Arsenal of Democracy: The Politics of National Security From World War II to the War on Terrorism 0465015077, 9780465015078

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Arsenal of Democracy: The Politics of National Security From World War II to the War on Terrorism
 0465015077, 9780465015078

Table of contents :
CONTENTS
1 FOUR QUESTIONS
2 UNEASY WARRIORS
3 HOW THE DEMOCRATS WON WORLD WAR II
4 BUILDING THE NATIONAL SECURITY STATE
5 MAKING CHINA RIGHT
6 HIGH NOON AT MID-CENTURY
7 MAKE MISSILES, NOT BUDGETS
8 THE CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS REVISITED
9 RUNNING SCARED INTO VIETNAM
10 ENDING THE DRAFT
11 NO ROOM FOR A REPUBLICAN CENTER
12 THE LOST DEMOCRATIC OPPORTUNITY
13 RAMBO MEETS THE DEER HUNTER
14 COUNTER-ATTACK
15 WHAT COMES NEXT?
16 FIGHTING CONSERVATISM ON CAPITOL HILL
17 9/11
18 MISSION ACCOMPLISHED?
19 POLITICS AT THE WATER’S EDGE
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
ARCHIVES
NOTES
INDEX

Citation preview

HISTORY

ZELIZER ADVANCE PRAISE FOR

D E M O C R A CY

“Julian Zelizer is a patient and clear-eyed guide through the thicket of American foreign policy. He combines a feel for the sweep of history with a grasp of significant detail to bring alive America’s often uncertain effort to lead the world.”

— E V A N T H O M A S , author of Sea of Thunder and John Paul Jones

“Arsenal of Democracy is a magnificent book by one of the finest American historians to come along in some time. Julian Zelizer’s acuity about how American politics actually works, on many fronts, illuminates his sweeping narrative and reinterpretation of national security policy, from FDR through the age of Ronald Reagan. Exact in detail but grand in conception, it is a work of modern historical analysis at its best.”

in the making of America’s wars and diplomacy. Vigorously argued and brilliantly researched, Arsenal of

and Public Affairs at Princeton University. He is the author

Democracy is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand political conflict in the nation from FDR to Barack Obama.”— M I C H A E L K A Z I N , author of A Godly Hero: The Life of William Jennings Bryan

of On Capitol Hill and Taxing America, winner of the

“Simultaneously a lucid synthesis and a work of commanding original research, Julian Zelizer’s sweeping

Organization of American Historians’ Ellis Hawley Prize, as

tour de horizon on American foreign policy from the age of isolationism to the post-9/11 era demonstrates

well as several edited books. He has contributed articles to

to a fare-thee-well that politics has never, ever stopped at the water’s edge. In making the argument, it is mature, fluent, and authoritative.”

— R I C K P E R L S T E I N , author of Nixonland

the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, American Prospect, CNN.com, The Daily Beast, Newsweek, and Politico. He lives in Princeton, New Jersey.

“Whether you are looking for a historical context in which to evaluate the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan or simply for a riveting, up-to-date history of U.S. national security policy, this is the book for you.” — R A N D A L L B . W O O D S , author of LBJ: Architect of American Ambition

$35.00 US / $44.50 CAN ISBN 978-0-465-01507-8

53500

Jacket photographs: Ronald Reagan © Wally McNamee / CORBIS; Franklin D. Roosevelt © Bettmann / CORBIS 01/10

A Member of the Perseus Books Group www.basicbooks.com 9 780465 015078

ARSENAL of

THE POLITICS OF NATIONAL

I

t has long been a truism in America that “politics stops at the water’s edge”—that is, that partisanship has no place in national security. In Arsenal of Democracy,

historian Julian E. Zelizer shows this to be demonstrably false: partisan fighting has always shaped American foreign policy, and the issue of national security has always been part of our domestic conflicts. Based on original archival findings, Arsenal of Democracy offers new insights into nearly every major

SECURITY — FROM WORLD WAR II

national security issue since the beginning of the Cold War:

TO THE WAR ON TERRORISM

from FDR’s masterful management of World War II to the

D E M O C RACY

partisanship that scarred John F. Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis; from Ronald Reagan’s fight against Communism to George W. Bush’s controversial War on Terrorism. A definitive account of the complex interaction between domestic politics and foreign affairs over the last six decades, Arsenal of Democracy is essential reading for anyone interested in the politics of national security.

JULIAN E. ZELIZER

MD DALIM #1056281 10/27/09 CYAN MAG YELO BLK BLUE COPPER

J U L I A N E . Z E L I Z E R is a Professor of History

D E M O C R A CY

© Jon Roemer

“Julian Zelizer’s comprehensive, unfailingly wise book should finally demolish the myth of bipartisanship

of

— S E A N W I L E N T Z , author of The Age of Reagan

ARSENAL

of

THE POLITICS OF NATIONAL SECURITY — FROM WORLD WAR II TO THE WAR ON TERRORISM

ARSENAL

$35.00 US / $44.50 CAN

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Praise for Julian E. Zelizer’s

Arsenal of Democracy “Arsenal of Democracy is a myth-shattering history of the American national security state since 1945. Zelizer sheds important new light on the fiercely debated issues of the postwar era, and amply supports his core argument: in the United States, foreign policy is always a political matter. A marvelously instructive work.” —Frederik Logevall, Professor of History, Cornell University, and co-author of America’s Cold War: The Politics of Insecurity

“Extensively researched and vigorously argued, Arsenal of Democracy uncovers the intimate and complex interactions between domestic politics and national security policy in the post–World War II period, exploding the old saw that politics stopped at the water’s edge. Ranging over half a century, this ambitious book sets the standard for understanding the politics of national security policy in modern America.” —Bruce J. Schulman, William E. Huntington Professor of History, Boston University

“Arsenal of Democracy provides a provocative, timely and compulsively readable account of the vexed relationship between foreign and domestic policy and the tangled politics of national security since World War II.” —Laura Kalman, Professor of History, University of California, Santa Barbara

“Many Americans imagine a past era of bipartisan cooperation in our country around critical issues of war and peace. Zelizer shows that such a golden age never existed in our nation’s politics. Instead, Democrats and Republicans have used foreign policy debates since World War II to push their partisan agendas and their electoral interests. Zelizer does not criticize this process, but he reminds us that successful foreign policy always requires effective manipulation of interests, fears, and aspirations at home. Zelizer offers a compelling account of how foreign policy is really made. Every citizen interested in understanding our nation’s policies would benefit from reading this well-written book.” —Jeremi Suri, E. Gordon Fox Professor of History, University of Wisconsin

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ARSENAL of DEMOCRACY THE POLITICS OF NATIONAL SECURITY— FROM WORLD WAR II TO THE WAR ON TERRORISM

hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

JULIAN E. ZELIZER

Basic Books A Member of the Perseus Books Group New York

0465015078_zelizer_zelizer 10/9/09 12:29 PM Page ii

Copyright © 2010 by Julian E. Zelizer Published by Basic Books, A Member of the Perseus Books Group All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For information, address Basic Books, 387 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10016-8810. Books published by Basic Books are available at special discounts for bulk purchases in the United States by corporations, institutions, and other organizations. For more information, please contact the Special Markets Department at the Perseus Books Group, 2300 Chestnut Street, Suite 200, Philadelphia, PA 19103, or call (800) 810-4145, ext. 5000, or e-mail [email protected]. Designed by Pauline Brown Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Zelizer, Julian E. Arsenal of democracy : the politics of national security in America from World War II to the War on Terrorism / Julian E. Zelizer. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-465-01507-8 (alk. paper) 1. National security—United States—History—20th century. 2. National security—United States—History—21st century. 3. United States—Politics and government—1945–1989. 4. United States— Politics and government—1989– I. Title. UA23.Z44 2009 355'.033073—dc22 2009014867

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

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To Sophia and Nathan Zelizer, Two Beautiful People

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CONTENTS 1

Four Questions

1

2

Uneasy Warriors

9

3

How the Democrats Won World War II

39

4

Building the National Security State

60

5

Making China Right

81

6

High Noon at Mid-Century

97

7

Make Missiles, Not Budgets

121

8

The Cuban Missile Crisis Revisited

148

9

Running Scared into Vietnam

178

10

Ending the Draft

203

11

No Room for a Republican Center

237

12

The Lost Democratic Opportunity

273

13

Rambo Meets The Deer Hunter

300

14

Counter-Attack

333

15

What Comes Next?

355

16

Fighting Conservatism on Capitol Hill

386

17

9/11

431

18

Mission Accomplished?

467

19

Politics at the Water’s Edge

503

Acknowledgments Archives Notes Index

507 509 511 561

v

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FOUR QUESTIONS

of December 29, 1940, Franklin Delano Roosevelt made one of the most important speeches of his presidency. Over his nearly eight years in office, with his Fireside Chats, he had used radio, the era’s major medium of mass communication, to explain his policies to the American people. This time, he began: “This is not a fireside chat on war. It is a talk on national security, because the nub of the whole purpose of your President is to keep you now, and your children later, and your grandchildren much later, out of a last-ditch war for the preservation of American independence and all of the things that American independence means to you and to me and to ours.” Germany, Italy, and Japan were growing in military strength. While Congress had constrained the president’s ability to take action, Britain was left standing alone to fight fascist aggression. FDR said that the country needed to prepare for war. The president warned listeners that the Nazi “masters of Germany have made it clear that they intend not only to dominate all life and thought in their own country, but also to enslave the whole of Europe, and then use the resources of Europe to dominate the rest of the world.” Calling on Americans to support the production of munitions and supplies that could be sent to the British to assist them in their war against Germany, so that the nation could avoid having to fight in the war, he said, “We must be the great arsenal of democracy.” He concluded,

O

N THE EVENING

I have the profound conviction that the American people are now determined to put forth a mightier effort than they have ever yet made to increase our production of all the implements of defense, to meet the threat to our democratic faith.

1

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As President of the United States I call for that national effort. I call for it in the name of this nation which we love and honor and which we are privileged and proud to serve. I call upon our people with absolute confidence that our common cause will greatly succeed.

The national security address, as the White House called it, had the largest radio audience in history to that time, reaching Europe and the Far East—and was heard by three-quarters of the American people. Though the speech took place on the same night that the Germans conducted a massive air raid on London, Britons were heartened by what they heard. London’s financial markets rallied. When FDR spoke about “the great arsenal of democracy,” he was thinking primarily about the production of weapons in cities such as Detroit to be sent to an ally. What that arsenal grew into over the next decade, during World War II and the early years of the Cold War, would become something much more immense, a complex network of institutions, policies, ideologies, and political commitments—that is, a permanent national security state. Its central components were the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA); the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); the National Security Council (NSC); the National Security Agency (NSA); the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC); a vastly enhanced navy, army (with a permanent draft), and air force; international financial assistance programs; autonomous congressional committees; and a sizable national defense budget. An expanded mass income tax enacted during World War II financed these programs as the number of taxpayers grew from 3.9 million in 1939 to 42.6 million in 1945. Moreover, the national security state was built on the foundation of an ideological commitment to continual engagement overseas, through diplomacy, war, and covert action. The attempt to maintain an arsenal of this size would create huge and pervasive tensions and shape American politics well into the twenty-first century. The arsenal and the democracy posed threats to each other. For the national security state, the challenge was whether sound policy could be made about war and peace despite the pressures that naturally emanated from a free electoral system with parties, elections, and interest groups. For democracy, the challenge was whether the presence of a permanent national security state would create an insulated elite of policy makers who made decisions outside the political process.

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3

about national security and American politics have kept recurring since World War II. They have never been definitively answered, nor is it likely they will.

F

OUR CENTRAL QUESTIONS

DOES CONGRESS OR THE PRESIDENT DRIVE NATIONAL SECURITY POLICY?

As national security became a permanent policy challenge at home and abroad, the centralized nature of the executive branch and the president’s constitutional responsibility as commander in chief created more support for placing authority in his hands. The creation of the CIA, NSC, and NSA during the Cold War vastly expanded the executive bureaucracy. Presidents refined their public relations operations and more aggressively used the bully pulpit of the White House to influence public opinion on war and peace. Most importantly, beginning with President Truman’s decision to send troops into South Korea in the summer of 1950, presidents felt freer to enter into overseas conflicts without a formal declaration of war. The inner struggles of each president since Truman to balance policy and politics have influenced the relationship between sitting presidents and intelligence officials, military subordinates, legislators, and former presidents. One of the touchstones of skillful presidential leadership—John F. Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis, Richard Nixon and the opening to China, Ronald Reagan and the arms treaty with the Soviet Union—has been the ability to contain certain political pressures as much as possible. These presidents have moved national security away from militaristic policies even at the risk of immense political challenges. Though presidents wield considerable power in matters of national security, so does Congress.1 In some cases, Congress has decisively driven debates and policies. The anticommunist investigations in the early 1950s were based in Congress, not the executive branch. Senator Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) were part of a broader network that pushed for the expansion of domestic surveillance. Ironically, negative depictions of Congress as a rubber stamp enable legislators to get off the hook for having taken steps that result in military escalation. Often, partisan strategy rather than blind allegiance to the president is the reason for congressional decisions to use military force. The political scientists William G. Howell and Jon C. Pevehouse have demonstrated that partisan control of

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Congress has been the most important factor in determining how much support or opposition a president faces in using military force.2 Congress has also played an important role in shaping public debates about national security. Congress possesses a number of methods through which to achieve this objective, including the power of investigation to influence public debate. For example, after House Minority Leader Joseph Martin invited General Douglas MacArthur, whom Truman had relieved of his command for insubordination in 1951, to speak before a joint session of Congress, Republicans used the invitation to stimulate public anger with the administration’s policies. But then Senate Democrats, led by Georgia’s Richard Russell, turned the tables. During closed-door hearings called by Republicans and intended to boost MacArthur’s standing, Russell grilled him in such a way as to cast doubt on the general’s judgment. The hearings finished MacArthur off politically. The anticipation of midterm elections has been another way through which legislators have pressured the president. In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson faced pressure from Congress, both from left and right, and such pressure was crucial to his fateful decision to escalate the war in Vietnam. One of his main fears was that conservatives would increase their strength. Finally, Congress has used legislation or the threat of it to pressure presidents into taking or avoiding a particular action. In 1978, in the aftermath of Vietnam and congressional investigations into the secret activities of the CIA, Congress enacted the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which created strict judicially enforced procedures to monitor foreign intelligence surveillance. Since the 1960s, Congress has taken a more proactive stance monitoring the substance of defense appropriations. DO DEMOCRATS OR REPUBLICANS HOLD THE NATIONAL SECURITY ADVANTAGE?

Even during the Cold War, partisan and intra-partisan competition over national security was much stronger than most accounts suggest.3 The myth that politics used to stop at the water’s edge is pervasive in popular culture. The relationship between Michigan Senator Arthur Vandenberg, a Republican, and President Harry S. Truman, a Democrat, in 1947 and 1948 is often cited as the bipartisan ideal concerning national security. Truman, who served as president with a Republican Congress from 1947 to 1949, depended on Vanden-

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berg to deliver GOP support for some of the most vital legislation of the early Cold War. It was Vandenberg who coined the phrase “politics stops at the water’s edge” to describe his vision of Washington in the Cold War. The Republican senator and Democratic president put aside their political differences to fight communism. Bipartisanship, cooperation, and civility are the terms used to describe their relationship. But Vandenberg and Truman in those short years do not reflect the overriding nature of national security politics in America since World War II. Their relationship was in fact an aberration even in the years when it took place.4 As the 1950 midterm elections approached, Truman wrote Vandenberg, who had become too ill with cancer to work, that it was “unfortunate” that several Republicans had decided to make foreign policy a campaign issue. “You just don’t realize what a vacuum there has been in the Senate and in the operation of our foreign policy since you left.”5 The widespread acceptance of the strategy of containment and multilateralism did not prevent Republicans and Democrats from highlighting their differences on the campaign trail and using minor distinctions to hammer their opponents. At the same time, bipartisan coalitions, such as southern Democrats and Republicans, attacked their respective party leaders on particular issues. The rise of the Republican Right in the 1940s and the response of Democrats in the following decade made Truman and Vandenberg’s bipartisanship difficult to sustain. Democrats have oscillated between two agendas since 1945: one emphasizing the commitment to liberal internationalism nourished during World War II and the early Cold War; and the other, which, due to wars in Korea and Vietnam, questioned the need for military intervention and domestic surveillance. Liberal internationalism was attractive to many politicians who believed that the United States had to stand firm against totalitarianism and that the government could be effective at creating stability abroad. There were other motivations, however. Many Democrats were attracted to liberal internationalism because a hawkish position helped them counter Republican arguments that liberal domestic programs revealed a socialist tendency within the party and that Democrats were unwilling to take a tough stand against domestic communism. National security likewise created a degree of consensus within the party when southerners and northerners were divided over civil rights. Whereas skepticism toward military intervention

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reflected a genuine ideological disposition of many Democrats after Vietnam, this too was a position that provided Democrats some unity as they became fractured over a new set of social issues, such as civil rights and cultural liberalism. As World War II and the Cold War made isolationism seem strategically intolerable and politically suicidal, Republicans portrayed themselves as the party that was tougher on defense at the same time that they would require less, financially and physically, of American citizens: tougher against communism in the decades that lasted from the late 1940s to the 1980s and then tougher against rogue dictators and terrorists following the collapse of the Soviet Union. They preferred unilateral over multilateral action. The promise of militarism at a low cost and based purely on American interests, rather than on those of international alliances, was produced by the Republican struggle to reconcile hawkish positions with a genuine opposition to government and large civic obligations. Just as with Democrats, for conservative Republicans the hawkish position was not only ideologically appealing but also politically useful in dampening substantial and sometimes intractable divisions over issues such as civil rights and social policy. For Republicans, the added value of focusing on the investigation of domestic communism was that they could attract southern Democrats on a key set of national security votes. They could also link popular national security arguments about communism to domestic policy debates by attacking liberals as socialists, a step away from communists. It has been a truism that national security has been one area where Republicans, under the influence of the conservative movement, have consistently done well in political battle. The findings presented in this book, however, are not so rosy for the right, for the hawkish national security agenda has proven to be a devil’s bargain for conservatism. Most importantly, the conservative agenda has never been as politically invulnerable as its proponents believed and its opponents feared. Liberals have repeatedly been able to weaken the advantage of the right, and when conservatives have controlled Congress and/or the White House, they have had trouble living by their own rhetoric. In recent decades, neoconservatives have often pushed Republicans into extremely ambitious goals for foreign policy that have opened up deep divisions in the GOP and set up impossible tasks. Additionally, the hawkish agenda has pushed conservatives into an embrace of government that has caused significant tension with the movement’s founding principles.

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In contrast to the traditional picture of conservative domination of national security, national security politics has in fact been quite dynamic and fluid. Conservatives’ anti-government philosophy has opened them up to attack for failing to devote resources to support their militaristic agenda. Until conservative Republicans achieved significant positions of power in 1981, these contradictions were easier to ignore given that on the campaign trail their agenda was untested. With President Ronald Reagan, all of that changed.6 HOW BIG DO WE WANT OUR GOVERNMENT TO BE?

The expansion of the U.S. national security state agenda brought with it the growth of federal power. Whether it means fighting wars abroad, maintaining adequate forces in times of relative peace, or pursuing alleged subversive forces at home, national security resulted in the expansion of federal government institutions. Both liberals and conservatives have been uneasy with this expansion, though for different reasons. Most of the major policies crafted during the early Cold War reflected such fears, as politicians jerry-built a national security apparatus that attempted to respect the desire for limited government, minimal taxation and deficits, and constraints on the demands made of citizens. The tensions evident in the early Cold War remained points of contention into the new century. Since World War II, as Democrats called for an expansion of federal institutions to combat internal subversion, they understood the threats to civil liberties this growth posed as well as the way in which accusations about communism could be used against the left. There was no clear solution other than to strive for some kind of balance. The other major concern of liberals centered on whether increases in the size of government for the purpose of national security would come at the expense of domestic programs. While liberals in general believed the government could provide both guns and butter, there were strong fears that politics would force a trade-off. Conservatives as a group were also concerned about the impact national security policies would have on civic life. There was no way around the fact that the national security state required more spending and taxes, more intrusions into the privacy of Americans, increased citizen obligations—including military service—and participation in international alliances. Conservatives tried to mediate between these objectives through policies that contained government as much as possible.7 They called

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for reductions in domestic spending and stressed how a unilateral approach to foreign policy could limit America’s military commitments. Conservatives promised that they could fight wars in a less costly fashion by relying on a professional military, as opposed to a draft, and using airpower rather than ground troops to lower the physical cost of war to Americans. SHOULD THE UNITED STATES GO IT ALONE?

Throughout the nation’s history, its leaders have constantly asked whether the United States should pursue unilateral or multilateral strategies. Up through the early twentieth century, the country engaged in wars abroad and at home, but most politicians preferred to avoid international alliances whenever they made military decisions.8 The unilateral tradition came into question after World War I. President Woodrow Wilson wanted multilateralism to be the basis of foreign policy and tried to win support for the League of Nations. In 1919, he failed to persuade the Senate, and the nation, to join the League. He lost the battle, but public support increased for the argument that foreign policy needed to be constructed along multilateral lines. During World War II and the early Cold War, both Presidents Roosevelt and Truman had more success promoting multilateralism as the United States helped create and then participate in institutions like the United Nations. Skepticism about multilateralism continued throughout the century. Many conservatives rejected the notion that the United States should make decisions based on anything but the national interest. During the 1970s, both parties moved toward unilateralism. Policy makers were more willing to use force abroad without the consent of allies and to manipulate international institutions as vehicles to justify decisions made in the national interest. Even many Democrats, particularly younger centrists, agreed on this strategy and were willing to allow national interests to dictate actions. Yet the experience with multilateralism in the 1940s and the success of World War II and the early Cold War made the values associated with it difficult to forget. When national security crises flared, proponents of both approaches continued their debate into the twenty-first century.

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EFORE WORLD WAR

II, Americans had never created a permanent national security state. It was not that they were naïve or inexperienced with war. The United States was, after all, forged in a bloody international conflict. Even before the birth of the nation, the domination and destruction of Native American tribes called for military operations. President Thomas Jefferson sent troops to combat Barbary pirates in 1801, and eleven years later, Americans defeated British troops on American soil. In 1846, the United States squared off against Mexico, resulting in the acquisition of Texas and California. And with the Civil War from 1861 to 1865, Americans were subjected to the machinery and tragedy of war. While Americans were willing to fight when necessary in the nineteenth century and more than comfortable expanding national power through military force, most politicians and citizens were unwilling to commit to a permanent national security state.They would fight a war, and then when it was done, they put away their arms and set their minds to other things. They adhered to a unilateral outlook on foreign involvement in which the United States would do what it needed to do but only based on its own interests.1 Beginning with George Washington, presidents had legitimated the notion of unilateralism through dramatic proclamations extolling the right of the nation to remain free from foreign entanglements. In his farewell address in 1796, Washington said, “Europe has a set of primary interests, which to us have none, or a very remote relation.” In December 1823, President James Monroe, with the Monroe Doctrine, proclaimed that the United States would not interfere in the

B

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“internal affairs” of Europe and that if Europe intervened in any part of the Americas, that would be considered an act of aggression. Supported by the fact that two oceans separated the United States from Europe and Asia, this outlook justified a national strategy of mobilizing for war on an ad hoc basis. Presidents of major political parties did deploy military force when necessary, but they relied on temporary mobilizations for each conflict, as with the War of 1812 and the acquisition of western territory. Wartime programs such as military conscription were quickly dismantled once an operation ended. The federal government did not devote extensive resources to the longest ongoing military operation of the nineteenth century, westward territorial expansion, instead relying on a “minimal army” to do a “minimal job,” according to the historian Eric Rauchway. By the twentieth century, the United States was spending far less on military preparedness than the major nations of Europe. In 1918, as the First World War ended, France spent $234.79 per capita on the military, the United Kingdom $187.96, Germany $131.40, while the United States spent only $67.96.2 The United States did not adopt a permanent draft before 1940, and the levels of military spending remained minuscule. As late as 1940, it allocated just 1.7 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) to national defense. This compares to military spending that reached 14.2 percent in 1953, during the Korean War, and 10 percent in 1959. nineteenth century, American politicians finally started to reckon seriously with the reality of the wider world and debate the ideas of internationalism. The perceived threat of an international anarchist network that was protesting, and willing to fight, the expanding power of capitalism led many Americans to worry about the connections that existed between the home front and Europe. On May 4, 1886, during a gathering of workers at Haymarket Square in Chicago, organized by anarchist leaders in response to a crackdown on striking workers, a bomb was tossed at a line of policemen as they moved violently to disperse the crowd. Several police were killed by gunfire. “The villainous teachings of the Anarchists bore bloody fruit in Chicago to-night,” opined the New York Times.3 Chicago government officials prohibited further protests, and eight anarchists were brought to trial, with the court convicting them, based on flimsy evidence, for being accessories to murder. Illinois Governor John Altgeld commuted three of the sentences, one of the persons found guilty killed himself, and four others were hanged.

I

N THE LATE

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Industrial leaders saw the connections that were shaping the modern world not just through anarchism, but through their belief that the economic vitality of the United States as a new industrial power was affected by the health of foreign markets as well as by access to overseas workers and raw materials. Each decade since the 1870s saw severe economic downturns—the worst being the depression between 1893 and 1897—and gaining access to additional markets, including those in Asia, they assumed, could help the economy. The influx of foreigners into the nation’s cities and factories made tangible the international nexus within which the United States operated. Without a stronger military to preserve stability in areas such as Latin America and Asia, a growing number of policy makers and industrial titans were coming to sense that the United States would suffer economically. Many young policy makers were swept up by imperial ambitions. The dizzying rate of industrial and technological progress stimulated them to contemplate a larger international role for the nation, and they realized that, if the United States wanted to compete with Britain, France, Russia, and Japan, it needed to be prepared for military ventures and to play a bigger role overseas. Wars in areas such as the Caribbean were attractive to those who had the imperial bug since the conflicts would enable the United States to demonstrate its national strength and superiority to rivals in Europe and Asia. Imperialist and progressive impulses sometimes went hand in hand in the late nineteenth century. Intellectuals at America’s leading research universities were providing arguments to support imperial ambitions and were at the forefront of the ideological ferment that shaped the Progressive era—which lasted from the 1890s through the 1920s and was characterized by a widespread belief that economic and social progress in the nation could prevent the kind of violent class conflict that existed in Europe from occurring here. But many intellectual and political elites during this era concluded that to guarantee that progress, modern, bureaucratic government and expertise were necessary to overcome the social unrest produced by industrialization and urbanization, and to strengthen America’s role abroad. The research being published in these decades offered powerful claims as to how government institutions could be used to improve social and economic conditions in America and abroad. The same Progressive-era arguments that inspired some politicians to seek domestic stability through government intervention led them to think that government could achieve comparable goals in other parts of the world. In his classic work The Promise of American Life

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(1909), Herbert Croly argued that in troubled countries like Panama, the United States could restore “order and good government”—just as government could at home.4 The emergence of the eugenics movement offered a more sinister rationale for expanding America’s role in the world by asserting the supremacy of Anglo-Saxons. Proponents claimed it was possible to measure and clearly rank an intelligence hierarchy among different racial and ethnic groups. The sociologist Edward Ross, who coined the term “race suicide” in a famous 1901 article, “The Causes of Racial Superiority,” warned that “inferior” population groups in the United States were gaining too much power. These arguments were used to justify efforts to “Americanize” certain immigrant groups, and to exclude others so that they did not endanger the future of the “white race,” which meant white Northern European Protestants. It did not require a huge step for policy makers to translate ideas about racial purity into an argument about how the United States could make other parts of the world safer and more democratic by “civilizing” allegedly inferior people. The term, vaguely defined, usually referred to the imposition of Anglo-American political values, culture, and political influence. There was a security argument behind expanding American power. Industrial technology made it increasingly easy for other countries, using more and more devastating firepower, to gain control over new territory, most worryingly in the Pacific and Caribbean.5 EGINNING IN THE 1890s, northeastern Republicans appropriated all of these arguments to develop a coherent internationalist ideology. They were closely tied to the industrial barons of the era so they were keenly aware of the importance of overseas conditions to the domestic economy. They were also in contact with the universities, which many of them had attended, that were conducting an ongoing dialogue about internationalism, foreign policy, and the sources of empire. One of the leading figures in this cohort was Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, a Massachusetts Brahmin who had studied German and Anglo-Saxon history at Harvard. While writing his dissertation on the ancient roots of Anglo-Saxon law, he became deeply immersed in arguments by historians such as George Bancroft and Herbert Baxter Adams about the development and superiority of Anglo-Saxon institutions such as constitutional government. In 1879, after working for a few years in academia, Lodge entered politics. In the Senate from 1893, he focused most of his atten-

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tion on foreign policy and was one of the most ardent champions of building a strong navy. During one speech, calling for higher funding for the navy, Lodge argued that “it was the sea power in history which enabled Rome to crush Hannibal, perhaps the greatest military genius of all time; it was the sea power which enabled England to bring Napoleon’s empire to ruins. . . . It is the sea power which is essential to the greatness of every splendid people.” If there were any doubts about his imperial ambitions, Lodge concluded by saying, “We are a great people; we control this continent; we are dominant in this hemisphere; we have too great an inheritance to be trifled with or parted with. It is ours to guard and to extend.”6 Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan, the strategist who wrote several landmark books on the importance of a strong navy to the creation of an empire, and Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt were of like mind. Roosevelt was a wealthy, Harvard-educated New Yorker who had compensated for his childhood physical ailments by living an adventuresome outdoor life. His first book, The Naval War of 1812, published in 1882, remained for decades the definitive work on the subject. Many other books followed over the years, including The Winning of the West, in four volumes. He had abandoned his studies at Columbia Law School after winning election to the New York Assembly in 1880, where he pushed for government reform and took on political corruption. After a stint on the U.S. Civil Service Commission, he headed the New York City Police Board, where he revamped the city’s policing system. In 1897, President William McKinley appointed Roosevelt assistant secretary of the navy. TR pressured the administration to take action against Spanish rule in Cuba, stepping down from his position when war started to create the First U.S. Volunteer Cavalry Regiment, known as the Rough Riders, which went to Cuba to fight.The thrill of the fight was intense for TR. As his cavalry marched toward Santiago de Cuba, they encountered an unexpected Spanish attack and lost sixteen soldiers; TR showed his grit by counterattacking even when he opened himself to gunfire. Roosevelt and his troops waited at the bottom of San Juan Hill, which was believed essential to taking control of Santiago. When he received the command to support the regular troops that were already fighting, Roosevelt said, “I sprang on my horse, and then my ‘crowded hour’ began.” The operation was successful and the experience whetted his thirst for warfare.7 Back in New York, Roosevelt ran for governor in 1898 and won. In this position, he pushed for an expanded role for state government

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and continued his drive to reform politics. When Republican leaders in Washington, excited about his record in military affairs, picked him to run for vice president with William McKinley in 1900, many New York Republicans were happy to get him out of the state. In Washington, Roosevelt envisioned a powerful international role for the United States; he dreamed of empire. Speaking at the Naval War College in 1897, Roosevelt had said, “All the great masterful races have been fighting races, and the minute that a race loses the hard fighting virtues, then, no matter what else it may retain, no matter how skilled in commerce and finance, in science or art, it has lost its proud right to stand as the equal of the best.”8 Others in this group of internationalist Republicans, like McKinley, were more apprehensive about American intervention when there was no direct military threat to the nation, but they were prepared to promote these policies under the right circumstances. The Wall Street lawyer Elihu Root (McKinley’s secretary of war and later TR’s secretary of state) was enthused about the possibility of promoting open markets with government assistance and ensuring access around the globe for U.S. business, though he proved to be much more reticent than Roosevelt or Mahan about the use of military force to achieve these goals. The Republican internationalists couched their desire to obtain control of territory overseas by promising that the United States would bring civilization to those areas. They called for more investment in the army and the professionalization of the armed forces as well as of the diplomatic corps. More importantly, they sought support for a huge buildup of the navy, which was believed essential to making an empire. These Republicans focused on certain territories when making their expansionist arguments. One was Hawaii, sovereign islands located en route to Asia and perceived as economically crucial. The United States had strengthened its influence in Hawaii as a result of missionary activity and the sugar industry. Through a treaty signed in 1887, it obtained the right to maintain a naval base in Pearl Harbor. After U.S. tariff policies caused economic turmoil in the early 1890s, a Hawaiian nationalist monarchy took power. An 1893 coup assisted by Americans toppled it and created a provisional government. Hawaii became a symbol for expansion and empire. REPUBLICAN INTERNATIONALISTS found their defining moment in the Spanish-American War. The confrontation came after a long history of tension between the United States and Spain,

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which had been a weakened power in the nineteenth century and was defensive, as it had failed to protect its territories in the Southwest. American politicians had been interested in obtaining control of Cuba since early in the nineteenth century, but northern fears of taking on another slave territory prevented its acquisition. It was not until 1898, when northeastern Republicans coalesced around an internationalist agenda, that the United States was prepared to strike at nearby Spanish holdings, such as Cuba, and in the Pacific, the distant Philippines. Republicans had imperial and economic reasons to make sure that Cuba was stable and outside of Spanish control. U.S. companies maintained close economic ties to Cuba. Between 1859 and 1897, of the total exports from Cuba, the percentage that went to the United States increased from 42 percent to 87 percent. During that same period, American business invested $50 million in the island.9 Business interests were lukewarm about war in Cuba, fearing that it would undermine recovery from the depression of the earlier 1890s, and many congressional Republican leaders believed that U.S. diplomatic pressure could change aggressive Spanish attitudes about Cuba. From 1868 to 1878, Cuban rebels had mounted an unsuccessful war against their Spanish occupiers. Spain ultimately defeated the insurgents and proceeded to impose brutal conditions on the Cubans. Beginning in 1898, the U.S. tabloids, the so-called yellow press, drummed up public hostility against Spain. Newspaper publishers Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst, whose New York World and New York Journal were in an intense competition, relentlessly published stories very often based on the thinnest of evidence about Spanish atrocities committed in Cuba. They believed that stories of rebels fighting for independence against an old empire would sell papers. Throughout 1897 and 1898, midwestern Republicans expressed little support for military operations not directly related to the security of the nation. Indiana Republican Representative Henry Underwood Johnson said that war with Spain would “shake the business interests of this country to the foundation.”The economy had finally recovered from the depression of the earlier 1890s, so committing U.S. resources to war was unwelcome. They also worried that a robust national security agenda would entail acceptance of international obligations and treaties that would require military actions not essential to the national interest. At the same time, the alliances would diminish the constitutional authority of Congress to decide when to declare war. Republicans from other regions of the country

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shared many of these concerns. Maryland Republican George Wellington said war would “open a veritable Pandora’s box of ills. Our foreign commerce will be paralysed, our trade crippled, industries come to a standstill, the arm of labour will be lamed, taxes will increase, values become unsettled, the currency deranged, and the public debt augmented. If war comes, the thunder of guns . . . will bring death and disaster to our men, sorrow to our homes, contaminating diseases to our shores.”10 Despite these reservations, the party leadership supported expansionism in the 1896 presidential election between McKinley and Democrat William Jennings Bryan. The Republican platform called for annexation, intervention, military might—and Cuban independence: “We believe that the Government of the United States should actively use its influence and good offices to restore peace and give independence to the island.” Seeking to balance the different factions of his party and avoid war, President McKinley first tried to use diplomacy. Although he obtained concessions from the Spanish government, the Cuban rebels were unwilling to agree to halfway measures. Republicans feared that congressional Democrats were trying to move to the forefront of the issue. Before the Civil War there had been southern interest in annexing Cuba as a slave state, but after the war, congressional Democrats opposed war in Cuba, and southern Democrats were particularly outspoken on the issue. Although white southerners had been the strongest source of support for military intervention overseas for most of the nineteenth century, they had broken with this pattern after Reconstruction when the North used military institutions against them to try to create racial equality. In the case of Cuba, many southern elites had believed that the war primarily benefited the northeastern economic sector that maintained sizable investments in the island and did not want those disrupted. White southerners feared that military engagement in the Caribbean would lead to racial mixing. In addition, the devastated state of the southern economy dissuaded legislators from spending federal money on an international initiative. Democrats had included support in their 1896 platform, but the wording was timid, and when someone raised a Cuban flag during the convention, the chairman ordered it lowered. By 1898, however, a large contingent of Democrats were trying to rebuild from the 1896 elections, when Republicans gained control of Congress and the White House. By calling for military action in Cuba, they sought to steal the thunder from Republicans on this issue.

