Conclusion:  The National Insecurity State


For eight years, Dwight D. Eisenhower pursued the Edenic vision that had crystallized in his first months in office:  a “free world” permanently stable, secure, and at peace—free to live a life of voluntary self-restraint—because its policies were permanently restraining every apocalyptic peril.  By reducing global triumph to global stasis, he reduced Eden to endless containment.  In the world of perfect security that he sought, as in the Kingdom of God, reality would be under the control of the godly.  The godly could achieve all goals, no matter how contradictory.  There are no limits, no choices to be made, inside the gates of Eden. 

Judged against his own goal, Eisenhower's national security policies were doomed to fail.  The real world is not Eden.  Change was as constant in the 1950s as at any other time.  Choices did have to be made.  From the outset of his presidency, Eisenhower was faced with shifting words and actions from friend and foe alike.  The primary reasons for Eisenhower's failures did not stem from the complexity of events beyond his control, however.  His primary sources of failure lay in his persistent commitment to, and the internal weaknesses and contradictions of, his own goals, policies, and discourse.  The fear and confusion were evoked, but not caused, by the words and actions of others.  Ultimately, the fear and confusion stemmed from the interpretive lens through which the president and his administration interpreted the words and actions of others.  Seen through that lens, everything looked like another reason to be unsure and afraid. 

By 1957, the president told Senator Styles Bridges that the best he hoped for was to have “a real fighting chance of bringing this world around to the point where the Communist menace, if not eliminated, will be so minimized it cannot work.”  And even that limited goal seemed to recede ever further into the eschatological horizon.  Long before 1957, the administration's actual goal had become merely preventing catastrophic losses.   As H. W. Brands points out, Eisenhower and his advisors “were forced to the conclusion that national security no longer existed.  The best they could hope for was a policy that would minimize national insecurity.  Unfortunately, and portentously, they did not achieve even this.”  Their endless quest for national security produced only what Brands aptly describes as a national insecurity state.[1]

The Sources Of Insecurity

The president and his advisors could not solve, or even understand, the problems they faced because they reduced problems of war and peace, and indeed all global political problems, to problems of crisis behavior and crisis management.  Since every problem had to be solved within the context of apocalypse management, every problem had to be defined as a crisis to be managed.  The elements of every crisis had to be reduced to pieces in their imagined world-puzzle, a puzzle that could never be put together.  So the picture was bound to be confusing and frightening.  The enduring framework of Eisenhower's policies, the New Look, created more confusion and uncertainty because they depended on amassing—and making credible threats to use—weapons for a war that the president said could never be won, although he insisted on having plans to win it.  To maintain stability, the exact nature of and scope of “massive retaliation” had to be left intentionally unclear, which made the administration's own policies ill-defined and inherently unstable. 

Insecurity mounted in domestic public discourse, too.  There was little conscious awareness that national security discourse had undergone a crucial transformation.  The word peace was widely taken to mean what it had previously meant in ordinary conversation:  not just the absence of war, but a state of harmony, which implied mutual interaction, understanding, concern, and cooperation.  This was the Wilsonian vision of liberal internationalism.  Since Eisenhower used many of the same words Wilson had used, it was easy enough for others to assume that he meant the same thing.  Yet whenever Eisenhower spoke of peace, his words carried the whole freight of the apocalypse management paradigm.  They inevitably reminded the nation how much there was to fear. 

The New Look intensified images of the dangers it was meant to forestall.  Every image of war or peace reinforced the desire for absolute control.  Each apparent failure of control was portrayed as a harbinger of greater chaos, requiring redoubled efforts at more efficient control.  Chaos seemed to be perpetually growing; this was the price of keeping it perpetually contained.  So growing hope for peace would have to mean more fear as well.

It could hardly have been otherwise, given the conflicting apocalyptic and “realist” element in Eisenhower's ideology.  Apocalypse management posited perfect containment as an eschatological ideal of total victory over evil.  But containment could fulfill the apocalyptic hope only because, and so long as, the perils and crises contained were themselves apocalyptic.  Since peace and security were now defined in terms of stability and control, apocalyptic language could easily generate an eschatological fantasy of total containment and perfect control.  If peace consisted primarily of words, then it could exist in the mouths and minds of humans, with no necessary reference to non-verbal or non-mental reality.  Peace and security could be a utopian fantasy of total control, yet still be credited as fully real. 

Yet the appearance was deceptive.  Once set in motion, apocalypticism is perhaps the hardest discursive mode to control.  When stasis must be perfect and permanent to be satisfying, reality is bound to be disappointing.  Eisenhower aimed to create global stability by building an impermeable dike around the communist bloc.  But every time he plugged up one leak, he increased the pressure on cracks elsewhere.  His dogged pursuit of control sometimes engendered, and always exacerbated, his inability to control events.  Every option seemed to defeat the dream of perfect control.  Greater demands for control produced greater frustration.  That inevitable frustration had to be blamed on the enemy; dualism and fear of the enemy were intensified.  Since the thwarted hope was absolute, the enemy’s threat was interpreted as absolute, and the sense of national insecurity grew.

The president's assumption that no apocalyptic solution was available compounded the frustration.  He called on the nation to maintain an impossibly delicate balance between an apocalyptic definition of the problem and a “realist” vision of the solution.  He had adopted the New Look policies to wage cold war indefinitely, against an enemy whose threat was assumed to be permanent.  His Augustinian “realism” required that assumption.  It also required the administration to pursue static balance as its highest goal.  But now the “realist” goal of perfect balance, originally developed for a world of several competing states, had to be mapped onto a permanently bipolar reality.  Thus Eisenhower's fusion of “realism” and apocalypticism suggested two opposite routes to global order.  The enemy represented impending infinite chaos, which had to be controlled by the forces of good at all costs.  But the enemy was assumed to be in control of its own geopolitical sphere, beyond the reach of American power and influence.[2] 

Moreover, the spatial danger had to be translated into temporal terms; the other side of the world had to become a future in which the enemy threat had vanished yet somehow still existed as a permanent fact of life.  The new discursive construction logically required both a continuing threat and a global static balance to contain that threat over an indefinite "long haul."  The nation and the world would somehow always be dispelling the shadow of impending disaster yet still living under it, This bestowed on the Soviet Union a paradoxical but pivotal symbolic role in the American vision of the cold war: a necessary enemy and a negotiating partner.  

A Necessary Enemy

The effective goal of Eisenhower's discourse and policies was a permanent restraint of communism commensurate to the permanent threat.  Judged against this ideal, any methods or tools of restraint would seem insufficient—even nuclear weapons.  Could there ever be enough weapons?  How would one know when “enoughness” was achieved?  Perhaps it might never be achieved.  So the language of apocalypse management spurred and legitimated a nuclear buildup without limit.  But more bombs would not necessarily heighten public anxiety, as the Truman era had shown.  The true source of insecurity lay in the way the president talked about the bomb.  His continuing calls for controlled fear, rather than “hysteria,” ensured that public fear would grow to keep pace with the nuclear arsenal.  Thus efforts to control fear actually made fear harder to control. 

