum by
Admiral Arthur W. Radford, 7/19/55, Nuclear History Project, Box 6, “1955 -
Disarmament – July,” NSA; Reich, Rockefeller, 598-599;
Matteson, “1955—A Watershed Year in the History of U.S. Disarmament Policy,”
Nuclear History Project, Box 12, 107, NSA.
Memorandum of Conversation, 7/17/55, FRUS 1955-1957, 5: 350. In another conversation at Geneva, Eisenhower acknowledged the same
goals to his wartime comrade, Soviet Marshal Zhukov. Eisenhower speculated that “if two hundred
H-bombs were exploded in a short period of time,” they might generate enough
fallout to destroy “possibly the whole northern hemisphere.” When Zhukov offered “total abolition of
weapons of this character” as the only solution, Eisenhower countered that this
would have to be done step by step, with an inspection system a necessary first
step: Memorandum of Conversation,
7/20/25, FRUS 1955-1957, 5: 412-413; Eisenhower, Mandate for Change, 626.
Memorandum of Conversation, 7/17/55, FRUS 1955-1957, 5: 359, 361; Memorandum of
Conversation, 7/20/55, FRUS 5: 401; Dulles to Eisenhower, 7/19/55, AWF,
International Meetings Series, Box 1, “Geneva
Conference July 18-23, 1955 (3)”;
Memorandum of Conversation, 7/17/55, FRUS 1955-1957, 5: 343.
Jackson, From Quantico to Geneva, in Rostow, Open Skies, 128; Goodpaster’s copy of draft, in White House Office,
Office of the Staff Secretary, International Trips and Meetins Series, Box 2,
“Geneva - Notes and Observations (1955).”
Rostow published two other, apparently earlier, versions of this
draft. One (109-111) omits the crucial
paragraph entirely. The other (140-143)
omits the crucial sentence about aerial photography. This led Rostow to state (105 n.) erroneously
that Stassen’s draft did not refer to aerial inspection. On Stassen’s role, see also Stassen and
Houts, Eisenhower, 326-332.
Eisenhower Oral History, OH-14, 43; Anderson
memorandum, 7/25/55, and Goodpaster memorandum, 7/21/55, both in Rostow, Open Skies, 104-8. See also Dockrill, Eisenhower's New-Look, 144.
Dulles to State, 7/21/55, FRUS 1955-1957, 5: 434. See Bundy, Danger
and Survival, 299. Stassen claims
that Dulles, editing his copy of the draft, “deleted the entire section” on
aerial inspection: Stassen and Houts, Eisenhower, 336. But on the draft Dulles edited, the crucial
paragraph merely has a box drawn around it, and the word “zones” written in the
margin: AWF, International Meetings
Series, Box 1, “Geneva Conference July 18-23 1955 [#1] (3).”
The text, Statement on Disarmament Presented at the Geneva Conference, 7/21/55,
is in PPP, 1956, 713-716.
Dulles and Goodpaster both later claimed that Eisenhower made the final
decision to offer the “Open Skies” proposal only at this moment during his
speech. The crucial portion of the text
was not in the reading copy. According
to Dulles, Eisenhower had memorized it:
Dulles to Sherman Adams, 4/13/56, John Foster Dulles Papers, White House
Memoranda Series, Box
4, “White House Correspondence, General 1956 (5)”; Andrew
Goodpaster, Oral History, OH 37 #3.
The draft that Stassen presented at 6 PM on the 20th said nothing about
blueprints. The idea apparently
originated with CIA agent Dino Brugioni.
Told of the “Open Skies” idea by Eisenhower's friend Lucian Truscott,
Brugioni exclaimed, “Hell, I’d want the blueprints”: Beschloss, Mayday, 99. Eisenhower may
have first heard the idea from Radford in Geneva. As Radford knew, in every exchange of
information about military capabilities the U.S. gained a net advantage; the
more information exchanged, the greater the advantage. See Stassen and Houts, Eisenhower, 334, 336; Matteson, “1955—A Watershed Year in the
History of U.S. Disarmament Policy,” Nuclear History Project, Box 12, 37, NSA;
Parker memo, 7/18/55, in Rostow, Open
Skies, 53; Joseph C. Harsch in Christian
Science Monitor, 7/22/55, 1.
Dallek, The American Style of Foreign
Rovere, Affairs of State, 290, 291. BBD&O was a major advertising agency with
great influence in administration; see Allen, Eisenhower and the Mass Media, index, s.v. “Batten, Barton,
Durstine & Osborn.” On “Open Skies”
as a propaganda victory, see, e.g., Gaddis, Strategies
of Containment, 193; Hogan,
“Eisenhower and Open Skies,” 149.
Beschloss, Mayday, 104; Eisenhower,
Oral History, OH-14, 43.
NSC, 2/18/60, FRUS 1958-1960, 3: 840; Matteson, “1955—A Watershed Year in the
History of U.S.
Disarmament Policy,” Nuclear History Project, Box 12, 84, 107, 126, NSA; Newhouse, War and Peace in the Nuclear Age,
115. See also Goodpaster Oral History,
OH 378, #3. Eisenhower told Matteson
that he had wanted an agreement that “would hurt neither side”: Matteson, “1955—A Watershed Year in the
History of U.S. Disarmament Policy,” Nuclear History Project, Box 12, 82,
NSA. The documentary evidence shows this
to be untrue.
NSC, 7/28/55, FRUS 1955-1957, 5: 533; Eisenhower, Mandate for Change, 621; Bipartisan Meeting, 7/25/55, AWF,
Legislative Meetings Series, Box
2, “Legislative Meetings 1955 (4).” The story recounted by Ann Whitman is
reported in two different versions: Beschloss,
Mayday, 104; Donovan, Confidential Secretary, 87. See also Stassen and Houts, Eisenhower, 340; Perret, Eisenhower, 527; Eisenhower’s notes on a
State Department cable in AWF, Administration Series, Box 35, “Stassen, Harold
E. 1956 (3).”
NSC, 8/4/55, AWF, NSC, Box
7, “257th meeting, August 5, 1955”; NSC, 7/28/55, FRUS
1955-1957, 5: 533, 532; Osgood, Total
Cold War, 161. See also Eisenhower, Mandate for Change, 630; Press
Conference, 8/4/55, PPP, 1955, 759.
Eisenhower told Alfred Gruenther that he hoped "Open Skies"
would eliminate “the danger of devastating surprise attack” and thus afford “a
truly realistic basis for studying disarmament”: Eisenhower to Alfred Gruenther, 7/25/55,
PDDE, 16: 1790-91. Yet Dulles boasted to
Congressional leaders that, although the Soviet Union wanted disarmament to be
the first topic for the foreign ministers’ meeting in October, the U.S. had
succeeded in consigning it to the UN subcommittee (where its progress would
surely be slowed): Bipartisan
Legislative Meeting, 7/25/55, AWF, Legislative meetings, Box 2, “Legislative
Meetings 1955 (4) [July-August].”