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On February 15, 1898, there was an explosion on the USS Maine, which had been sent to Havana in response to the rising civil disorder and fears for the safety of Americans living in Cuba. The ensuing outcry in the yellow press as well as from congressional Democrats and members of his own party forced McKinley’s hand. Although the explosion was actually caused by broken machinery, the yellow press blamed Spain. There was no more time for cautious diplomacy. Members of both parties in Congress called for war. McKinley felt he could no longer hold Congress back. He also needed the support of the powerful northeastern international cohort in his party as he worried about maintaining his presidency in the 1900 reelection. On March 9, Congress appropriated $50 million for national defense, with most of the funds going to the navy. McKinley obtained authority from Congress to demand that the Spanish withdraw from Cuba on April 18. When they did not, Congress established a volunteer army, and on April 24, Spain declared war on the United States. The next day Congress reciprocated. The Spanish-American War did not last long, as U.S. volunteer troops and the navy overwhelmed a weak and poorly run Spanish military. One of the first major battles took place on May 1 in Manila Bay with U.S. forces devastating the Spanish and only one American killed. As the war progressed, McKinley shed his restraint and sent troops into the Philippines and ordered the annexation of Hawaii. The fighting ended on August 12. On February 6, 1899, the Senate ratified the Treaty of Paris, which placed Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Guam under different kinds of subservient governing relationships with the United States. McKinley relied on presidential power, including distribution of patronage, to overcome southern opposition about race mixing that would result from annexation of these territories. The Spanish-American War was a triumph for Republican supporters of internationalism. The quick and decisive victory proved that the military could be effective and that success could bring stability, as well as more territory. Although westward continental expansion had ended, the United States could grow abroad. McKinley, who received credit for having poured money into the navy, which was responsible for the victory, received widespread praise for his performance. The war did not, however, create any sort of consensus surrounding the idea of internationalism or a national security state, and after it was over the political coalition that had supported it weakened.

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Military spending as a percentage of GDP fell from 2.1 percent to 1.13 percent by 1900, lower than that in Britain, Germany, or France. Resistance to further overseas operations remained strong among many Republicans and most Democrats. Filipinos rejected American rule and attacked U.S. soldiers in 1899, turning this into a more expansive operation to achieve stability. The fighting caused greater unease in the United States about the costs of expansion and about the belief that people living under U.S. forces would be “civilized,” as proponents had promised. Many southerners were no longer behind these efforts. Virginia’s John Daniel warned that controlling the Filipinos would result in the mixing of races.11 The Anti-Imperialist League, formed in 1898, warned that “imperialism is hostile to liberty and tends toward militarism, an evil from which it has been our glory to be free.” The league consisted of a membership of diverse background, including Mark Twain, the social activist Jane Addams, and the industrialist Andrew Carnegie. SEPTEMBER 6, 1901, during a visit to the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, President McKinley was shot and killed by an anarchist. The assassination heightened national security fears about an international network of radicals and anarchists attempting to wage war on capitalism, with bombings taking place everywhere from Chicago to Spain.12 McKinley’s successor, Theodore Roosevelt, was not dissuaded by the arguments of the Anti-Imperialist League and went even further in attempting to define a robust national security agenda for the GOP, though without the threat of a major war TR was unable to break through nineteenth-century resistance to internationalism and a national security state. Roosevelt had a bold vision about what the United States could accomplish. He believed that it could expand its territorial influence while improving the condition of people who came under its control. “Whether we desire it or not, we must henceforth recognize that we have international duties no less than international rights.”13 Racism played a significant role in TR’s political thought; he was fully persuaded by arguments about how it was possible to civilize “inferior” races. His four-volume The Winning of the West (1889–1896) was “a record of endless feats of arms, of victory after victory in the ceaseless strife waged against wild man and wild nature.” As president, Roosevelt emerged as a champion of naval power and building America’s military so that it could exert greater influence in strategic areas.

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Like many Progressive-era intellectuals, Roosevelt believed that demonstrating American power overseas could help the country regain a sense of self-confidence and unity that had been shaken by the 1890s economic downturns, domestic strife between workers and business, and the emergence of radical political forces. In 1902, Roosevelt told Congress, “As a people we have played a large part in the world, and we are bent upon making our future even larger than the past. In particular, the events of the last four years have definitely decided that, for woe or for weal, our place must be great among the nations. We may either fail greatly or succeed greatly; but we cannot avoid the endeavor from which either great failure or great success must come. Even if we would, we cannot play a small part. If we should try, all that would follow would be that we should play a large part ignobly and shamefully.” As president, Roosevelt devoted himself to the institutions needed for war, expanding the presence of the United States in other parts of the world and strengthening its military forces. He authorized more money for the regular army and even more for the navy. The navy finished its transition to a modern battleship fleet during his presidency. The number of battleships rose to thirty-six in 1913, from eleven in 1898, placing the United States third after Britain and Germany.14 He also took on the challenge of the anarchist threat by supporting an immigration reform in 1903 that prohibited individuals “opposed to all organized government” from entering the country.15 TR claimed that the United States maintained the right to intervene in the affairs of Latin America and other regions when necessary. Roosevelt went so far as to foment a revolution in 1903 in Panama against Colombian domination to ease the way for construction of the Panama Canal. The Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine asserted the right of the United States to intervene in Central and South America when small nations could not repay their international debts—not just when being attacked by European powers. After his election in 1904 to a full term, Roosevelt told Congress, “In the western hemisphere, the adherence of the United States to the Monroe Doctrine may force the United States, however reluctantly, in flagrant cases of such wrongdoing or impotence, to the exercise of an international police power.” Roosevelt also saw the use of diplomacy as part of the American arsenal. In June 1905, Roosevelt invited Russia and Japan to meet at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to negotiate an end to their war, which had been raging since 1904 over control of Manchuria and

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other territory in East Asia. The United States had supported Japan during the war. Relations with Russia had worsened following pogroms against Jews in the 1890s as well as fears that Russia sought to expand its influence in Asia. Roosevelt was also concerned about revolutionary activity by socialists and communists in 1905 who were clamoring to bring down the despotic Tsar Nicholas II. Although Roosevelt had little love for the tsar, he feared the radical nature of the revolutionary movement. Seeking to stabilize the situation, Roosevelt pushed to achieve peace. The Russians had been badly defeated by that point, so they agreed to the meeting. All sides signed a treaty in September.16 For his role in the negotiations, Roosevelt received the Nobel Peace Prize. This period saw the face of government change radically. The staff of the State Department rose from 76 in 1890 to 708 by 1920. The army, which was never bigger than 30,000 from 1871 to 1890, peaked at 210,000 in 1898, then fell, remaining between 64,000 and 108,000 until World War I.17 Under TR’s successor, President William Howard Taft, who had been the first civilian governorgeneral of the Philippines from 1901 to 1904, the United States engaged in what critics later called “Dollar Diplomacy,” whereby the government worked to protect easy access for U.S. businessmen to overseas markets and to promote investment in countries like China. With all of the changes that had occurred under TR, however, the government remained underdeveloped in terms of its national security institutions. Defense remained a small portion of the budget and GDP. The GOP remained divided over these policies. If Republican proponents of internationalism wanted to transform politics, they had a long way to go to build up the necessary institutions and ideas. WILSON RECEIVED his Ph.D. in political science from Johns Hopkins University and published a book based on his dissertation, Congressional Government, in 1885. The book lamented the fact that the separation of powers in the U.S. political system did not allow for the kind of efficient and bold decision making practiced by the parties in European parliamentary systems. To achieve disciplined party action, Wilson felt that the congressional process would have to change. Congressional committee chairmen commanded enormous power, he wrote, and members frequently voted based on electoral self-interest as opposed to the good of the party. America needed stronger parties and stronger presidents. In the existing system, the public could not hold anyone accountable and government power was chaotically fragmented

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among so many committee fiefdoms. “In a word,”Wilson wrote, “the national parties do not act in Congress under the restraint of a sense of immediate responsibility. Responsibility is spread thin; and no vote or debate can gather it.”18 It was virtually impossible to push big ideas through the legislative process given that there were so many veto points. One reviewer called Wilson’s book “the best critical writing on the American constitution which has appeared since the ‘Federalist’ papers.”19 Wilson became a professor at Princeton in 1890 and the university’s president in 1902. Before becoming president of the United States, he also served as governor of New Jersey for two years. Wilson found himself in an ideal situation upon taking office. Democrats controlled both branches of government for the first time since 1896. They held 291 seats in the House and 51 seats (out of 96) in the Senate, so Wilson had no incentive for bipartisanship. He had defeated a badly divided Republican Party. Frustrated with Taft’s reluctance to expand federal government regulations and bureaucracies into key areas of the economy, Roosevelt had broken with the GOP and run as the candidate of the Progressive Party, receiving 27.4 percent of the popular vote to Wilson’s 41.9 percent. Taft came in third with 23.2 percent, and he and TR, formerly allies, drifted apart. Wilson tried to govern in Washington like a British prime minister by coordinating White House decisions with congressional Democratic deliberations. His objective was to nurture an ongoing flow of discussions as well as to coordinate political strategy. He also expanded his own public role by convening regular press conferences and—adopting a practice that had been abandoned after John Adams—speaking before Congress. Back in the 1890s, he had written about the need for collective security: “No nation any longer lives apart. Ours is a day, not of national so much as of international and common forces.”20 He had supported the Spanish-American War and the territorial expansion that followed. Wilson was part of a growing number of Democrats whose education and experiences made them sympathetic to the arguments of northeastern Republicans. “No war ever transformed us quite as the war with Spain transformed us,” he wrote in 1902. “The nation has stepped forth into the open arena of the world.”21 Wilson was also closely connected to, and influenced by, a network of progressives and socialists that included Jane Addams, Max Eastman, and Eugene V. Debs, who wanted to create mechanisms for collective security that could maintain international peace and who

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felt that domestic reform depended on eradicating war and the forces of imperialism that produced it. During his campaign, Wilson said, “The same exploitation and injustice within our borders applies to international questions. . . . How are we going to do justice to other nations if we don’t know justice?”22 By 1912, Wilson had seen ample evidence of the need for some new mechanism for collective security and military intervention. In the previous decade, wars, revolutions, and civil conflict had rocked China, Cuba, and the Philippines. Wilson and his progressive peers understood that the world was on the brink of broad-scale warfare and that collective efforts were the only way to stabilize international relations. Once in office, Wilson made it clear that he was willing to use military force unilaterally. He had sufficient support for these limited interventions, though they came under fire from peace organizations as well as Republican internationalists who preferred a more aggressive display of force. In 1914, he deployed troops to Mexico to try to oust President Victoriano Huerta, a general who had come to power through a coup d’état. With Mexico and other cases, such as his decision to send troops into Haiti in 1915, Wilson exhibited the same belief as TR in thinking that the United States could bring social progress to non–Anglo-Saxon groups. He promoted the operations as efforts to use military power as a tool to nurture more progressive and democratic forces against authoritarian and anti-democratic leaders. Wilson saw that the European balance of power had reached the breaking point because of the intensified competition among imperial regimes. When war did break out in 1914, he was hesitant to involve U.S. troops. He understood that the nature of war in the modern technological era, with the invention of the machine gun and poison gas, would be extremely brutal, and that there was little support among the citizenry for entering the war. One of the most popular songs in 1916 was “Don’t Take My Darling Boy Away.” Congress reflected this skepticism by refusing to devote the budgetary resources needed to strengthen the army and navy, leaving military institutions to look in 1916 much as they had been in 1901. In 1917, the United States was spending half as much per capita on the military as Germany and a third as much as France.23 Wilson, however, did not sit still. In 1915, he warned that Germans would be held accountable for any damage suffered by Americans as a result of U-boat attacks. When a German U-boat sank the British ocean liner Lusitania on May 7, 1915, killing 1,198 passengers, including 128 American citizens, the president wrote to the

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German government that Americans had the right to travel on passenger ships without having to fear attack. The sinking and Wilson’s response raised the fear of war in the United States. If the president needed a reminder of the opposition, it came in the form of his secretary of state, William Jennings Bryan. As the 1896 Democratic presidential candidate, Jennings had mesmerized rural and working-class Americans with his populist rhetoric. Wilson had brought him into the cabinet because Bryan still commanded an enormous following in the Democratic Party. Bryan resigned in 1915 believing that the president was trying to drum up a crisis. He was popular in the South, so his resignation hurt Wilson, who needed the support of southern congressional Democrats. Meanwhile, as Wilson carefully maneuvered his way through the politics of war and peace, some Senate Republicans stepped into the breach and tried to reclaim the internationalist mantle. These Republican internationalists led the charge by extending the arguments that they had made in the early 1900s about America’s need to prepare for war and engage in international affairs. The League to Enforce Peace, founded in 1915 by figures from the worlds of law, business, and politics, set out to promote the creation of a group that used international law to resolve disputes. Former President Taft was the group’s most prominent member. A preparedness movement, spearheaded by influential Republicans including Roosevelt and Lodge, called for an expansion of the regular army, a strengthened navy, conscription, and other measures that would place the United States on permanent war footing. One preparedness organization, the National Security League, warned that Wilson was not taking these issues seriously enough, that war was coming, and that the United States would not be ready for the challenge. The membership in these organizations skyrocketed after the sinking of Lusitania. Wilson called on Congress to allocate funds for a larger navy and began discussions with Congress about expanding the regular army, though these fell apart because of southern opposition. Running for reelection in 1916 and using the slogan “He Kept Us Out of War,”Wilson defeated Republican Charles Evans Hughes. Democrats reminded voters that they were “working—not fighting” under the current administration and painted Republicans as the war party that threatened to entangle the United States in the sordid affairs of Europe. Democrats stressed that Wilson had promoted a buildup in the military so that the United States was now strong enough to avoid war. Wilson also introduced a vision of collective

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security into the campaign, promising to support an international institution to protect the peace. Wilson had pushed through Congress a number of progressive domestic measures—such as the Revenue Act of 1916, which created the most progressive tax structure in American history, with the burden of the funding falling on the wealthiest Americans—thus forging an alliance with the left that resulted in a powerful coalition. Republicans promised peace and neutrality, but at the same time they criticized Wilson for not having done enough to get the nation on sound wartime footing. Although sticking to his promise to keep the peace, Wilson sounded more bellicose toward the end of the campaign when he warned about the dangers coming from Europe. He helped win congressional support for the National Defense Act, which expanded the regular army and strengthened the national guard. He endorsed the Naval Expansion Act to build more battleships. TR and other Republicans, however, complained that the efforts were insufficient.24 Trying to thread the needle on peace and war worked for Wilson, but only barely. He received 277 electoral votes and 49.4 percent of the popular vote to Hughes’s 254 electoral votes and 46.2 percent. The Democratic margin in both the House and the Senate narrowed, and both chambers were about evenly split, while independents and Progressives now had much greater influence. Republicans were furious about how Democrats had conducted the campaign. They felt that Wilson had played politics with the possibility of war and that he was dishonest with voters about his intentions in Europe. by for three years as war ravaged Europe, with Wilson trying to keep the nation out of the war between the Allied Powers (Britain, France, Russia, Italy, and Japan) and the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, and Bulgaria), but by 1917 tensions between the United States and Germany had reached a fever pitch due to German submarine attacks on American ships in the Atlantic. With reelection behind him, Wilson was eager to outline his vision to Congress and the world for a road map to a peaceful future. On January 22, he made a speech about “peace without victory,” the first presidential address to Congress on foreign policy since John Adams’s State of the Union Address in 1800. In the speech, which was entitled “A World League for Peace,” he introduced themes to Congress, and to the American public, about the importance of collective security and national self-determination, themes

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that would define his national security vision. Wilson said, “I am proposing government by the consent of the governed; that freedom of the seas which in international conference after conference representatives of the United States have urged with the eloquence of those who are the convinced disciples of liberty; and that moderation of armaments which makes of armies and navies a power for order merely, not an instrument of aggression or of selfish violence.” Wilson argued that all nations should be considered equal. He said, “Right must be based upon the common strength, not upon the individual strength, of the nations upon whose concert peace will depend.” His vision of a postwar order, governed by a league through which nations would work and coordinate with each other to avoid war while respecting the sovereignty of all people seemed bold, path breaking, and promising. He said that the peace “must be followed by some definite concert of power which will make it virtually impossible that any such catastrophe should ever overwhelm us again.” Senators from both parties were so caught up in the president’s words that they were literally leaning forward in their seats, in total silence, so as not to miss a single phrase. But after a day, Republicans found much to criticize. Senator Lawrence Sherman of Illinois called it the “stump speech from the throne.” Lodge took aim at the idea of self-determination as well as the notion that nations would enter into some alliance to make sure war did not break out again. He questioned how far the United States would be willing to go to make sure this principle was upheld with all countries. Lodge also insisted on an unconditional surrender by the Germans. Regarding an international body for resolving disputes, he said, “you can not make effective a league of peace, ‘supported by the organized force of mankind,’ by language or highsounding phrases.”The progressive journalist Herbert Croly told the president that there “seems to be a tendency among Republicans to oppose the participation of the United States in a League of Nations under any conditions. They seem to have decided to try to make party capital out of it.”25 Wilson was in a much stronger position in January, however, than he had been a year before. Since his reelection he had been working tirelessly to build support for entering the war by launching an intense loyalty campaign in 1916 and 1917, during which administration supporters equated patriotism with loyalty to the president. Through public speeches and editorials from sympathetic newspaper editors, the administration stirred up public sentiment. “So long as we have contrary sympathies,”Wilson said in a tour of the South, “so

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long as one body of us is pulling in one direction and another direction, we can’t do anything, either for ourselves or for the world.”After the U.S. diplomat Pleasant Stovall visited Georgia and Florida, he reported to the president that the program was working: “Any mention of your war policies was applauded with enthusiasm, and I have yet to find a single town or city where the people were not ready and willing for any call or any sacrifice.”26 By January,Wilson had built up a coalition, albeit a fragile one, in Congress that supported military engagement in Europe and the creation of a stronger national security state. The Republican internationalists were, of course, adamant in their support, even though they detested Wilson for what they considered his failure to prepare the nation’s military. There were also northeastern Democrats, such as Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who had been educated in the region’s institutions and worked and socialized in internationalist circles, who shared Wilson’s understanding of a global community, of which the United States was a part, that seemed on the verge of descending into chaos. A strong and bipartisan progressive movement had also developed in support of military engagement in Europe. Some progressive activists believed that the war could help build support for government intervention as a principle and extend progressive activism to other parts of the world. The philosopher John Dewey spoke about the “social possibilities” that could result from the war, while the journalist Walter Lippmann said that the war offered a moment to “stand committed as never before to the realization of democracy in America.” Lippmann predicted that after the combat ended, Americans would “turn with fresh interest to our own tyrannies—to our Colorado mines, our autocratic steel industries, our sweatshops and our slums. We shall call that man un-American and no patriot who prates of liberty in Europe and resists it at home.”27 Progressive activists felt that without world peace it would be impossible to pursue social legislation, whereas ending the war sooner rather than later would allow the president to turn his attention to the issues that had concerned him in his first term, and many, including Jane Addams, also wanted the imperial powers to collapse.28 In January 1917, the British literary critic Sydney Brooks, responding to Wilson’s speech to Congress, wrote in the New York Tribune, “All the belligerents have proclaimed, and with equal sincerity, that the latest war must also be the last, and that this is a war to end all wars.”29 Brooks had borrowed a term popularized by H.G. Wells in his 1914 book, The War That Will End War.

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The influential southern Democrats in Congress joined Wilson’s coalition despite their grave apprehension about this effort. Southern Democrats continued to harbor fears that policy was being dictated by northern financial and commercial elites with close ties and deep sympathy for Great Britain, and that wartime government would be used against the white South, bringing back memories of Reconstruction and the effort to achieve racial equality. Wilson used the bully pulpit of the presidency to go into southern states and win over opponents of intervention. Some legislators, however, could not be persuaded or intimidated. Progressive Democrats and Republicans who wanted more government at home and initiatives to achieve international peace were divided over the war. Many progressive Republicans from the Midwest, a region that resisted overseas intervention and perceived war as a tool of northeastern elite interests, broke with allies in the South and adamantly opposed the decision to enter the war. Wilson forged ahead despite the opposition. In February, he sent a proposal to Congress authorizing the provision of armaments to U.S. merchant ships so that they could defend themselves against German attack. Progressive Republicans from the Midwest would have none of it, as Wisconsin’s Robert La Follette and Nebraska’s George Norris filibustered for twenty-three days, bringing the chamber to a standstill. The president was furious about how the senators were undermining his effort, complaining that “a little group of willful men, representing no opinion but their own, have rendered the great government of the United States helpless and contemptible.” Senate Democrats under pressure from the president agreed, in March, to change the rules of the chamber so that two-thirds of the Senate could vote for cloture, which would shut down a filibuster. But dissent waned over the course of February and March. Continued German attacks on U.S. ships made it difficult to argue that peace could be achieved without military force. The revelation of a note showing that Germans had attempted to ally with Mexico in an invasion of Texas emerged. Wilson’s argument that the Allied Powers were firmly on the side of democracy was further bolstered in March, when a political revolution in Russia forced Tsar Nicholas II to abdicate, leaving the Russian provisional government in power. Before the revolution, it had been difficult for Wilson to make the claim that his main interest was the achievement of democracy given the thoroughly undemocratic nature of the tsarist regime. On April 2, 1917, Wilson asked Congress to declare war on Germany. “The world must be made safe for democracy,” he said. “We

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shall fight for . . . a universal dominion of right by such a concert of free peoples as shall bring peace and safety to all nations and make the world itself at last free.” By now, Wilson had Congress behind him: The Senate vote was 82 to 6 and the House 373 to 50. Dissent was drowned out that day. When Progressive Republican Norris warned, “We are going into war upon the command of gold. . . . I feel that we are about to put the dollar sign on the American flag,” colleagues yelled “Treason! Treason!”30 The ensuing mobilization was unprecedented in scale and scope. On May 18, 1917, Congress passed the Selective Service Act, which allowed the government to draft the men that it needed to fight the war. There had been 174,112 military personnel on active duty in 1915; by 1917 there were 643,833 and 2,897,167 the following year. Military spending also rose dramatically—from under one percent of GDP in 1915 to almost fourteen percent four years later. The Sedition and Espionage Acts of 1917 and 1918 authorized federal officials to crack down on domestic dissenters. The Committee on Public Information launched a public relations effort to sell the war and counteract domestic opponents. The Food Administration asked Americans to voluntarily manage their consumption by promoting “Meatless Mondays” and “Wheatless Wednesdays.” HE IMPLEMENTATION OF domestic war programs caused many problems for Wilson. The administration’s effort to control information about the war and crack down on alleged subversives angered those on the left who were or thought they were targets of these programs. The Russian Revolution culminated in the Bolshevik takeover of government in October and November of 1917, fueling investigations by Postmaster General Albert Burleson and the Department of Justice into the American left on the grounds that they were tied to events in Russia. The government sent the socialist leader Eugene V. Debs to jail for saying, “The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles.” Many less well-known citizens were imprisoned for their opposition as well. Burleson targeted leftwing newspapers and journals such as The Masses, preventing them from circulating their materials and monitoring their mail. Roger Baldwin responded by creating a group devoted to civil liberties, which would become the American Civil Liberties Union. Baldwin said, “We want to get a lot of good flags, talk a good deal about the Constitution and what our forefathers wanted to make of this coun-

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try, and to show that we are the folks that really stand for the spirit of our institutions.”31 Such actions by the federal government helped fuel vigilante intimidation of immigrant populations from Germany.32 In April 1918 a mob in St. Louis lynched Robert Prager, a German-born American, after dragging him through the streets. A jury took all of twenty-five minutes to declare the ringleaders not guilty. Local governments around the country passed bans on German food, songs, and culture. Though Wilson had formed a good relationship with the head of the American Federation of Labor, Samuel Gompers, who had supported his candidacy in 1916, relations with organized labor soured as the war progressed. When labor organizing threatened the war effort, Wilson threatened organized labor. There were more strikes in 1917, almost 4,500, than during any previous year in American history. The government raided the offices of the Industrial Workers of the World, the IWW, or Wobblies, one of the more radical labor organizations. The War Department adopted an expansive definition of public utility so that the government could help business leaders maintain order at their factories. Business called on the government to counteract union organizing on the grounds that labor would disrupt wartime production. Federal troops were assigned to railroads and coal mines to intimidate strikers. Many members of Congress in both parties were uneasy about the expansion of executive power because of the war, and by January 1918, Congress would be conducting five separate investigations into the administration’s programs. Many northern Democrats were also angry that the president seemed to favor the party’s southern wing, which controlled key committee chairmanships, by crafting fiscal policies that gave disproportionate help to these states.33 While Wilson worked with Democratic House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Claude Kitchen to implement an excess-profits tax that infuriated business, much of the war was financed with government bonds that were affordable for and beneficial only to wealthier Americans. Government agencies such as the War Industries Board, which helped coordinate the production of wartime machinery, were designed as voluntary bodies, and members of the economic elite, such as Wall Street financier Bernard Baruch, were given positions of great responsibility. The war also triggered racial conflict. As African Americans moved north to take industrial jobs that opened up as a result of

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white workers being drafted, tensions broke out in cities. In the summer of 1917, a riot in East St. Louis, Illinois, left thirty-nine blacks and nine whites dead. Progressives became increasingly frustrated with the president. Despite their original hope that the war would generate more interest in progressive reform at home, the administration had shown hardly any enthusiasm for domestic initiatives beyond those directly related to wartime mobilization—and many of those used government to stifle rather than nurture democracy.They were angry about the persecution of the left and the blatant disregard for civil liberties. John Dewey, who had originally thought that the war would advance progressive causes, concluded that reactionary elements in the country were triumphant, “egging on the intolerance of the people” and placing a stigma “upon all whose liberalizing influence on domestic policies they dread.”34 But not surprisingly it was the Republicans who were most aggressive in their criticism of Wilson’s prosecution of the war. They were careful to focus on the conduct rather than the legitimacy of U.S. intervention, which they supported. Senator Lodge said that Republicans “wish to sustain to the utmost those charged with responsibility—first, and above all, our armies in the field, then the Administration; but where there is inefficiency, delay, or wrongdoing, they will address themselves to curing it without fear or favor.”35 Theodore Roosevelt accused Wilson of trying to win with “kid gloves and fine phrases.” Illinois Senator John Sherman emphasized civil liberties, saying that the administration was using “the war to betray republican government.”36 Wilson’s commitment to partisanship, which had served him well in his first term and in the initial mobilization for war, now became powerful fodder for Republicans on the campaign trail. Additionally, Wilson made tactical miscalculations in the face of Republican accusations, governing as if he still could depend on the congressional majorities of 1913 and 1914. When Theodore Roosevelt offered to organize a group of volunteer troops in 1917 to fight in France, promising to boost the morale of American troops, Wilson said no, fearing that Roosevelt would upstage and possibly embarrass him. Republicans interpreted this as a sign that he would not reach out to them. As the partisan wars raged, Wilson sounded increasingly moralistic in how he described his objectives with this war. On January 8, 1918, he appeared before a joint session of Congress to present them with a vision for a postwar order. The so-called Fourteen Points

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speech, which the New York Herald called “one of the great documents in American history,”37 marked the culmination of his intellectual development and interaction with the peace organizations that had promoted international consultation and negotiation for decades. He wanted to publicize to Europe, East Asia, Latin America, and his fellow citizens his vision that through a cooperative international community war could be avoided. His goals included a commitment to national self-determination, collective security through a League of Nations, open seas and commerce, and military disarmament. “We have spoken now,” the president told Congress, “in terms too concrete to admit of any further doubt or question. An evident principle runs through the whole program I have outlined. It is the principle of justice to all peoples and nationalities, and their right to live on equal terms of liberty and safety with one another, whether they be strong or weak.” The Fourteen Points address was delivered by Woodrow Wilson the politician, not the professor. In addition to promoting his peace plan to the world, he wanted to make a strong statement to Republicans who were calling for a tougher approach to the war. He wanted to set the terms for the resolution of the war rather than have his adversaries do it for him. His idealism and his formal articulation of a broader national security agenda came long after America had entered the war and at the height of partisan conflict in Washington. The speech was as much a political defense of his policies as an ideological blueprint for the Democratic Party. Although foreign leaders could hear Wilson’s words and draw inspiration about the potential for the war to transform international conditions, people who followed, or were involved in, the government heard his words through the highly charged prism of polarized politics. The positive reception to the speech put Republicans on the defensive, though many were furious that Wilson had not consulted them when he was designing his proposals. Lodge and fellow Republicans also disagreed with the terms Wilson set out. They believed that any discussions of peace with Germany were irrelevant until its troops had been withdrawn from conquered territory. Lodge did not think that a league for collective action should be part of a peace settlement. Republican Senator Porter McCumber of North Dakota submitted a resolution to the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee that “there shall be no cessation of hostilities and no armistice until the Imperial German Government shall disband its armies and surrender its arms and munitions.”38 In contrast to Wilson,