Just as the language of apocalypse management legitimated the New Look and its nuclear buildup, those policies also served to legitimate the prevailing mode of language and to make its nuclear threat believable.  The New Look’s explicit message spoke of using force to make the world safe for negotiations.  But the implicit message was that any war might well become total nuclear war, the climactic battle with evil.  Warnings of massive retaliation made images of impending doom more prominent and necessary in the administration's discourse.  The world seemed bound for either perfect order or total chaos. 

The New Look also served to legitimate the continuing belief in American innocence.  Eisenhower assumed that the U.S. would never initiate nuclear war and that this was so obvious, even the Soviets would assume it too.  The image of U.S. retaliation implied a promise of omnipotence used only to protect and spread pure goodness.  The “free world’s” bomb, cast as an instrument of goodness, both reflected and reinforced the image of the “free world” itself as the agent of the perfect peace of absolute static order. Americans could wage cold war and watch nuclear arsenals grow immense, sincerely convinced that all their efforts were innocent because they were morally justified.  With the distinction between waging cold war and working for peace erased, the U.S. could build up the greatest military might in history, yet insist with perfect sincerity that its only aim was static global balance, which was now the definition of world peace.

To make the images of absolute threat and American innocence believable, the perilous imagery of the bomb had to be projected ever more fixedly on the Soviet Union.[3]  The purported rigidity, aggressiveness, and threat of the communist bloc became necessary to define both the problem and the solution.  Within Eisenhower's discursive framework, cooperation was essentially a negative process of individuals or groups restraining their selfish desires for the sake of a common goal.  His framework provided no role or motive for genuine mutuality, understanding, and cooperation between nations—and certainly not between the two superpowers.  He treated the U.S. - Soviet relationship as a sphere only for confrontation, with the outcome to be determined by superior coercive power. 

Eisenhower valued mental clarity and order.  He admitted that he was uncomfortable when there was no pre-existing, well-defined, shared goal to pursue.  Therefore, he assumed that a common goal already existed; the cooperation that he praised meant simply joining the team to achieve that goal.  He rarely showed any interest in how it was initially determined.  He did not  encourage debate on fundamental values, for he insisted that these were beyond debate.  So he rarely urged the public to foster the skills of sharing ideas, making compromises, and setting goals together.  Nor did he say much about these skills in private.  Perhaps this attitude was natural for a military man.

Eisenhower's understanding of spirituality fit hand-in-glove with his military training.  Cooperation as self-restraint meant doing one’s duty without questioning the validity of the goal.  The fundamental goals and purposes of life were passed down from on high and were by definition universal.  In terms of U.S. - Soviet relations, this could only mean a shared understanding of and striving toward liberal democratic capitalist ideals, “the American way.”  On that point there could be no compromise.  So there was no need to listen to a fundamentally different point of view.  The Soviet foe (and domestic political dissident voices) would be treated in the same way as religious heretics:  shunned and denied any legitimacy.  Therefore the U.S. could not hope to make itself more secure by reconciling its conflict with its foes.  The only possible path to security was to restrain the enemies who would always threaten at the gates.

Most Americans agreed with their president that only the communists would initiate a nuclear war.  It was easy enough to project the bomb's apocalyptic danger onto fear of Soviet aggression and uncertainty about Soviet intentions.  So it seemed logical to pursue peace by demanding equally strict controls on both the communist and nuclear peril simultaneously.  Since fear of the bomb was also fear of the communists, growing fear insured public support for the administration's resistance to genuine negotiation.  Thus meaningful efforts toward disarmament and eased tensions were frustrated too.

Negotiation, Threat, And Insecurity

Nevertheless, those efforts had to be pursued incessantly.  The president could hope to implement his New Look policies only if he could persuade his own and allied nations that he was both willing and able to enhance stability without risking war.  Negotiations would create an essential stage on which the administration could convincingly deploy its persuasive words.  This would give the government the freedom it needed to enact policies to manage the spectrum of apocalyptic threats.  And there was always the possibility that skillful negotiators might actually win some concrete advantages for the “free world.”

The Soviets would have to participate in negotiations so that the U.S. could create images of moving the world toward a liberal internationalist peace.  Wilsonian language would keep alive the dream (though hardly the reality) of a global framework for peaceful resolution of conflicts.  The Soviets would have to participate, too, so that the U.S. could demonstrate a commitment to halting Soviet expansionism and preserving a peace that already existed in the "free world."  Every Soviet word and deed would validate and reinforce the prevailing perception of the world as an eternally dangerous place.  Every word and deed would ensure that the "free world" would still have a common enemy to solidify its alliance and give the alliance a definite purpose:  preserving its peace. 

The Soviets would also have to participate so that the U.S. could demonstrate its ability to vanquish evil in every arena.  Skillful, resolute verbal interaction was supposed to contain the enemy threat so perfectly and permanently that the threat would be, for all practical purposes, nullified.  Thus negotiations would make the U.S. and the "free world" invulnerable, and set the entire world at peace—as Eisenhower now defined that term.  Since the Soviets would be required to choose the U.S. path before any negotiations could begin, negotiations would be a sign that peace, in both of Eisenhower's contradictory senses, had already been attained:  the "free world" was being kept invulnerable against a permanent threat, and threatening conflict between the “free world” and its enemy was at an end. 

In order to play their necessary role, the Soviets had only to sit down at the table.  It mattered little what they said or did there.  They simply had to represent the radical opposite of the U.S. and all that it stood for while also being partners with the U.S.  If they behaved compliantly and made concessions, they would prove that the U.S. was maintaining the stability of the “free world” and extending its geographical borders.  If they refused to make concessions, they would play the role of the dangerous "other" demanded by this discursive framework.  In either event, they would represent the threat of instability that the administration was compelled to control.  The ideal of apocalypse management would make no sense unless there were apocalyptic threats to be managed.

Images of hope for perfect stability and control were so appealing because they were cast in the larger framework of an apocalyptic dualism that denied any need for, or possibility of, genuine compromise.  So every statement the administration made about disarmament and arms control included, as its logical starting point, an evocation of American innocence and the enemy’s frightening evil.  When Eisenhower presented peace and cooperation as the highest U.S. goal, he implied that the Soviets alone were responsible for the lack of peace.  If cooperation meant U.S. preeminence, then Soviet power had to be identified with a refusal to cooperate.  Hedged in by so many unrealistic demands for "deeds," the Soviets most often did refuse to cooperate with U.S. proposals.  This only magnified the image of the enemy as the locus of evil, which seemed to justify a larger nuclear arsenal to manage the danger.  So the negotiating process could only reinforce and heighten fear.

