14. Editorial Note

During a conversation on April 1, 1958, President Eisenhower and Secretary Dulles discussed national security policy as follows:

“3. I discussed with the President the question of our national strategic concept. I expressed the view that this too much invoked massive nuclear attack in the event of any clash anywhere of U.S. with Soviet forces. I expressed the opinion that this question should be reviewed. I pointed out that there were, I thought, increasing possibilities of effective defense through tactical nuclear weapons and other means short of wholesale obliteration of the Soviet Union, and that I thought these should be developed more rapidly. I pointed out that there was a certain vicious circle in that so long as the strategic concept contemplated this, our arsenal of weapons had to be adapted primarily to that purpose and so long as our arsenal of weapons was adequate only for that kind of a response, we were compelled to rely on that kind of response. I referred to the passage in my Foreign Affairs article of October 1957 which I recalled the President had approved, although I said obviously this approval of the article did not in any way commit the President on this specific point.

“I said, of course, our deterrent power might be somewhat weakened if it were known that we contemplated anything less than massive retaliation and therefore the matter had to be handled with the greatest care.

“The President said he, too, was under the impression that our strategic concept did not adequately take account of the possibilities of limited war.

“I suggested that this should be studied at a high level. I said I thought it a waste of time to have this studied by the regular members of the NSC Planning Board. The President agreed and said he would ask General Goodpaster to set up a group composed of the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman and members of the JCS, Admiral Strauss and myself, with perhaps the participation of General Cutler, to study this matter directly and to make a report to him for his decision.” (Memorandum of conversation by Dulles; Eisenhower Library, Dulles Papers, Memoranda of Conversation with the President. The Foreign Affairs article is entitled “Challenge and Response in United States Policy,” pages 25–43.)

Dulles also discussed limited war with Goodpaster on April 3. (Memorandum by Greene; Department of State, S/P Files: Lot 67 D 548, Military Issues 1958–1959)