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Lodge sought a resolution to the war that was extremely punitive toward the Germans. 1918 midterm elections, Democrats were privately aware that their majority was vulnerable. A large number of Democrats who had been elected in 1916 represented formerly Republican districts. Hurting the party still further was that eight Senate Democrats had died during the 65th Congress. Republicans sensed that this was their chance to take back power in Washington and weaken Wilson. Will Hays, chairman of the Republican National Committee, nationalized the elections around the war and Wilson’s expansion of government, which he said was to the detriment of the power of business and individual liberties. Republicans warned that Wilson would agree to a dangerous peace, one that was more favorable to Germany than to the Allies. In 1918, after a meeting in May with William Howard Taft and Theodore Roosevelt, who had agreed to bury the hatchet and join forces on the campaign trail, Republican leaders overcame the divisions that had hampered them since the 1912 election. On October 24, in a very public swipe at Wilson’s foreign policy, Roosevelt wrote a missive to Senator Lodge—set to become chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee if Republicans won— reprinted in most major newspapers, in which he denounced the Fourteen Points and insisted on Germany’s unconditional surrender. “Let us obtain peace,” Roosevelt wrote, “by the hammering guns and not chat about peace to the accompaniment of the clicking of typewriters.” The language of the Fourteen Points was dangerous, he said, and would represent the “conditional surrender of the United States” to Germany. Wilson, concerned for his party and his ability to achieve peace, took an active role in the campaign. During the primaries, he aggressively campaigned against members of his own party who opposed his wartime policies, portraying them as disloyal and unpatriotic. In Georgia, Wilson and his supporters mobilized behind William Harris to knock off Senator Tom Hardwick, a leading critic of the draft and of Wilson’s censorship. Harris won with 160,000 votes to 35,000 for Hardwick. Wilson personally campaigned against Mississippi Democratic Senator James Vardaman, who had stood with Robert La Follette on the Senate floor in April 1917 to speak against the declaration of war. One local paper, sympathetic to Wilson, said the campaign was about “Vardaman vs.Wilson; Disloyalty vs. Loyalty; Prussianism vs. Americanism.” Vardaman lost.39

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Democrats focused their strongest firepower, however, on Republicans. On October 24, Wilson called for the defeat of Republicans who “sought to take the choice of policy out of my hands and put it under the control of instrumentalities of their own choosing.” It was not the time for divided leadership, he claimed, implying that he needed a Democratic Congress to prosecute the war effectively. Republicans accused the president of trying to take partisan advantage of the crisis. “The President has thrown off the mask,” wrote Lodge, “and it is enough to make a Republican pretty indignant to be told that he cannot be trusted to take part in the government of his country, that the only test of loyalty is loyalty to one man no matter what he does.”40 Joseph Tumulty, an advisor to Wilson, placed an advertisement in newspapers throughout the country the night before and the morning of the election, stating that “the people have to decide whether they will follow President Wilson or Colonel Roosevelt, whether they want a peace of liberalism and justice or a peace of imperialism, standpatism, militarism that leaves the old causes of war exactly where they were before we undertook to root out militarism and the rule of force and war itself.”41 The midterm elections were a disaster for Wilson. In the House, the GOP now enjoyed a 240 to 192 margin. In the Senate, it picked up six seats to gain control, forty-nine to forty-seven. Republicans were now an angry congressional majority. came to an end. On November 11, 1918, the armistice treaty between the Allies and Germany was signed and a ceasefire proclaimed (the other Central Powers had laid down their arms in September and October). Wilson and the Republican Congress dismantled the wartime apparatus almost as quickly as it had been put together over the course of the previous year. There was no sense that the government would or should keep programs that had been created for this military operation in Europe. The National War Labor Board went first, to the dismay of workers. It had included labor and business representatives and had attempted to achieve peace in the factories, providing a new level of protection to workers in the process. Baruch resigned as the head of the War Industries Board right after the armistice, and by the end of the month the board itself was gone. The draft, wartime labor regulations, government contracts for industry, propaganda programs, all fell away. Though government spending on the military would remain higher than before World War I, the United States did not retain a

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national security state apparatus after the war ended. On December 2, before he traveled to Paris to meet with the Allies about a peace agreement, Wilson told Congress, “While the war lasted we set up many agencies by which to direct the industries of the country. . . . But the moment we knew the armistice to have been signed we took the harness off . . . but from no quarter have I seen any general scheme of ‘reconstruction’ emerge which I thought it likely we could force our spirited businessmen and self-reliant labourers to accept with due pliancy and obedience.”42 The decision by Wilson and Congress was entirely understandable given the history of the nation. In 1918 and 1919, most Americans did not see the need for a national security state that stood prepared at all times to respond to threats abroad and domestically. Wilson arrived in Europe on December 13 without any members of Congress accompanying him, and the crowds there greeted him as a hero, bolstering his sense that he was on the verge of accomplishing a bigger goal, beyond victory in the war. Wilson, British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, French Premier Georges Clemenceau, and Italian Prime Minister Vittorio Orlando worked on a treaty between January and May 1919 at the Palace of Versailles. For Wilson, its most important element was the League of Nations, which would bring nations together to resolve international disputes. The Allied leaders had been skeptical about the proposal but followed Wilson’s pressure given the perception of the international support he enjoyed. As a concession for supporting the League of Nations, Wilson backed down on his demand to achieve self-determination for all nations and also agreed to a settlement that was much harsher to Germany than he had hoped for. The treaty required Germany to pay $33 billion in reparations. The focus of the treaty was to punish Germany rather than to move beyond imperialism. Wilson agreed to remove provisions that would have curtailed the power of Britain, France, and Italy. For Wilson, the treaty was essential because it would vindicate his goal of institutionalizing a mechanism of collective security that could prevent further conflict. It would realize his hope that progressive ideals could be achieved through this brutal war. He had capitulated on the issue of self-determination. The treaty marked an unprecedented commitment to an international alliance by creating the League of Nations. According to Article X of the treaty, nations that participated in the League would agree to prevent aggression against any members.

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Wilson exacerbated tensions by becoming more stubborn in the face of dissent. He returned home on board the George Washington, purposely landing in Boston, to launch his crusade for the treaty on Senator Lodge’s home turf. A crowd estimated between 100,000 and 200,000 greeted him there. Then he traveled to Worcester to speak to an overflow crowd at Mechanics Hall. Without mentioning Lodge by name, Wilson warned that “any man who resists the present tides that run in the world will find himself thrown upon a shore so high and barren that it will seem as if he had been separated from his human kind forever.”43 Almost 100,000 people welcomed the president on his arrival in Washington’s Union Station. He had the crowds, but with an extremely unfriendly Republican majority in Congress, Wilson stood very little chance of success. He pushed hard for congressional ratification, explaining to senators that the League was the “only hope for mankind.” He presented the treaty to the Senate on July 10, 1919, warning that the legislators would “break the heart of the world” if it was not ratified. He tried to intimidate Congress, traveling around the country, with an entourage of reporters, to campaign for ratification, making incendiary speeches about his opponents back in Washington.44 The Senate contained three groups of opponents. Irreconcilables consisted of progressive and conservative isolationists in both parties who opposed the treaty on all grounds. This was the smallest group, as there was strong support for internationalism in both parties toward the end of the war. The Strong Reservationists would vote for the measure, but only with drastic changes. The Mild Reservationists, who were the key group in the opposition, were Republican internationalists who supported the treaty but wanted some changes. The Strong Reservationists, led by Lodge, supported most of the treaty but opposed one key requirement: that all members in the League of Nations would respond if one of the others was attacked. They felt it violated the constitutional right of Congress to declare war and placed decisions over military deployments in the hands of an international alliance. Their opposition stemmed from the longstanding American bias toward unilateralism in foreign policy, namely that the country should enter conflicts only when they were directly related to the national interest. The opposition of this group was not about the concept of having a collective security mechanism, which they supported. The tensions over the proposed structure of the League were made worse by the personal animosity that existed toward Wilson

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after the midterm elections. Republicans never liked him to begin with, but now they were seething. Wilson’s weakened political status did not give them any political incentive to fold. The opposition could not be easily dismissed by the president as reactionary isolationists given that the Republicans were led by Senate Majority Leader Lodge, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and a well-known internationalist. Wilson had also lost the support of progressives because of his administration’s flagrant violations of civil liberties during the war. The New York newspaperman Palmer Gavit wrote Wilson in February 1919 that the abuse of civil liberties was “the very reason that you are not having now the liberal backing that is your right.”45 The Senate refused several times to ratify the treaty. Lodge’s strategy was to load it up with amendments that Wilson and his supporters refused to accept and delay the voting as long as possible. Lodge stacked the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with Republicans strongly opposed to the bill. In July, the president spoke directly to the Senate to ask for its support, but the speech went badly. The “audience wanted raw meat,” said one Democrat; “he fed them cold turnips.”46 The president had a series of mild strokes in recent years, but on October 2, 1919, on a speaking tour to build support, he suffered a massive one. Now, even though Wilson was severely incapacitated, Senate Republicans did not let up. On March 19, 1920, twenty-one Democrats and twenty-eight Republicans voted for Lodge’s version of the treaty, but the total was seven votes short of the two-thirds needed for ratification. Most of the World War I national security apparatus would be dismantled quickly. Congress abandoned conscription. During the 1920s, Congress and the Treasury would drastically reduce tax rates to their prewar levels. In 1920, Republican Warren Harding won the presidential election. The country now had united Republican government. In 1923, Harding declared the treaty “as dead as slavery.”47 President Wilson, incapacitated, was totally dejected, feeling that his project as president had failed with regard to domestic policy and foreign policy. The defeat of the League of Nations was a devastating blow. On the day of Harding’s inauguration, Wilson could not attend the ceremony outside the Capitol since he was too weak. When a group of congressmen led by Lodge visited before the inauguration to ceremonially ask him if there were “any further communications,” there was an awkward moment of silence before he said, “I have no further communication to make.”48

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Before Woodrow Wilson died on February 3, 1924, he said, “I am a broken piece of machinery.”49 The League of Nations was broken as well. During the 1920s, the League lacked any mechanisms to enforce collective decisions. There were a few moments of success as it negotiated an end to minor territorial disputes but these were far from what Wilson had in mind in 1919. Britain and France, financially struggling as a result of the war, did not have the resources or the will to strengthen the organization while the United States, with its substantial financial and military power, had refused to be a member. Germany and the Soviets had been excluded. The League would come to an end in 1946, after having failed to control its members or to prevent another brutal war from unfolding in Europe. Despite Wilson’s failure to establish internationalism as a guiding tenet of the Democratic Party, a few Democrats remained loyal to his vision. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who served as assistant secretary of the navy from 1913 to 1920 and then ran for vice president in 1920, promoted the case for the United States to join the League or some comparable alliance. In an article in Foreign Affairs in 1928, he wrote, “Since the summer of 1919 our country has had to face the charge that in a time when great constructive aid was needed in the task of solving the grave problems facing the whole earth, we have contributed little or nothing save the isolated Naval Conference of 1921.” He criticized Republicans for undermining the “principles of peace” through their objections to the League of Nations.50 Wilson would not live to see President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in October 1944 convene a conference in Washington that began negotiations to design a United Nations, which would fulfill many of Wilson’s dreams. FDR’s successor, Harry Truman, would nurture bipartisan support in the Senate for the United Nations based on his memories of Wilson’s battles. But for the most part, Democrats were desperately seeking to separate themselves from Wilson’s national security agenda. The end of World War I made Wilson’s policies seem like a total fiasco. The abuse of civil liberties and the failure to enact a host of domestic programs belied any notion that national security could serve progressive ends. The Red Scare in 1919–1920, during which the government targeted Americans allegedly connected to the new Russian communist state, served as a further reminder of how Wilson had cracked down on the left. Overseas, the promises of self-determination had been sold down the river by the president in exchange for the League, thus allowing the continuation of British and French domination that he had once promised to end.

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And so over the course of the 1920s, it was once again the Republican Party that took up the mantle of internationalism, albeit in an extremely circumscribed form. Throughout the decade, Republicans in Congress and the White House initiated diplomatic and military initiatives to create economic and political stability in Western European markets and improve corporate access to raw materials. They also wanted to protect U.S. investments overseas from revolutions and war. President Calvin Coolidge persuaded Congress to join the World Court in 1926, which was the judicial arm of the League of Nations, albeit after the Senate added numerous stipulations. The United States intervened overseas several times in the 1920s, in most cases without resorting to military force, to resolve conflicts in Panama, Honduras, Nicaragua, Brazil, and Chile. But the Republicans had reined in their internationalist ambitions considerably since the Wilson era. As they had after the SpanishAmerican War, Republicans oversaw a significant military demobilization in the early 1920s. In 1921 the Harding administration proposed a halt in the international race to create the world’s most powerful navy, an objective that peace activists supported. Through the Five Power Treaty, signed in 1922 by the United States, Great Britain, Japan, France, and Italy, the United States reduced the number of warships it would build. By the end of the decade, foreign policy had dropped out of political debate almost entirely. With the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and unemployment levels reaching twenty-five percent by 1932, voters had little interest in events abroad. Factories shut down, production declined, and a banking scare sent citizens into a full-scale panic about the safety of their savings in collapsing institutions. The severity of the Depression shifted the agenda toward economic reform.

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was in turmoil when Franklin Roosevelt took office in 1933. The Great Depression had devastated the economy, with twenty-five percent unemployment and confidence in economic institutions shaken to the core. Roosevelt responded to the crisis with a blizzard of legislative proposals, starting in his First Hundred Days, as well as his Fireside Chats. While Americans worried about their empty pockets, the situation in Europe and Asia grew perilous. Japan had accelerated its imperial ambitions by invading Manchuria in September 1931. Adolf Hitler became chancellor in 1933 with the Nazi Party consolidating its hold on the government. Two years later, fascist Italy invaded Ethiopia. In 1936, Japan invaded China. After Hitler seized control of much of the Rhineland, Germany entered into a formal alliance with Italy and Japan. But these events did not move political leaders in Washington to create a national security state or engage in overseas wars. Instead, a bipartisan movement away from a strong national security state intensified in the mid-1930s as conditions in Europe and Asia worsened. At the same time that FDR privately warned of a “long chaos” that was enveloping Europe, 50,000 veterans marched in Washington to protest for peace on April 6, 1935, the eighteenth anniversary of America’s entry into World War I, followed six days later by 175,000 college students walking out of their classes to protest war.1 Even as German, Italian, and Japanese troops expanded their reach, Congress tied the administration’s hands with the Neutrality

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Acts. The first of these, in 1935, imposed an arms embargo on countries involved in war and warned that Americans traveling on the ships of belligerents did so at their own risk. The second, the next year, added a prohibition on the provision of loans to belligerent countries. Roosevelt thought that he had found an opportunity to stop this trend as a result of the 1936 elections. Running an emotionally charged campaign, which focused almost entirely on domestic policy, as he attacked wealthy elites and called for a more aggressive program to dig the country out of the Depression, he routed Republican Alfred Landon with 60.8 percent of the popular vote and 523 electoral votes. Democrats came out of the election with seventy-six Senate seats, up from sixty-nine in the previous Congress, and 334 House seats, up from 322. The landslide is still one of the biggest in American history, a mandate for FDR and the Democrats. But Roosevelt overreached. The Supreme Court had been overturning some of his reforms, and so, in February 1937, he proposed adding up to six new justices, one for each of those over seventy who would not retire at that age. The new justices would of course be liberal ones, more sympathetic to his proposals. The plan drew heated opposition, but then in March the Supreme Court ruled in favor of two of FDR’s liberal programs, and in May a conservative justice stepped down, so the president suddenly had a friendlier court, and the “court-packing” plan quietly died. He also proposed reorganizing the executive branch—to expand the president’s authority over the sprawling number of agencies, increase his staff, and strengthen the role of the White House in budget planning. Many legislators perceived the proposal as part of a broader campaign to dangerously expand executive power at the expense of Congress. Opponents compared the proposal to power grabs by Hitler and Mussolini. Because of presidential overreaching, and fears of civil rights and unionization, a conservative coalition of southern Democrats and Republicans formed in 1937 and started to use the congressional committee system to attack the president. Under fire, FDR saw much of his political capital slip away, leaving him diminished strength to shape social or national security policy. Congress continued to limit his options. The third Neutrality Act (1937) banned the sale of weapons and financial assistance to countries at war and decreed it illegal to arm merchant ships that were trading with them. The Republican minority joined with many Democratic colleagues, who were equally leery about going to war, particularly in the middle of an economic depression, to pass the Neutrality Acts.

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With Americans concerned about the economy and the controversial end of World War I, there was not much support for entering into another major conflict. Midwestern Republican legislators skeptical about the use of force abroad enjoyed renewed standing in Congress after years of struggling in the shadow of East Coast colleagues like Theodore Roosevelt and Henry Cabot Lodge. One of the key figures in this cohort was Michigan Republican Senator Arthur Vandenberg, who had opposed most of the New Deal domestic agenda and been a solid opponent of overseas intervention. In response to Germany’s advance in Eastern Europe in the late 1930s, Vandenberg said, “This so-called war is nothing but about 25 people and propaganda.”2 Most international leaders and advisors who spoke with Roosevelt privately understood that he believed the United States needed to mobilize to stop the totalitarian threat in Europe and Asia. His concerns about moving forward were political rather than strategic. The president was doing what he felt was possible given the widespread resistance toward internationalism, making more and more public statements in favor of mobilization and intervention. Roosevelt admired the politics of his distant cousin Theodore and from the beginning of his career was a committed internationalist. As Wilson’s assistant secretary of the navy, he had urged the government to prepare itself militarily in the years leading up to World War I. He watched despondently as the Senate rejected the League of Nations, and in 1920, while running for vice president, he warned the country, “If the World War showed [anything], it showed the American people the futility of imagining that they could live in smug content their lives in their own way while the rest of the world burned in the conflagration of war across the ocean.”3 On October 5, 1937, FDR made one of his first public calls for international engagement with conflicts unfolding abroad. Convinced that war with Japan, Italy, and Germany was becoming more likely, he was gravely concerned that America was unprepared. The occupation of China was chiefly on his mind. Like many of his fellow citizens, he had been horrified to learn in the summer and fall of Japanese atrocities there, including mass executions of civilians. Americans had come to be sympathetic toward the plight of the Chinese because of reports from Christian missionaries and articles in Time magazine. Time’s owner, Henry Luce, was born there, his father having been a missionary, and the influential publisher held a deep affection for the country. Millions of Americans read the novels of Pearl Buck, whose sympathetic portraits of Chinese peasants

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inspired them to think romantically about daily life in that faraway land. Just as the Japan-China war was taking place, Americans were going to movie theaters to see the film version of Buck’s most famous novel, The Good Earth.4 Speaking to an audience in the isolationist stronghold of Chicago, Roosevelt warned that the United States would not be able to ignore world affairs for much longer and that a dangerous conflict in another part of the world could easily affect the United States though it was protected by two oceans. He did not offer any specific proposals beyond saying that peaceful nations needed to work together to uphold commonly respected laws and principles. FDR also made a vague reference to a quarantine. His point was to emphasize the urgency of containing international threats by making a comparison to how communities fought against physical disease. If the problem was not isolated, it would spread quickly. About Japanese activities in China he said, “Without a declaration of war and without warning or justification of any kind, civilians, including women and children, are being ruthlessly murdered with bombs from the air.” Comparing the war in Asia to a disease, he said, “We are determined to keep out of war, yet we cannot insure ourselves against the disastrous effects of war and the dangers of involvement.” The response to FDR’s warnings was almost uniformly negative. Americans were more concerned about the Great Depression than saving the world from totalitarianism. Polls showed that over ninety percent of Americans believed that foreign policy should focus on the United States avoiding involvement in a war. The economy had taken another sharp downturn in 1937, which Republicans now dubbed the “Roosevelt Recession.” Nor did FDR have many choices about what to do overseas. Defense spending only constituted fourteen percent of the federal budget (it would reach half of the federal budget by 1962); U.S. armed forces were one-tenth the size of Germany’s and half that of Japan’s, ranking sixteenth worldwide, between those of Portugal and Romania.5 Some newspapers cautioned against the lure of war. “Stop Foreign Meddling” was the title of one Wall Street Journal editorial. According to the Chicago Tribune, “The purpose is to throw the Japanese out of China. That’s war. Before the American people begin it they had better ask themselves how far they want to go with it.”6 There were many negative congressional responses to what came to be called FDR’s quarantine speech. New York Representative Hamilton Fish, the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, complained that when the president “proposes to quarantine

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nations like Japan, Germany, and Italy, or join in sanctions, he ceases to speak for the vast majority of Americans who have definitely made up their minds not to fight other people’s battles.” Idaho Republican Senator William Borah said, “let us not travel the old road of 1916 and 1917. We ought to be thoroughly on guard against the lying propaganda with which the situation will now be smeared.”7 “It’s a terrible thing to look over your shoulder when you are trying to lead,” mused Roosevelt a few days after the speech, “and find no one there.” When a reporter asked FDR if he was thinking about imposing economic sanctions on Japan or convening an international conference to find a resolution to the situation, he said no. In a letter to a friend, he explained, “I am fighting against a public psychology of long standing, a psychology which comes very close to saying, ‘Peace at any price.’”8 Public opinion, however, was gradually shifting in Roosevelt’s direction. The potential for negotiation with Hitler to end the conflict lost considerable credibility after 1938, when Hitler moved to seize some of Czechoslovakia.When Britain and France tried to prevent war over this territory, Hitler assured their leaders that this would be the last “territorial claim I have to make in Europe.” Leaders of France (Édouard Daladier), Britain (Neville Chamberlain), Italy (Benito Mussolini), and Germany (Hitler) met in Munich in September to negotiate. Britain and France agreed that Germany could keep the territory it had annexed in exchange for Hitler’s promise to respect the rest of the country. Following the conference, Chamberlain assured the world that they had achieved “peace in our time.” Six months later, Germany broke the agreement, seizing the rest of Czechoslovakia. For many decades after, the term “Munich” would come to symbolize the act of appeasement in foreign policy. The German invasion of Czechoslovakia heightened concern among Americans about the probability of war. Congress, however, remained resistant. When in July 1939 Roosevelt directly requested that Congress revise the Neutrality Acts, he ran into stiff resistance. After the Senate Foreign Relations Committee rejected one of his proposals, Roosevelt angrily wrote Secretary of Treasury Henry Morgenthau, “I will bet you an old hat . . . that . . . when [Hitler] wakes and finds out what has happened, there will be great rejoicing in the Italian and German camps. I think we ought to introduce a bill of statues of [Senators] [Warren] Austin, Vandenberg, Lodge and [Robert] Taft . . . to be erected in Berlin and put the swastika on them.”9 Ironically, his chief supporters were the very southern Democrats who were opposing his domestic initiatives such as executive

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reorganization, anti-lynching, the minimum wage, and unionization in the South. In August, the Soviets unexpectedly signed a nonaggression pact with the Germans. The fate of France and England seemed even more precarious. A large portion of Americans on the left, who had been part of the Popular Front in the 1930s—an international coalition of left-wing organizations, which included communists—were disillusioned with the Soviets. Although the Soviets would rejoin the alliance against the Germans in 1941, many on the left never trusted communism again and many moved, politically, toward the center. The year 1940 saw the war spinning out of control. Between April and June 1940, Germany was victorious in battles with Belgium, Norway, Denmark, Holland, Luxembourg, and France. Britain, the last force standing against Nazi power, was trying to defend itself against a brutal bombing campaign. Over the course of the springtime, FDR was circumspect about whether he would run for an unprecedented third term, which would break with the unofficial precedent of George Washington’s two-term limit. In the meantime, three Republicans were running for the nomination of their party, and all were opponents of America intervening in the European war. Ohio Senator Robert Taft, the eldest son of the former president, was one of the major voices of opposition to the New Deal. Though he accepted certain of FDR’s programs in a time of crisis, he generally opposed any expansion of the federal government as a threat to individual freedom, including the kinds of measures necessitated by war. New York District Attorney Thomas Dewey, who made his name fighting the Mafia, did not yet have a strong position on foreign affairs but opposed involvement in this particular war. And Senator Vandenberg remained a fervent and well-known opponent of overseas intervention. Up through June 1940, the presidential race looked like a competition between Republican opponents of war in Europe and a sitting president who had been calling for military mobilization, unsuccessfully, and was on the fence about a third term. The politically charged environment forced FDR to perform a delicate balancing act between his convictions and his political apprehensions. The war in Europe and Asia was a major issue of the campaign. While public opinion polls showed growing concern and increasing support for some form of U.S. assistance, politicians were doubtful that the citizenry would actually back a full-scale war mobilization. It was one thing to worry about war, another to take action. FDR had to demonstrate that he was prepared to be commander in chief, should the

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United States be drawn into the war, but also that he was doing everything possible to avoid conflict. He told Secretary of State Henry Morgenthau, one of his most trusted advisors, “I do not want to run, unless between now and the convention things get very, very much worse in Europe.”10 His fears came true. The situation in Europe deteriorated and was forcing his hand, both in terms of running and into accepting the role of the war president. April had witnessed a dramatic intensification of the conflict as Germany unleashed all of its military power, in the air and on the ground, against its remaining adversaries in Europe. Throughout May and June Germany pounded France. Italy’s Mussolini declared war on Britain on June 17. On June 20, FDR named two Republicans to his administration: Colonel Frank Knox as secretary of the navy and Henry Stimson as the head of the War Department. Knox, the publisher of the Chicago Daily News, had supported compulsory military training and assistance to Great Britain. Stimson, who had served under President Herbert Hoover and was a prominent member from the eastern wing of the party, had called on Congress to repeal the Neutrality Acts and enact a draft. FDR told both men it was essential he had bipartisan support in his war cabinet. The announcement, which came a week before Republicans began their convention, dealt a blow to the GOP by placing two party members who supported a strong national security posture on FDR’s team.11 Republicans condemned the appointments as “petty politics” and pointed to them as evidence that the Democrats were now the “war party.”12 Two days later, France surrendered to Germany, leaving Britain exposed and standing alone against Germany and Italy. The new British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, who took over on May 10, told the House of Commons, “The Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin.”13 Following the fall of France, FDR delivered one of his boldest speeches, saying that it was a “delusion” to believe the United States could remain “a lone island in a world dominated by the philosophy of force.” On June 24 the Republicans opened their convention in Philadelphia. They turned the election on its head when they selected a dark-horse candidate, rejecting the three opponents of war and choosing Wendell Willkie. President of the New York–based Commonwealth and Southern Corporation, the nation’s largest electric utility holding company, the Indiana native Willkie was an internationalist and former Democrat who firmly disassociated himself from the isolationist wing of the GOP. He had switched parties only

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because he disliked FDR personally and saw several New Deal programs as a personal threat to his business. Willkie made the Democratic balancing act more difficult since he expressed nearly identical positions as the president when it came to national security. Believing that the United States needed to participate in collective security agreements, Willkie had endorsed the League of Nations in the 1920s. Throughout the 1930s, Willkie had been one of the most outspoken voices about the threat posed by Nazi Germany and had consistently opposed congressional restrictions in the 1930s on assisting Britain and France. The movement to draft Willkie as the candidate had been headed by a group of Wall Street attorneys and Time’s Henry Luce. His supporters had formed Willkie Clubs around the country, and he received endorsements from several prominent journalists. But he trailed behind the other three Republicans, until the convention. Following the fall of France, many party leaders worried that without an internationalist on the ticket they had no chance of defeating Roosevelt.14 When Democrats met on July 15 in Chicago, Roosevelt had not yet announced what he would do, though most observers expected him to run. He worked with the local Chicago boss Mayor Edward Kelly to establish a draft Roosevelt movement, so that it appeared the president was acceding to public demand rather than actively seeking a third term. FDR shook things up by picking Henry Wallace, the liberal secretary of agriculture from Iowa, as his running mate. Through his earlier announcement of adding Knox and Stimson to his cabinet, he had hoped to undercut internationalist support from Willkie, and with Wallace he wanted to erode the remaining progressive voices in the GOP.15 That FDR and Willkie held virtually identical views on foreign policy put both in a tricky position politically. Each feared that the other would try to exploit his internationalist leanings by painting him as the “war” candidate more likely to send Americans into combat. The trick for each was to prove to voters that he was more an internationalist than the other while simultaneously appearing as the candidate who could keep the peace. In this regard, the issue of the draft tested the candidates and their parties. Several weeks earlier, on June 20, two conservative anti–New Deal legislators, New York Senator James Wadsworth (author of the National Defense Act of 1920, which established the internal organizational structure of the army) and Nebraska Representative Edward Burke, had proposed legislation to create a Selective Service System.16 Congressional debate on the bill continued

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after both of the party conventions ended, leaving Willkie and Roosevelt in an awkward position. Each understood that supporting the draft could possibly be the step that went too far, allowing his opponent to depict him as a warmonger rather than an internationalist prepared for war. The public had historically opposed a permanent draft. Until World War II, America relied on militia, volunteer forces, and temporary wartime conscription programs to obtain its fighting forces. The value of a localized, decentralized militia had deep roots in the nation’s history. Opposition to the draft resembled other types of fears of the federal government.There had been a strong antipathy toward the standing armies common in Europe dating back to the Revolution, and since the United States had grown as a nation without conscription, Americans did not develop a sense of obligation toward military service.17 The Selective Training and Service Act faced opponents galore. Religious leaders objected to the government gaining the power to force citizens into war. Labor organizations worried that the administration could use the draft to intimidate workers. Progressives in both parties viewed the draft as a step toward militarism, fearing it would distract attention and resources from domestic programs. Midwestern isolationists felt that once the government instituted a draft, war would be inevitable. Montana Democratic Senator Burton Wheeler warned that the draft “will slit the throat of the last great democracy still living. It will accord to Hitler his greatest and cheapest victory. On the headstone of American Democracy he will inscribe: ‘Here lies the foremost victim of the war of nerves.’”18 Supporters of the Selective Service complained that Senate Majority Leader Alben Barkley was allowing opponents to “croon themselves hoarse without interference.”19 The correct position on the draft for either candidate was not clear-cut, however. As isolationism weakened its hold on the electorate, public opinion was changing. By the time that France surrendered to Germany, over half of the country agreed that every “able-bodied young man 20 years old” should serve for one year. The numbers would continue to climb during the summer as conditions in Europe worsened.20 Privately, FDR supported the draft. Unable to do so publicly, he took smaller interim steps. He authorized Secretary of War Stimson and Secretary of the Navy Knox to testify before Congress and state that the draft was the most “fair, efficient, and democratic” mechanism for obtaining soldiers. The president finally came out in support of the bill in August, but only after Willkie had made it clear that he would do the same

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regardless of the political costs.21 Support for the draft had grown dramatically in Congress over the month in response to the international situation. “Every time Hitler bombed London,” said future Selective Service Director Lewis Hershey, “we got another couple votes.” Support came mainly from southerners, urban machine Democrats, and northeastern internationalist Republicans.22 While congressional opponents opposed the draft as a dangerous extension of federal authority and a distraction from the pressing domestic issues, their numbers were dwindling as American newspapers wrote about German, Italian, and Japanese aggression. Vermont Republican Senator Ernest Gibson interrupted the floor speeches of Republican isolationists by asking, “Do you realize that during the same length of time it has taken us to debate this bill, Hitler was able to conquer France?”23 Congress passed the legislation, and the president signed it on September 16. The final version offered opponents of the draft some relief by stipulating that draftees would serve only for twelve months and could not be used outside the Western Hemisphere. Much of Roosevelt’s strongest support came from southern Democrats, who now controlled the major committee chairmanships and were less and less concerned that a strong national security state could be used against segregation. And the culture of the South bred reverence for military service. “They had to start selective service to keep our boys from filling up the army,” joked Alabama Representative Luther Patrick.24 Also important was that Congress exempted agricultural workers so that the region’s workforce would not be undercut. Meanwhile, when it came to national security policy, FDR was relying on executive power to work around Congress.Without seeking its approval, in September 1940 he agreed to sell destroyers to Britain in exchange for leases on British naval bases. After he announced the deal, Republicans denounced it as a dictatorial extension of executive power. Toward the end of the campaign, Willkie made one last attempt to portray FDR as the candidate more likely to take the nation to war, and he received the endorsement of the famous aviator, and isolationist, Charles Lindbergh. Roosevelt responded to Willkie’s attack by contradicting his own policies and beliefs, promising voters on October 30, “I have said this before, but I shall say it again and again: Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars.” After hearing the speech, a furious Willkie burst out, “That hypocritical son of a bitch! This is going to beat me.”25

