'Eisenhower lived up to his 1952 promise to show no weakness in foreign policy'. Explain why you agree or disagree with this view.

A strong foreign policy entailed continued commitment to successful containment, the avoidance of war and domination on an international stage; although this was realised in fact, by 1960 Eisenhower's foreign policy appeared weak in the eyes of the public. The 'New Look' policy, devised by Dulles, involved cutting the armed forces and instead relying on nuclear weapons to provide a more cost effective form of deterrence through the threat of mutually assured destruction. This allowed Eisenhower to pursue his socially liberal policies, such as an investment of $500 million for the construction of affordable housing, whilst his war hero status nullified criticism from Democrats that international security was not being prioritised. Eisenhower showed no weakness when dealing with foreign crisis in the early years of his presidency, ensuring peace, containment, and international domination. By using the threat of massive retaliation in Korea, the never ending war which had caused Truman's approval ratings to plummet to 22%, was resolved promptly with an armistice being signed on the 27th of July 1953. Likewise, through threatening nuclear war Eisenhower forced Mao, the premier of China, to cease the shelling of Taiwan on the 1st of May 1955. It is possible to argue that Eisenhower showed weakness when dealing with crisis in Hungary and Berlin, however, this view fails to account for the different situations that existed in Asia and Europe. An opportunity was provided in 1956 to roll back communism when revolts broke out in Hungary, however, Eisenhower refused to intervene and Khrushchev quickly- and brutally- reasserted Soviet dominance. Similarly, when Khrushchev issued the six-month Berlin ultimatum in late 1958, though Eisenhower was able to remove the ultimatum, the future of the city was left far from secure at the 1959 Geneva Foreign Ministers Conference. Eisenhower was unable to act as strongly in Europe as in Asia, and to do so would have threatened war, because Truman had already established the cold war boundaries through the erection of the Iron Curtain; instead, through skilful diplomacy, the spread of communism was prevented and peace was maintained. A more clear cut example of the failure of the New Look policy can be found in the Middle-East. Here containment failed when both Nasser, the leader of Egypt, and the new Iraqi Monarchy became more closely aligned with the Soviets in 1956 and 1958 respectively. By 1960 the Kennedy campaign made it appear that the New Look approach to foreign policy was riddled with weakness; it was claimed that Eisenhower had allowed the USSR to pull ahead in the space and arms race whilst recklessly endangering peaceful co-existence through the U2 spy plane experiment. Though ostensibly convincing due to the breakdown in international politics after May 1960, and the successful launches of Sputnik I and II into space in late 1957, the Kennedy campaign was nothing more than an excellent smear campaign based on irrational fear. Pictures captured by the U2 spy planes showed American nuclear weapons outnumbered the Soviets ten to one; such reconnaissance was vital for American security and it was bad luck, not weakness, that brought Gary Powers down. Clearly, Eisenhower's foreign policy showed very little weakness and allowed for continued commitment to successful containment, the avoidance of war, and domination on an international stage.

Answered by Ewan C. History tutor


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