Eisenhower & the Anti-Communist Crusade

Eisenhower & the Anti-Communist Crusade

Eisenhower & the Anti-Communist Crusade

Eisenhower & the Anti-Communist Crusade

Synopsis

Jeff Broadwater provides a comprehensive survey of the Eisenhower administration's response to America's postwar Red Scare. He looks beyond Senator Joseph McCarthy's confrontations with Eisenhower to examine the administration's own anti-Communist crusade. Exploring the complex relationship between partisan politics and cold war tensions, Broadwater demonstrates that virulent anticommunism, as well as opposition to it, often cut across party and ideological lines. He shows, moreover, that although McCarthy and his allies captured the headlines, ultimately it was the Eisenhower administration that bore responsibility for implementing most of the nation's anti-Communist policies. The book begins with an overview of the debate over internal security following World War II and then examines Eisenhower's record on the issue. Broadwater asserts that at the outset of the cold war, Eisenhower assumed a moderate stance, defending some of McCarthy's targets and cooperating as NATO commander with European Socialist leaders. Later, as a presidential candidate under pressure from Republican conservatives, he moved steadily toward the right. Once in the Oval Office, he embraced much of the anti-Communist agenda and shared many of the McCarthyites' fears about internal security, supporting, for example, the federal employee security program and the legal persecution of the Communist party. Broadwater concludes that while Eisenhower personally despised McCarthy and eventually presided over the end of the Red Scare, the president was also a committed anti-communist who frequently displayed little concern for American civil liberties.

Excerpt

Everyone who mattered in postwar America abhorred communism. In that, the era was not unique. What distinguished the late 1940s and early 1950s from other periods in twentieth-century American history was an especially pernicious brand of "anticommunism." More than an intellectual rejection of Soviet-style socialism, postwar anticommunism, as I have used the term, contained at least two essential elements. First, it embraced an exaggerated and unhealthy fear of Communist-inspired internal subversion. The political radical represented more than simply a nuisance; he or she posed a real threat to the American way of life, although it was sometimes unclear how or why. From such anxieties flowed the second, critical element of contemporary anticommunism--the conviction that the subversive threat was so real, and so malignant, that it justified trampling on traditional freedoms and individual rights in the interests of internal security. Many Americans had long held such notions; by the late 1940s, their views seemed to be more widely accepted, and more deeply felt, than ever before in the nation's history.

My definition makes no reference to the career of Joseph R. McCarthy-- anticommunism represented much more than the reckless charges of one irresponsible politician. Unfortunately, McCarthyism, narrowly defined to focus on the antics of the Wisconsin Republican, has largely dominated thinking about the Communist controversy during the Eisenhower years. That tendency has usually not benefited Dwight Eisenhower's reputation. Beyond question, President Eisenhower's handling of McCarthy fails to inspire great admiration, but it could have been worse. By the spring of 1954, at least, the president had made his hostility to the senator clear. More disturbing was Eisenhower's record elsewhere in the security field--on the federal employee loyalty program, the purge of the Foreign Service, the uncontrolled excesses of J. Edgar Hoover and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The president's . . .

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