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Willkie was partially right. He lost, yet not for the reason he thought. The final campaign promise didn’t matter very much. Polls showed that most Americans had concluded that war was inevitable, but they trusted FDR more than Willkie to handle that responsibility.26 Roosevelt won the election with 54.7 percent of the popular vote and an Electoral College landslide of 449 votes, and the Democrats kept control of Congress. * * * FTER HIS RE-ELECTION,

FDR finally felt he had more freedom to maneuver on international affairs. At first, he was not sure what to do.The British were under fierce bombardment at this point from the Nazis, merchant ships were being attacked, and British financial resources were almost totally depleted. In order to collect his thoughts, FDR went on a cruise in the Caribbean so that he would have time to deliberate and hear the positions of respected diplomats. The final straw came with a lengthy cable from Churchill, warning that his country had been able to temporarily stabilize the military situation, but they were now facing a financial crisis.27 Toward the end of 1940, FDR personally conceived of a program, Lend-Lease, in which the United States would loan Britain money and materiel without immediate payment, as the Neutrality Acts had required. On December 17, FDR, announcing his plan to reporters, asked, “Suppose my neighbor’s home catches fire, and I have a length of garden hose four or five hundred feet away. If he can take my garden hose and connect it up with his hydrant, I may help him to put out his fire. Now what do I do?” On December 29, in a radio address, Roosevelt said, “We must be the great arsenal of democracy.” He told Americans that Europeans were defending themselves and “ask us for the implements of war, the planes, the tanks, the guns, the freighters which will enable them to fight for their liberty and for our security. Emphatically we must get these weapons to them in sufficient volume and quickly enough, so that we and our children will be saved the agony and suffering of war which others have had to endure.” The speech received praise from congressional Democrats and Republicans, though some were more restrained than others. Senator Vandenberg declared,

A

The President made a powerful statement of his position. I agree with his denunciation of an appeasement peace. A demand

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for a statement of war objectives from belligerents would make it undeniably clear whether no other peace is possible. If so, there is clear need for all possible aid to England under the policy to which we are already committed. But the grave question of judgment always remains as to the extent to which we should use our defense facilities to build our own preparedness against a crisis in both oceans toward which we race. The grave question remains whether we shall stay short of war. I agree, in any event, to the demand for maximum defense production with a realism thus far sadly lacking.28

The Democratic Party was becoming increasingly supportive of FDR’s agenda as news of the war made combat seem inevitable. The number of isolationists within the party had been steadily declining since 1940. Southern conservative Democrats were Roosevelt’s strongest supporters on international issues, but now non-southern Democrats were joining them, and in large numbers. Congress passed the Lend-Lease Act on March 11, granting Roosevelt the power to provide arms and other materiel to any government “whose defense the President deems vital to the defense of the United States.” Churchill spoke to Americans on a radio broadcast, in a talk that one of FDR’s closest advisors, Harry Hopkins, helped him write, asking for arms and saying that the British did not and would not need American troops. Isolationists railed against the legislation, warning that this was the beginning of full-scale involvement. Senator Taft said, “I feel very strongly that Hitler’s defeat is not vital to us and that even the collapse of England is to be preferred to participation for the rest of our lives in European wars.”29 FDR prevailed, however, as the Senate passed the bill 60–31 and the House 317–71, with most of the opposition coming from midwestern Republicans. Americans supported Lend-Lease two to one.30 In August, FDR signed the Atlantic Charter, which he and Churchill had crafted and which was meant to build support for the war and start laying out a plan for the peace. Churchill found it “astonishing” that the president of a “neutral” country would sign such a document since the charter made a commitment to national selfdetermination and open seas and promised to reject territorial expansion. It also proclaimed that “all the men in all the lands may live out their lives in freedom from fear and want” and promised to create a “permanent system of general security.” FDR nevertheless realized that his base of support was shaky. This became clear in August 1941 when Congress took up the issue

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of whether to extend the tour of duty for draftees for eighteen more months. Republicans criticized the proposal, claiming that FDR was reneging on the initial terms of the draft in 1940. Republicans were joined by some Democrats, including internationalists who supported a draft, but agreed with the GOP on this point. Texas Democrat Sam Rayburn, who had become Speaker of the House in 1940, opposed the measure but said he would support the president. Rayburn personally lobbied members for the measure, presenting an affirmative vote as a sign of their support for his speakership, which would not be forgotten. Men in uniform lined the galleries to watch the debate. “Every House member could feel their stares,”Texas Representative Lyndon Johnson recalled. The House passed the measure by a single vote, 203 to 202. Fewer Democrats supported the bill than did the Selective Training and Service Act in September 1940 (down from 186 to 182). With an equally contentious debate, the Senate passed the measure, though with wider margins, 45 to 30, with thirtyeight Democrats and seven Republicans in favor; sixteen Democrats, thirteen Republicans, and one Progressive (Robert La Follette) voted against the measure. New York Senator Hamilton Fish, an isolationist, warned, however, that “if the President attempts to put us in an undeclared war, there would be no national unity and there would be no appropriations by Congress to carry out such a personal war.”31 But such caveats disappeared on December 7, when Japan brought the war to America’s doorstep by attacking Pearl Harbor, killing approximately 2,500 American soldiers and destroying battleships, aircraft, and other weaponry. Americans were shocked and angered: The time for war had come. When Churchill called the president to ask what had happened, Roosevelt said, “It’s quite true, they have attacked us at Pearl Harbor. We are all in the same boat now.” Churchill replied, “That certainly simplifies things. God be with you.”32 The next day, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt stood before Congress. He began speaking: “Yesterday, December 7th, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.” Congress declared war on Japan that day. Three days later, Hitler declared war on the United States, and Congress immediately reciprocated. Interestingly, a 1942 poll showed that seventy-three percent of Americans thought that the United States should have joined the League of Nations, up from thirty-three percent in 1937.33

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REPUBLICANS ARGUED with each other about the merits of foreign engagement, Roosevelt and his allies in Congress used the threat of totalitarianism abroad to persuade Americans to accept a vision of national security that can be called liberal internationalism, whose underlying concept was that the nation should commit its physical and financial resources to developing permanent national security institutions rather than continuing the earlier ad hoc approach. Liberal internationalism was intellectually bound to the New Deal, which had brought about unprecedented expansion of the federal government by providing federal relief, welfare, social security, electrification, and jobs and public works to millions of Americans. Liberal internationalism drew on the principle that economic as well as diplomatic and military tools would be used when international alliances were threatened. FDR’s arguments for liberal internationalism were predicated on the idea that the government could simultaneously maintain progressive domestic programs while fighting a war. Both were essential: A strong and just home front would nurture morale among soldiers and workers and maintain a positive image for the country abroad. Throughout World War II when speaking of his national security programs, Roosevelt and his liberal congressional allies used the theme of obligation, which would become a hallmark of liberal internationalism. He insisted that everyone should contribute to the defense of democracy. In his nineteenth Fireside Chat, delivered two days after Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt outlined his vision:

W

HILE

Every single man, woman and child is a partner in the most tremendous undertaking of our American history. . . . I was about to add that ahead there lies sacrifice for all of us. But it is not correct to use that word. The United States does not consider it a sacrifice to do all one can, to give one’s best to our nation when the nation is fighting for its existence and its future life. It is not a sacrifice for any man, old or young, to be in the Army or the Navy of the United States. Rather it is a privilege. It is not a sacrifice for the industrialists or the wage earner, the farmer or the shopkeeper, the trainmen or the doctor, to pay more taxes, to buy more bonds, to forgo extra profits, to work longer or harder at the task for which he is best fitted. Rather it is a privilege. It is not a sacrifice to do without many things to which we are accustomed if the national defense calls for doing without it.

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Following Pearl Harbor, Congress renewed the draft and removed limitations that troops could only serve for twelve months or fight in the Western Hemisphere. To be sure, there were limits to how much the administration asked from citizens. Roosevelt did not demand (he only requested) that businesses forgo profits nor did he seize direct control of production; the government relied on financial incentives for companies and cooperative planning with business leaders.34 Nonetheless, the idea of the obligation of citizens to contribute to the mobilization was integral to proponents of liberal internationalism. The administration expanded the domestic reach of the federal government as part of the war effort, creating a War Production Board in 1942 to coordinate the production of gasoline, metal, and rubber. To help pay for the war, Congress created a mass income tax and a system of withholding from paychecks. The number of taxpayers rose from 3.9 million in 1939 to 42.6 million in 1945.35 Liberal Democrats believed that war and welfare could be compatible. The president, often relying on executive orders, created progressive social programs during the early 1940s with the explicit goal of ensuring social peace and economic stability on the home front so that the waging of the war could proceed smoothly. In 1941, he issued an executive order that established the Fair Employment Practices Commission (FEPC), banning racial discrimination by companies with government contracts. He made this decision to stave off a threatened march on Washington led by the African-American union leader A. Philip Randolph. The Office of Price Administration (OPA), also created that year, involved a sizable bureaucracy with the responsibility of stabilizing prices by imposing rations on certain products and ceilings on prices. Roosevelt staffed the OPA with New Deal liberals like the economist Leon Henderson, who saw the agency as a means of bolstering the consumer purchasing power of working- and middle-class Americans.36 Yet some problems that had bothered the left in World War I reemerged with this war. Particularly troublesome was the internment of Japanese Americans. A January 24, 1942, government report about Pearl Harbor claimed that Japanese-American citizens had assisted in the attack. On February 19, FDR signed Executive Order 9066, establishing the War Relocation Authority to relocate JapaneseAmericans in camps. Congress passed legislation legitimating the action with only one vote in opposition. The Supreme Court would deem the order constitutional two years later. Not everyone agreed, however. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover opposed the measure, and

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Attorney General Francis Biddle called it “ill-advised, unnecessary, and unnecessarily cruel.” did not bring complete unity to the home front. There were bitter conflicts in 1942 and 1943 between labor and business as the war dragged on and tensions mounted at the workplace. Racial conflict flared throughout the nation, including at military bases where black soldiers had to suffer through the local racism of the country for which they were fighting. But the wartime experience was nonetheless transformative for the country. Even more so than during World War I, all Americans learned what it was like to live through a full-scale military mobilization. The citizenry lost any lingering sense that the country could really separate itself from the rest of the world. Besides all of the families who were literally separated with loved ones fighting abroad, Americans could not buy whatever they wanted to, whenever they wanted to, because the government rationed certain goods, banned others, and tried to control prices. Many women found themselves working in factory jobs that had until recently been reserved for men. Americans were bombarded by messages from the federal government to support the war effort. When they went to the movies, Walt Disney’s cartoons told them to support the draft and the war. “Every dollar you spend for something you don’t need is a dollar spent to help the Axis,” the narrator told Donald Duck. “That’s right. And every dollar you sock away for taxes, is another dollar to sock the Axis.” Southern Democrats voted with their party on national security issues.37 Voters in the South tended to be more hawkish on national security than those in other parts of the country, and in the early 1940s the defense industry was essential to the revitalization of the southern economy. The population in Norfolk, Virginia, for example, rose by fifty-seven percent between 1940 and 1943 as a result of factories devoted to the production of wartime supplies. Mobile, Alabama, and Charleston, South Carolina, saw similar increases.38 The regional divisions that hampered Democrats when deliberating civil rights and union policies were muted when it came to debates over foreign policy. Southern control of the congressional committee system provided southerners some comfort that they would be able to contain the potential for national security programs to be used to substantially alter race relations. On January 11, 1944, FDR reenergized liberals in his State of the Union Address by calling for a Second Bill of Rights to ensure that every American had access to a job, a living wage, housing, medi-

T

HE WAR EXPERIENCE

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cal care, and education: “People who are hungry, people who are out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made. . . . America’s own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for all our citizens. For unless there is security here at home there cannot be lasting peace in the world.” That evening, in his Fireside Chat, FDR expanded the definition of national security. “The one supreme objective for the future, which we discussed for each nation individually and for all the United Nations can be summed up in one word: security. And that means not only physical security which provides safety from attacks by aggressors. It means also economic security, social security, moral security—in a family of nations.” Here the term “United Nations” referred to the United States, Britain, the Soviet Union, and several other countries that in January 1942 had signed a Declaration by United Nations to use their resources against the Axis powers and to not sign a separate peace or armistice with the enemy. Most of organized labor liked what FDR had done for them during the war. Membership increased from nine million unionized workers when the war began in 1942 and ended with six million more, nearly thirty percent of the workforce.39 Unions gained unprecedented political clout within the Democratic Party. Sidney Hillman helped FDR win the 1944 presidential election after his Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) formed the first political action committee (PAC) to raise money and support for the president. Hillman charged that the Republican nominee, New York Governor Thomas Dewey, was not experienced enough to lead the nation in war and that FDR had the confidence of other international leaders, which would help bring a successful outcome. Republicans retaliated by spreading rumors that FDR had told campaign officials that before a vice presidential nominee was picked, they would have to “clear it with Sidney.” As the war progressed, Roosevelt had been able to recruit prominent Republicans to support his internationalist agenda. New Jersey Representative Charles Eaton, Minnesota Governor Harold Stassen, and Senator Vandenberg were now working closely with the administration. Besides a shared ideological commitment to defeating the global threat of fascism, Republicans were aware of the tide of public opinion, and many began to feel that advocating isolationism was suicidal. Republicans found it more difficult to criticize the president’s foreign policy decisions by 1944 as events started to turn clearly in

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favor of the United States. In the Far East, Japan had suffered a major defeat in June. That same month, Allied forces stormed Normandy and on August 25 liberated Paris. Roosevelt was also expanding his support as he found areas through which to combine his vision about domestic government and national security. One of the most far-reaching social initiatives of his presidency was the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, popularly known as the G.I. Bill of Rights, which the president signed into law in June 1944, providing sweeping benefits to those (eventually numbering some sixteen million) who had served in the war. The government would provide tuition and a monthly housing allowance for them to attend a college or university, job counseling, unemployment benefits, and favorable loans for purchasing homes, farms, and business property. Money was allocated to build veterans’ hospitals and strengthen the Veterans Administration. The bill received energetic lobbying support from the American Legion, a normally conservative political organization. There was some opposition in the House, as some southern conservatives like Mississippi’s John Rankin expressed fears that the higher education benefits would increase federal authority over state and local government (which for southerners, meant weakening segregation) and that the unemployment benefits created disincentives to find work.40 During the summer, Roosevelt also worked on nonmilitary items related to the war. He sensed the importance of creating long-term international programs that would avoid another war, and pushed for institutions that would maintain support for the ideals of the New Deal after Germany and Japan were defeated.41 Designed at the Bretton Woods Conference in July of 1944, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank created institutions for achieving international monetary stability and rebuilding the global economic system. Between August and early October, representatives from the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain, and China met at the Dumbarton Oaks mansion in Washington, D.C., and discussed how to design a United Nations, which would aim to achieve the kind of international organization that had not worked with the League of Nations. In his final campaign, FDR emphasized his performance as commander in chief. He took on Governor Dewey, a firm internationalist who ran with Ohio Republican John Bricker, and there was not much of a difference between him and FDR on foreign policy. At sixty-two years of age, Roosevelt was struggling with heart disease and high blood pressure, and Dewey indirectly questioned his health.

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In a decision that did not seem consequential when he made it, FDR named Harry Truman as his running mate. Vice President Henry Wallace had become too liberal on domestic and foreign policy while the country was in an increasingly conservative mood. Truman had been elected to the Senate in 1934 (with the support of the Kansas City machine boss Tom Pendergast, who went to prison in 1939 for tax evasion) and had made his name on Capitol Hill during World War II by conducting investigations into waste and fraud in defense contracting. He had also been a strong advocate of military preparedness in 1939 and 1940, challenging opponents of intervention. During the war, he was a vocal proponent of joining an international organization devoted to maintaining peace and an outspoken critic of the Nazis’ persecution of the Jews. FDR seemed reinvigorated as he spoke about his Economic Bill of Rights, outlining specific proposals such as a plan to create full employment through government jobs and to bring electricity, as he had done with the Tennessee Valley Authority, to other parts of the country. He spoke about programs such as health care that had not been central items on the New Deal agenda. Although Republicans did not find much with which to distinguish themselves from Democrats on foreign policy, Dewey did bring back the issue of anticommunism, which had been relatively dormant since the 1920s. Though many Americans were furious when the Soviets signed a nonaggression pact with the Germans in 1939, by the end of 1941 the United States and the Soviet Union were allied against fascism. But in the 1944 campaign Republicans played the anticommunist card, with some speeches, especially by Bricker, suggesting that some Democrats in the administration were under the control of communists. The issue did not have much effect on the election.42 To dispel rumors about his health, the president visited New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, and New England in late October. Despite a torrential downpour, he rode around the New York City boroughs in an open car.43 The election of 1944 was not FDR’s strongest performance, but he won the popular vote with solid numbers, 53.4 percent to 45.9 percent, and the electoral votes in another landslide: 432 to 99. The results in the congressional elections were not as good, and the size of the majorities declined to lower levels than in 1936 or 1940. On January 10, 1945, in a half-hour speech Vandenberg said, “I do not believe that any nation hereafter can immunize itself by its own exclusive action. Since Pearl Harbor, World War II has put the gory science of mass murder into new and sinister perspective. Our

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oceans have ceased to be moats which automatically protect our ramparts.” Vandenberg’s migration from isolationism to internationalism had been motivated by the horrific threat that the senator saw from Germany and Japan, as well as the realization, shared by a growing number of Republicans, that continuing to support isolationism after Pearl Harbor was politically untenable. For Vandenberg personally, adherence to isolationism would eliminate any hope of becoming president. As the end of the war approached, the fighting became more brutal. The administration authorized a plan, which had been opposed by some military officials, to conduct massive air bombing of Berlin on February 3 and Dresden on February 10. The goal was to pound the Germans into submission. The bombing resulted in the deaths of 25,000 civilians in Berlin and 35,000 in Dresden. On February 22, the president met at Yalta with Churchill and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin. During the summit, the Allies reached agreement on the need for an unconditional surrender by the Germans, a peace plan, and an outline about how the postwar occupation of Germany would be handled. The Big Three assumed that there was much more bloody warfare to come. They also talked about the creation and structure of a United Nations.44 With these concerns in mind, hoping to keep the coalition together and feeling as if there were no alternatives, a president who was physically struggling with illness accepted the fact that the Soviets would retain control over Eastern Europe. Roosevelt also harbored hopes for taming the Soviets by having them as part of an alliance rather than as adversaries.45 3:35 P.M. on April 12, Dr. Howard Bruenn announced that Roosevelt had passed away in Warm Springs, Georgia. That day, Truman was meeting with Democratic leaders in what legislators called the “Board of Education,” a small room tucked away under the Speaker’s lobby on the ground floor of the Capitol, where Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn convened with Democratic leaders to map out their strategy. The meeting was interrupted when Truman received a call from White House Press Secretary Steve Early, asking him to come to the White House immediately. Truman could sense there was something wrong. When Eleanor Roosevelt informed Truman that the president had died, Truman asked the First Lady, “Is there anything I can do for you?” After pausing for a

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second, she responded, “Is there anything we can do for you, Harry? For you are the one in trouble now.”46 surprising that Roosevelt, who had witnessed firsthand President Wilson’s wartime accomplishments go down in political flames, devoted so much energy to crafting a national security agenda that was built to last. “Anybody who thinks that isolationism is dead in this country is crazy,” Roosevelt once said. “As soon as this war is over, it may well be stronger than ever.”47 But that would not happen. FDR’s most immediate political accomplishment was to put together a political coalition that would outlive his presidency. The war had also produced a vast number of national security policies and institutions that could not be easily abandoned. Although it was temporarily dismantled in 1947 for a year, the draft would remain a permanent fixture in the national security system until 1973, requiring service from millions of young men. The mass income tax, with its system of withholding at the source, remains a permanent part of the work experience. The dramatic increase in defense spending, which jumped from 1.7 percent of GDP in 1940 to 5.6 percent of GDP in 1941, and then to 37 percent by 1945, subsided for a short time until rising again with the Cold War in 1947, resulting in a decisive shift of federal budget resources toward military industries. While Republicans and Democrats had struggled in the early twentieth century to move toward the forefront of defining an expansive national security agenda, Democrats under FDR were the first to be successful. When World War II ended, the Democratic Party was closely identified with the ideas and policies of liberal internationalism. Still associated with its midwestern isolationist wing and now facing opponents who had led America to victory against the greatest of totalitarian threats, the GOP found itself in serious political trouble.

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TRUMAN DID not have much time on April 12 to be stunned by FDR’s death. On the European and Asian fronts, the war continued, but on April 30, facing defeat, Hitler committed suicide, and on May 7, Germany surrendered. And then, only two months after taking office, Truman suffered through his first national security scandal. On June 7, agents from the wartime intelligence agency, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS, the predecessor to the CIA), burst into the Manhattan offices of Amerasia, a prestigious journal about the Far East that was influential among State Department officials. The agents seized documents containing classified information about U.S. policy in China, charging six people, including three officials who had worked in government, with conspiracy and espionage. Republicans and conservative Democrats charged that left-wing officials in the State Department were producing a foreign policy that was tolerant of, if not sympathetic to, communists in Asia. The scandal was at first limited in impact. Public attention remained focused on the war with Japan. At a summit in Potsdam, Germany, that started on July 17, the new president conferred with Stalin and Churchill; after Churchill’s Conservative Party lost the national elections on July 26, Clement Attlee, the Labour Party leader, became prime minister and replaced Churchill. The three countries agreed that they would insist on the unconditional surrender of Japan and also reached agreement on plans for dividing and administering Germany. The day before the Potsdam summit started, Tru-

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man was informed that the United States had successfully tested the atomic bomb (information he shared with Churchill), and so he played his cards close to the vest and told Stalin only that the United States had a “new weapon” capable of “unusually destructive force.” Recent archival research has shown that Stalin knew about the bomb as a result of intelligence and was more concerned about the fact that Truman was withholding the information from him than about the bomb itself.1 When Truman returned to the United States, he had many concerns. He was worried about the growing tensions with the Soviet Union and fears about Stalin’s territorial ambitions. He was also determined to end the war in Japan as soon as possible, sensing that the Japanese wanted to draw the United States into a bloody battle in their cities. The large number of deaths in the fight over Okinawa, which took place between April and June, had confirmed his fears. Some 100,000 Japanese soldiers and 100,000 civilians had been killed. On the American side, there were almost 50,000 dead or wounded. The Japanese were outnumbered by the American forces but refused to surrender in a battle that had lasted for almost 100 days. The atomic bomb seemed to offer the best hope in Truman’s mind, even with its terrible costs, for ending the war. Many officials were warning him not to use this weapon given the damage it would inflict. Truman hesitated and deliberated but in the end felt that it was best for the nation. On August 6, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima and on August 9 another on Nagasaki. The results were devastating. The bombs tore apart the infrastructure of both cities and left 150,000 Japanese dead. The Japanese offered to surrender, on the condition that their emperor, Hirohito, remain in power. Truman responded that the emperor could remain though the Allies would have total authority over the country. A battle unfolded within Japan as Hirohito recorded a statement of surrender but clashed with military officers who tried to stop him. Then, on August 15, Japanese radio broadcast the statement—the first time most people in the country had heard the emperor’s voice. The war had left more than 400,000 American soldiers dead and many more wounded. So the mood in the United States was elation. Americans celebrated in the streets, families reunited, and the country could start thinking about a life without the horrors of war. In France, one American soldier said, “The killing was all going to be over, we were going to grow to adulthood after all.”2

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Suddenly, a person who had been an accidental president was a victorious commander in chief. The public overwhelmingly approved of Truman’s decision to drop the atomic bomb. Seventy-five percent of the respondents to one poll expressed their support.3 Truman’s and FDR’s vision of national security was further strengthened on October 24, when the United Nations officially came into existence. The U.N. codified a core idea of liberal internationalism, namely multilateralism, that FDR had worked so hard to promote. Delegates from over fifty countries had met in San Francisco in the summer to design a charter, which they signed on June 26. The U.S. Senate ratified the charter on July 26 by a vote of 89 to 2. By October, a majority of the countries who had signed the charter ratified it. From the start, conservatives distrusted the United Nations as an institution that would be used by America’s opponents under the guise of international cooperation and force the country into wars not in the national interest. But at the time, those voices were drowned out by supporters who promised that the U.N. could help avert the kind of horrors experienced during World War II. Republicans had to figure out what to do politically. They faced a Democratic Party that had just won a world war against the most dangerous threats that Western civilization had ever faced. The war ended, moreover, in decisive fashion. Many prominent Republicans had sided with the president on most of his important policies. Nonetheless, Senate Majority Leader Robert Taft and his fellow Republicans smelled blood with Harry Truman in the White House. While Truman had been well-liked in the Senate, he was a poor speaker who was frequently mocked as unintelligent: “To err is Truman” was a popular line as Truman’s popularity plummeted between the summer of 1945, after the war ended, and the autumn of 1946, as the challenges of postwar reconversion spiraled out of control. The GOP was not content to attack Democrats on domestic policy and ignore national security. Many Republicans like Senator Vandenberg wanted to bury their identification with isolationism after World War II. FDR and many of his national security policies were popular with the public. Because of the horrors of the war, many Republicans had become convinced that the United States needed far more than a minimal national security state, and they needed to carve out their own partisan position. By arguing that Democrats were not being aggressive enough in confronting communism, Republicans could burnish their inter nationalist credentials and overcome the damage they had suffered from the debate over the Neutrality Acts. They had been on the

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wrong side of the debate before the war. Now they would do the opposite. Taking a hard line against communism could help bridge the divide separating the midwestern and eastern factions of the GOP, as a growing number of midwestern legislators supported investigations into allegations of communist espionage. Anticommunism could be used to attack liberal domestic programs like civil rights as “socialistic” and help the GOP appear tough on defense. Congressional Republicans released a policy statement on December 5 which affirmed their support for the United Nations, well-funded military forces, and international economic relief, while also calling for tougher policies in Eastern Europe.4 But it was an election year, and on February 27, 1946, Vandenberg took a jab at Truman. A presidential aspirant, the senator angered many administration officials when he made a speech on the Senate floor proclaiming that America needed to be more resolute in the fight against the Soviet Union.Vandenberg told his colleagues that the war with communism “calls for patience and goodwill; but not for vacillation.” Democrats did not sit by idly. The State Department’s George Kennan, serving as a diplomat in the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, provided Truman with a compelling argument to conceptualize his strategy toward communism. State Department officials had asked Kennan, a Princeton-trained expert on Russian history, why Soviet leaders were turning to such incendiary language when discussing the United States and other Western countries.5 In February, Kennan responded by sending an 8,000-word telegram from Moscow in which he warned that negotiation was not possible with the Soviets. In what became known as the “Long Telegram,” Kennan depicted a regime that repressed its citizens and was intent on worldwide domination. He suggested that the Soviets only responded to military power since they were “committed fanatically to the belief that with the U.S. there can be no permanent modus vivendi, that it is desirable and necessary that the internal harmony of our society be disrupted, the internal authority of our state be broken, if Soviet power is to be secure.” Kennan called for the containment of Soviet expansion. His arguments, which provided the most coherent strategy so far to deal with communism, gained added clout one month later, on March 5, when Churchill delivered a powerful speech in Missouri warning that an “iron curtain” had descended across Europe. As the administration attempted to define its international agenda, tensions were straining the New Deal coalition at home. In

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the summer of 1946, coal miners and railroad workers launched a nationwide strike that weakened the economy. Truman, who never trusted unions and whom organized labor looked upon with suspicion, grew furious. He believed the unions were jeopardizing the economy and that they had been obstinate by refusing to compromise. Truman seized control of the railroads by executive order claiming it was a national emergency. On May 24, Truman went to Congress to announce that the government would deny striking workers their seniority and draft them into the army, which would then run the railway system. Truman was interrupted in the middle of his speech with news that workers had agreed to a settlement. The Soviets were making it difficult for Truman to continue pursuing the types of compromises that had been an integral part of the U.S. agenda at the Yalta and Potsdam summits, when maintaining an alliance was the goal. They were threatening to expand their influence in Turkey during August 1946, and some policy makers anticipated that they were intent on moving into the Middle East. And so Truman began adopting a more hard-line approach with them.6 On September 12, Secretary of Commerce Henry Wallace, who had been FDR’s secretary of agriculture and then his vice president from 1941 to 1945, delivered a controversial speech at Madison Square Garden calling on the United States to abandon its adversarial stance toward the Soviet Union. Initially Truman told the press that he had approved the text of the speech, but intense criticism from both parties caused him to backtrack, explaining that he had approved Wallace’s right to give the speech, not its subject matter. On September 20, he forced Wallace to resign. In that same month, presidential advisors Clark Clifford and George Elsey reported to Truman that the Soviets had begun massive defense spending and were pursuing relentless expansion in Europe, the Middle East, and the eastern Mediterranean.Truman was so shaken that he ordered their findings be kept top secret.7 Meanwhile, consumer prices were rising. Truman had wanted to keep the wartime OPA regulations, which were popular with the public, but due to stiff opposition from business and Republicans, he and Congress failed to reach agreement on legislation to extend the OPA, and on July 1 it expired. But when prices quickly shot up, Congress restored controls at the end of July. In protest, meat producers cut down on supplies, and in major cities, butcher shops and meat departments closed for days on end. Meat producers blamed Truman, and Truman blamed the producers, but voters blamed Truman, who instructed the secretary of treasury to end price controls

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on meat on October 15 (the president and Congress would liquidate the OPA in June 1947).8 “Had enough?” asked Republicans. Price increases, however, remained a problem. The attacks on price controls fit within a broader argument that the GOP made about a key claim of liberal internationalism: that New Deal–style regulations would bolster economic growth and help fight communism abroad. Republicans did not see a logical connection between the ethos of the New Deal and the war with international communism. Instead, Republicans advocated dismantling regulatory programs from the war, allowing the draft to expire, eliminating wartime agencies, and cutting taxes. Republicans also targeted specific parts of the Democratic national security agenda where southern Democrats disagreed with the president. The most important policy was financial assistance to developing nations, which Republicans argued was an ineffective weapon that simply resulted in higher taxes and wasteful spending. The anticommunism issue did not fade, and it offered the GOP an example through which to question the Democratic commitment to a tough national security agenda. Carroll Reece, head of the Republican National Committee, had said that Wallace’s “crusade is merely appeasement of Soviet Russia.” Although Truman purged Wallace from the administration, Reece warned, Democrats were controlled by officials who “accept every tune wafted from Moscow by way of the CIO-PAC.”9 During the fall of 1946, a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee conducted secret hearings, chaired by the conservative Alabama Democrat Samuel Hobbs, into the Amerasia scandal, releasing a report in October. At one hearing, the assistant chief of naval intelligence alleged that thousands of Communist Party fellow travelers had enlisted as navy officers during World War II and gained access to vital documents. Although the hearings didn’t produce legislation, they were seen as a political Rorschach test for determining whether a person believed the government was anticommunist enough.10 Republicans struggled with a balancing act as they tested out the role of being tough anticommunists in domestic and international policy. Some Republicans like Senator Taft were dubious about expanding the size of the federal government for national security just as they opposed such expansions for domestic policy. Fears of creating a garrison state as a result of the fight against communism were very real for Old Guard Republicans, who were eager to move away from FDR’s legacies.Taft warned that the drive to build national security programs threatened the “America we are trying to preserve.”11

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During one campaign speech, Taft brought together the connections between domestic and international anticommunism. Speaking of FDR’s actions at Yalta and other summits during the war, he said that Democrats “pursued a policy of appeasing Russia, a policy which has sacrificed throughout Eastern Europe and Asia the freedom of many nations and millions of people.”Taft characterized the president as seeking a Congress “dominated by a policy of appeasing the Russians abroad and of fostering Communism at home.” As the writer Tris Coffin observed, “The word ‘Communism’ was whooped about like an Indian war cry.”12 Many Republican candidates made communism one of the major themes of their midterm campaigns. At a political rally in Maryland, the Republican running for governor said that the issue facing voters nationally was “Americanism vs. Communism.” The theme meshed with their other main issue, criticizing Truman’s wage and price controls, which remained in place though they were barely effective, more a target for politicians by the fall than a means of controlling prices. A number of Republican candidates, including Richard Nixon (California), William Jenner (Indiana), Joseph McCarthy (Wisconsin), and William Knowland (California), focused on Truman’s failures to fight “Red Fascism” at home and abroad.13 These Republicans attacked President Roosevelt’s performance at Yalta, where they said the president had relinquished control of Eastern Europe to the Soviets. Reece characterized the elections as a “fight basically between communism and Republicanism,”14 thus equating the Democrats with communists. The voters went to the polls in November 1946 and gave Republicans control of the House and Senate for the first time since 1932. The number of Republicans in the Senate went from thirtyeight to fifty-one and in the House from 191 to 246—a stunning defeat for the Democrats. Many issues, including labor strife, meat shortages, the problems of economic reconversion from the war, and especially anticommunism contributed to the results. Most commentators interpreted the results as an indication that the nation had moved to the right. “Bow your heads, folks, conservatism has hit America,” lamented the liberal New Republic.15 Excited by the results, New Hampshire Republican Senator Henry Styles Bridges boasted, “The United States is now a Republican country.”16 * * *

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the election, Truman and his advisors agreed that by 1948 they would have to make clear their determination to contain communism.17 Rather than retreat or engage in partisan attacks, the president saw that the best way to obtain bolder national security policies from the Republican Congress was to form a strong bipartisan coalition to build policies based on the ideals of liberal internationalism. It was a delicate balancing act for the president. If he shifted right on national security, he could move left on domestic policy, earning the support of organized labor in the 1948 election. Senator Taft and New Jersey Representative Fred Hartley were proposing a bill to impose severe restrictions on union power. Labor leaders wanted this measure defeated. Truman knew he would anger conservatives with his opposition to it.18 Truman’s move right on national security bore fruit. In one of his first public statements after the midterm election, Senator Vandenberg, the new chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, signaled he was willing to work with the administration. Vandenberg said that the results of the 1946 election should be read as an “unmistakable endorsement of the united bipartisan foreign policy through which we are striving for national security and world peace.”19 On the Foreign Relations Committee, he had support from H. Alexander Smith of New Jersey and Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. of Massachusetts. When confronted with national security legislation in 1947 and 1948, the White House accepted Vandenberg’s overture by finding ways to respond to the Soviet threat with bills that received Republican support. In addition, shortly after the election, Truman established a temporary commission for creating a government loyalty program, which reported its findings in early March. On March 21, the president issued Executive Order 9835, establishing a loyalty program that empowered the government to investigate workers suspected of being associated with totalitarian or communist groups. The measure received strong Republican and southern Democratic support. Most northern Democrats were leery. The historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr., explaining that the government had to “construct some means of ridding the security agencies of questionable characters, while at the same time retaining enough safeguards to insure against indiscriminate purges,” worked with the liberal but anticommunist group Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) to promote procedural safeguards such as fair hearings based on written charges.20 Some advisors argued that Truman’s actions were primarily political.