Rhetorical offers to negotiate played the very same symbolic function as would the negotiations they called for.  "The Chance for Peace," “Atoms for Peace,” and "Open Skies" offered the president's ideal vision of a "lasting peace"—a "free world" which deserved that name because it was free of insecurity.  But the speeches denied their own promise, for they evoked and reinforced what their discursive framework assumed:  the insecurity of a continuing danger to be managed over the "long haul."  The speeches enacted the process of apocalypse management that they announced. 

In all these ways, negotiation and talk about negotiation intensified dualism, heightened anxiety, and fostered caution about letting hopes for peace get too high.  Growing caution fanned fear, which in turned fanned a desire for words of peace that the president was obliged and ready to fulfill—and the cycle would repeat itself.  The president did not express much concern about the U.S. public’s desire for words of peace.  However, he did worry greatly about his allies. Yet he was bound to disappoint the frightened allies, because he would was bound to treat his negotiating partner as an implacable enemy with whom no settlement could be reached. Every step he took to allay fear ended up increasing it. 

With no end to cold war in sight, it seemed that one’s enemy would simultaneously have to be one’s partner—and vice versa—forever.  This made “the Soviets” a useful linguistic token in U.S. cold war discourse, one that could function in whatever way a speaker or writer chose.  But there was a price to pay for all these symbolic uses of “the Soviets.”  The whole process empowered the Soviet Union and gave it more importance (and perhaps more credibility) in Western discourse.  The Soviet Union became the pivotal symbol on which were balanced the tensions between war and peace, enmity and cooperation, victory and reconciliation, hope and fear.  So the Soviet Union had to remain, playing its contradictory roles, even as the purveyors of cold war discourse had to call for its ultimate demise. 

Living Endlessly On The Brink

The pursuit of static balance required an endless dynamic balancing act.  World War III would continue indefinitely precisely so that, and because, one would never have to fight it.  The nation would continue to be at peace precisely because—and only so long as—it was still successfully at war.  The future could no longer be imagined as Americans had usually imagined it:  an enduring peace briefly punctuated by wars.  Rather, the future became a single process that could be described equally well as war or peace.[4]  

The process was in many ways a verbal process.  Words of peace were becoming the primary weapons of war.  At the same time, threats of total war were employed as essential tools for keeping the peace.  Images of the existing state of war became vehicles for promises of negotiated peace, while images of negotiated peace also became a reaffirmation of the continuing state of war, which seemed somehow not really war but rather a new kind of peace.  The administration intended to combine judicious threats and uses of force with judicious negotiations as the twin routes to effective apocalypse management.  Both routes could be pursued simultaneously, for both were understood as ways of waging war, as paths to victory, and as paths to peace.

Just as speaking is a process, so security came to be seen as a process—the process of imposing a static balance of geopolitical and military forces and a static discursive framework upon the constant flux of reality.  Security, peace, and victory now seemed to depend on creating not only a balance of forces, but believable images of a static rational balance.  The process of maintaining that balance would consist largely of choosing the right words, disseminating them, and having them broadly accepted as legitimate and true.  In this sense security, peace, and victory would be not merely achieved or maintained, but actually constituted, primarily by words. 

Security, peace, and victory now meant a verbal process that would be constantly shaping reality to its own patterns and thus preventing any significant change.  Ideally, all nations would share in the process, creating a single, static, global system, which would be at once geopolitical, economic, and discursive.  Because the stasis would be guaranteed by the rational expertise of U.S. national security managers, it would both depend on and ensure a U.S. preponderance of power.  Yet stasis would not require, or even permit, the risk of a final battle to destroy the enemy. 

By the late summer of 1955, the nation’s leaders and leading media had discovered a convincing way to use cold war imagery, as well as weaponry, to ease the disturbing features of both imagery and weaponry.  They portrayed the brink of war as the only possible kind of peace.  “The brink” symbolized the meeting place of apocalypse and stasis, the place where stability as process would unfold.  The whole edifice of discourse seemed to condemn the nation to remain forever on the brink of chaos.  Living on that brink became the prime symbol of an apocalypse totally managed yet always close at hand. 

The geopolitical representation of the brink was the Iron Curtain, the place where the two superpowers' spheres of influence met and, occasionally, collided.  Peace, victory, and security now meant keeping that Curtain firmly fixed by controlling every event along its entire length.  Control required continuing verbal interactions with, and verbal victories over, an enemy safely ensconced behind the Iron Curtain.  The crucial fact was the opposition between the “free world” and its enemy, not the precise content or boundary of each bloc.  Each existed only relative to the other.  And as long as the two were differentiated by some dividing line, the very existence of that boundary could be offered as proof that stasis had been achieved.  The dynamic process of restraint became the symbol of ideal stasis.

The boundary had such powerful meaning only if what lay beyond it was absolute evil and therefore absolute threat.  The more evil and threatening it was, the more meaningful and reassuring was the constant process of restraining it.  So there was something paradoxically satisfying in ascribing apocalyptic intentions to the “red menace.”  Stasis had become the ideal goal because the enemy threat was seen as apocalyptic in magnitude. 

But the opposite was also true:  the enemy was seen as apocalyptic in order to legitimate and reinforce the ideal of stasis.  The Soviet Union had to remain the opposing other, in order for this pattern of discourse to lend meaning to the nation’s life.  If peace required continuing (albeit cold) war, the word peace, deployed in hopes of soothing foreign anxieties, would inevitably create more foreign and domestic anxieties every time the president uttered it.  So Eisenhower could pursue peace and security only in a context that made it impossible to believe that those goals could be realized. 

Apocalypse and stasis now formed the twin pivots of U.S. discourse.  To win the war one would permanently have to threaten apocalypse and, at the same time, create permanently convincing images of already being in control of the very apocalypse that one hoped actually to control.  To keep on creating such images of stasis and control, though, one would have to keep on creating new images of an always impending yet peaceful, because perfectly controllable, apocalypse.  A dynamic process, paradoxically and constantly producing stasis, was itself the true goal.  This was the essence of brinkmanship.

The Perplexities Of Discourse

The New Look also depended on a brinkmanship of imagery—trying to push the public to the brink of absolute anxiety without going over it.  The president purveyed his images of endless life on the brink (and endorsed Dulles' brinkmanship) in the name of national security.  He said publicly that he was seeking a peace that would banish fear.  Fear became the opposite of peace.  Yet he still needed to inculcate a controlled degree of fear throughout the “free world” to foster support for the New Look.  That was the purpose of the Candor project and its successors:  to create and hold the “middle way” between fear and hope.  Apocalypse management depended on carefully calibrating not just the emotions, but also the knowledge, opinions, and behavior of both the Soviet leaders and the “free world” public.  Control, and the geopolitical stability it was supposed to produce, depended on a stable, unified framework of discourse as its primary instrument. 

