Academic journal article Presidential Studies Quarterly

Eisenhower and the Crusade for Freedom: The Rhetorical Origins of a Cold War Campaign

Academic journal article Presidential Studies Quarterly

Eisenhower and the Crusade for Freedom: The Rhetorical Origins of a Cold War Campaign

Article excerpt

For there is no influence more dangerous and disruptive to the totalitarian state than the knowledge on the part of its subjects that somewhere else in the world there still is such a thing as freedom, and the fiant, stubborn hope that they, too, might some day enjoy it.(1)

George F. Kennan

The study of Cold War rhetoric is now in full bloom. From the pioneering efforts of Brockriede, Scott, and Newman in the early 1970s,(2) to contemporary studies by Medhurst, Ivie, Wander, Mechling and Mechling, Hinds and Windt, and others,(3) the rhetorical dynamics, strategies, and political culture of the Cold War have become subjects of sustained scholarly analysis. And well they should, for the Cold War era is a rich amalgam of personalities, crises, manifestoes, and various attempts at symbolic inducement, often on a worldwide scale.

In this article, I examine the rhetorical origins of the Crusade for Freedom, a long-term persuasive campaign that in many ways represents some of the essential features of Cold War discourse. One could make a good case, in fact, that the Crusade for Freedom is the paradigm for studying all Cold War rhetorical campaigns inasmuch as it: (1) spanned a period of more than fifteen years, making it one of the longest-running campaigns of the Cold War, not to mention one of the most successful; (2) spanned four different presidential administrations, from Truman through Johnson, thus representing a truly national effort, not merely that of a single administration or party; and (3) employed both private and public rhetorics that are representative of the dominant motives, means, and symbolic manipulations characteristic of Cold War discourse in general. In short, to understand the rhetorical dimensions of the Crusade for Freedom is to understand a good deal about the human dynamics that propelled the rhetoric of the Cold War.

The public face of the Crusade for Freedom stretched from 1950 to 1965, a period far too long to analyze in a single essay. However, by examining the crusade from its genesis in 1948, through initial planning in 1949, to implementation and execution of the first public phase of the campaign in 1950, I demonstrate how the beginnings of the Crusade for Freedom functioned as (1) a rhetorical response to an interrelated set of exigences; (2) a strategic discourse that gave practical expression to a newly formulated doctrine of national security; and (3) a tactical expression of the long-term strategy for "winning" the Cold War.

I shall read the beginnings of the Crusade for Freedom and its parent organization, the National Committee for a Free Europe, Inc., through the involvement of Dwight D. Eisenhower. Ike was an original member of the Free Europe Board of Directors and it was his nationwide speech on September 4, 1950, that officially launched the first Crusade for Freedom.

Genesis of an Idea

To understand the Crusade for Freedom, one must go back to 1948. In February 1948, a coup toppled the democratically elected leaders of Czechoslovakia--the last of the Eastern European nations to maintain political independence from the Soviet Union. Poland, Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria, Albania, and now Czechoslovakia were absorbed into the Soviet orbit. As a result of the coup in Czechoslovakia and the continuing repression of all political opposition in the other countries of central-east Europe, hundreds of refugees streamed into the western zones of Berlin or crossed into Austria.

In April 1948, Italy held elections. By funneling money to the Christian Democratic Party and other center parties, and developing "media assets," American intelligence operatives from the Special Procedures Group (SPG), a branch of the CIA, prevented what might otherwise have been a Communist victory.

In late June 1948, the Soviet Union began the initial stages of what would grow into a full-scale blockade of West Berlin. Cut off from all means of ingress or egress by road and rail, the Western Allies, under the direction of General Lucius Clay, began a massive airlift to thwart Soviet designs. …

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