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Clark Clifford later said, “Truman was going to run in ’48, and that was it. . . . The President didn’t attach fundamental importance to the so-called Communist scare. He thought it was a lot of baloney. But political pressures were such that he had to recognize it.”21 The first international test for Truman’s strategy came with Greece. Guerrilla warfare had been taking place against the anticommunist monarchical government in Greece. U.S. policy makers argued that the guerrillas were receiving assistance from the Soviets, who were seeking access to the eastern Mediterranean. The Americans saw Greece, Turkey, and Iran as bulwarks against Soviet expansion. Since 1944, British troops in Greece had been helping the monarchy stave off a left-wing rebellion, but by 1947 the cashstrapped, war-battered British government concluded it could not continue with this effort.22 Truman decided that the United States needed to commit its resources to this civil war, realizing from the start that there would be intense opposition from members of his own party as well as Republicans. Undersecretary of State Dean Acheson recommended that Truman offer a bold global vision to sell this specific assistance. To blunt some of the opposition of Old Guard Republicans, Vandenberg convinced Truman to invite Taft to a White House conference about the proposal.23 Acheson told Taft and other congressional leaders that if Greece fell to communism, other neighboring countries would follow. Vandenberg, who was taken aback by the dramatic rhetoric being used by the president, said he would support Truman and suggested that the best way for the administration to obtain legislative support was “to make a personal appearance before Congress and scare the hell out of the American people.”24 On March 12, the president did just that. In his speech, he requested $400 million in economic and military aid for Greece and Turkey. He announced the Truman Doctrine whereby the United States would “support free peoples who are resisting subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.”Through this declaration, the president made two notable claims. The first was that the security of the nation was threatened if totalitarian regimes were forced on people anywhere. The second was that economic assistance would be the first weapon in the fight against communism. Passage of the legislation was not inevitable. Some Democrats were stunned by the magnitude of this budgetary commitment being made for Greece’s undemocratic regime. Most liberal organizations and news editors initially opposed the measure or were lukewarm at best.25

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The concerns were not confined to the left, however. Southern Democratic moderates and conservatives were never as comfortable as their northern counterparts with the provision of economic assistance. Senator J. William Fulbright, a moderate Democrat from Arkansas who supported the legislation, privately worried, “If we undertake the support of Greece and Turkey, how and when can we stop the lavish outpouring of our resources?”26 Some Republicans felt that Greece was not vital to U.S. interests and that Truman’s program would subvert congressional efforts to reduce spending. Georgia Democrat Carl Vinson of the House Armed Services Committee remarked, “They don’t like Russia, they don’t like Communism, but they don’t want to do anything to stop it.”27 But most Republicans refused to offer Vinson ammunition and instead supported Truman. To sell the bill, Dean Acheson spent many hours on Capitol Hill meeting with Republicans individually and appearing before committees.28 Although House Republicans attempted to reduce the size of the appropriation (unsuccessfully) most of the GOP voted for the final measure.The editors of the New York Times noted that the legislation received more Republican votes than Roosevelt’s Lend-Lease bill: “We read this result as proof that the new bipartisan foreign policy which was developed in this country under pressure is still intact.”29 In fact, the policies were not simply intact but a result of extensive deal making and politicking by Truman and Vandenberg to forge legislation that each believed would benefit the nation strategically and their party politically. Instead of attacking the president, Vandenberg had worked with Republican Senators Lodge and Smith to protect the legislation against crippling amendments. While his grandfather had killed President Wilson’s hopes for a League of Nations, Lodge asked “whether we are going to repudiate the President and throw the flag on the ground and stamp on it.”30 In the end, Congress passed the measure by a sound margin (67 to 23 in the Senate and 287 to 107 in the House). In April 1947, the Wall Street financier Bernard Baruch, who had worked for and advised Wilson, FDR, and Truman, introduced a new term into the American political lexicon that would define the next half century of history. During a celebration in his home state of South Carolina, Baruch spoke about the need to calm tensions between organized labor and business in dangerous times. “Our military lines,” he said, “are no stronger than the industry behind them.” Then, Baruch used that new term: “We are today in the midst of a cold war. Our enemies are to be found abroad and at home.” The

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influential journalist Walter Lippmann took up the term in a series of articles, collected later that year in a book inevitably titled The Cold War. For Truman, there were strong reasons to work with the Republicans who were extending their hands to him. After the 1946 midterm elections, Republicans controlled Congress, proving with several domestic policy battles such as the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, which curtailed the power of unions, that they could stand up to the president by passing legislation that New Deal Democrats strongly opposed. Truman had vetoed the Taft-Hartley anti-labor legislation in June, and Congress overrode him. When a cohort of Senate Republicans, led by Vandenberg, showed an interest in working with the White House, Truman seized the opportunity. By nurturing a bipartisan coalition over national security, Democrats were able to preserve FDR’s institutional and political accomplishments.Vandenberg was aware throughout that although the bipartisanship rested on both parties having common political needs and interests at the moment, this was not an era of good feelings. As Vandenberg wrote in his diary, The trouble is that these “crises” never reach Congress until they have developed to a point where Congressional discretion is pathetically restricted. . . . The overriding fact is that the President has made a long-delayed statement regarding Communism on-the-march which must be supported if there is any hope of ever impressing Moscow with the necessity of paying any sort of peaceful attention to us whatever. If we turned the President down—after his speech to the joint Congressional session—we might as well either resign ourselves to complete Communist encirclement and infiltration or else get ready for World War No. III.31

Truman realized that he had raised the stakes of the Cold War through his speech to Congress. While staying at his Little White House residence in Key West, Florida,Truman wrote to his daughter, Margaret: “The attempt of Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, et al., to fool the world and the American Crackpots Association, represented by [FDR’s ambassador to Moscow] Joseph Davies, Henry Wallace, [Florida Congressman] Claude Pepper and the actors and artists in immoral Greenwich Village, is just like Hitler’s and Mussolini’s socalled socialist states.Your pop had to tell the world just that in polite language.”32

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Yet, as he would soon realize, the magnitude of the Truman Doctrine created a challenge to Democrats. By magnifying the threat of communism, he had opened the door to critics who would claim that the administration was not developing a sufficient response to it.33 The Truman Doctrine helped give shape to the strategy of containment, which would define U.S. policy toward the Soviet Union and China for the next four decades. Building on George Kennan’s arguments, the administration defined containment as the need to prevent the further incursion of Soviet forces into strategically vital territory while learning to live with what the Soviets already had. Policy makers would conceive of different versions of containment— some stressing military power, others economic assistance, and yet others diplomatic engagement—in the following decades.34 Kennan himself came to lament that politicians had stressed the role of the military in his arguments, while downplaying the need for diplomacy. Truman depended on Republican support when he expanded the institutional infrastructure of the national security state. The National Security Act of 1947 established the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the National Security Council (NSC), and combined the Departments of War and Navy into a National Military Establishment under the command of the Secretary of Defense. But the act faced opposition. Besides liberal Democrats, who were uneasy about this expansion of government, southern conservatives and some Republicans were concerned that the legislation would centralize power in the executive branch at the expense of the military. After Truman accepted several compromises, which still left the structure of the proposal intact, Congress passed the legislation with strong bipartisan support in July. Besides helping Truman to improve his legislative record, the bipartisan strategy worked politically. The president had been able to continue moving forward with his efforts to court liberals on domestic policy. Although Congress overrode his veto of Taft-Hartley, Truman received credit with union leaders for having stood up to the GOP. The one area where the president and Congress reduced the size of the national security state was the Selective Service System. In June 1946, with fears of a conflict with the Soviet Union and doubts about whether the military was prepared to recruit enough men into the army, Congress and President Truman had agreed to extend the draft for one more year. Public opinion had strongly favored the continuation.35 But on March 31, 1947, Congress allowed the Selective

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Service Act to expire, with the hope this would create stronger incentives for the military to develop its volunteer recruitment system. The Selective Service System had been strongly opposed by two key Democratic constituencies—organized labor and African Americans. Unions were particularly sensitive to how government could use the draft against them because in 1946 Truman had threatened to draft striking workers.36 Besides his political concerns, Truman hoped that by removing the draft he would be able to build support for Universal Military Training, a plan that he, and former President Roosevelt, had championed, along with military officials and veterans as well as leaders from the national guard and reserves. The UMT, variations of which had been advocated by preparedness advocates since World War I, would require all young men of a certain age (usually proposed as eighteen to twenty) to undergo six months of intense physical and intellectual training. Unlike the Selective Service System, they would not be placed on active duty. Democrats like Truman believed the program would be beneficial to the health of America’s youth and that it could promote good citizenship. At the same time, the UMT would give the military a vast reservoir of trained manpower should the United States find itself at war. The adoption of UMT,Truman said, would be “unmistakable evidence to all the world that our determination is to back the will to peace with the strength for peace.” Most Republicans opposed UMT as a dangerous extension of federal power that would militarize American society and be too costly. They were joined by liberal organizations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Once the draft expired in March 1947, Truman set out to gain public and congressional support for the creation of a UMT program. One of the boldest ideas to come out of the administration in the summer of 1947 was introduced by Secretary of State George Marshall, who had served as army chief of staff under FDR and played an important role in shaping the European strategy in World War II. Truman kept Marshall on his team, first as special emissary to China, where he was unable to stop a war between the Nationalists and Communists, and then as secretary of state in 1947. On June 5, during a speech at Harvard, Marshall proposed that the United States lend Europe money in order to create economic and political stability. Western Europe had been ravaged by war and its people were suffering, he said, so revitalizing its economy was essential. The resulting stability would be the first line of defense against communism, alleviating the kind of economic deprivation that made people

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susceptible to communist promises. In addition, what was good for foreign policy would also be good for the U.S. economy, as thriving markets in Europe could only help U.S. firms. Marshall had asked European countries to come up with a longterm rebuilding plan, and they did in August, asking for $29 billion. The administration cut the figure to $17.8 billion, to be distributed over the course of four years.37 Congress, however, did not jump at the proposal and instead spent the rest of the year debating it and negotiating for an even lower amount. By late 1947, Truman’s poll numbers were improving. On November 19, White House aide Clark Clifford wrote the president that the chances of bipartisan cooperation surviving in foreign policy is “unfortunately remote” since the “stakes in a Presidential contest are so huge that the temptation to make an issue of anything on which there is any segment or group of dissatisfied voters is too irresistible.” Clifford said that escalating tensions with the Soviet Union would offer a “considerable political advantage” since citizens supported their president in times of crisis. Truman, Clifford added, “adroitly stole” the thunder of the Republicans in their effort to link the administration to domestic communism by putting into place the loyalty program.38 Truman used the label of bipartisanship to attack critics of his bipartisan legislation as dangerous isolationists. Texas Democratic Senator Tom Connally, the ranking minority member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, defined bipartisanship as Truman’s policies, “the opposite of which was isolationism.”39 Even as Taft voted for most of Truman’s policies, the president refused to concede that Republicans had freed themselves from isolationism.40 Truman’s brand of liberal internationalism received support from Democrats who distanced themselves from the Henry Wallace wing of their party, which they felt would be an easy target of anticommunist conservatives. Formed in 1947, the Americans for Democratic Action promoted the ideas of liberal anticommunist Democrats and included prominent figures such as Eleanor Roosevelt and Arthur Schlesinger Jr. Members believed in the moral imperative to oppose communism as a dangerous totalitarian threat. They also believed that as a matter of political strategy, Democrats would be stronger if they demonstrated their anticommunist credentials. Although the ADA did not have an extensive grassroots operation, the prominence of its members gave it media attention. It also received strong support from legislators who were members and whose campaigns it helped, such Hugh Mitchell and Henry “Scoop”

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Jackson (both of Washington State), Richard Bolling (Missouri), Hubert Humphrey (Minnesota), and Paul Douglas (Illinois). Most labor organizations fell into line with the fight against communism although they were not always comfortable with the excesses of these policies. Even the United Auto Workers, one of the most progressive unions, agreed to purge communists from its ranks. Doing so angered many on the left but gave northern Democrats more room politically to push against bills like Taft-Hartley. Furthermore, while labor leaders like the UAW’s Walter Reuther worried about specific policies, they endorsed most of Truman’s efforts to expand the national security state. Vandenberg was also having considerable success at defining the Republican agenda, emerging as the leading voice on national security for the GOP as Taft focused on domestic policy. In addition, even Taft and others from the Old Guard were voting for many of Truman’s initiatives, including the Truman Doctrine. Vandenberg’s switch, wrote the New Yorker’s Richard Rovere, made it possible, “by a process resembling vicarious atonement, for lots of other isolationists who knew, if not that they were wrong, at least that they were licked, to make an honorable peace with the Administration.”41 In Clark Clifford’s earlier memo to the president, he had warned, amidst his optimism about the electoral outlook, including on national security issues, that “there is increasing evidence that the Republicans are taking the line that they have played an important part in the determination of the successful phases of our foreign policy. Vandenberg is used as the symbol of Republican participation in foreign policy, always to the credit of the Republican Party and to the discredit of the administration.” According to Clifford, the strategy was “very effective,” and “Republican propaganda is repetitious on the theme that Soviet expansionism in Europe could and should have been stopped long ago and that only Roosevelt’s bungling at Yalta and President Truman’s actions at Potsdam prevented this from happening.”42 In early 1948, Truman convinced Republicans such as Vandenberg and Representative Everett McKinley Dirksen of Illinois to work with him to support the European Recovery Program (the Marshall Plan), which had been stalled in Congress for months. Senate Republicans were crucial to the bill’s passage. Truman depended on them to ward off the opposition of southern Democrats, who considered the bill excessive financial aid, as well as Republicans who issued their traditional warnings about foreign aid as a form of welfare. The high figure of $17.8 billion played into their warnings.

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Given the strong opposition in the House, Marshall had to appear many times on Capitol Hill to win over support. “I worked on that as if I was running for the Senate or the presidency,” Marshall recalled. Taft accused the State Department of mounting a propaganda campaign.43 The administration also worked with Vandenberg to trim the figure. International events were making it difficult to oppose the Marshall Plan, however. In February and March, as Congress debated the legislation, communists took over the government of Czechoslovakia. On March 17, Truman told Congress, “The tragic death of the Republic of Czechoslovakia has sent a shock throughout the civilized world.” He called for passage of the Marshall Plan as well as other measures before Congress. Taft responded that Democratic policies had been responsible for strengthening the Soviets and the reason “we find the Russians menacing the entire world.”44 But former President Herbert Hoover had a different outlook, writing to Republican Speaker Joe Martin asking him to support the measure as a “major dam against Russian aggression.”45 Approximately half of the Republicans in the House and Senate voted for the legislation. Congress passed the bill in April 1948, appropriating $6.8 billion. Truman had been unable to build support for a Universal Military Training program since the draft expired in March 1947. While the president continued to push the idea, by early 1948 he was also reaching the conclusion that it would be necessary to reinstate the draft. The communist coup in Czechoslovakia in February created an atmosphere in the United States where war seemed possible. A poll taken in April 1948 showed that six out of ten respondents supported reinstating the draft.46 The armed services had diminished from twelve million people in the summer of 1945 to 1.5 million two years later.47 Despite concerns among most Republicans about the Selective Service System, that it constituted an excessive extension of federal power over individual citizens, most in the party were willing to reinstate the draft. Younger Republicans such as Richard Nixon and senior Republicans like Taft believed that politically and practically, the GOP had little choice but to advocate reinstatement of the draft. Unlike UMT, the Selective Service operated through local boards that provided some check against centralized decision making, and it had to be renewed every two years by Congress. The new draft would not be universal and would affect only limited portions of the population.

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When he signed the Selective Service Act into law on June 24, 1948, Truman accepted the draft as the best alternative to UMT. He also believed it to be an expedient that could be used until UMT was up and running. Congress reached agreement on a number of issues to expand support. The act would expire every two years, rather than every five years as Truman requested, and Congress would have to renew the law. Service would last for twenty-one months instead of two years. Males between eighteen and twenty-six were to be required to register for the Selective Service System, and inductees would be from ages nineteen to twenty-six. There were exemptions for a number of people, including married men and “necessary men” in certain industrial, agricultural, and scientific professions. Given that Congress had in fact taken the step of allowing the draft to expire, Republicans were more confident that this could be done again if necessary. 1948 election, the Democratic National Committee found ways to take political advantage of the popularity of Truman’s national security programs. It established a Nationalities Division to lure voters from ethnic groups (Eastern Europeans, Greeks), highlighting isolationism in the GOP and its hesitance to support measures such as the Truman Doctrine.48 Most Republican candidates (who made similar ethnic appeals), including New York Governor and presidential contender Thomas Dewey, endorsed Truman’s anticommunist policies. In late June, the Soviets tested Truman’s mettle with a major crisis. At Yalta, the Allies had divided Germany into four occupied sections administered by an Allied Control Council composed of the four powers, the Soviet Union, the United States, Britain, and France. Berlin was in the part of Germany controlled by the Soviets, but the city was nonetheless administered by the Allied Control Council. Stalin feared that the United States, France, and Britain were planning to create an independent, noncommunist state with their territorial holdings. The Soviets had ambitions of eliminating the Western presence in Berlin so that they could gain a firm hold over the territory of East Germany. Following the Soviet actions in Czechoslovakia, the three other powers accelerated their efforts to establish an independent state in Western Germany, including the introduction of new currency.49 The Soviets responded with a blockade. Truman feared that losing partial control of Berlin would eventually result in a loss of control of all of Germany. He decided not to follow advice calling for military action but instead imple-

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mented an airlift of food and energy supplies into West Berlin to break the blockade. The blockade lasted for over three hundred days, ending in May 1949, but in the meantime, the president sent the message to the Soviets, to the Western European allies still leery of an American withdrawal from the world as had occurred in 1919, and to the American electorate, that he would not back down from communist threats. “If we move out of Berlin,” he told General Lucius Clay, who was the military governor of the U.S. zone in Germany, “we have lost everything we have been fighting for.”50 Along with all of the national security legislation that he had passed since the midterm elections, the airlift offered evidence that Truman would continue to maintain a tough posture against Soviet expansion. Indeed, during the presidential election Truman worried that the situation in Berlin exposed him in states like New York to attacks from the left wing of his party that he was too gung-ho for war.51 Born and raised in Michigan, New York Governor Dewey was a promising Republican who was thought to have appeal to different parts of the party, and he defeated Taft and Harold Stassen of Minnesota for the nomination in 1948. Taft was known as “Mr. Republican” because of his leadership role with congressional Republicans and staunch advocacy of anti-government principles, but his stiff and unappealing public persona and his past identification with congressional isolationism was becoming by 1948 too costly in the overheated state of the Cold War. During the primaries, Dewey ran as a staunch anticommunist, urging that voters “insist that our government stop listening to the left-wingers, the communist propaganda and its own fears and doubts and start believing whole-heartedly in our system and telling all the world about it.” But Dewey was only somewhat less unappealing than Taft. What Theodore Roosevelt’s witty daughter, Alice, had said in 1944 of the diminutive Dewey still applied: “He looks like the little man on the wedding cake.” He hoped to compensate with a sophisticated poll-driven and media-savvy campaign. He promised to forge a coalition from much of the East Coast and traditional Republican states in the Midwest and West.52 Truman, meanwhile, faced challenges from the left and right. During the Democratic convention in Philadelphia, Senate candidate Hubert Humphrey had made an electrifying speech to delegates calling on the party to support civil rights. A group of southerners, led by Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, bolted and formed a third party, known as the Dixiecrats. “We have been betrayed,” Thurmond said.

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From the left, Henry Wallace decided to run as a Progressive candidate. One of his central arguments was that the United States needed to use negotiation and diplomacy rather than Truman’s confrontational strategies. Wallace won the support of many intellectuals, unionists, and progressive activists, including Eleanor Roosevelt, who saw him as the true successor to her husband. Whereas the Wallace candidacy stimulated Truman to take a more progressive stand on domestic issues, he used his opponent to amplify his national security record as a hawk and promote the record of liberal internationalism. During one speech in October, Truman linked Wallace to Republicans: “The Communists are doing everything in their power to beat me. They have taken over the Third Party and are using it in a vain attempt to split the Democratic Party. The Republicans have joined up with this Communistinspired Third Party to beat the Democrats.”53 Wallace’s poll numbers never reached very high levels, so his candidacy did not pose a major threat to Truman. The clearest sign of Truman’s success was that national security did not become as important an issue as domestic policies such as Taft-Hartley or civil rights. Until the final week of the campaign, neither party discussed the matter very often. Truman never failed to boast of his accomplishments, claiming most of the work of the 80th Congress as his own. He also stressed specific accomplishments from that year, like his decision to support the establishment of the state of Israel. Truman mated his vision of a strong foreign policy with a vision of strong liberal government at home. Inflation in 1947 and 1948 showed that the Republican majority in Congress had not done a better job than Democrats in bringing about a stable economy. Truman’s bipartisan strategy on national security temporarily neutralized his opponents. On the campaign trail, Republicans agreed with Truman about most aspects of the Cold War. Indeed, most of the disputes centered on how much credit Dewey deserved for the bipartisan coalition behind Truman’s programs. Vandenberg teamed up with John Foster Dulles—a well-known Republican internationalist who had worked for Woodrow Wilson during World War I and with Truman during the meetings leading to the creation of the United Nations—to write the GOP’s foreign policy plank, which did not contain any major differences from the Democrats.54 The media assumed that Dewey would win. Most of September’s polls showed he had a solid lead. But Truman embarked on a whirlwind whistle-stop tour, traveling 32,000 miles and delivering

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over 350 speeches. He drew huge crowds.Voters in towns that never saw sitting presidents came out to witness him speak. During the final weeks of the campaign, Truman strained his relations with Republicans to the breaking point. He chose to make a “do-nothing Congress” the theme of his campaign, attacking the 80th Congress as the “worst in history.” The tactic infuriated Republicans who had worked with him closely over the past two years. In a letter to Herbert Brownell Jr., Dewey’s campaign manager, Vandenberg expressed his shock upon hearing of Truman’s attacks: “Not even Wallace is saying things better calculated to split the country into snarling vendettas at a moment when our destiny cannot afford these soap box luxuries.”55 Dean Acheson told the president that he should be ashamed of his rhetoric since, in foreign policy, the 80th Congress was the best the nation had ever seen. Acheson would later admit that bipartisanship was a “magnificent fraud” and that the way to build support for executive-branch policies had been to run around saying that “politics stops at the seaboard, and anybody who denies that postulate is ‘a son of a bitch and a crook and not a true patriot.’ Now, if people will swallow that, then you’re off to the races.” Acheson recalled Vandenberg asking him whether the administration would really support him in a tough re-election race and tell voters about all of the work he had done in foreign policy. No, said Vandenberg, answering his own question, because realistically the president would support a Democratic isolationist rather than a Republican internationalist if the Democrat stood a chance of winning.56 In public during the final weeks of the campaign, Vandenberg became increasingly combative. He said he deplored “this sullen lack of executive cooperation when Republicans and Democrats alike have joined to stop politics at the water’s edge.”57 Truman won 303 electoral votes and 49.6 percent of the popular vote. He lost in the Democratic states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and South Carolina to Thurmond (who won 39 electoral votes and 2.4 percent). Dewey won 189 electoral votes and 45.1 percent. Democrats regained control of Congress, with big help from organized labor. After 1948, Democrats enjoyed a 54–42 majority in the Senate and a 263–171 majority in the House. The president’s ability to crush Wallace’s candidacy further marginalized those Democrats who opposed liberal internationalism. Not only did Truman now have a Democratic Congress to work with, but many of the most exciting liberal Democrats elected to

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Congress in 1948 were Cold Warriors. Humphrey was a liberal’s liberal who believed that an aggressive battle against communism should be the top priority. Texas Senator Lyndon Johnson was determined to advance the legacy of the New Deal and prepared to challenge Republicans on national security. Senator Paul Douglas of Illinois, who supported progressive domestic measures, defended sizable investments in the military. Reversing Theodore Roosevelt’s famous admonition to speak softly and carry a big stick, he ridiculed Republicans such as Taft who “speak very loudly and carry a small stick.”58 The 1948 election offered a fitting conclusion to the formative era in the history of liberal internationalism. FDR and his successors had left behind a voluminous legislative record, and the coalition he forged enjoyed good political standing in 1948. The Democratic strategy of bipartisanship had helped to calm some of the growing partisan challenges that Democrats faced in 1945 and 1946. As a result, a Democratic White House and Republican Congress created a formidable national security apparatus that included the CIA, the Department of Defense, and the National Security Council. Truman also won support for providing economic assistance to anticommunist forces in Greece and the Marshall Plan. This shining moment for liberal internationalism would not last long, however. For many Republicans, the election indicated that bipartisanship did not guarantee significant electoral reward. In a contest where most pollsters and party officials were certain that Republicans would win the White House and keep control of Congress, losing both came as a shock. Their solution was to move closer to the posture that had won Republicans Congress in 1946—focusing on a hawkish and partisan alternative to liberal internationalism. Their mobilization would open a political competition that lasted well into the twenty-first century.

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1948 election, President Truman proposed a Fair Deal for Americans—raising the minimum wage, providing health care, expanding social security, ensuring civil rights, and more. Republicans and conservative Democrats who had been accusing liberal Democrats of experimenting with socialist ideas instantly went on the attack. Meanwhile, on the national security front, it was rapidly becoming a world split in two: the communist bloc and the West, which was calling itself the free world. The former was on the verge of becoming immensely larger, with a communist revolution about to take over China. The emergence of Communist China would transform the politics of national security by giving the Republican Right an issue it could use as an alternative to the bipartisan strategy promoted by Senator Vandenberg. The Chinese Communist Party had been struggling to achieve power since its founding in 1921. After World War II, the CCP, led by Mao Zedong, fought to deal a death blow to the government of General Chiang Kai-shek and his Kuomintang (KMT), the Nationalist Party. Poor rural Chinese peasants looked to the communist promise for economic relief and equality. At the same time, the corruption and authoritarian practices of Chiang’s government led to broadened support for the CCP. The United States had sent support to Chiang Kai-shek in a desperate effort to prevent the triumph of communism. Chiang was the only alternative, though privately many policy makers, in both parties, complained about his corruption and incompetence. The United States tried to broker a coalition government between Chiang and Mao in 1945 and 1946 through

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George Marshall, but the deal collapsed. The Nationalists, said Truman, were “all thieves, every last one of them.”1 Communist support expanded in 1947 and early 1948 as their military strength increased. Toward the middle of 1948, demoralized Nationalist soldiers were surrendering in increasingly large numbers and the communists were inheriting their weapons. The final communist drive toward power accelerated in September 1948 with their capture of Manchuria—along with Japanese weapons left in the area. Most administration officials advised Truman that he should not intervene. “No amount of monetary aid without military advice can help so discredited and inefficient an outfit,” Dean Acheson said before a meeting with upset Republicans.2 Notwithstanding their concerns, the administration agreed to provide a limited amount of assistance to Chiang ($400 million), which it attached to the Marshall Plan.Vandenberg had made it clear to the administration that it had to agree to some funding if it did not want to jeopardize the Western European program.3 As administration officials predicted, the aid had little effect. On January 4 Truman announced that the United States would stop giving assistance to Chiang. Truman started his second term with Dean Acheson as the new secretary of state.There was significant pressure on Truman to support the communists, not from the American far left but from diplomats and corporate leaders as well as policy makers who believed they could forestall an alliance between the Soviets and China by doing so. But politics stood in the way, with Truman realizing that it was one thing to cut off support to the Nationalists and another to actively court the new Communist leadership.4 By January of 1949, Communist forces controlled Manchuria and most of northern China. These tumultuous events in China occurred at the exact moment when many Republicans were rethinking the bipartisan political strategy. The Democratic victories in the 1948 election had been devastating to them. Vandenberg had helped the GOP shed the image of isolationism, but Democrats won control of the White House and Congress. Truman had still been able to level the charge of isolationism against the GOP, despite Republican support for most of his programs by 1947 and 1948. The Republican architect of the bipartisan strategy, Senator Vandenberg, became seriously ill with cancer in 1949 and was spending much of his time in Georgetown Hospital. He called himself a “broken reed” and declined to take a substantive role in the GOP or serve as a liaison to Truman.5

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Emboldened by their victory, Senate Democrats aggravated the tension on Capitol Hill. To improve Truman’s chances of gaining passage of his legislation, they expanded their number on seven key Senate committees, including Foreign Relations, where the party ratio had been seven Republicans to six Democrats. Now it was eight Democrats and five for the GOP. With Republican leaders struggling to overcome the losses of 1948, another group in the party was clamoring for change. Traditionally dismissed by historians as a fringe force in an allegedly liberal era, the Republican Right would inflict substantial damage on Democrats and influence the ideas of the GOP in years to come. Members of the Republican Right tried to offer a new choice, a kind of conservative internationalism. Attacking communism—and connecting communism, socialism, and the Democratic Left—allowed conservatives, and especially the Republican Right, a way to kill two birds with one stone. Anticommunism permitted them to attack the domestic proposals of liberal Democrats by branding them as socialistic and questioning their national security credentials. In doing so, the Republican Right allied with southern Democrats, who otherwise supported their party on national security. Southern Democrats like Texas Representative Martin Dies and Mississippi Senator James Eastland moved to the forefront of the anticommunist campaigns. Defending Asia was critical to members of the Republican Right, who wanted to demonstrate that they stood for policies beyond isolationism. Conservative internationalists thought that communism posed a bigger strategic threat in Asia than in Western Europe, and that Asian armed forces would be easier to defeat than those of Europeans. The postwar occupation of Japan offered evidence to the Republican Right that the United States could achieve economic and political success in Asia. The occupation was handled by General Douglas MacArthur, a strong-willed and self-confident military leader well respected in conservative circles. During World War II, he had criticized FDR to his friends, complaining that the president devoted more money to Europe than Asia. As a five-star general of the army in 1944 and commander of the Allied forces in the Pacific during the war, MacArthur had proven himself a skilled military leader. MacArthur considered campaigning for the Republican nomination in 1944, and in 1948 he had placed his name on the ballot in a few Republican primaries, where he did poorly and dropped out.

