Strategies of Containment: A Critical Appraisal of Postwar American National Security Policy

By John Lewis Gaddis | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER
SIX
Implementing the New Look

Criteria for judging the effectiveness of strategies vary, of course, but Eisenhower's were clear enough: his goal was to achieve the maximum possible deterrence of communism at the minimum possible cost. In retrospect, the "New Look" strategy appears to have met these criteria fairly well. Despite the fact that the administration refrained from large‐ scale overseas military activity after the Korean armistice, the only countries "lost" to communism during its term were North Vietnam, already largely under Ho Chi Minh's control when Eisenhower entered the White House, and Cuba, whose new communist orientation did not become clear until he was about to leave it. Expenditures for national defense remained remarkably stable, ranging from a low of $40.2 billion in fiscal 1955 to a high of $47.4 billion in fiscal 1961. More revealing are military expenditures as a percentage of the total budget—these figures actually declined, from 65.7 percent in fiscal 1954 to 48.5 percent in fiscal 1961. Defense spending as a percentage of gross national product also went down, from 12.8 percent in fiscal 1954 to 9.1 percent in fiscal 1961. 1* And yet, despite surface appearances to the contrary, these reductions produced no net reduction in American military strength relative to that of the Soviet Union—if anything, the United States was in a stronger posture vis-à-vis its major competitor at the end of Eisenhower's term than it was at the beginning.

Whether all of this was the result of luck or skill is difficult to say. Did the Eisenhower-Dulles strategy work because the administration had the good fortune to be in power at a time when its adversaries were planning

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