Academic journal article Military Review

The Gaither Committee, Eisenhower, and the Cold War

Academic journal article Military Review

The Gaither Committee, Eisenhower, and the Cold War

Article excerpt

THE GAITHER COMMITTEE, EISENHOWER, AND THE COLD WAR, David L. Snead, Ohio State University Press, Columbus, 1999, 286 pages, $39.95.

General and President Dwight D. Eisenhower enjoyed a unique credibility when he admonished Americans to beware the military-industrial complex. Committed absolutely to the precepts of individual liberty and economic prosperity, he warned that unchecked military spending in peacetime could "wreck our economy, [which] would be as great a victory for the Soviets as they could remotely hope for in a war." Yet in the final years of his presidency, he significantly expanded US military capability, incurring concomitant increases in defense spending.

David L. Snead's The Gaither Committee, Eisenhower, and the Cold War posits a logical and previously unexplored solution to the paradox. Snead argues that Eisenhower's practice of empanelling committees of subject matter experts to address problems caused him to become a victim of just such a committee.

The 1957 Gaither Committee's purpose was to evaluate US passive and active defenses against possible attack. It determined that the United States would lose the nuclear upper hand over the Soviet Union in a mere two years. Possible US vulnerability to a surprise Soviet nuclear attack would increase unless rapid, proactive measures were taken. Thus was born the "missile gap" and the onus to undertake the expensive preparations to defend the United States.

According to Snead, Eisenhower would probably have reassessed national security posture following the release of the committee's findings, but the Soviets galvanized US public sentiment with the astounding launches of Sputnik I and Sputnik II in October and November 1957. …

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