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The occupation of Japan started as an ambitious effort to create a vibrant democracy. Running the occupation through a highly centralized decision-making structure, MacArthur and his team placed an early emphasis on democracy, which included an effort to construct a viable constitution and outline legal rights. But these concerns gave way to an emphasis on economic growth and political stability by 1949, as fears about communism in Asia increased. Joseph Dodge, a Detroit banker, headed the effort in Japan to achieve a balanced budget and curb inflation. The United States worked with Japanese leaders to curtail the influence of radical groups and unions.6 The shift in objectives was not apparent to most Americans, who were primarily impressed with the reconstruction and stabilization of a country devastated by a world war and two atomic bombs. At the same time, conservative internationalism broke with the strategy of containment by calling for a rollback of Soviet power in Eastern Europe. Without explaining how that could actually be accomplished barring a lengthy ground war or nuclear attack, the Republican Right rejected the notion that the United States should live with the existing structure of the Soviet Union. One staple for conservative internationalists was their argument that during the Yalta Conference in 1945, FDR and Churchill had accepted that much of Eastern Europe would remain under Soviet control after the war ended. For the Republican Right, this was the Democratic Munich. An article in Life magazine made the case, and its central theme gained widespread use as the prime example of how liberal internationalism had failed America. Many of the State Department officials who were the focus of anticommunist investigations had participated at Yalta. The Republican Right preferred cheaper airpower over ground troops and wanted cuts in domestic spending to make room for defense. The preference for airpower meshed with traditional American fears of a standing army, a symbol of excessive government power since the American Revolution. Relying primarily on airpower would also serve as a constraint on U.S. interventions abroad.7 The sanitized media coverage of airpower in World War II—the firebombing of Dresden, the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki—had left most Americans with a favorable view of the technology.8 While Democrats were equally enthusiastic about airpower, as evident in Truman’s investments in the Strategic Air Command, they tended to believe that it could achieve only limited results and had to be balanced with combat forces.

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The Republican Right wanted to grant high-ranking military officials more power to make tactical decisions and curtail the expanding authority that civilian officials were amassing in Washington. “When it comes to military matters,” said Senate Republican Floor Leader Kenneth Wherry of Nebraska, “a layman must give way to the judgment of military men.”9 Once again, many in the Republican Right pointed to General MacArthur as a model for what military leaders could accomplish. Even while ceding some power to the president, the Republican Right insisted that Congress should play a central role in national security decisions. In doing so, it stayed on the trajectory laid out by the conservatives who had cut their teeth railing against the presidency under FDR. Congress remained the institution where conservatives, Democrats and Republicans alike, had found institutional power. The very characteristics that many liberals complained about concerning the legislative branch—its slowness, its conservative outlook, and the presence of many conservatives in positions of power—were the attributes that conservatives hoped would limit the very government they were helping to expand. In July 1949, when the Senate ratified the North Atlantic Treaty establishing NATO, 82 to 13, the Republican Right warned that the collective security agreement undermined the role of Congress in determining when to use force. Members of the Republican Right did not trust international alliances and institutions, approaching them with skepticism and insisting on the right of elected officials in the United States to have the final word over multinational military decisions. They also rejected the notion that arms treaties with the Soviets were possible. In their minds, Soviet leaders had expansionist intentions and no true desire to reach peaceful agreements with the United States. The basic notion of negotiation, they said, was foreign to the Soviet philosophy. The Soviets were firm in rejecting several United States proposals for on-site inspections during the 1950s, fearing that the United States would use them to collect secret infor mation. Without the possibility of verification, conservatives said, treaties would give the Soviets a tactical advantage in their goal of world domination.10 Finally, the Republican Right endorsed aggressive domestic surveillance programs without sharing the concerns that liberal inter nationalists had about civil liberties. The Washington Post cartoonist Herblock captured this position in a cartoon, published October 31, 1947, entitled “It’s Okay—We’re Hunting Communists,” showing a

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car with members of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) running over a crowd of pedestrians. The Republican Right consisted of politicians who had never accepted the isolationist posture of their party as well as more senior legislators who had been sympathetic to isolationist perspectives but came to agree during World War II on the need to shed their earlier positions. Because of the decimation of the Republican Party from 1932 to 1945, political space opened up in the late 1940s for politicians with this perspective. The party was in a state of flux. There was no clear leadership structure, and many of the most senior politicians were near the end of their careers. One of the most prominent figures from the first category in the Republican Right was Richard Nixon, a lawyer by training. Nixon’s first impressions of the federal government had been formed after he left his home state of California to take a job with the Office of Price Administration in 1942. The experience left him deeply concerned about the inefficiencies of government bureaucracy. In August 1942, Nixon enlisted in the navy, serving in the South Pacific as an air transport officer and then as a legal officer until his discharge in 1946. He saw only limited combat. After the war, a group of influential California Republicans approached him to run for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives against five-term Democrat Jerry Voorhis. Characterizing himself as a “practical liberal,” Nixon attacked Voorhis’s voting record by homing in on his alliance with the left. Since anticommunism was not yet a hot-button issue, Nixon focused on high taxes, inflation, and wartime price controls, but he always found time to talk about communism. He reminded audiences that Voorhis had belonged to the Socialist Party in the early 1930s and that the “Communistdominated” CIO-PAC supported him. In the last week of the campaign, Nixon supporters made anonymous phone calls to voters, asking, “Did you know that Jerry Voorhis is a Communist?”11 Nixon was very much aware of the political advantage anticommunism offered the GOP. During the 1948 campaign, Nixon wrote to Republican internationalist John Foster Dulles that “the record of the administration is completely vulnerable and should be attacked. . . . [Truman] should be charged with placing politics above the national security.”12 In his second year in Congress, Nixon and Republican Senator Karl Mundt of South Dakota, who as a representative had served on HUAC, proposed legislation that criminalized any attempt to establish a totalitarian dictatorship in the United States and required communists and communist-front organizations, as defined by the attorney general, to register with the federal government. Any

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individual who belonged to one of these organizations was barred from working for the federal government.The House passed the bill, 319 to 58. But the legislation never made it through the Senate because there was general agreement that it violated the right to protection from guilt by association. The bill’s language was so broad that it would allow the Department of Justice to crack down on organizations that had nothing to do with communism. Nixon’s most famous activity in his first term involved Alger Hiss, a former State Department official suspected of having communist ties.When the State Department became aware of these accusations in 1946, Hiss resigned to become president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Two years later, HUAC launched an investigation. Whittaker Chambers, a Time magazine editor and former communist, testified before the committee that Hiss had been part of a communist cell in the 1930s and that he and Hiss had regularly corresponded. Hiss’s close relationship to Dean Acheson added intrigue to the story. When HUAC could not reach a conclusion given the conflicting testimony, the committee named Nixon as chair of a subcommittee to examine the matter further. Chambers claimed to have secret State Department material that Hiss had passed to him illegally. When a reporter asked Truman if the hearings were a “red herring to divert public attention from inflation,” the president said they were. On December 2, 1948, however, Nixon took reporters to Chambers’s farm in Maryland, where Nixon opened up a carved pumpkin to reveal microfilm of the documents that Chambers alleged Hiss had given him. The revelation gave HUAC newfound legitimacy. Hiss was indicted, found guilty on two counts of perjury, and in 1950 sentenced to prison for four years. He became a symbol to Republicans of the Democratic failures on national security. Other prominent members of the Republican Right included New Hampshire Senator Styles Bridges. While opposing most of the New Deal and attacking FDR’s efforts to expand presidential power, Bridges was an early supporter of U.S. involvement in Europe and advocated mobilization policies, such as conscription, needed to meet the fascist threat. In 1947, he became chairman of the Appropriations Committee. He supported the anticommunist investigations at home. And like many Republicans of his generation, he was extremely harsh about Yalta and was an early critic of Truman’s failure to provide sufficient support to the Chinese Nationalists.13 Another prominent member of the Republican Right was California Senator William Knowland. Knowland was best known for his

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advocacy of fighting communism in Asia, and his speeches on the Senate floor helped turn China into a major political issue. He continually attempted to add amendments to legislation that would provide greater assistance to the noncommunist Chinese. While endorsing programs to bolster democratic nations in Western Europe (he voted for the Marshall Plan, the Truman Doctrine, NATO, and other European programs) and working with Vandenberg in the 80th Congress to make those programs successful, Knowland simultaneously lamented that President Truman had failed to deal with Asia. When Knowland and his wife traveled to the Far East, he was received like a Hollywood star. Some in this informal coalition were almost exclusively concerned with China, and they were often called the China bloc. Minnesota Representative Walter Judd was a key member. During the 1930s, as a missionary in China, he had been captured by the Japanese and held as a prisoner of war. When he was freed, he returned to the States and told of Japanese brutality. He rejected the idea that “to be sound and conservative domestically meant that you had to be isolationist internationally.” He used his skills as a public speaker to warn of the growing threat that communist forces posed in China. While praising the Truman Doctrine, Judd said the administration needed the same proactive strategy in Asia.14 By the start of 1949, the Republican Right found allies on floor votes with Republicans such as Senator Taft and the ranking Republican on House Appropriations, John Taber, who had much less strategic interest in areas like Asia but who realized that focusing on the region offered the GOP an opportunity to craft a distinct national security agenda.15 Even some northeastern Republicans joined in. Thomas Dewey blamed the administration for failing to support the Chinese Nationalist government and said the administration had essentially lost Asia.16 When dealing with China or domestic anticommunism, the Republican Right could also count on a few Democratic senators like Patrick McCarran (Nevada) and James Eastland (Mississippi). Outside of Congress, the Republican Right received support from an informal network of journalists, wealthy donors, and organizations. Active supporters of the Chinese government, dubbed the China Lobby, included the publisher of Time and Life magazines, Henry Luce, and businessmen such as Alfred Kohlberg, J. B. Matthews, and Robert Morris.17 The Republican Right depended on civic organizations and local media figures for support. The American Legion mobilized

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members at all levels of government and served as a central lobbying force behind tough legislation to crack down on communism.18 The former dean of the University of Notre Dame Law School, Clarence Manion, launched a radio show to promote conservative causes. A group of conservative intellectuals articulated the ideas inspiring the Republican Right. New York University philosopher James Burnham called on Republicans to embrace the national security state rather than fear it. Burnham had been a left-wing intellectual in 1930s New York, but his politics changed after the Nazi-Soviet pact in 1939. Burnham condemned isolationism and defended efforts to combat Stalinist communism. Burnham depicted the United States as the last force standing between free societies and communism.19 He urged Republicans to accept conscription and high defense spending. He wrote that “cooperation and appeasement” had been “laid aside” by most policy makers other than the “communists, their hangers-on, and the self-deluded.”20 Young conservatives like William F. Buckley Jr. and William Rusher were profoundly influenced by Burnham’s ideas. Many up-and-coming conservative politicians read his work, or excerpts in the popular press, and attended his lectures. One of the central conceptual contributions made by Burnham was to combine conservatism with an acceptance of the federal government via national security. Buckley wrote that conservatives had to “accept Big Government for the duration—for neither an offensive nor a defensive war can be waged . . . except through the instrument of a totalitarian bureaucracy within our shores.” He explained that Republicans “will have to support large armies and air forces, atomic energy, central intelligence, war production boards, and the attendant centralization of power in Washington—even with Truman at the reins of it all.”21 The National Review, which Buckley founded in 1955, became a central outlet for such opinions. In response to libertarian critics, Buckley explained that “national security is a proper concern for the libertarian because without it he stands to lose—in this case—all his freedom.”22 Not all conservatives were comfortable with these arguments. Harry Elmer Barnes, a prolific isolationist scholar, called Burnham’s book “the ultimate triumph of Hitlerian attitudes and policies in this country.” Felix Morley, a reporter who had won the Washington Post’s first Pulitzer Prize in 1936 and in 1944 founded the conservative magazine Human Events, warned that Burnham revealed that “the very real threat of Soviet Russia . . . will be utilized to advocate the dissolution of the American Republic [and] the establishment of an American empire in its place.”23

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But most conservatives were learning to live with the types of arguments that Burnham and Buckley made. They justified this compromise by supporting specific forms of national security policies that would contain the scope of government as much as possible. Their hope was also that Republicans would win control of government and that they could be trusted to carry out these policies as carefully as possible. Anticommunism at home and abroad was becoming strategically important given that it held the different factions of conservatives together. Libertarians and traditionalists, internationalists and isolationists, free-marketers and social conservatives were all coming to agreement that fighting communism needed to remain central to American politics. At the same time, they used anticommunism to challenge domestic proposals from the Democratic Left.24 Relying on this network of support and highlighting areas of difference within the Cold War agenda, the Republican Right seized the opportunity to gain political advantage when the crisis in China reached a climax between the spring and fall of 1949. Republicans denounced Truman’s decision to stop support for the Chinese Nationalists in January 1949. At a private White House meeting on February 5, Vandenberg said, “I have little or no hope for stopping the immediate Communist conquest. . . . I decline to be responsible for the last push which makes it possible.”25 Two days later, House Republicans sent a letter to the president asking how he intended to support noncommunist China. When the Senate in March and April debated the Mutual Defense Assistance Program, which would provide more funds to allied European countries to rebuild their military forces but ignored China, the fireworks began. On April 14, Secretary of State Acheson wrote a letter to Senator Tom Connally, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in which he explained that the United States had provided over $2 billion to the Chinese since World War II, and still “the Chinese Communists had almost all the important areas of China from Manchuria to the Yangtze River.”26 Republicans criticized the exclusion. Nixon said that even though Chiang’s government was corrupt, “the Chinese Communists would only impose a far worse government upon the people than the one we are supporting” and “our best hope of deterring Soviet Russia from pushing this struggle in Europe to a show-down war is to make sure that she does not in the meanwhile bring about the subjection of China to her rear.”27 Bridges and Knowland called for an investigation into the State Department’s China policies.

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Many prominent Democrats, including Senators Connally, J. William Fulbright, and Richard Russell, defended the administration’s decision. Knowland and his allies added an amendment to the Mutual Defense Assistance Program legislation that provided $75 million in military aid to the Chinese Nationalists. The administration was trapped into supporting the amendment because it wanted the legislation, which it believed necessary to the success of the Marshall Plan. The State Department spent much of the summer working on a lengthy publication that outlined U.S. policies in Asia. In late July, Secretary Acheson decided that the study should be published even though he knew it would “cause a renewed storm of attack from certain quarters.” Yet he thought that providing the facts to the public would allow future policies to be made on the “basis of realism and comprehension.”28 On August 6, the State Department released a White Paper that explained how Chiang had made it impossible to prevent the communist takeover. Republicans were almost unanimous in their criticism of the White Paper. According to Congressman Judd, “Chinese leaders understood the nature, the objectives, the methods and the insidious threat of the world-wide Communist conspiracy. The White Paper is a confession that the leaders of our Government possessed no such understanding.” Senator Wherry said, “I can’t see why we lock the front door against communism in Europe and leave the back door open in China.”29 The report also drew Vandenberg’s opposition, a sign that the China arguments were undercutting the alliance of the 80th Congress and influencing the Republican leadership. Vandenberg complained that the president usually approached Republicans only after he had already made his decisions about how to handle a crisis. Congress passed the Mutual Defense Assistance Program, which included $75 million in credits for the Chinese Nationalists. The final compromise authorized money that the president could choose to use or withhold depending on confidential reports that he received about the situation. While the bulk of the funds in the legislation went toward Western Europe and gave financial muscle to NATO, the amendment marked a political victory for the Republican Right. And then, on August 29, the face of world politics changed forever, when the Soviets exploded their first atomic bomb. Republicans attacked Truman for allowing such a thing to happen. Many Democrats were shaken by the news. Presidential advisor George

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Elsey predicted that the administration “shall be faced with a torrent of articles, news stories and radio talks on the state of national security and our defences against a Soviet atomic attack. We shall have a flood of oratory from Capitol Hill on the same subject.”30 He was right. On September 25, Illinois Republican Representative Harold Velde said that the Soviets had gained three to five years in obtaining a bomb “solely” because the government was “highly tolerant of and at times even sympathetic to the views of Communists and fellow travelers.”31 On October 1, Mao Zedong announced the formation of the People’s Republic of China. The Nationalists had all fled to Formosa (also known as Taiwan), defeated, though still plotting their return. Inside the United States, the refrain of “Who Lost China?” almost immediately became a staple of Republican rhetoric. On January 5, 1950, Senators Knowland and H. Alexander Smith of New Jersey had an icy conversation with Secretary of State Acheson. Acheson reviewed why the administration did not think it was worth it to “hazard a war” over the strategically unimportant island of Formosa. Smith replied that the defense of Formosa was critical. Pointing to some newspaper clippings, Knowland said that he could not believe the “spirit of defeatism” that administration officials were displaying in their conversations with reporters. Smith said he was disappointed that the administration had not consulted Republicans over its policies toward Formosa and that this neglect could affect his support for a bipartisan foreign policy. According to Acheson, “Courteous but restrained goodbyes were offered by those present.”32 With lurking communist spies in the United States, a SovietChina alliance seemed to be forming right before the eyes of many U.S. policy makers. It was their worst nightmare.When on January 13, the United Nations rejected a Soviet proposal to grant Communist China admission, the Soviets announced they were boycotting the Security Council. On February 15, the USSR and the People’s Republic of China signed a mutual defense treaty. Republicans warned that a united, worldwide communist revolution was under way. Adding to the tension over communism was the fact that on January 21, the jury found Alger Hiss guilty and sentenced him to prison. Tying these stories together, Nixon said that Truman and Roosevelt had ignored “concrete evidence” that the Soviets were attempting to obtain data about constructing an atomic bomb.33 Reacting to the events in China, Knowland became known as the “Senator from Formosa” because of his strident defense of the

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Nationalists. In 1950, he delivered 115 floor speeches on the issue. He lamented that the administration failed to “understand that communism is a global menace—what the men in the Kremlin understood two decades ago when Lenin pointed out that ‘the road to Paris is through Peiping [Beijing].’”34 The China Lobby pushed Congress to back Chiang Kai-shek and the exiled Chinese Nationalist government.The need to protect Formosa became a rallying cry for the Republican Right throughout the 1950s. General MacArthur outlined the importance of Formosa in a memorandum of June 1950, warning that the island could not become the possession of a hostile nation: “The geographic location of Formosa is such that in the hands of a power unfriendly to the United States it constitutes an enemy salient in the very center of that portion of our position now keyed to Japan, Okinawa, and the Philippines.” The future of Formosa, he wrote, depended on the United States.35 Throughout this period of crisis in Asia, Truman’s relationship with the military steadily deteriorated. The first secretary of defense, James Forrestal, appointed in September 1947, had served as undersecretary of the navy in 1940 and secretary of the navy in 1944. He had been a staunch defender of the navy against the unification of the armed services into the Department of Defense under the National Security Act of 1947. He lost that battle but then was chosen to head the new department. In that position he struggled with the chaotic organization and infighting of the military. He also angered his former colleagues when Truman instructed him to curb defense spending. Forrestal feared that Truman’s policies were undermining the ability of the nation to fight communism. But he carried out the orders, losing many close friends in the process. When he suffered a mental breakdown in 1949, Truman asked him to resign. Soon after, while in Bethesda Naval Hospital, Forrestal committed suicide. Truman did not have much better luck with his next secretary of defense, Louis Arthur Johnson, who was also told to cut military spending. Johnson had his own presidential ambitions and had been one of Truman’s main fund-raisers, but he did not have much experience with the military and lacked the personal skills needed to smooth over tensions as he pressured the military branches to save money. Johnson also clashed with Acheson as he was extremely critical of the administration’s failure to provide stronger support for the Chinese Nationalists. Seeking to replace Acheson as Truman’s top advisor, he constantly challenged the secretary.

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The budget battles between the administration and the military, carried out through defense secretaries Forrestal and Johnson, politicized military leaders, who started to openly express their displeasure with the administration.36 Military officials felt that they did not have the kind of weapons or forces they needed for another major conflict. Johnson angered the navy when he supported the air force in its push to invest in airpower and canceled the construction of an aircraft carrier. The National Security Act had made the army and navy equal branches. Navy officials feared that the cancellation signaled a diminished role for them in the age of atomic war. Navy supporters campaigned against the administration in what was called the “Revolt of the Admirals.” The air force countered with its own campaign. EY MEMBERS OF the Republican Right coupled their criticism about China with anticommunist investigations within the United States. They depicted the State Department as a haven for dovish Democrats and communist sympathizers who were undermining the strength of America.They accused elite, left-wing foreign policy experts of pushing for excessive assistance to Europe at the same time that they were curtailing military options elsewhere in the world. Acheson, whom Truman had appointed as secretary of state to shore up his hawkish credentials with conservatives in both parties, became the whipping boy in these attacks. The irony was that Acheson had been a strong internationalist, willing to use military power. He had been a prominent champion of intervening militarily in Europe in the 1930s before some Democrats took this stand in public. He had helped draft FDR’s efforts to overcome the Neutrality Acts in 1940. Before becoming secretary in 1949, Acheson had worked as an undersecretary in the State Department with George Kennan to design the containment strategy and championed a strong military as a prerequisite to any negotiations. But none of this mattered. Republicans portrayed him as arrogant and effete. As New York Times columnist James Reston wrote in May 1950, Acheson “seems to symbolize all the things about the department which Congressmen distrust.”37 Republicans combined their accusations about State Department ties to communist organizations with charges of homosexuality at the department. While charges about Acheson were usually just implied, the attacks were more direct concerning lower-level officials at State. These were officials, Republicans said, subject to blackmail because of their private sexual lives.38

K

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The Republican Right allied with southern Democrats to conduct investigations and hurl accusations in search of communists. The investigations received unprecedented attention thanks to Wisconsin Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy, who on February 9, 1950, told an audience in Wheeling, West Virginia, that he had the names of 205 people in the State Department loyal to the Communist Party. Most Republicans did little to stop the media-hungry McCarthy since their party was benefiting politically from his attacks. As Ohio Senator John Bricker told him, “You’re a real SOB. But sometimes it’s useful to have SOB’s around to do the dirty work.”39 The Washington Post’s Herblock introduced the term “McCarthyism” in a cartoon published on March 29, 1950, showing several Republican leaders, including Senators Wherry, Taft, and Bridges, dragging an uneasy GOP elephant toward a stack of precariously balanced paint cans, with the top can labeled “McCarthyism.” The frightened elephant, looking at that top can, asks, “You mean I’m supposed to stand on that?” But Republicans did put their elephant atop that particular structure. And through McCarthyism, Republicans made toughness against internal communism a defining issue in American politics, along with China and the first Soviet atomic bomb test. Democrats watched as their political advantage on national security slipped away. The Republican Right had articulated a national security agenda of conservative internationalism that became popular, even among former allies of the president and mainstream GOP leaders. While the party leaders often distanced themselves from the right, they frequently adopted similar arguments. Working through the legislative branch and along with a network of interest groups, foundations, and intellectuals, the Republican Right had turned itself into a political force that could no longer be dismissed. The Communist Revolution in China constituted a huge turning point. Republicans refocused public attention on the challenges in China—where the administration was not eager or optimistic about intervention—and away from Japan—where Truman had devoted significant resources to the successful reconstruction of the nation. The events seemed to expose the vulnerability of proponents of liberal internationalism, as did the initial anticommunist investigations inside the United States. Truman in 1950 was not the same politician that he had been in the beginning of 1949, nor was the GOP the same party. The next two years would be politically brutal. During the 80th Congress, Truman had enjoyed bipartisan votes about two-thirds of

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the time, but such support would dwindle to one-third in the following two sessions, when Democrats controlled the chambers. Republican opposition to Truman’s China policies was crucial.40 The integration of national security into the electoral realm would become so complete and so intense—influencing the midterm elections of 1950 and the presidential election of 1952—that the period would shape an entire generation of Republicans and Democrats who came of age in this era and would have enormous consequences on politics and policy.

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HE BEGINNING OF the second half of the twentieth century was a turbulent time for American politics, an era of political investigation, a sudden war, accusations of treason and blackmail, and a dramatic reversal of fortunes for the two parties. It was the dawn of the age of television, and Americans watched, often fascinated, often disgusted, as Republicans and Democrats lashed out at one another. In the 1950 midterm election campaign, Republicans ran as the party that voters could trust to protect them from Soviet and Chinese communism. They trotted out the slogan “Liberty versus Socialism.” A Republican radio ad urged Americans to wake up about the “Alger Hiss conviction . . . Atom-bomb secrets lost to Russia . . . Amerasia whitewash . . . Appeasement of communism . . . Unpreparedness in Korea.”1 Now in his sixth year as president, Harry Truman accused Republicans of insulting the intelligence of the American people by dragging out “the same old moth-eaten scarecrow of ‘socialism’ again in 1950—after having used it, or something very like it, in opposition to every progressive step the nation has taken since 1933.”2 Truman was angry about the vicious attacks on Secretary of State Dean Acheson for having allegedly failed to stop communism in China and allowing communist spies to lurk freely in his bureaucracy. He warned, “If you and your colleagues who are so anxious to find an issue for the coming campaign would care to discuss the effect which the present unwarranted attacks on the Secretary of State are having on the effective conduct of this cold war, I believe we can convince you that what you are proposing to do is not only unpatriotic,

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but is a most dangerous procedure, likely to cause a situation in which young Americans may lose their lives by the thousands.”3 There was a lot at stake for both parties in the 1950 elections. Truman needed Democrats to retain control of Congress, and he also wanted to diminish the size of the conservative coalition of southern Democrats and Republicans who had blocked most of his Fair Deal programs. The GOP needed forty-seven seats in the House and nine seats in the Senate to take control of the legislative branch. Truman feared that Republicans were regaining their momentum on national security, an issue on which they had not enjoyed a decisive advantage since the 1920s. The Republican Right had become increasingly influential in the GOP, and the domestic anticommunist campaign had aggravated the division between southern and northern Democrats. Maryland Democratic Senator Millard Tydings, who chaired a subcommittee to investigate the charges against State Department officials, warned the president that Senator Joseph McCarthy and his allies had “robbed the Truman administration of some of the united support which our people had given to the foreign program.”4 On May 7, Truman and his wife, Bess, commenced a ten-day “nonpolitical” train tour reminiscent of a very political one they had taken before the 1948 election. On May 15 he spoke to 25,000 Democrats in Chicago. This was in the home state of Senate Majority Leader Scott Lucas, who was facing a difficult challenge from the Republican, Everett McKinley Dirksen, a former congressman. Truman criticized “backward looking Senators and Representatives” as obstructionists in domestic policy and isolationists in foreign affairs. Then, on June 25, everything changed as some 100,000 North Korean soldiers invaded South Korea.5 The tensions in Korea dated back to the end of World War II, when the United States and the Soviet Union divided that country. Korea had been annexed by Japan in 1910, and FDR, Churchill, and Stalin had agreed in 1943, at a meeting in Cairo, that the allies would take control of Japanese holdings after the war. Based on the argument that Korea was not yet ready for independence, the Soviets and Americans retained control over the territory, dividing it into two zones in August 1945. In 1948 the Soviets helped establish a government in the North under Premier Kim Il Sung, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Based on a 1947 U.N. Resolution calling for elections, which the United States pushed, a vote was held in South Korea in 1948, in which Syngman Rhee, an ally of the United States, became president. The U.N. recognized Rhee’s Republic of

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Korea as the legitimate Korean government. While the United States and the Soviet Union withdrew their forces after their puppet governments were established, clashes between the North and South continued at the 38th parallel. Kim Il Sung pressured Stalin to provide military and economic support for a northern invasion of the South to unify the country under communism, but the Soviet leader initially opposed the request because he feared triggering war with the United States. Those fears diminished by the summer of 1950, however, due to the perception that American interest in defending South Korea was not strong. During the late 1940s, American policy makers in both parties had seemed uninterested in Korea. In January 1950, the House had rejected an administration request to provide $150 million in economic and military assistance to South Korea. The opposition included many Republicans and southern Democrats who had been persuaded by Pentagon warnings that the money would not have any effect on Korean civil tensions and who were angry the administration was not using those funds to support Chiang Kaishek. In a speech in January 1950, Secretary of State Acheson did not include South Korea in the “defensive perimeter” he envisioned for the region. Soviet and North Korean officials took this to mean that the United States would not respond to aggression.6 Stalin finally agreed to the invasion, and four months later Mao Zedong gave his support. Truman’s decision about what to do about the North Korean invasion was not inevitable. After all, he had resisted intense pressure to provide Chiang Kai-shek with assistance when China fell to communism the previous year.7 Truman’s advisors had generally agreed until that point that Korea was not essential to U.S. national security. But this time Truman chose military action. Strategically, Truman believed that the threat to Rhee’s Western-friendly but corrupt and unpopular government could make the entire region susceptible to communist domination. He kept coming back to the analogy of Munich in the 1930s: If you did nothing with an aggressor state, you only encouraged it to be more aggressive.8 Politically, Truman understood that a passive response would play into the hands of conservatives. That the Korean crisis occurred after the fall of China made it hard for him to refrain from a military response. Reversing their earlier rejection of support for South Korea, Republicans now demanded that Truman take a stand. Senator Bridges asked, “Will we continue appeasement?” Senator Knowland said, “If this nation is allowed to succumb to an overt invasion of this

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kind, there is little chance of stopping Communism anywhere on the continent of Asia.”9 When Truman took military action, he relied on executive power and international institutions rather than Congress. His advisors insisted that the president had authority to take this step, and he agreed. Truman requested that the United Nations condemn the invasion, which it did, and send troops under U.N. auspices. At the time, the Soviets were boycotting the Security Council because the U.N. had refused to seat Communist China. Thus, the Soviets could not veto the resolution. During private meetings with Truman, Democratic members of Congress concurred with the president’s decision to use executive power. If he sought a declaration of war from Congress, they said, he would open the debate up to the China question and further ignite partisan tensions. General Douglas MacArthur had proposed that Chiang Kai-shek’s forces participate in the battle; Republicans agreed but the White House was opposed.10 Given that Truman and most legislators did not expect the Korean crisis to turn into a largescale war, the White House believed that following the U.N. resolution, rather than seeking a congressional declaration of war, was a legitimate course of action.11 When the president deployed the first troops on June 30, Republicans expressed support. Although many Republicans were privately unhappy with the operation, they worried about challenging the president in an election year and over a conflict in Asia, when they had been demanding tougher policies there.12 Since he did not ask for a declaration of war or a congressional resolution, Republicans could support the president without actually having to vote for or against the operation.13 On July 7, the U.N. appointed MacArthur as commander of the military forces in Korea. On the surface, it seemed a good choice. MacArthur was popular in the United States and Asia as a result of his work in World War II and the postwar occupation of Japan. MacArthur and Truman, however, did not get along. MacArthur’s presidential ambitions were well known. He had publicly criticized the president’s failure to prevent the Communist Revolution in China. Truman called him “Mr. Prima Donna, Brass Hat, Five-Star MacArthur.” Thinking about the elections, however, Truman concluded that he could not afford a public fight given GOP attacks on his policies.14 Many Democratic leaders initially thought that their candidates should avoid discussing Korea. They wanted Truman to appear to be

