Eisenhower Library, Eisenhower papers, Whitman file

Memorandum by the President to the Secretary of State1

top secret


With respect to your outlined argument2 for reconsideration of security policies, I am in general agreement with the points you make. The following are specific comments:

I am doubtful whether we can, as a practical matter, greatly increase the emphasis we are now placing upon assuring our lead in non-conventional weapons.
While it is true that the semi-permanent presence of United States Forces (of any kind) in foreign lands is an irritant, any withdrawal that seemed to imply a change in basic intent would cause real turmoil abroad.
I note that you say the United States has put thirty billion dollars of economic aid into Europe during the six years—1946–51. I assume you have looked up these figures, but I have often heard Paul Hoffman3 say that the total was something on the order of fourteen billion under ECA.
I am in emphatic agreement that renewed efforts should be made to relax world tensions on a global basis. Mutual withdrawals of Red Army Forces and of United States Forces could be suggested as a step toward relaxing these tensions.
I agree also that whatever move we make in this field should be done at a reasonably early date.

A general comment is that programs for informing the American public, as well as other populations, are indispensable if we are to do anything except to drift aimlessly, probably to our own eventual destruction.

There is currently much misunderstanding among us. Our own people want tax relief; but they are not well informed as to what drastic tax reduction would mean to the security of the country. They have hoped, and possibly believed, that the Armistice achieved on the Korean battlefield is a prelude to an era of better relations between ourselves and Russia. The individual feels helpless to do anything about the foreign threat that hangs over his head and so he turns his attention to matters of immediate interest—farm supports, Taft–Hartley Act, taxes, drought relief, and partisan politics. Abroad we and our intentions are suspect because we are known to be big and wealthy, and believed to be impulsive and truculent.

If we are to attempt real revision in policies—some of which may temporarily, or even for a very extended time, involve us in vastly increased expenditures, we must begin now to educate our people in the fundamentals of these problems.

Among other things, we should describe the capabilities now and in the near future of the H-bomb, supplemented by the A-bomb. We should patiently point out that any group of people, such as the men in the Kremlin, who are aware of the great destructiveness of these weapons—and who still decline to make any honest effort toward international control by collective action—must be fairly assumed to be contemplating their aggressive use. It would follow that our own preparation could no longer be geared to a policy that attempts only to avert disaster during the early “surprise” stages of a war, and so gain time for full mobilization. Rather, we would have to be constantly ready, on an instantaneous basis, to inflict greater loss upon the enemy than he could reasonably hope to inflict upon us. This would be a deterrent—but if the contest to maintain this relative position should have to continue indefinitely, the cost would either drive us to war—or into some form of dictatorial government. In such circumstances, we would be forced to consider whether or not our duty to future generations did not require us to initiate war at the most propitious moment that we could designate.

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I realize that none of this is new to you—in fact, we talked it all over the other day. I put it down here merely to emphasize the fact that a re-study of our position, and even the adoption on a unanimous basis of radically revised policies by the President, the Cabinet, and the bipartisan leaders of the Congress, would not, in themselves, be sufficient to assure the accomplishment of the resulting objectives. We must have the enlightened support of Americans and the informed understanding of our friends in the world. Moreover, all of these people would have to understand that increased military preparation had been forced upon us because every honest peaceful gesture or offer of our own had been summarily rejected by the Communists.

I well realize that the procedures and plans for accomplishing all that I have hinted at above, will first require intensive study by the ablest group of individuals we can possibly assemble. We are already overworking the staff of the Security Council, the only group presently established to study these questions on the broadest, inter-departmental, scope. But if your memorandum proves nothing else, it proves that we must get our thinking on these vast problems organized and coordinated so that as a first step all in responsible positions can have confidence that our conclusions are essentially correct. After that a carefully thought out program of speeches, national and international conferences, articles, and legislation, would be in order.


With respect to the draft of your speech to the United Nations,4 I started out on page one to suggest certain editorial corrections. However, I then remembered that you had said that you had done no editing whatsoever, and so I abandoned that effort.

I think, of course, that the speech will be timely and informative. My chief comment is one of a rather general character. As I read it, I had the impression, particularly in the first part, that the speech is intended as a new indictment of the Bolshevik Party, the USSR, and the Communist Governments in the world. Now I have no quarrel with indicting and condemning them, but I wonder whether or not, in front of the United Nations Assembly, this would be the proper approach. Realizing that you must recite certain facts and instances of guilt on the part of the Soviets, I rather feel that it would be well to state flatly in the beginning that you have no intention of producing a Philippic—that your purpose is to [Page 463] advance the cause of conciliation and understanding and not to be concerned merely with excoriation. The recital, therefore, of past misdeeds, including broken faith, calumny, or anything else, would be made—let us say—regretfully, and only to establish the basis for proceeding more constructively in the future.

I shall not belabor this point further. You can decide whether or not it has any validity. But I think that the speech can be made positive and clear without giving the impression to our opponents or to our friends that we are merely concerned with showing that we have been very nice people, while the others have been very wicked indeed.

As for the rest, I have no detailed comments to make, but because of my respect for Cabot Lodge’s judgment and his familiarity with these problems, I would suggest that he be consulted before your text reaches its ultimate form.


It was fine to have you out here.5 I am amused, in reading my morning papers, to find that the reporters who had insisted that you and I are at odds, found new evidence to support their contentions in the fact that we visited for several hours together. It is amazing to find such little regard for fact in a nationally known member of the Press. I rather think that he got out on a limb and has been busily engaged in trying to show that he was correct all the time.

I assure you that I thoroughly enjoyed your visit; my only regret was that you had to take such a long trip in order that we could go over together the critical international problems that cry out for study and contemplation and action. I am truly obligated to you for the time and trouble you took to make the trip.

As ever,

Dwight D. Eisenhower
  1. This memorandum was preceded by several previous drafts. Copies of these drafts, containing in some instances the President’s own handwritten changes, corrections, and additions are in the Eisenhower Library, Eisenhower papers, Whitman file.
  2. See the memorandum, supra.
  3. Paul Hoffman, a corporation and foundation executive, was also head of the Economic Cooperation Administration (ECA), 1948–1950.
  4. Reference is presumably to Secretary Dulles’ address made before the General Assembly in general debate on Sept. 17, 1953, entitled “Easing International Tensions: The Role of the U.N.,” printed in Department of State Bulletin, Sept. 28, 1953, pp. 403–408.
  5. Secretary Dulles and President Eisenhower met at the “Summer White House” on the morning of Sept. 7, and Secretary Dulles then returned to Washington.