But the discourse itself undermined that goal. Beneath its harmonizing façade, the various traditional understandings of peace and security and the various key words of the discourse still conflicted with each other.  This perpetuated and exacerbated the confusions and tensions among the competing meanings of national security.  In order to embrace one meaning, it would be necessary simultaneously to embrace and to reject—or at least doubt—the others.  The resulting conflicts were intensified because all of the contradictory elements had to be treated as absolutes.  Expressions of hope for absolute security in the distant future made sense only if, for all practical and policymaking purposes, the U.S. was assumed to be absolutely insecure, imperiled, and beset by enemies.  Thus every effort to enhance stability through this language was bound to create more instability.  The state of danger became the natural, yet ennervating, state of national being.  As Peter Lyon puts it, the president and the public became equally “exhausted by the constant recurrence of crisis, by a foreign policy calculated to keep the citizenry on edge and fearful of what each new day might bring.”[5]

The problem lay in private as well as public language and in the interaction between the two.  Although Eisenhower did have relatively firm control over policy decisions, the decision-making process reflected the confusion in his discourse.  Goals and policies to achieve them were confused and sometimes mutually contradictory.  So his public explanations of those goals and policies were inevitably confused and contradictory, too.  Though he seems to have assumed that he was explaining his strategy clearly, the disparity between president and public as his second term progressed showed that he had not.  He did not understand that his discursive construction was too complicated for most Americans, and most of their representatives in Congress, to understand in all its complexity.  It named too many apocalyptic threats and wove them together in too many ways for most people to grasp.  What he hoped would be a logical system ended up looking like sheer confusion.   

The president intertwined his private and public language because he thought it the only way to achieve his goal of control.  He spoke a public language that promised absolute security only because that promise seemed necessary to make his private policies work.  But the private policies aimed only at limited, relative security.  Since those policies both assumed and intensified the national insecurity state, the public language needed to implement them naturally brought the insecurity of the private discourse into the public realm. 

Aiming at perfect control, Eisenhower’s words set in motion processes that were beyond his control.  His words of peace created expectations that he would act upon them; he felt just as obliged to fulfill those expectations as he was unwilling to fulfill them.  The contradiction left him feeling helpless.  Every effort to stop up a leak in the dike of containment seemed to cause another new leak.  Eisenhower tried to turn this plight to his advantage.  He depicted the ever-growing Soviet nuclear arsenal and the conflicts in Indochina, the Formosa Straits, Suez, Lebanon, Berlin, and elsewhere as global crises.  If peace meant apocalypse management, then as a man of peace he had to have apocalyptic crises to manage.  How else could he demonstrate that he was truly a peacemaker? 

However, he found himself trapped in his own creation.  When he tried to persuade the nation that Sputnik posed no great threat, his efforts were in vain.  He had encouraged the nation to view any significant change as instability and apocalyptic crisis; that fear now turned back upon him and his administration.  As Donald White concludes, “Americans were more insecure than before.”  So they demanded yet another apocalyptic crisis and more aggressive (and expensive) measures to contain the enemy.  The president himself became lost in the complexities of apocalypse management.  When he convened a panel to study the nation’s goals, he admitted “that if he had had a set of goals to evaluate against, he probably would have made fewer mistakes.” He could never recognize that his own discourse lay at the root of his confusion.  He assumed that his own policies played little part, or (more often) no part at all, in generating the dangerous or problematic situations he had to deal with.[6]   

Therefore, he had to deny that the solution to his problems might lie in fundamental changes that he and his administration could initiate.  This meant that he had no way to prevent threats from arising or to improve the U.S. situation by changing U.S. policies.  A sense of powerlessness was the price he paid to preserve the comforting reassurance of American innocence.  The combination of powerlessness and innocence left only one alternative:  to view every failure or frustration of U.S. policies as another kind of apocalyptic threat and pursue apocalypse management ever more firmly.  The only power he could exercise, Eisenhower assumed, was to respond to difficult situations after they had emerged by imposing stricter control on those external processes.  When, as so often happened, efforts at control met with limited success or triggered new problems, that seemed only to confirm the conviction of powerlessness, peril, and insecurity.

Faith In A Self-Confirming Discourse

  Despite the growing insecurity it bred, apocalypse management became the common denominator of American foreign policy discourse.  By the end of the Eisenhower presidency, the administration's national security policy was being criticized from both the right and the left.  But the fundamentals of the apocalypse management paradigm were firmly installed as the playing field on which these political battles were fought.  It was not analyzed or even recognized as a distinctive paradigm because it was so universally taken for granted.  Thus its ironies and paradoxes received little discussion.

With the formative traditions and the key words of national security discourse—war, victory, security, and peace—so deftly harmonized, all possible policy goals seemed equally well harmonized.  Any perceived successes in foreign affairs would validate administration policies as means of control.  Any apparent failures would be seen as harbingers of apocalyptic crisis, eliciting redoubled hopes for and efforts at more precise control.  The Soviet resistance that Eisenhower's policies generated became the strongest evidence to validate them, reinforcing the apparent need for firm containment. Thus the policies were bound to legitimate themselves and their underlying frame of discourse.  Much as in a religious doctrine, apocalypse management became a self-confirming discursive circle whose premises were beyond question.  Much as in a religious community, the Eisenhower administration's practice legitimated its discursive ideal, and vice versa.

Although the demise of communism was postponed to an eschatological horizon, waging cold war still appeared to be a virtuous act of faith, a spiritual crusade for millennial fulfillment.  The risks entailed in the cold war could be understood as the cross the nation had to bear in the present in order to earn, at some distant time, its spiritual crown.  Because the process aimed at a spiritual goal, the process itself could easily take on spiritual meaning.  The president encouraged this religious perception with his constant talk of faith.  Faith was the word that bound together the other key words.

The faith of apocalypse management was perfectly suited to the temper of the times.  Robert Wuthnow suggests that the predominant mode of U.S. spirituality in the 1950s was what he calls “the spirituality of dwelling.”  Most Americans turned to religion  to find the safety of a perfect home.  “Spiritual sanctuaries were thus fortresses whose walls needed to be protected from exterior threats so that life inside could be kept under control.…The Soul was deemed to reside in a sacred space that required geographic fortification.…Being a good American was a way of exhibiting faith, and both depended on keeping intruders out.”[7] 

The quest for a sense of inviolable dwelling place ultimately failed, as Wuthnow observes, because “Americans feared that their fortress could be invaded at any time.  They spent increasing amounts on national defense, built bomb shelters, and searched for subversives in their midst.”  There were domestic “intruders” to worry about, too.  In the first half of the decade, millions of Americans feared that communist sympathizers in their local schools and libraries, as well as in the State Department and Hollywood, might soon destroy the nation and its way of life. In the latter half of the decade, fears of chaotic change were projected onto the dawning civil rights movement and the rise of a more autonomous youth culture, centered on the new phenomenon of white rock and roll.[8]   

All these sources of anxiety, foreign and domestic, only made stability more appealing as an ideal.  One response was a growing cult of domesticity, demanding rigidly defined  gender roles. Another complementary response was to turn even more fervently to religion:  “To buttress their strength, Americans repeatedly declared their trust in God:  in 1954, the phrase ‘one nation under God’ was added to the pledge of allegiance, and ‘in God we trust’ was printed on the currency.”[9]  Perhaps it was natural to look to religion to remedy the problem that religiously-laden language had helped to create.  But this tied religion to the language of national security ever more tightly, bringing Eisenhower's images of inescapable danger right into the sanctuary.  Such a faith could only heighten the insecurity it was meant to allay. 