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above politics while making Republicans who dared raise questions look like irresponsible partisans. Not every Democrat agreed with this strategy, however, and some intended to paint Republicans as isolationists and use the wartime crisis to the advantage of their party. Democrats were also encouraged that they could regain ground on national security issues when Senator Tydings transformed his subcommittee investigation about allegations of communist spies into an exposé of Senator McCarthy. The subcommittee report, published on July 20, dismissed McCarthy’s charges as misleading and false. Republicans refused to sign onto the report and called it partisan and without basis in fact. The outbreak of war in Korea quickly pushed aside the contentious debates over Harry Truman’s Fair Deal initiatives, including health care, government spending, and civil rights. Those issues remained central to the campaign, but now political attention turned to war and peace. Republicans could not for very long resist criticizing the president. Senator Robert Taft had at first felt that Korea might be a handicap for the GOP, but in early August he was predicting that “it’s going to be an asset in the end.”15 At the same time, the Republican National Committee distributed a fifty-six-page document to candidates recommending that Korea and China be major campaign issues. The Senate Republican Policy Committee sent all candidates a detailed analysis about how to discuss national security. In response to Truman’s claim that Korea constituted a testing ground for the president’s commitment to contain Asian communism, the committee urged Republicans to depict the war as a “story of blind, blundering and almost treasonable foreign policy.”16 In late August, U.S. News and World Report reported that Truman had ordered MacArthur to withdraw a statement he had planned to read at the annual convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. In the statement, which the magazine published on September 1, the general called on the United States to provide greater military support to the Chinese Nationalists against the Communist government on the mainland. MacArthur wrote that “nothing could be more fallacious than the threadbare argument by those who advocate appeasement and defeatism in the Pacific that if we defend Formosa we alienate continental Asia.”17 MacArthur was contradicting Truman’s publicly stated promise to remain neutral in dealing with Formosa. Officials in Moscow and Beijing read with alarm the reports, which created the impression that the United States might provide assistance to the Nationalists on

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Formosa.18 The administration believed that if the statement was interpreted as U.S. doctrine, it would undermine diplomatic efforts concerning the Korean War. Acheson convinced the president to force MacArthur to withdraw his statement on the grounds that it violated his authority in military affairs. When the story reached the media, Republicans said that it confirmed their worst fears about Truman, that the White House was seeking to gag its critics.19 On August 30, Democratic strategists met to discuss the situation. Those in attendance, including Violet Gunther of the Americans for Democratic Action and Julius Edelstein (administrative assistant to New York Senator Herbert Lehman) agreed that Republican attacks on foreign policy had “put many Democrats on the defensive.” The Democratic Party felt that they needed to take a more proactive approach, which started by providing candidates with research on how to handle the charges from the GOP.20 The president agreed to the distribution of a packet for Democrats, which included a list of thirteen Senate votes in which Republican isolationist votes “paralleled” the positions of the American Communist Party line by preventing the administration from acting against communist expansion.21 Truman tried to show his commitment to fighting communism by taking a bold position on defense expenditures. In a radio address on September 9, he said that the nation should double annual defense spending from $15 billion to $30 billion. On September 30, he approved the top-secret National Security Council Memorandum 68, which warned that “every individual faces the ever-present possibility of annihilation should the conflict enter the phase of total war” and called for a dramatic boost in defense spending and a longterm commitment to fighting communism around the globe. The president told his inner circle of policy makers that NSC-68 was a statement of policy. With regards to increasing the military budget, Acheson would later say that “Korea saved us.”22 But Truman could not seem to get control of the situation. The Republican Right defined the GOP campaign strategy on national security, leveling harsh accusations about Truman’s inability to prevent a communist revolution in China. They condemned a poorly executed military operation against North Korea and complained that the military had been battered by budget cuts and poor civilian leadership. Finally, there were repeated charges that communist agents were operating freely within the government. The controversies with Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson became a focal point for the Republican attacks on the administration’s policies. On September 11,Truman asked Johnson to resign, explain-

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ing he had no choice, that members of Congress were coming to him to say that the secretary’s presence would result in Democratic defeat in the midterm elections. Republicans were using Johnson, as with Acheson, to attack Truman’s national security policies without directly attacking the commander in chief during a time of war. The GOP believed that Johnson’s well-known battles with the military to cut its budget made him susceptible to charges that he had been unwilling to provide the military with what it needed. Johnson, according to the president’s account, “just folded up and wilted.”23 Truman later explained to an aide that he had told Johnson about the political pressure only to make him feel better; in fact, the president told the aide, “Never had anyone let me down as badly as [Johnson] did” and he had known for months that he would have to fire him.24 Truman was tired of Johnson’s ongoing internal disputes with Acheson over policies in areas like China and Formosa, where Johnson took a harder line. Truman believed that Johnson was intent on displacing Acheson as the president’s top advisor on national security matters. The tensions got so bad that at times Johnson and Acheson refused to speak to each other.25 The firing of such a major figure fueled Republicans’ attacks on Truman’s leadership. Truman’s nomination of George Marshall to succeed Johnson only made things worse. A World War II hero and secretary of state when the Marshall Plan went into effect, he had become a target of the Republican Right for his participation in Yalta and his opposition to funding the Nationalist Chinese shortly before the Communist Revolution. Though he had famously saved Europe with the Marshall Plan, he was now blamed for losing China. During his confirmation hearings, even mainstream Republicans were shocked by the intensity of attacks on Marshall, though only eleven Republicans ended up opposing the nomination. Meanwhile, on the day he asked for Johnson’s resignation, September 11, the president authorized MacArthur to start making plans to cross the 38th parallel and overthrow the North Korean government. Truman felt that Republicans could criticize him if he did not, especially with polls showing that sixty-four percent of Americans wanted this course of action. Though the public was not aware of this decision, Truman did fear the political ramifications of failing to destroy the communist regime in the North, and MacArthur’s military success in the late summer had made this goal seem possible.26 In mid-September, U.N. troops completed an amphibious attack at Inchon and moved northward, pushing North Korean troops back over the 38th parallel.

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The politics of domestic anticommunism continued apace. In September, Democratic Senator Patrick McCarran proposed legislation, the Internal Security Act, based on a revision of the NixonMundt legislation. It required communist organizations to register with the attorney general, granted the Department of Justice considerable power to detain or deport “aliens” deemed to be a threat to security, and created a Subversive Activities Control Board with the responsibility of investigating accusations. In a skillful political move, McCarran seized control of the legislation that Republicans had been promoting since 1948 by combining many previous proposals into a new omnibus bill and claiming credit for himself and for the Democrats who stood to the right of Truman. The president opposed the Internal Security Act, thinking it went too far, but he lost the support of Majority Leader Scott Lucas, who was feeling pressure in his re-election campaign against Everett Dirksen. The bill passed both houses. Republicans were pleased with the outcome. When California Democratic Representative Helen Gahagan Douglas, who was running against Nixon for a seat in the Senate, voted against the measure, a colleague asked her: “How does it feel to be a dead statesman . . . instead of a live politician?”27 After Truman vetoed the legislation, the House overrode the veto 286 to 48 and the Senate did the same, 57 to 10. Although the winning legislation was sponsored by a Democrat, the Republican Right did the celebrating. The legislation authorized the kind of stringent surveillance they had been fighting for, and they saw the willingness of a Democratic Congress to override the veto as a major defeat for Truman. Meanwhile, Senator McCarthy was using his celebrity status to make national security issues a serious problem for Democrats. Republican leaders sat back and watched the drama play out. As one Republican argued, “The public may agree with the intellectuals that McCarthy has never proved a single one of his charges. But I’m sure the public is still saying, ‘There must be something to this.’ I think it all adds up to a frustration and a feeling of insecurity.” The senator devoted his greatest energy to Maryland, where his nemesis, Senator Millard Tydings, faced an electoral challenge from an attorney, John Marshall Butler. Seeking revenge for the Tydings subcommittee report, McCarthy helped Butler raise huge sums of money from the China Lobby. Butler’s campaign went so far as to release a doctored photo of Tydings having a conversation with Earl Browder, the former leader of the American Communist Party.28 Although McCarthy’s actual impact on this and other campaigns was

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limited and the anticommunist strategy was far broader than the senator, his presence helped galvanize those seeking to make national security a top issue. The distance between moderate Republicans and the Republican Right diminished as they found common ground with anticommunism. In a statement to their colleagues, a group of Senate Republicans who had supported Truman in 1947 and 1948 warned that as a result of Democratic “ineptitude,”American strength abroad had diminished. The senators claimed that the bipartisan alliance that had frustrated “Communist subversion” and “aggression” in Europe was not working in Asia: “The Kremlin was, in effect, given a green light to grab whatever it could in China, Korea, and Formosa.”Truman’s Asia policies, they said, were no longer based on bipartisan agreements but were “solely an administration policy.”29 Although their letter was meant to offer a middle ground, most Democrats perceived it as stinging criticism from some of Truman’s strongest Republican collaborators.30 In mid-October, the president traveled to Wake Island to meet with MacArthur. Truman strategist George Elsey thought such a meeting could improve the president’s standing in the polls. At this private meeting, the general apologized for the statement published in U.S. News and for any political embarrassment he had caused Truman. The meeting was tense. MacArthur acted in ways that undercut and offended Truman, such as failing to salute him, but the president departed pleased, given all of the things that could have gone wrong.31 With a week until the election, Truman’s advisors pleaded with him to do more. White House assistant Ken Hechler said, “the chief issue [Republicans] are raising is ‘softness toward communism.’ If a devastating answer is delivered to this charge, it would give a specific lift in close states where it is a leading issue: New York, California, Connecticut, Utah, Iowa, Wisconsin, Indiana, and several other states.”32 Meanwhile, on November 1, six days before the election, two Puerto Rican nationalists attempted to assassinate the president at Blair House, where the Trumans were staying during renovations of the White House. One of the assailants was shot dead in the attempt as was a White House police officer. “It’s hell to be President,”Truman wrote in his diary.33 In his first major public speech following the assassination attempt, Truman directly attacked the GOP as isolationists. Speaking before an audience of 12,000 in St. Louis, he warned that Republicans “have maliciously and falsely made charges of disloyalty against

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some of our finest and ablest public servants” and “they have lost all proportion, all sense of restraint, all sense of patriotic decency.”Truman called a vote for “isolationism” in this election “national suicide.” By making exaggerated claims about the influence of isolationism in the GOP—and thus attempting to conflate the increasingly influential anticommunist agenda of the Republican Right with the Old Guard isolationist agenda of the 1930s—the president was hoping to use isolationism to separate the two parties. The Democratic Party purchased air time for a live transmission of the speech on radio networks and seventy-six television stations. Republicans responded with their own last-minute effort. The night before the election, Republicans released a statement from Senators Smith, Ralph Flanders (Vermont), and Irving Ives (New York) and from the widow of former presidential candidate Wendell Willkie that Truman had refused to work with Republicans and divided Americans over foreign policy. They blamed a “small willful” group in the State Department for appeasing Chinese Communists and for having “dragged the Chinese people behind the Iron Curtain.”34 The election results were mixed. The Democrats retained control of Congress, but the GOP gained twenty-eight House and five Senate seats. The Democratic majority in the House fell from 263 to 235 and from fifty-four to forty-nine in the Senate. The size of the Democratic majority was not the key issue. Rather, it was the size of the conservative coalition of southern Democrats and Republicans that had used the committee process to stifle Truman. The election significantly strengthened the power of this bloc. From this perspective, the midterms were a drubbing for Democrats. When they suggested to Senator Lyndon Johnson that he become whip, he answered, “You’ll destroy me, because I can’t afford to be identified with the Democratic Party right now.” Johnson’s ambition got the better of him and he ran and won.35 As the results came in, Truman was on board the presidential yacht Williamsburg, so despondent that he got drunk. George Elsey later recalled that was the only night he saw Truman in that kind of a stupor: “Did Truman drink? Yes, bourbon and lots of it. But did he drink to excess? Only once did I see him show the effects and that was the night of the mid-term elections in November, 1950.”36 National security was not the only important issue in this campaign, but it was an extremely potent part of the mix. In several of the most watched campaigns, the Republican national security strategy worked perfectly. For the California Senate seat, Representative

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Richard Nixon defeated Representative Helen Gahagan Douglas. Everett Dirksen beat Majority Leader Scott Lucas in a dramatic upset. In Pennsylvania, James Duff ousted another party leader, the Democratic whip, Francis Myers. In Maryland, John Marshall Butler beat Senator Tydings. Ohio’s Taft won with fifty-seven percent of the vote. There had been notable shifts within the Democratic Party as well. During the Florida primaries, conservative Democrat George Smathers had knocked off the liberal Claude Pepper. In U.S. News and World Report, the magazine’s conservative founder, David Lawrence, wrote, “The mandate of the people today is that there must be no appeasement of the Reds in China. . . . We cannot compromise with communism anywhere.”37 According to one internal administration study, “unless McCarthyism is discredited, the 1952 election is in great danger of going the same way.” A memo from the Democratic National Committee warned, “Vituperative Republican attacks on the President and individuals of his official family, while Democratic leaders remain silent, have seemingly impaired public confidence” in foreign policy.38 Most alarming for Democrats, Senator McCarthy emerged from the 1950 elections looking like a power broker. “You couldn’t imagine the change in his stature when he returned to Washington,” Senator Fulbright recalled. “Republicans looked upon him as the new messiah. The Democrats were just scared to death. He was the same old McCarthy, as odious as ever. But, oh my, how things had changed.”39 The 1950 election marked a victory of the Republican Right, which had pushed for its own hawkish national security agenda and had undermined Democratic political strength on these issues. As the editors of the Washington Post accurately noted, “The fact is that ‘isolationist’ is meaningful only as a political weapon. . . . Conservatives who might be indifferent to the abstract idea of fighting aggression in remote places quickly lose their indifference when it becomes a question of resisting aggressive thrusts inspired by the Stalinist hierarchy. If there was any one national issue that stood out in the election, it was resentment against candidates rightly or wrongly supposed to have been too soft in dealing with communism, abroad as well as at home. This strong anti-Communist sentiment is the antithesis of isolationism.”40 the administration and the Republican Right exploded after the midterm elections. The military situation in Korea worsened. On November 24, MacArthur started a

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massive operation aimed at ending the war quickly to keep a promise he had made to bring the soldiers home by Christmas. The Chinese responded with a massive surprise counter-attack of ground forces (which had been secretly moving into Korea since October), overwhelming U.N. forces and causing them to retreat in humiliating fashion by December below the 38th parallel. At a tense NSC meeting on November 28, Truman and his vice president, Alben Barkley, debated why MacArthur had made his promise about bringing soldiers home before Christmas and whether he had known what was coming. Acheson warned that the United States could not defeat the Chinese forces.41 Truman made some provocative public statements about Korea himself. During a press conference on November 30, one reporter asked him if the atomic bomb was one of the weapons the United States would be willing to use to fulfill the U.N. mission in Korea if necessary, and he responded, “That includes every weapon we have.” When a reporter followed up by asking, “Did we understand you clearly that the use of the atomic bomb is under active consideration,”Truman replied, “Always has been. It is one of our weapons.” MacArthur blamed Truman for the success of the Communist Chinese. In early December, he said in magazine interviews and private letters that the president’s refusal to allow his forces to directly combat Communist China—which in his mind had to include the possibility of using not just conventional bombs but also atomic weapons against the North Korean troops, and even against Chinese troops in Korea—had imposed an “enormous handicap” on his soldiers from the outset of hostilities. Upon hearing these statements, the president could barely contain his anger. He said that the general was an “egotist” who wanted to shift the blame from his own failures.42 On December 6, the Joint Chiefs of Staff sent a presidential memo to MacArthur and other military leaders announcing that “no speech, press release or other statement concerning foreign policy should be released until it has received clearance from the Department of State; no [such statement] concerning military policy should be released until it has received clearance from the Department of Defense.” As the Korean conflict bogged down into a stalemate in the new year, Republicans castigated the administration. “We abandoned the anti-Communist forces of Asia once, and the Reds took over China,” House Republican Minority Leader Joseph Martin of Massachusetts said. “Are we going to make that same mistake twice?”43 Republicans believed that intense bombing in North Korea, and

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possibly China, was a way to resolve the conflict quickly and allow for a withdrawal of troops. While Truman’s decision in June 1950 to send troops into combat without seeking a declaration of war constituted an important moment in the expansion of presidential power, Republicans would demonstrate throughout the war how Congress retained immense power to shape the politics of any given military operation. While Truman called for national unity, Senator McCarthy said that the “crimson clique in the State Department” should no longer be allowed to control wartime strategy. Senator Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. complained to Acheson that colleagues were having difficulty answering when their constituents asked, “Why does my son have to stay in Korea?”44 On March 20, the administration began an effort to reach a peace agreement with the Chinese. But after four days, the initiative collapsed when MacArthur released a statement threatening China. Because of what MacArthur was saying, foreign governments were receiving confusing signals about who was leading negotiations, “the State Department, the United Nations, or MacArthur.”45 “This was a most extraordinary statement for a military commander of the United Nations to issue on his own responsibility,” Truman later wrote in his memoirs, calling it “a challenge to the authority of the President under the Constitution.”46 The Joint Chiefs of Staff were divided over how to respond. They understood that MacArthur’s statement could not be tolerated, but they also realized that relieving him of his command would be traumatic for the war effort. Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Lovett added that press accounts indicated that MacArthur’s stance was popular and recommended that Truman issue a reprimand and then let the issue fade away.47 The JCS agreed. However, as the president deliberated over what to do with MacArthur, on April 5 Minority Leader Martin released a letter from the general, in which he wrote that Truman was endangering U.S. troops and preventing a victory. The same day, a London newspaper published an interview with MacArthur in which he complained about military restrictions imposed by the president. The prominent conservative magazine The Freeman published a statement from the general charging that 120,000 South Korean troops had been released from U.N. service as a result of political decisions. Senators Bridges and Knowland mentioned a rumor that Truman was diverting to Europe arms shipments originally intended for Korea.

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After reading the MacArthur letter, the president noted in his diary, “MacArthur shoots another political bomb. . . . This looked like the last straw. Rank insubordination.”48 On April 7, Truman met with Acheson, Marshall, Averell Harriman (who was U.S. representative to the Marshall Plan), and JCS chairman Omar Bradley. All of them agreed that MacArthur had to go.49 In the first major declaration on the subject by a Democrat, Oklahoma Senator Robert Kerr said that the general’s open “disregard of superior authority” was cause for him to be fired.50 Meanwhile, Joseph Short, Truman’s press secretary, feared that MacArthur was going to step down in an act of protest and steal the president’s thunder. Pentagon officials rushed the president to make an announcement. Truman told Bradley that “the son of a bitch isn’t going to resign on me. I want him fired.”51 On April 11, Truman announced MacArthur’s resignation, stating that “military commanders must be governed by the policies and directives issued to them in the manner provided by our laws and Constitution.” “Quite an explosion,” was how Truman described the response in his diary.52 Calling the president a “son of a bitch,” Senator McCarthy demanded his impeachment. On the day of the announcement, Senate and House Republicans conferred with MacArthur by telephone and agreed on a plan. They rejected impeachment and issued a resolution warning that the firing would damage national unity and endanger the nation. They invited MacArthur to speak before a joint session of Congress. Senator Richard Nixon warned his colleagues that the Democrats were going to conduct “smear campaigns” against MacArthur.53 The House Republican Policy Committee issued a statement that the “Truman-Acheson-Marshall triumvirate” was preparing for a “Super-Munich” in Asia.54 The White House was flooded with telegrams echoing the negative views. Polls indicated enormous support for the general. The International Longshoremen’s Association staged a two-hour protest in New York. In San Gabriel, California, protesters hung an effigy of Truman. One cartoon asked, “Who Does Truman think he is? President of the United States?” During a speech on April 14, Truman dismissed Republican attacks as “political hokum.” He said that bipartisan foreign policy was under fire from people who could not agree on their own policies and who were trying to “confuse” the nation through contradictions: “they want defenses without spending the money, they want us to wage war without an army, they want us to have victory without taking any risks, and they want us to try to run the whole world

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and to run it without any friends.”The president acknowledged that communists posed a great danger in Asia but said the crucial question was whether the United States could stop the attacks without triggering total war. The Pentagon said Truman had the unanimous support of civilian and military advisors. Senator Hubert Humphrey said that Republicans “backing General MacArthur have turned themselves into the war party of the nation,” that MacArthur’s proposals would “lead to a general war in Asia,” and that “the Republicans are isolationist in Europe and internationalist in the Far East.”55 Most newspaper editorials tended to support the president and thought MacArthur was wrong.56 The MacArthur controversy became one of the key issues distinguishing the parties. According to one poll, forty-seven percent of Democrats agreed with Truman while forty-two percent thought MacArthur was right. In contrast, only seven percent of Republicans agreed with the president while eighty-two percent supported the general.57 When MacArthur returned from Korea, massive crowds greeted him. In his address to a joint session of Congress on April 19, watched by thirty million television viewers, he said, “There are those who claim our strength is inadequate to protect on both fronts, that we cannot divide our effort. I can think of no greater expression of defeatism. . . . History teaches with unmistakable emphasis that appeasement but begets new and bloodier wars.” He said he could not understand why the president did not want him to use the nation’s full military power, including a naval blockade against China, air reconnaissance of China’s coastal areas, and ending prohibitions on assisting military forces in Formosa against the Chinese Communist government. For these views, he said, “I have been severely criticized in lay circles, principally abroad, despite my understanding that from a military standpoint the above views have been fully shared in the past by practically every military leader concerned with the Korean campaign, including our own Joint Chiefs of Staff.” MacArthur argued that “once war is forced upon us, there is no other alternative than to apply every available means to bring it to a swift end. War’s very object is victory, not prolonged indecision. In war there is no substitute for victory.”At the end, MacArthur quoted a ballad: “‘Old soldiers never die; they just fade away.’ And like the old soldier of that ballad I now close my military career and just fade away—an old soldier who tried to do his duty as God gave him the light to see that duty. Good-bye.”

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As the general left the chamber, he waved to Republicans without gesturing to Democrats. As many as 300,000 people lined the streets of Washington as he drove away. The next day, there was a ticker-tape parade in New York. Truman privately said the speech was “nothing but a damn bunch of bullshit.” He released a transcript of his meeting with the general at Wake Island in October 1950 to show that, despite what MacArthur now said, he had promised that the Chinese would not enter the war.58 Congressional Democrats were able to quell the immediate crisis by summer. Many southern Democrats did not like MacArthur and believed he had exceeded his constitutional authority. Senate hearings chaired by Georgia’s Richard Russell did not work in MacArthur’s favor even though Republicans had been the ones to request them. During the closed-door sessions, which Republicans had unsuccessfully attempted to open to the public, Russell’s sharp questions flustered MacArthur. Skillful presentations by Acheson and Marshall won over more legislators than expected. When the hearings concluded, only a handful of Democrats remained sympathetic to the general, leading James Reston of the New York Times to note that “the old 1950 strategy of insinuation was better” for the Republicans “than the current strategy of investigation.”59 Although the storm over MacArthur faded away, the political impact was lasting. It became a key component to conservative attacks on Truman’s legacy and Democratic competence on national security. “As a direct result of the controversy,” Senator Nixon said, “there is at long last gradually emerging from the battle of words a United States Far Eastern policy where none existed before. For the first time since the Yalta Conference in 1945, the weasel statements, the double talk, the outright appeasement which have too often characterized our State Department’s Far Eastern policy are being gradually replaced with policies which have elements of firmness and decision.” Nixon argued that, because of MacArthur, “administration spokesmen have been forced to recognize the basic importance of defending Asia as well as Europe from the Communists. . . . The direct result of the MacArthur incident has been that Asia is receiving far more attention and aid than it would have received had the incident not occurred.”60 Republicans lost the battle, but they had popularized their Cold War agenda in the mainstream press, which now treated it more seriously. The media characterized the MacArthur controversy within the

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context of the so-called Great Debate, which took place throughout 1951 over how many troops should be stationed in Western Europe. Truman had encountered staunch congressional resistance when he said that he wanted to send four U.S. divisions to Europe and that he had the constitutional authority to send troops “anywhere in the world.” A coalition of Republicans and southern Democrats challenged the president on the grounds that defending Europe was becoming too costly and that atomic bombs made conventional troops less useful there. They wanted the deployment of troops to require congressional authorization and argued that the United States should focus on the development of airpower to secure the continent instead. At the end of the Great Debate, Congress granted the president the authority to send the troops but also stated in a nonbinding sense-of-Congress resolution that the president would need to request approval for doing so again. Republicans were able to sell their national security agenda— about Asia, the role of the military, and the value of airpower and bombing—through one dramatic case. For decades to come, MacArthur’s firing remained a potent symbol to the Republican Right when they accused Democrats of failing to use the full force of America’s arsenal. The controversy played an important part in the collapse of Truman’s popularity, which fell to twenty-three percent by the end of 1951. 1952 ELECTION was a replay of the 1950 midterm, only this time with the White House at stake and Korea officially a mess. “We cannot possibly win the next election,” Senator Taft told one Republican, “unless we point out the utter failure and incapacity of the present administration to conduct foreign policy.”61 And this is exactly what the Republicans did. The presidential and congressional elections proved to be a true turning point in the politics of national security, with Democrats suffering a severe electoral blow from Republicans, who attacked them on all of the issues that had been circulating since 1949, as they exposed the vulnerabilities that the party of FDR faced on anticommunism. Conservatives made Truman’s national security policies their main target in the elections of 1952. By then, the operations in Korea were receiving far more support from Republicans than from Democrats.62 Yet Republicans said the president was not handling the situation well. They also criticized his failure to shake Soviet control of Eastern Europe. In his book Containment or Liberation?

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published that year, James Burnham championed a policy of liberation in Eastern Europe to undermine Soviet influence: “The policy of containment, stripped bare, is simply the bureaucratic verbalization of a policy of drift.”63 By the time the 1952 campaign season began, there was a strong sense among political advisors that a large portion of the electorate in both parties supported an aggressive stance toward communism. Few politicians considered isolationism to have substantial electoral support. The Republican National Committee established an elaborate operation of Ethnic Origins Divisions in seventeen major manufacturing states that courted different ethnic groups from Eastern Europe on the basis of their Cold War concerns. The GOP promised a policy of liberation in Eastern Europe as opposed to the Democratic policy of containment, which tolerated the permanence of Soviet control there.64 Truman, who had made similar appeals to ethnic groups during his own campaigns, complained that Republicans were “playing a cruel, gutter political game with the lives of countless good men and women behind the iron curtain.”65 Truman concluded in the early months of 1951 that it would be extremely hard for him to win re-election to a second full term. In March 1952, following Tennessee Senator Estes Kefauver’s upset victory in the New Hampshire primary, Truman withdrew from the race. The next month, the president struggled with another controversy when on April 8 he ordered that the government should take control of the nation’s steel mills so that a looming strike would not cripple wartime production. Conservative Democrats and Republicans lambasted the president, claiming that he was intent on ruling by dictatorial fiat. The steel companies took the case to the district court, and on June 2, the Supreme Court ruled by a vote of six to three that the seizure of the steel mills was unconstitutional. The government turned control back to the industry, and the unions conducted a fifty-three-day strike. In 1952, for their candidate, Republicans chose a military hero from World War II, Dwight Eisenhower, to run instead of Senator Taft, who had campaigned for but lost the nomination in 1940 and 1948. Although Eisenhower had not publicly identified with either party, his military record was extremely attractive to Republicans. Taft could too easily be tagged as “isolationist,” and he was not a very good campaigner. Born in Texas in 1890, Eisenhower was raised in Abilene, Kansas. After graduating from West Point in 1915, he became a second lieu-

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tenant. Eisenhower was known for working well under his superiors and effectively serving within a team. His sincerity, humble disposition, and quick decision-making capabilities impressed colleagues. It also became apparent that beneath his folksy demeanor he possessed a sharp mind in terms of military strategy. Eisenhower took on a number of assignments between the wars. He worked under the tutelage of Chief of Staff Douglas MacArthur throughout the 1930s, including three years in the Philippines. The two men had terrible disagreements and conflicts, but Eisenhower also learned a great deal about military leadership from MacArthur. When World War II began, Eisenhower was a natural choice for a leadership role. Chief of Staff George Marshall took him on in December 1941, assigning him to direct the War Plans Division of the War Department. Eisenhower played a pivotal role in developing strategy in Europe, Africa, and Asia. The following year, he assumed command of U.S. troops in England. In 1943, he became a four-star general and then supreme commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force. He headed the invasion of France and the Battle of the Bulge, one of the most brutal fights of the war. His decisions and strategies were credited with playing a decisive role in the U.S. victory and German surrender. When Eisenhower retired from the military in 1948, he was enormously popular. He became president of Columbia University, where he stayed until 1950. Members of both parties had tried unsuccessfully to persuade him to run for president in 1948. Eisenhower did not have strong political preferences and did not think that military officers should be drawn into the political fray. Instead, in 1951, he accepted an invitation from Truman to serve as the first supreme commander of the Allied Forces in Europe and helped organize NATO forces. Several prominent Republicans, including Paul Hoffman, who administered the Marshall Plan, again approached Eisenhower to ask him if he would consider running as a Republican. They feared that a Taft candidacy would be a disastrous blow to the internationalist image the GOP had worked to develop. Taft separated himself from isolationism, calling for an aggressive stance toward the Soviet Union and China. But, like many of his generation,Taft’s hesitant embrace of the national security state had given Democrats enough material from previous years to attack him. In a book he published in 1951, A Foreign Policy for Americans, he wrote that “no nation can be constantly prepared to undertake a full-scale war at any moment” and called the U.N. a “weak reed” that should not be allowed to shape U.S. policy.66

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In contrast, the leaders of the Draft Eisenhower campaign felt that the general could be unambiguously packaged as a moderate internationalist who could appeal to a broad range of the party. His wartime record also made him palatable to Republican hawks. On June 26, 1952, Eisenhower said that “we have been too ready for too long to trust a godless dictatorship. . . . If we had been less trustful, if we had been less soft and weak, there might easily have been no war in Korea.”67 By early 1952, Taft, who had announced his candidacy in October 1951, was considered by most observers in the media and GOP to be the solid front-runner. He himself predicted, before the primary season began, that he had the support of over six hundred delegates, enough to win the nomination.68 During the convention in Chicago, however, Eisenhower’s team overcame Taft’s lead. Coming into the convention on July 7, Taft had an estimated 530 delegates compared to Eisenhower’s 427, but the general emerged victorious with 845 votes to Taft’s 280.69 Republicans selected Richard Nixon to run for the vice presidency, believing that he could appeal to the party’s right wing and cement the perception that the administration would be tough on communism. Nixon was respected by Old Guard Republicans and moderates; his youth (he was thirty-nine in 1952) made for an appealing contrast to Eisenhower, who was sixty-two. Nixon was also known as a tough campaigner who would do what it took to win. Republicans hoped that this strong anticommunist, internationalist ticket would win support from southern Democrats.70 The Republican platform revealed how far the GOP had moved since the Neutrality Acts. Most of the central foreign policy planks were written by John Foster Dulles, who had become one of the nation’s most prominent Republican internationalist voices and a key political advisor to many members of the party. The platform declared that a Republican president would “repudiate all commitments contained in secret understandings such as those of Yalta which aid Communist enslavement.” The Republicans portrayed the administration as corrupt, linking Truman to the Kansas City Pendergast machine. They lambasted the president for his desire for “socialized” domestic programs and played the anticommunism card whenever they could. They tried to link Truman’s domestic programs to the military failures in Korea. As Senator William Jenner of Indiana said accusingly, “every Fair Deal dollar” was “dripping with the warm blood” of more than 100,000 Americans dead and wounded in Korea.71

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The Democrats did not pick a military hero for their candidate. At the Democratic convention held in late July also in Chicago, the party selected Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson. Born in 1900, Stevenson came from a distinguished political family. His grandfather, after whom he was named, had been vice president (1893–1897) under Grover Cleveland and ran with William Jennings Bryan in 1900. Stevenson attended Princeton and then Harvard Law, where he did not complete his studies. He was a journalist for a few years, then finished his legal studies at Northwestern. After working in private law firms in Chicago and Washington, he became involved in international relations through the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations and as chairman of the Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies in the 1930s. During the war, Stevenson worked as special assistant to Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox and as an advisor in the creation of the United Nations. Stevenson returned home in 1948, ran for governor, and won. In that position, he focused on government reform and civil liberties. He captured the attention of liberals, especially liberal intellectuals, through his eloquent speeches. Many Democratic leaders were impressed by his record as governor and thought that his reputation as an internationalist would give them an edge in the heated Cold War. Stevenson was a liberal on domestic policy and was generally supportive of the New Deal–Fair Deal agenda but was often critical of too much government intervention. While Stevenson backed military efforts to fight communism abroad as well as domestic investigations into espionage at home, he advocated for the protection of civil liberties. The Democrats selected Stevenson on the fourth ballot. In his acceptance speech, Stevenson praised Democrats for being able to have disagreements without calling opponents “‘liars’ and ‘thieves,’ without despoiling our best traditions.” Let’s talk sense to the American people. Let’s tell them the truth, that there are no gains without pains, that there—that we are now on the eve of great decisions, not easy decisions, like resistance when you’re attacked, but a long, patient, costly struggle which can assure triumph over the great enemies of man—war, poverty, and tyranny—and the assaults upon human dignity which are the most grievous consequences of each. . . . The people are wise, wiser than the Republicans think.

