Relations on a Knife Edge (January 1953 – December 1955)
During the Presidential election campaign, Eisenhower had been especially critical of Truman's foreign policy record. Driven by his fiscal conservatism, the former soldier had baulked at the cost of his predecessor's commitment to challenge communism wherever it appeared. Although he agreed with Truman's elimination of the distinction between the vital and peripheral interests of the US, he did object to the economic impact of the swollen defence budget, which had reached $50 billion by 1953. To address this issue, the incoming Administration launched a review of national security policy and, on 30 October 1953, President Eisenhower approved a new ‘Basic National Security Policy’, designated as NSC 162/2. 1
The ‘New Look’, as it became known, set out to reduce the cost of defence by concentrating on, and extending, the superiority in air power and atomic weaponry that the US enjoyed over the USSR. So, the new policy promised massive retaliation against Soviet aggression and asserted the Allies' willingness to hold ‘vital areas and lines of communication’. The Administration also gave notice that it would fight Soviet expansionism by developing an ‘intelligence system’ capable of detecting communist subversion in any area of the world.
The ‘New Look’ also identified the importance of the Third World in the anti-communist crusade. Noting that the ‘colonial issue’ had weakened the whole free world, NSC 162/2 predicted that the loss of the ‘uncommitted areas’ of the world to the USSR ‘would greatly, perhaps decisively, alter the world balance of power to our detriment’. Worried by the difficulty of dealing with the developing nations, which harboured ‘resentment’ against the West, and the ‘general unreliability’ of their governments, the policy statement held out the prospect that the newly emergent countries would be wooed with ‘constructive political and