The appeal of apocalypse management grew not merely in spite of, but actually because of, the insecurity it created.  Warren Susman has described a prevailing public ambivalence in cold war culture, a "dual collective representation" of extreme confidence and intense anxiety.[10]  Apocalypse management drew upon and reflected both sides of that dual representation.  Its images of eternal stasis allayed the anxiety raised by its images of imminent cataclysmic change.  But images of anxiety had to be brandished constantly, since they were needed to legitimate and gave meaning to the images and promise of stasis. 

As anxiety grew, Americans would feel increasingly powerless to achieve true security.  Yet that very sense of powerlessness could be the most convincing proof that they were victims of evil forces beyond their control.  They could reassure themselves that they bore no responsibility for the evils or troubles that created anxiety, that they remained as morally pure as ever.  Thus, anxiety took on positive meaning as the necessary complement to the goal of perfect goodness protected by perfect stability.  Anxiety was a price many would pay to purchase the resulting clarity, simplicity, and innocence.  Eisenhower’s public words created the frightening prospect that the enemy’s evil would threaten forever.  Yet perhaps it became, in a strange sense, more frightening to imagine a world without a threatening enemy.  An end to the cold war could create a crisis of meaning that might cause more anxiety than the war itself.  The cold war path, despite its instability, could easily seem the necessary and most desirable path to follow.

A Ritual Dance

Like every faith, apocalypse management had its rituals, too. Stephen Ambrose speaks of “the almost ritual-like maneuvers in the disarmament dance.”[11]  The same metaphor can aptly be applied to all of the Eisenhower administration's cold war policies. The administration responded to a wide variety of disparate and changing occurrences with a very limited set of maneuvers, repeated over and over again.  At home, there was not enough opposition to give the administration political reasons to consider fundamental change.  Indeed, the continuing power of Eisenhower’s domestic consensus indicates that the public generally wanted to avoid new policy directions.  The president and his domestic public were locked in a ritualized cold war dance because the president offered what the public seemed to want:  the same reassuring sense of safe, static structure that it found (according to Wuthnow) in going to church. 

This is what ritual often provides.  Ritual is usually generated in response to a threat from forces beyond the realm of human agency.  As long as the humans are certain of their moral goodness, they feel absolved of responsibility for causing the problem.  When they believe they are not involved in the origin of the problem, they take no empirical or practical steps to solve it.  Even the community’s most powerful leaders seem powerless to help.  Yet the threat must be coped with, somehow.  Ritual frames the threat in a familiar symbolic form and acts out a symbolic mode of control.  Thus human action brings the threatening situation within the bounds of a familiar, culturally-created order.  Ritual gives reassurance because it repeats an accustomed process.  It frames change and anxiety within a seemingly unchangeable structure, generating a conviction that humans have achieved genuine control. 

Although ritual creates an increased sense of security, from an empirical perspective the control is illusory.  The threat is bound to continue or recur; indeed, the perceived need for ritual confirms that the humans are empirically powerless to prevent the threat from recurring.  So the ritual will have to be repeated.  And every time it is performed, it reminds the participants of the anxieties it is meant to allay.  Since the ritual must represent the threat in symbolic form, it actually heightens awareness of those anxieties.  Ritual leaves no choice but to expect future threat and to assume that the only possible response in the future is to repeat the same procedures again indefinitely.  So the perception of peril and powerlessness becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.[12]  The president's national security policies were, in that sense, a self-perpetuating ritual cycle.  Each apparent failure of control was interpreted as a harbinger of greater chaos, requiring redoubled efforts at more efficient control.  He and his administration were locked more firmly into the mounting spiral of insecurity.

 Insecurity And The End Of Time

The spirituality of dwelling and its rituals depended on spatial metaphors:  the perceived threat had to come from somewhere outside.  As always, though, U.S. public discourse translated space into time.  Eisenhower's ideal of restraint promised protection not only against the unpredictable foreigner, but against the unknowable future.  It promised, above all, to preserve the status quo.[13]

After he left office, Eisenhower said that his greatest disappointment was the “lack of definite proof that we had made real progress toward achieving peace with justice.”  “I had longed to give the United States and the world a lasting peace,” he said shortly before he died.  “I was able only to contribute to a stalemate."  Apparently he did not recognize that he, more than anyone else, had made stalemate the new goal of U.S. discourse and policy.  Some might say that Eisenhower had succeeded, by his own standards, because he had maintained the stalemate.  Nothing terribly bad happened on his watch.  As he boasted in his memoirs, during his two terms “the United States lost no foot of the Free World to Communist aggression.”  Yet when Cronkite asked what he thought was his greatest achievement, he answered that he had created “an atmosphere of greater serenity and mutual confidence” among the American people. [14]

Stephen Ambrose comes closer to an accurate assessment of Eisenhower’s greatest success.  Ambrose says simply:  "He made peace and he kept the peace."  Yet on the same page he asserts that "what Eisenhower had done best was managing crises."  Both statements are equally appropriate.  Eisenhower was seen as a peacemaker and his foreign policy accounted successful by most of his contemporaries—and many recent historians—simply because his policies seemed to prevent crises from turning into disasters.  Emmet Hughes observed perceptively:

He was the man of strong will—who reserved his greatest force for keeping unwanted things from being done.…A foreign policy beset by such inner contradictions inevitably could attain results only of one kind:  the negative or the passive.…A national policy so nearly schizophrenic was powerless to create a positive political design.  In the deepest sense, it could neither conceive nor execute a truly historic act.  This was not because it lacked the courage to act.  This was because it could not decide upon a definition of history.[15]  

Perhaps Eisenhower could not decide upon a definition of history because his goal was to create serenity by stopping history.  His cold war discourse consistently (albeit implicitly) denied the desire for positive historical change at the heart of both liberal internationalism and apocalypticism.  Indeed it denied the possibility of any kind of beneficial change.  It taught the nation to see all significant change in apocalyptic terms, as a portent of chaos that should be fended off at all costs. In a world hemmed in by so much threat and confusion, the logical response would be to try to stop all change. 

This attitude reflected the Augustinian roots of the president's ideology.  The spiritual ideal was to keep a perfect and permanent control over the human impulses and desires that are the source of historical change. Ideally, a perfectly controlled reality would transcend all time and change.  Since change is inevitable, however, reality seemed permanently perilous; the world looked like an endless reservoir of potential enemies.  But changing U.S. policies and conciliating differences both had to be ruled out, for they entailed the risk of meaningful change as well as doubts about American innocence. 

