Dwight D. Eisenhower: Soldier, President, Statesman

By Joann P. Krieg | Go to book overview

14
Eisenhower's New Look Reexamined: The View from Three Decades

Duane Windsor

In the protracted conflict of Cold War with the Soviet Union, national security policy is necessarily a fundamental dimension of every presidency. A major hallmark of the Eisenhower years was the relative emphasis on foreign and defense policy, as distinct from civilian expenditure programs--an emphasis to which we have apparently returned full circle in the Reagan administration. It is now three decades since the formulation of the Eisenhower administration's "New Look" at American defense policy in 1953. Since 1961, we have proceeded more than two decades into Soviet-American conflict under both Democratic ( Kennedy, Johnson, Carter) and Republican ( Nixon, Ford, Reagan) administrations. There may well be basic lessons and principles, or at least fundamental and continuing issues, of defense policy to be gleaned even at this date from comparing the 1953 New Look's formulation and implementation to the United States' subsequent defense policy.

This study is based on the premise that the role and impact of the New Look still have not been fully appreciated by historians or defense specialists. Because the New Look was widely criticized at the time and then replaced by the flexible response strategy of the Kennedy-Johnson administrations, the prevailing view has been that the New Look was a strategic failure. It was followed by a massive buildup of both American nuclear weapons and conventional forces--a reversal of the New Look posture. It is argued here that, contrary to this conventional wisdom, the New Look created the strategic weapons and organizational foundations for its successor flexible response and set the basic pattern of U.S. Cold War policy. This conclusion is drawn from a wide-ranging reexamination of defense strategy, organization, management, budgeting, and politics as closely interrelated aspects of national security policy in the Eisenhower New Look.

The Eisenhower era has been underrated in the defense area because the New

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