The only remaining path to security was to try to prevent change by imposing control over others.  The control did not have to be through military action or violence.  It could even be achieved through negotiations, as long as they were aimed at enhancing control.  Often, though, the targets of these efforts viewed them as a form of violence.  Naturally, they resisted.  Convinced that their own policies bore no responsibility for the acts of resistance, U.S. policymakers and public protested that they were responding only in self-defense, seeking only a benign stability.  With no reason to look for alternative approaches, the president and his administration merely stepped up their efforts at global control. 

When those efforts inevitably fell short, it became further proof for the public that the nation was indeed imperiled and insecure.  It plunged the nation deeper into the state of national insecurity.  Yet far from undermining the popular appeal of apocalypse management, this dynamic only enhanced it.  Every new source of anxiety could easily seem like further evidence that apocalypse management was the only sensible course to pursue. 

The president’s appeal to faith pushed the nation in the same direction.  Ironically, as William Lee Miller saw, his rhetoric of strenuous effort to control the enemy and the self actually implied an effortless religion.  Eisenhower's discourse implied a promise to fulfill the age-old religious desire for a life outside time and history, a life of endless ease with no demands, no conflict, and no need to make any choices.  In the mid-1950s, pollster Samuel Lubell wrote:  "Rarely in American history has the craving for tranquility and moderation commanded more general support."[16]  Eisenhower's frequent exhortation to faith as voluntary self-restraint surely contributed to this development.  His rhetoric portrayed his policy of ever-wider foreign entanglements as the only safe route to the “isolationist” ideal of a domestic tranquility that would transcend time. 

Some intellectuals watched this development with alarm.  The influential pundit Walter Lippman complained, "The critical weakness of our society is that for the time being our people do not have great purposes which they are united in wanting to achieve.  The public mood of the country is defensive, to hold on to and to conserve, not to push forward and to create."  Literary critic R.W. B. Lewis lamented “our current rigidity. … Ours is an age of containment; we huddle together and shore up defenses; both our literature and our public conduct suggest that exposure to experience is certain to be fatal. … We call that state of hopelessness the human condition. … It remains curiously frozen in outline.”[17]  In the 1960 presidential campaign, John F. Kennedy would popularize this critique quite successfully.  But for most of Eisenhower's presidency, most of the public seemed to find an escape from time and change more of a blessing than a curse.  If they imagined themselves beyond time, Americans could continue to imagine themselves pure and innocent, beyond the moral tensions that every historical situation creates.

The yearning for timeless stasis, once translated into national security policy, fostered a distinctive vision of the meaning of America in the world.  America could no longer be God’s chosen instrument for creating and disseminating absolute good in the world.  That would require an America dedicated to change.  It would also require a concept of good as an absolute, ontological reality to be embodied in the life of a good society.  Apocalypse management re-defined the very nature of the good.  Goodness could now be defined only as the prevention of evil.  It no longer had any content or meaning apart from the evil being brought under control.  America was good only because it was better than, and in control of, what it was not.  American life could no longer be about bringing goodness into the world.  It could only be about organizing a hierarchy of evils by bringing them under immutable control, fixing them in a perpetual stasis. 

Although the traditional language of America as a force for change, progress, and absolute good was largely emptied of its meaning, it was still widely employed.  Eisenhower and his speechwriters used it most skillfully to build support for their paradigm and their policies.  The public demanded this language, and not only because of time-honored tradition.  The new ideal of stasis, despite its overwhelming appeal, also evoked ambivalence.  Surely it was not easy for a society to sacrifice its hope for genuine betterment and its self-image as God’s appointed agent to do good in the world.  Moreover, the paradigm’s premise cast doubt on the very possibility of its goal.  If peril was a permanent state, if it threatened constantly, how could there ever be any escape from time and change? 

The final triumph of apocalypse management was to satisfy both sides of this ambivalent new situation.  As it wove together all the familiar traditions of U.S. public discourse, it also wove images of eternal stasis and cataclysmic change together into a single pattern.  The new paradigm seemed to capture the reality of endless change, encompass change, and suspend it in a discursive structure that might be permanently valid.  Language itself seemed to offer the tantalizing hope of an ultimate triumph over time.

The Cold War And Beyond

The 1960s seemed to offer hope for something different.  When John F. Kennedy ran for president in 1960, he and his strategists sensed that the nation was growing restless, yearning for something more than the comforts of stasis.  Kennedy campaigned and won as the dynamic young man who would free the U.S. from the static grip of the tired old Republicans and “get this country moving again.”  Eisenhower took Kennedy’s victory as a personal rejection.  “This is the biggest defeat of my life,” he told a friend.  “The work of eight years was down the drain.”[18]  In a sense, though, the work of eight years had led directly to the public’s misunderstanding of Eisenhower's policies and to the cycle of insecurity those policies bred.  The election of Kennedy may have been influenced by those factors more than historians have previously recognized.

Under Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, public discourse did entertain the notion of political life as an organized effort for progressive change in the domestic arena. But in foreign policy the two Democratic presidents maintained their predecessors’ commitment to endless containment.  After Nixon replaced Johnson, the Republicans’ nearly uninterrupted grip on the White House from 1969 to 1992 ensured that the executive branch would speak the language and follow the policies of apocalypse management.  Republican pressure forced Jimmy Carter, in his brief tenure, toward the same direction.  The conservative trend of that era reflected the public’s embrace of (and perhaps insistence on) a politics of protection against threat. 

The end of the cold war brought not an end, but a new beginning, to this cold war ideal.  U.S. leaders insisted that the world was not less but more dangerous than before.  In his first inaugural address, Bill Clinton's brief reference to foreign policy invoked most of the central images of cold war apocalypse management:  "Today, as an old order passes, the new world is more free but less stable.  Communism's collapse has called forth old animosities and new dangers. . . . We will work to shape change lest it engulf us.”[19]  The public discourse surrounding the advent of a new millennium offered another striking case study.  This was a time when the nation might easily have returned to the optimistic language of millennialism.  In fact, though, the shared public expectation of the year 2000 focused almost on entirely on fears of a “Y2K” disaster and efforts to avert societal collapse.

If there was any hope that the apocalypse management paradigm might give way to some other pattern of discourse, that hope fell along with the World Trade Center’s twin towers on September 11, 2001.  There was little effective dissent from the nearly universal use of the language of war and the phrase “war on terrorism.”  Although much of the “war on terrorism” discourse echoed the World War II language of “unconditional surrender,” the effective policy and much of the discourse of George W. Bush and his administration expressed a fear of apocalyptic peril more than a hope for progress toward a better world.  By and large, its vision of progress was legitimated by the need to justify new ways of countering unpredictable threats.[20] 

Bush, like Eisenhower, insisted that he was waging war to preserve global stability by containing a never-ending threat.  Terrorism anywhere would “threaten the stability of legitimate governments,” he warned.  “And you know what? We're not going to allow it.”  He began his second term with an inaugural address full of Wilsonian promises to export freedom to every corner of the world.  Yet White House advisors rushed to tell journalists not to take this commitment too literally, because “a policy promoting democracy also has to be a realistic policy” to preserve stability.  In 2004, asked by an interviewer about winning the war on terrorism, Bush replied: “I don’t think you can win it.”  He could only hope to make it “less likely that your kids are going to live under the threat of al-Qaida for a long period of time. I can’t tell you. I don’t have any … definite end.”  When another interviewer suggested that terrorism is “always going to happen because it always has,” Bush replied: “Right.”[21]

Apocalypse management was enshrined as official policy in the Bush administration's document, “The National Security Strategy of the United States of America.”  “The United States is “not yet safe,” the text declared.  “The first duty of the United States Government remains what it always has been: to protect the American people and American interests.”  In his introductory letter to the 2006 version, Bush candidly acknowledged how he would pursue that goal:  “We seek to shape the world.”  But during his second term he found himself unable to shape events, most notably in the nations he named as models of “evil”:  Iraq, Iran, and North Korea.  The best he could hope for, it seemed, was to contain their purported threats—not to change the world for the better but to try to prevent dangerous change.[22] 

The Enduring Legacy

In the first decade of the 21st century, although the cold war was long over, the national insecurity state endured.  The foundation of that state, and the essence of the cold war legacy, was its image of peace as apocalypse management.  The goal of U.S. foreign policy remained, above all, the negative aspiration to prevent harm by maintaining stability.  Why did the language of apocalypse management remain so powerful? 

In part, it may have been a political and military necessity.  Few nations were weak enough to be attacked with impunity.  Foes like Iran and North Korea had to be managed rather than conquered.  Perhaps it was in part merely habit.  Perhaps no more attractive alternative had been presented.  Of course, the traditional American language of innovation, progress, and a “fresh start” was still available.  Indeed it was abundant.  But it held no real power; it made no compelling claim to be taken seriously.  Apocalypse management had coopted this language and thereby undermined its credibility.

Perhaps apocalypse management survived its cold war matrix in part because nuclear weaponry showed no signs of disappearing soon.  Indeed, George W. Bush broadened both the influence and anxiety of the nuclear age legacy by linking the predominant threat in public discourse—terrorism—with weapons of mass destruction (WMD).  The renewed and widespread anxiety about WMD insured that the paradoxes of the nuclear age would endure.  U.S. policy still assumed that the best way to prevent the use of WMD  was to insure that U.S. military preeminence, including preeminence in WMD, would be unchallenged and unchallengeable.

However, the most profound effects of WMD upon human life may lie not in their destructive power, but in their paradoxical imagery, symbolism, and psychological impact.  “Nothing is so effective as imagery,” nuclear historian Spencer Weart claims.  He demonstrates that nuclear imagery always speaks of the extremes of good and evil; often it speaks of transforming evil into good:  “The theme at the center of the paradoxical duality [is] the myth of transmutational power from beyond the mortal sphere.”  Ever since the earliest experiments with radiation, the language of the atom and its power has revolved around images of death, transformation, and rebirth.  Thus the very destructiveness of the bomb becomes a vehicle for visions of a greater future.[23] 

Psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton agrees with Weart about the power of symbolic images.  But his influential studies of the cultural impact of nuclear weapons seem to reach an opposite conclusion.  He finds the enduring legacy of nuclear weapons in the phenomenon he calls “psychic numbing.”  The bomb is the most powerful symbol of the mass technological death that emerged in the 20th century, he contends.  What Kurt Vonnegut called "plain old death" is no longer available to us.  Now death seems to come only in apocalyptic tidal waves that blot out every possible future.  So the mere existence of nuclear weapons intensifies all sorts of apocalyptic fears, even when those fears have obviously non-nuclear sources. 

The result, according to Lifton, is not a hope for transformation, but just the opposite:  a cessation of all symbolizing processes.  When the world becomes overwhelmingly frightening, the mind defends by shutting out the world.  It enters a pervasive psychic numbing, a “death in life,” that freezes all constructive psychic processes.  If Lifton is right, then as long as the bomb exists, even if it is never used, psychic numbing will persist.  It will intensify the propensity to see all frightening images as harbingers of apocalypse.  And those apocalyptic images, rather than fostering any hope for change, will only deepen the psychosocial stasis of numbing.[24]

The study of Eisenhower's discourse situates both of these theories in a concrete historical context.  His apocalypticism certainly did keep images of death and rebirth alive in the culture of his day.  Weart demonstrates this, focusing especially on the language of the “Atoms for Peace” program.  And he suggests a strong, if paradoxical, link between that language and the rise of the antinuclear movement in the late 1950s.  The ubiquitous imagery of nuclear weapons (and particularly fallout from tests) energized that movement to demand change, according to Weart.  Yet the analysis of apocalypse management makes Lifton’s argument appear all the more persuasive.  In Eisenhower's language, a world beyond change was the highest ideal and the prevention of change the wisest policy.  The capacity even to imagine fundamental change became the source of both danger and evil.  Whether Eisenhower's discourse was a cause, a product, or a sign of psychic numbing—or perhaps some of all three—it was surely the political and discursive complement to the psychological effect that Lifton has described. 

Ultimately, though, apocalypse management sublates the competing impulses to transformation and stasis.  It encompasses both in an overarching unity that harmonizes them by moving the whole issue to another discursive plane.  It offers an endless dynamic process that is, by its very nature, an unchanging stable process, guaranteeing endless stability.  So it makes WMDs a symbol of the union of stasis and change.  The more prominent the transformative imagery of the WMD, the more insistent grows the demand for the security of stasis.  Once again, the public seems to be afforded the best of all worlds, with no need to make any choices.  The synergy of weapons and discourse perpetuates the national insecurity state. 

The U.S. remains a national insecurity state because public discourse clings to the basic premises of that state:  national security means protecting the nation against some form of global chaos permanently threatening to engulf us; our own policies played no role at all in generating that threat; therefore, the only way to protect the nation is to act as an external force imposing control over the threat.  Perfect stability, achieved through control over every potential danger, remains the dominant understanding of peace.  Violence is still sanctioned as a means to that kind of peace.  And the words peace and security are still used to sanction violence.

This is the enduring legacy of Eisenhower's language.  Today most Americans think of “Ike” as a naïve reassuring voice, bolstering the nation’s confidence with his bland optimism and praise of peace.  Historians reject the naivete but generally credit his words of peace as genuine.  It is a story many Americans still want to hear and tell.  It seems to say that we endured those frightening years of cold war for a noble purpose.  It assures us that the U.S. can still be devoted to world peace, even if we do have the largest military establishment and the largest weapons industry in the world, even if we are occasionally tempted to put one country or another in its place, with bombs if necessary.

A more accurate story would conclude that the fear of change underlying Eisenhower’s discourse prevented him from responding to new realities with genuinely new policies.  Instead, his fear locked him into a perilous nuclear arms race.  A similar fear works a similar effect on U.S. leaders today.  And those leaders have a public, tutored by Eisenhower and his successors, that is eager to hear about apocalyptic dangers and plans for containing them.  Efforts at containment, no matter how violent, can still be presented and accepted as signs of a unique American dedication to peace. 

But the public has a hard time imagining options for meaningful change in positive directions, mutual interchange with those who disagree with us, or cooperating with them to create a safer environment for all.  With those goals of positive peace and change so difficult to talk about or even imagine, there is little chance of meaningful mass efforts to pursue them.  There is every chance that the public will organize only to try to protect itself against an ever-changing array of perceived threats—and end up feeling ever more insecure. 

Public language is the matrix of public action.  To understand the prevailing mode of public action—or inaction—in the face of massive global problems, we would do well to understand the rich, complex, all-enveloping discourse of apocalypse management.  To escape from the insecurity it breeds, we would do well to examine the discursive constructions underlying national security policies.  Even the most dramatic changes in the international situation will not yield a fundamentally new direction for foreign policy until there is a corresponding change in our nation's public discourse. 

Once we recognize the discursive foundations of policy, we recognize that policy is not an objectively necessary response to an objectively given situation.  The situation, no less than the response, is a product of human interpretations.  Those interpretations, like language itself, are the fruits of human choices.  They could always have been done differently.  They can always be done differently.  Although we can not go back and change the choices of the past, understanding the past as discursive construction opens up the freedom to make very different choices today.  A new understanding of security in the past present is one path—perhaps the only path—to a new kind of security in the future.

Notes to Conclusion

[1] Conversation between the President and Styles Bridges, 5/21/57, AWF, Ann Whitman Diary Series, Box 9, “May 1957 Diary - acw”; Brands, “The Age of Vulnerability,” 964.  See also Brands, Cold Warriors, 198: “Victory in cold war he knew to be out of the question; an uneasy truce was the most he expected.”

[2] Ambrose, Rise to Globalism, 140, points out that the great danger in this system was not communist rule, but neutralism and the diversity it could spawn.  He credits this positive view of Soviet rule to Dulles.  But it was clearly implicit in Eisenhower's discourse and policy decisions too, although neither one would ever admit it.  

[3] For an analysis of U.S. assessments of the Soviet threat, see Garthoff, Assessing the Adversary.  Garthoff, perhaps the most careful student of the subject, finds (48) that the administration “greatly overstated” the threat. 

[4] On the “indefinite and relatively constant military burden,” see Huntington, The Common Defense, 67.  William James presciently described this state of “neither war nor peace” as early as 1910, in his essay “The Moral Equivalent of War.  As a candidate in 1952, Eisenhower said publicly:  "This world dwells in a twilight zone between peace and war”: New York Times 10/9/52, 2.  He wrote the same privately to a confidante:  "We find ourselves in circumstances that are neither war nor peace”:  Eisenhower to Bernard Baruch, 6/30/52, PDDE 13:1263.  Eight years later, that had not changed.

[5] Lyon, Eisenhower, 826.

[6] White, The American Century, 308; Memorandum of Conference, 10/19/59, AWF, DDE Diaries Series, Box 45, “Staff Notes October 1959 (1).”

[7] Wuthnow, After Heaven, 38.  Wuthnow’s study of institutionalized religion in the ‘50s, The Restructuring of American Religion, also reveals striking parallels between the prevailing religious discourse and Eisenhower's discourse; see especially 43-53, 63-69.  He notes, for example, the central ambivalence of hope and fear, the urgent call to “vigilant activity” that avoids both despair and optimism, the appeal to a spiritual realm transcending and judging the material (and rejection of communism based on this premise), the link between personal spiritual renewal and national power, the call for religious education to inculcate inner moral restraints, and the fear that lack of religious education would lead to social chaos.

[8] For an insightful synthesis of domestic and national security anxieties in the 1950s, see Engelhardt, End of Victory Culture.

[9] Wuthnow, After Heaven, 29, 39.

[10] Susman, "Did Success Spoil the U.S.?  See also Larry May's introduction to the same volume.

[11] Ambrose, Eisenhower, 401.

[12] “Eisenhower's deep commitment to anti-communist containment and his consequent embrace of the Truman administration's grandiose definitions of American interest guaranteed the future that he abhorred”:  Melanson, “The Foundations of Eisenhower's Foreign Policy,” 60.

[13] White, The American Century, 308.  On the historical tendency to translate spatial terms into temporal terms see Stephanson, Manifest Destiny, and Campbell, Writing Security.

[14] Eisenhower interview with Walter Cronkite, 10/12/61, quoted in Hughes, Ordeal of Power, 339; Beschloss, MAYDAY, 389; Eisenhower, Waging Peace, 624.

[15] Ambrose, Eisenhower, 626; Hughes, Ordeal of Power, 360, 344.  Craig Allen sums up Eisenhower's achievements as a communicator in similar terms:  “There were no major potholes or disasters. … He ‘made no fool of himself’”:  Eisenhower and the Mass Media, 204, 214. 

[16] Miller, Piety on the Potomac; Lubell, The Revolt of the Moderates, 4.

[17] Lippman quoted in Goldman, The Crucial Decade—and After, 342; R.W.B. Lewis, The American Adam.  See also White, The American Century, 275 ff.

[18] Slater, The Ike I Knew, 230; Brendon, Ike, 398.  By all accounts, Eisenhower was gracious and helpful to Kennedy throughout the transition period. 

[19] NYT, 1/21/93, 10.  Columnist Joe Klein typified much foreign policy analysis of the 1990s when he wrote:  "Chaos—not the organized coercive power that 'realists' spend their days worrying about—is the real threat to international stability now": Newsweek, 6/6/94, 36.  The theme of the 1994 annual conference of the U.S. Peace Institute was "Managing Chaos."

[20] On Bush administration policy and discourse as apocalypse management, see Chernus, Monsters To Destroy, especially chapters 8 - 11.

[21] George W. Bush, Address to Congress and the Nation, 9/20/01; Doyle McManus, “Bush Pulls 'Neocons' Out of the Shadows,” Los Angeles Times, January 22, 2005; Matt Lauer interview with George W. Bush, Today Show, August 30, 2004,; Rush Limbaugh interview with George W. Bush, August 31, 2004,  

[22] The National Security Strategy of the United States of America, March, 2006, 

[23] Weart, Nuclear Fear, 425, 424. 

[24] Lifton’s theory is developed most fully in Death in Life and The Broken Connection.  For an analysis, see Chernus, Nuclear Madness, Chapter 5.