During the fall campaign, as expected, Nixon proved to be a vicious red-baiter. He dubbed Stevenson “Adlai the Appeaser” and

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warned that the governor would weaken the nation’s military. In a nationwide television address, Nixon reminded his audience that Stevenson had been a “witness for the reputation and the good character of Alger Hiss,” referring to his testimony during the 1949 Hiss trial. Nixon assured his audience that Republicans would clean up the communist problem whereas “you won’t get such a clean-up from a regime that still hides Communist skeletons in its political closet.” Nixon predicted that “another four years of Trumanism, even under the brand name of Adlai Stevenson, would complete the wrecking of our international prestige, our home front economy and our domestic self-respect.”72 Stevenson had considerable trouble responding to these kinds of attacks. He seemed to be too hesitant, unwilling, or even unable, to deliver the kind of tough, vitriolic language that came from the GOP. For example, speaking to the American Legion, Stevenson responded to the GOP platform by condemning Republicans for wrapping themselves in the flag: “To strike freedom of the mind with the fist of patriotism is an old and ugly subtlety.”73 Eisenhower generally refrained from Nixon’s harsh rhetoric, but he had the luxury of leaving this job to his attack-dog running mate. Even with this convenience, Eisenhower did call for a policy of liberation in Eastern Europe whereby “enslaved nations” would be freed from Soviet domination. Like all Republicans, Eisenhower depicted the difficulties in Korea as a product of Truman’s failed leadership and inability to handle military challenges. These attacks on Asian policy were also important because they sent signals that he was sympathetic to the Republican Right. “If we are to win this deadly struggle with Communism,” he said, “we must have a leadership that can unite us behind great objectives—a leadership morally and spiritually strong.” Speaking about Korea, he said, “The Korean war— more perhaps than any other war in history—simply and swiftly followed the collapse of our political defenses. There is no other reason than this: we failed to read and outwit the totalitarian mind.”74 In one of his last public appearances before the election, in a major speech Eisenhower announced, “I shall go to Korea.” The Korean War, he said, was a “symbol—a telling symbol—of the foreign policy of our nation. It has been a sign—a warning sign—of the way the Administration has conducted our world affairs.” Although the promise was vague, it was interpreted as symbolizing his determination to bring the conflict to an end. (Eisenhower would go to Korea shortly after his inauguration.) During the final days of the cam-

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paign, Eisenhower addressed a national radio audience from the Boston Common, promising to focus as president on the “one supreme cause” of achieving peace. While Stevenson made timid speeches calling for a defense of civil liberties, Truman lashed out at Republicans for injecting the “Big Lie” technique of “making a charge against one’s opponents which is frightening and horrible and so extreme that nobody could believe that a decent person would make it if it were not true.”75 In October and November, Truman attacked Eisenhower for towing the “isolationist line” and for making false claims about a plan to end the war. The president said that Eisenhower had betrayed his own principles by allying with isolationists in the Republican Party who were simply using him to advance their goals. Constantly pounding on the theme of isolationism,Truman accused the Republican Party of having been “asleep at the switch when the Communists first began to threaten our security in Europe and Asia.”76 Two days before the election, responding to Republican charges that civilian officials had been responsible for withdrawing U.S. forces from South Korea in 1947, Truman released top-secret documents showing that the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time—of which Eisenhower had been a part—believed that the United States had “little interest” in maintaining troops or bases in Korea.77 On November 4, Republicans won the White House and Congress. Eisenhower received 442 electoral votes and 55.1 percent of the popular vote, to Stevenson’s 89 electoral votes and 44.4 percent. Eisenhower broke through the solid Democratic South by winning Florida, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. In the House, Republicans regained control with a narrow advantage of 221 to 213. In the Senate, their majority was 48 Republicans to 47 Democrats and one independent, Wayne Morse, a former Republican. results, Stephen Spingarn, administrative assistant to the president, wrote Stevenson that Democrats were going to need to deal with the anticommunism issue in the future or suffer the consequences. He wrote that Democrats had been “timid and inept” in handling the “McCarthy issue—not merely Senator McCarthy himself but . . . the polished up version of McCarthyism to which Senator Nixon devoted about 75% of his campaign.” Spingarn wrote that most average American voters over twenty-five had only “9.3 years of formal education” and do not read “the New York Times, the Washington Post, or Walter Lippmann.”

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URVEYING THE ELECTION

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They were easily swayed by the senator. “A lot of Republicans right up to the top found out for themselves about the vicious effectiveness of McCarthy tactics.”78 During his 1948 presidential campaign, Thomas Dewey essentially agreed with Truman’s national security policies, but now he told a group of Republicans in Connecticut, “Whenever anybody mentions the words Truman and Democrat to you, for the rest of your lives remember that those words are synonymous with Americans dying, thousands of miles from home, because they did not have the ammunition to defend themselves. . . . Remember that the words Truman and Democrat mean diplomatic failure, military failure, death and tragedy.”79 The memories from these years of hard-fought battle would be impossible to erase. Democrats had rapidly lost their solid advantage on national security. They moved from being the party that had won World War II and built the Cold War national security apparatus to the party that was weak on communism. It had taken Republicans only two elections to achieve this transformation. Most Democrats of this generation would never again feel secure about withstanding attacks from the right. Republicans had also tasted how much damage they could cause through aggressive attacks on the national security competence of their opponents. By successfully making the argument that Democrats could not be trusted to defeat the communist threat, the GOP had reversed the outcome of the election of 1948. The Republican Right had articulated a national security agenda that became popular, even among former allies of the president and even among the mainstream leaders of the party. Working through the legislative branch and along with a network of interest groups, foundations, and intellectuals, the Republican Right came out of 1952 as a potent force that could no longer be dismissed. The wounds that Republicans inflicted during these elections would not heal for many decades. Psychologists talk about how entire generations can be emotionally scarred as a result of living through war. The story is much the same in these formative years of the Cold War. Democrats would not for decades feel secure with the issue of national security as they had under FDR and, for a while, under Truman.The experience stimulated them to veer toward a more hawkish posture to prove to voters that Republicans were wrong. And the GOP, internalizing the arguments of the Republican Right, crossed a threshold in how far it was willing to go in calling Democrats weak on national security and in making partisan use of the issue.

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N OCTOBER 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched the first satellite, Sputnik, into outer space, and the United States went into a state of shock: The Cold War enemy was suddenly ahead. Democrats were quick to blame President Eisenhower, who said the administration had done all it could. But if the Republicans had accused the Democrats of “losing” China, the Democrats could now respond that the Republicans had lost space. How had the GOP gone from its triumphant electoral sweep in 1952 to this ignominy? Democrats claimed that Sputnik exposed an administration that was so consumed with balancing budgets and cutting taxes it had all but forgotten national security. Missouri Senator Stuart Symington, a presidential aspirant and former head of the air force under President Truman, simply cited the presidential record: “How can the President tell the American people, and the people of the Free World, and the Communists, that he doesn’t ‘know what we could have done more,’ when for purely fiscal reasons, he has recently approved cutbacks and slowdowns and fiscal limitations in all fields of our national defense?”1 As Republicans had abandoned bipartisan alliances in the early 1950s, Democrats now responded in kind. By combining a hawkish agenda with an aggressive partisan strategy, they regained some of the political ground from the Republican Right they had lost in 1952.Through accusations about a missile gap and Cuba going communist, many Democrats marginalized the Republican Right as extremists, depicted Republican leaders as fiscal zealots willing to sacrifice national security for lower taxes and balanced budgets, and popularized the image of a hawkish Democratic Party.

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This kind of rhetoric played well given that the public was anxious about nuclear war. After the Soviet Union exploded a hydrogen bomb in 1953, which the United States had done the year before, polls revealed that a large number of Americans thought of nuclear war as a serious possibility. Civilian defense programs made Americans aware of the daily threat they faced from a conflict with the Soviet Union or China. Schoolchildren read “Duck and Cover” comics, in which Bert the Turtle told them how to act in a nuclear attack, by hiding under their desks. Whereas some Democrats, including Senator Lyndon Johnson, initially exploited internal party divisions in the GOP by allying with President Eisenhower and others called for a strategy that focused on arms negotiations and diplomacy, yet another group, including Senators Symington, Henry Jackson of Washington, and John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts, linked the agenda of liberal internationalism to a hawkish partisan strategy. Democratic recovery had begun almost as soon as the 1952 election ended. Rather than concede victory to the GOP, Democrats fired back immediately. The opportunity came early in Eisenhower’s administration with conflicts over executive power, investigations into communist influence, and budget cuts. Republicans found themselves susceptible to attack despite an enormously popular new president. The first problem for Eisenhower occurred when he agreed to an armistice in Korea on July 27, 1953. The truce ended the bloodshed but left Korea divided along the 38th parallel. The public was happy with the outcome: One poll showed that sixty-nine percent of Americans accepted the truce, and seventy percent had confidence in how the president handled foreign affairs.2 Yet many on the Republican Right characterized the truce as a defeat for the Asian anticommunist agenda, with the administration having accepted the prewar status quo. Senator William Knowland went so far as to predict that the next step would be for the United States to grant the People’s Republic of China a seat on the U.N. Security Council.3 “I am disgusted and shocked,” said Knowland. “We will lose all of Asia within four years and the balance of power will have overwhelmingly shifted to the Soviet Union and their satellites.”4 With conservatives griping, the end of the Korean War offered Democrats an opportunity to highlight the softness of the GOP. If the exact same truce had been designed by former President Truman and Secretary of State Acheson, Democratic Senator Paul Douglas

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said, “there would have been cries throughout the country to impeach them.”5 Democrats also exploited GOP divisions over executive power by allying with Eisenhower against those Republicans opposed to the expansion of presidential authority. Conservatives felt considerable frustration with the administration in its first year because Eisenhower invoked executive privilege during his clashes with Senator Joseph McCarthy, who now chaired the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. Eisenhower would not authorize any official in the army to share with the committee information about private executive branch discussions and instructed the CIA that its agents could not provide McCarthy with data that his committee subpoenaed from them. Another controversy also involved the question of executive power. In 1953, Ohio Republican Senator John Bricker sponsored an amendment to the Constitution requiring Congress to pass legislation approving international treaties before they could take effect in the United States and to oversee executive-branch agreements. The amendment emerged from an ongoing debate over the control of national policy, a dialogue among conservatives who wanted to redirect more power back to Congress on international and domestic policy. Bricker received support from a majority of congressional Republicans and some southern Democrats, conservative organizations such as the American Legion, and rightward-leaning newspapers.6 The hope of many southern Democrats who supported the Bricker amendment was that it would keep the U.N. Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide from having an impact on civil rights conditions domestically. Eisenhower opposed the amendment on the grounds that it would hamstring the president’s ability to enter into needed treaties and, he said, “could have serious effects in peace, and could approach disaster in time of war or threatened war.”7 The structure of the amendment was sufficiently radical that it opened up divisions in the GOP, with many Republicans becoming uncomfortable with it as Eisenhower lobbied against it. Wisconsin’s senior senator, Alexander Wiley, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, believed it would tie the hands of the president in the Cold War and said that Eisenhower needed to stop the “saboteurs, malcontents and goldbricks” that were harming their party.8 Secretary of State John Foster Dulles insisted that no compromise was possible with these elements in the GOP.9

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To combat Bricker, Eisenhower formed an alliance with some Senate Democrats. Through a series of complex maneuvers, Senate Minority Leader Lyndon Johnson convinced his colleagues to vote with the administration to make Republicans appear as obstructionists. Such an amendment needs a two-thirds vote in the Senate before it goes to the states for ratification. On February 26, 1954, it fell one vote short of passage. It was only killed when the amendment’s opponents grabbed an intoxicated West Virginia Democrat Harley Kilgore and carried him into the chamber. They propped him up as he voted nay. As a result of the debate, Democrats were able to resurrect the charge that Republicans were isolationists, intent on denying presidents the necessary institutional power to combat communism. The charge was shaky because it was difficult to characterize the amendment as a strong last stand for isolationism given that most of the proponents in the Senate, who at one point reached sixty-four, were not actually calling for a radical rollback of the national security state or reducing international efforts to combat communism. The Bricker amendment was instead an extreme version, dangerously extreme, of the debate over the balance of executive and legislative power within the new national security state and, more importantly, an effort to contain the ability of international laws to influence civil rights. Regardless, the Bricker amendment was useful to Democrats who sought to highlight GOP divisions as an explicit partisan strategy. “When Democrats felt that President Eisenhower was acting in the national interest,” noted the Research Division of the Democratic National Committee, “they have supported him against the members of his own party—and have often saved the day for him.”10 time that they allied with the president against congressional Republicans to fight the Bricker amendment, Democrats zeroed in on Eisenhower’s fixation on deficit reduction. Eisenhower brought with him to Washington a traditional midwestern concern about balanced budgets and fears of deficits, and his military experience led him to frustration with the inefficiencies of government. His campaign for a balanced budget turned into one of his greatest political vulnerabilities. Soon after he was elected president, Eisenhower had become concerned about the high levels of government spending that resulted from the Korean War. He was influenced by the arguments of Secretary of Treasury George Humphrey, who warned that inflation and deficits were as dangerous as the military capacity of the Soviet

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T THE SAME

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Union.The president told the National Security Council that the nation confronted two major challenges: the Soviet Union and the economic costs of defending the free world. Inflationary pressures caused by deficits, he said, could weaken the dollar. “We can only combat communism,” the president explained, “in the long term if our economy is healthy.”11 Defense had become a significant component of the federal budget by the time of the Korean War ceasefire in July 1953. While there was a reduction in the size of defense spending after that, from about 14.5 percent of GNP at the height of the war in 1953 to about nine percent by the start of the next decade, those levels were still high in historical perspective.12 The defense budget was not just larger but also ossified. Legislators developed strong political incentives to protect the budget from cutbacks. Contracts were given to private industries in the states or districts of key legislators, whose constituents depended on the economic benefits that came from these defense contractors as well as military bases and other military facilities. In the House, Speaker Sam Rayburn of Texas facilitated the marriage between the national security state and congressional politics. Taking over in 1940, Rayburn ran a decentralized speakership in which he accepted the fact that committee chairs would have extraordinary influence. He was also a firm internationalist and defender of the permanent national security state. One of his first acts as Speaker in 1941 had been to help ensure the extension of the Selective Service Act only a few months before Pearl Harbor. Southern Democrats, who remained the most dominant force in the House and Senate as a result of their control of committee chairmanships, depended on military spending as the basis for revitalization of their regional economy. “Our economy is no longer agricultural,” said the Mississippian William Faulkner in 1956. “Our economy is the Federal Government.” Rayburn’s leadership facilitated a defense budget that was handled through the congressional committees and the pork-barrel process. In Congressman Mendel Rivers’s South Carolina district, for example, federal funds flowed into an air force and naval base, a missile center, a naval hospital, and more. A tour through his district would include stops at the McDonnell-Douglas, Avco, General Electric, and Lockheed plants. The South’s portion of military prime contracts increased from 7.6 percent in 1951 to 12.5 percent in 1954, and would steadily grow, reaching 15.8 percent in 1963 and 24.2 percent in 1980.13 The engineering and construction firm Brown and Root received millions

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from Congress during World War II to build warships and the naval station at Corpus Christi, Texas, and continued to thrive on defense appropriations. The company founders Herman and George Brown were major campaign contributors to Senator Lyndon Johnson, who had helped them obtain various projects, including a contract from the Defense Department in 1946 to construct air force and naval bases in Guam.14 The defense industry was also integral to the economy of the West, particularly California, with the federal government spending over $50 billion on defense in the state between 1950 and 1960.15 Washington Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson was known as the “Senator from Boeing” because of the location of the aircraft-manufacturing firm in his home state. Industries that depended on military funding established lobbying operations to ensure that they were not the subject of cuts. They formed what political scientists call an iron triangle uniting congressional committees, interest groups, and an agency to protect a specific policy. As a result, the defense budget had taken on a life of its own by 1954. The president acknowledged to his cabinet that his budgetary goals would be difficult to achieve; they were dealing with the “near impossibility” of obtaining budget cuts “in the face of the psychology of the country which insists on maintaining the great obligations contracted in bygone times of peace, and also approves huge defense expenditures.” There was a fundamental contradiction, Eisenhower said, between the “Republican philosophy of a free economy” and the levels of federal spending that had been normalized.16 Seeking to resolve the contradiction between a strong defense and budget cuts, on January 12, 1954, Eisenhower introduced a new defense strategy, the New Look, which would reduce the size of the armed forces and the number of conventional weapons, while investing more heavily in the nuclear arsenal. Eisenhower argued that a strong nuclear stockpile was sufficient to prevent any substantial attacks from the Soviet Union, whose leaders realized that launching a major war would be suicidal since it would trigger a nuclear response. Under the New Look, the United States would adhere to a “first-strike” posture whereby it would be the first to use nuclear weapons if provoked. Nobody would win and everybody would be destroyed. Since the Soviet Union and China had much larger armies than the United States, Eisenhower maintained, the United States simply could not compete in all parts of the world. The goal was thus to scare the Soviet Union and China out of starting a war. He also believed that a military strategy based on nuclear weapons

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would be far cheaper than one based on troops on the ground and conventional weapons.17 The New Look gained more validity in March 1954, when the United States detonated the biggest hydrogen bomb explosion thus far at Bikini Atoll in the Pacific. The explosion made the atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagaski look like conventional weapons, as the test caused devastating levels of radioactivity. Democrats pushed back against the New Look. When Congress passed the budget in the summer of 1954, Senator John F. Kennedy, who had defeated Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. two years earlier, warned that the reductions to the army budget were dangerous. “It is the height of folly,” Kennedy said, “to reduce our strength when the Soviets are increasing theirs.”18 Senators Jackson and Clinton Anderson (New Mexico) sent the president a letter contending that the United States was falling behind the Soviets in the production of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. Funding for the ICBMs, which had begun in World War II, had fallen under Truman when he diverted resources to the Korean War. Eisenhower was under constant pressure to increase funding for the program to build ICBMs as well as Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missiles (IRBMs), a program under the jurisdiction of the army and navy (the air force handled ICBMs). The president agreed that these missiles were necessary as a deterrent, but he also believed that much of the spending that was being called for was excessive and he sought to restrain the budget, just as he had done with conventional forces. Meanwhile, the journalists Stewart and Joseph Alsop were writing numerous columns on Soviet technological advances.19 Democrats blamed the New Look when the French announced in July 1954 that they were withdrawing from South Vietnam and allowing Ho Chi Minh’s communist forces to rule the North. At a campaign event, Senator Lyndon Johnson, who in ten years would be president and shoulder the responsibility for making an even bigger decision about what to do in Vietnam, said, “Tomorrow Asia may be in flames. And the day after, the Western alliance, which the Democrats so painstakingly built up brick by brick, will be in ruins.” Adlai Stevenson called the pullout a “sorry sequel of all the foolish, boastful Republican talk about liberation of the enslaved nations, about unleashing Chiang Kai-shek, seizing the initiative, a new look on foreign policy, no more little wars as in Korea, and, finally, that threatening talk by the Secretary of State and the Vice President about massive atomic retaliation which scared our allies half to death, if not our enemies. . . . The ‘new look’ collapsed at the first

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test.” Democrats were not alone, as some on the Republican Right made similar arguments. California Senator Knowland called Vietnam the “Far Eastern Munich.”20 the defense budget and Southeast Asia unfolded as Senate Republicans and the administration were struggling over what to do with Joe McCarthy. At first, Eisenhower had refrained from taking action against him even though he personally disliked the junior senator from Wisconsin, fearing that a direct confrontation would only benefit a politician who thrived on media attention. At the same time, the president did not want to undermine McCarthy’s anticommunist crusade since he and most Republicans agreed with the basic objectives.Thus, he opted for working behind the scenes to constrain McCarthy. But this strategy ended when McCarthy announced that his Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations would look into allegations about communist spies in the army. “This guy McCarthy is going to get into trouble over this,” Eisenhower said during a meeting with his staff and Senator Everett Dirksen. “I’m not going to take this one lying down. . . . My friends tell me it won’t be long in this Army stuff before McCarthy starts using my name. . . . He wants to be President. He’s the last guy in the world who’ll ever get there, if I have anything to say.”21 Furious with the accusations leveled by the senator, army officials charged that McCarthy and his top staffer, Roy Cohn, had obtained special treatment to help Cohn’s friend, David Schine, avoid the draft. North Dakota Republican Senator Karl Mundt chaired hearings into the accusations, which lasted twenty-two days and attracted huge television audiences. Democrats were not as restrained with McCarthy as in previous years. Symington called the senator irresponsible and reckless, and when McCarthy shot back that his accuser was searching for campaign material, Symington replied, “I think you are furnishing enough as it is, Senator.”22 By this time, McCarthy was drinking heavily, and during the televised hearings, he looked terrible. He became the butt of jokes by TV comedians like Jackie Gleason and Milton Berle.23 The biggest setback to McCarthy took place on June 9 when the army’s special counsel Joseph Welch denounced the senator on television. “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?” Welch asked. “Have you left no sense of decency?” Following the hearings,Vermont Republican Ralph Flanders proposed censuring McCarthy for the harm he had caused the Senate.

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Eisenhower was also having trouble with conservatives in his party on the subject of China. The Communist Chinese accelerated their attacks on the Chinese Nationalists in August 1954 when Chiang Kai-shek moved 73,000 troops to Quemoy and Matsu on the grounds that these islands were crucial to the defense of Taiwan. In September, the government in Beijing began aerial attacks on Quemoy. extremely active in the midterm campaign, telling voters that divided government would create a “cold war of partisan politics” that would result in gridlock. On October 29, 1954, he traveled more than a thousand miles to make speeches in key states for Republican candidates. Vice President Richard Nixon continued his hard-hitting ways, warning that Democrats had too many connections to communism to be effective in power. Democrats regained control of Congress in November 1954 with a 48–47 advantage in the Senate (one independent, Wayne Morse, of Oregon, who had left the Republican Party in 1952 would be elected as a Democrat in 1956) and a 232–203 lead in the House. An economic recession had turned voters toward the Democrats, and McCarthyism was starting to lose some of its political power as colleagues feared that the sloppiness and recklessness of his attacks undermined the anticommunist cause and his party. The day after the election, Eisenhower told his cabinet that bipartisanship, especially in the area of foreign policy, would be necessary.24 He blamed the Republican loss of Congress on the “dyedin-the-wool reactionary fringe” of the party.25 He said the party was divided between “Progressive Moderates and Conservative Rightists.” He felt that Democrats managed to handle their internal divisions more effectively. Republicans, he believed, needed to become identified with the progressive moderates in order to convert Democrats and win independent support.26 He wanted Republicans to become the dominant party in national politics, so he thought this outreach essential. The president said he had decided to stop working with the “radical Right Wing of the Republican Party” and directly challenged them for the next two years.27 On December 2, the Senate censured McCarthy 67 to 22 (a censure required a simple majority vote). Every Senate Democrat who was present (fortyfour), along with Morse, voted in favor of the censure, as did twentytwo Republicans. Also that day, Eisenhower finally responded to the tensions in China by signing a Mutual Defense Treaty with the Nationalist

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government in Taiwan. The People’s Republic had inflamed tensions by announcing that it intended to liberate Taiwan. Although Eisenhower warned against such action, China bombed the nearby island of Tachen in early January. Congressional Republicans demanded that Eisenhower respond with force. Knowland compared Quemoy and Matsu to Berlin and warned that U.S. policies in the Formosa Straits could turn into a “second Munich.”28 Eisenhower wrote General Alfred Gruenther, the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, that “Knowland has no foreign policy except to develop high blood pressure whenever he mentions the word ‘Red China.’”29 The Joint Chiefs of Staff proposed that the president consider the use of nuclear weapons to defend the Nationalists. Secretary Dulles told congressional leaders that the United States needed to maintain a tough stand against Communist China, despite weak support from European allies, who did not see a serious threat. Dulles took a hardline stand even though he himself did not like Chiang and felt that he was causing too many problems for the United States. The president walked a tightrope by sending the Seventh Fleet to the area as a way to suggest a willingness to strike militarily while simultaneously not bombing mainland China as Knowland and his allies urged. Eisenhower did not say what he would do if Communist Chinese forces moved on Quemoy and Matsu, though he and Dulles told reporters that the use of tactical nuclear weapons was possible. “Those damned little offshore islands,” Eisenhower joked, “sometimes I wish they’d sink.”30 Knowland proposed a resolution that would give the president the authority to defend Formosa solely on his discretion but deliberately left unclear what the United States would do with regards to the other islands in the vicinity.31 The Formosa resolution would constitute the second step in the expansion of presidential war-making authority that began when Truman sent troops to Korea without a formal declaration of war. Through their support for such a resolution, legislators in the Republican Right revealed that they were willing to accept expansions in presidential power in certain cases. The administration agreed to draft the resolution, and most Republicans saw this move as evidence that Eisenhower took the legislature seriously.The president insisted on demonstrating that the nation was united and aimed to remove any doubts that might emerge about that unity as a result of debates over constitutional power. According to Montana Democratic Senator Mike Mansfield, Eisenhower and

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Dulles also wanted to make certain that if the situation deteriorated, Congress would share the blame with the administration.32 And so the administration began drafting the resolution. Dulles met privately with Speaker Rayburn, Massachusetts Democratic Representative John McCormack, and a group of other key legislators to read the text he was thinking about and obtain suggestions from them. He crafted the resolution in a way that satisfied them yet still said what the administration originally wanted said. The congressmen felt that they had been part of the deliberations.33 Unlike Acheson, Dulles was very effective at courting legislators and made certain they felt consulted about decisions.34 Senator Bricker commended the president by saying that the resolution demolished “the fallacious theory that the President, as Commander in Chief, has exclusive power to send Armed Forces of the United States anywhere in the world.”35 Congress passed the Formosa resolution on January 29 by huge margins: 85–3 in the Senate and 409–3 in the House. Support for renewed proposals of the Bricker amendment diminished over time in large part because conservatives came to trust that Eisenhower respected Congress. From these debates over Formosa, Knowland, who was now Senate minority leader, emerged as a hero to fellow conservatives. He had taken over the leadership role in July 1953, when Republicans were still in the majority and Robert Taft had passed away after holding the position only since January. In an article in the November 15 issue of a new conservative journal, National Review, Knowland called for a policy of liberation from communism. Right-wing organizations floated his name as a presidential candidate. Naming him as one of the ten most powerful members of Congress, the New York Times wrote that Knowland “is a man with an unquestionably sincere mission to harden our policy toward Asian communism.”36 S EISENHOWER struggled with conservatives in his party over China, Democrats attacked on the issues of defense spending and missiles. Once they had full control of Congress, a number of prominent Democrats departed from Lyndon Johnson’s flirtation with bipartisanship. Dean Acheson, still battered from his years at the State Department, came out swinging in 1955 with the publication of A Democrat Looks at His Party, reminding readers that “in 1950–52 the ferocity of the Republican attack knew no limits” and boasting that Truman had insisted on balancing national security imperatives with his concern for budget cuts.37

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Senator Symington served as the point man in Democratic attacks in 1955. His focus was airpower, and he tried to claim this as a mainstream Democratic issue. As the first secretary of the air force, serving under Truman from 1948 to 1951, Symington had been a tough proponent of expanding funding for airpower, warning that focusing only on balanced budgets would harm the nation. As he said, “What the hell good is it to be the richest man in the graveyard?” Symington’s power increased after the 1954 elections. Georgian Richard Russell, the new chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, stacked his panel with Democrats who were hawkish on defense. Most of his choices were senior Democrats, including Virginia’s Harry Byrd, Lyndon Johnson, and Mississippi’s John Stennis, but Russell also chose two more junior legislators he saw as up-andcoming stars: Symington and Scoop Jackson. In 1955, Symington chaired hearings of a Senate Armed Services subcommittee about the air force to determine whether the United States had lost control of the air to the Soviet Union. The air force capitalized on the hearings to lobby the administration for higher funding than the civilian leadership was ready to accept. Eisenhower and his top advisors met with Republican Senators Leverett Saltonstall of Massachusetts and James Duff of Pennsylvania—both of whom were on the Symington subcommittee—to explain that the president thought trying to match the Soviets soldier for soldier and weapon for weapon would result in economic suicide.38 Senators Symington, Jackson, and Clinton Anderson warned that CIA intelligence estimates about Soviet weapons were wrong. “We have a history of under-estimation,” Jackson said.39 The Defense Department released data in May indicating that the Soviets had made significant gains in airpower by building heavy jet bombers and allweather fighters. “Despite efforts to suppress discussion of the subject,” Symington warned, “evidence continues to pile up that Communist air power is moving up to us in offensive striking power, production and technology. The warning light is on.”40 Democrats such as McCormack and Senators Albert Gore Sr. of Tennessee (the father of the future vice president, Al Gore) and John Kennedy complained that the administration was putting “tax reductions ahead of the armed strength which America, as the leader of the free world, must have in order to inspire the confidence of other free nations.”41 The issue fostered an unexpected alliance between northern liberals and southern conservatives. Democrats received support from military leaders who were frustrated by the ongoing spending reductions. In contrast to the GOP, liberals argued that economic

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growth could produce enough revenue to finance defense and social programs. As the Americans for Democratic Action explained in response to the budget debate: It was “dangerous nonsense . . . to say that this country, with its great riches and enormous productive capacity, ‘cannot afford’ the kind of national defense that is most likely to protect us against Communist aggression. . . . The over-riding issue before the American people today is whether the national defense is to be determined by the demands of the world situation or sacrificed to the worship of tax reductions and a balanced budget.”42 Senator Symington extended his critique of Eisenhower to include the production of missiles. On April 24, 1955, he had warned on NBC’s Meet the Press that the Soviets were “far ahead” in the development of ICBMs. In February 1956, Symington intensified the criticism, appearing on Meet the Press once again to tell viewers that the Soviets had tested missiles that could travel hundreds of miles farther than any missiles the United States had developed. “Every day we don’t reverse our policy,” Symington said, “is a bad day for the free world.”43 The attacks by these Democrats did not reflect any fundamental split in the electorate. Most Republicans and Democrats agreed on the overall contours of foreign policy. A majority of voters in both parties also believed that Eisenhower’s defense spending was sufficient.44 Yet general agreement among voters did not prevent politicians from highlighting the differences they could find. In congressional roll call votes, the partisan differences over foreign policy became much greater than those that existed within the public.45 Until the late 1950s, congressional Democrats voted more often for increased military spending than did Republicans.46 Republicans accepted that Democrats would spend the remainder of the legislative session attacking the administration for underfunding the missile program. Nixon said that he was certain the missile program had been on a “starvation diet” long before Eisenhower entered office. A frustrated Eisenhower privately said to legislators that the nation could “choke itself to death with military force as well as protect itself.” He warned: “There is no defense for any country that busts its own economy.”47 There were changes within the Soviet Union that gave some support to Eisenhower’s outlook. After the death of Stalin in 1953, Nikita Khrushchev became the general secretary of the Communist Party, the leader of the Soviet Union. Unlike most of the people in the Kremlin, Khrushchev was part of a younger generation of Soviet leaders who were concerned about the health of the Soviet economy

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and sought to reform the political and economic system. On February 25, 1956, Khrushchev delivered a secret speech to the 20th Party Congress that criticized the purges and dictatorial policies of Stalin and called for a process of de-Stalinization. The speech did not remain secret, however, and soon appeared in the world press. Khrushchev’s words sent a powerful signal to many living under the grip of the Soviets that genuine reform might be possible. As part of his general program, Khrushchev also pushed for cultural and economic reforms, as well as reductions in certain kinds of defense spending to free up resources for the economy. The American national security state of course relied heavily on covert operations to undermine Soviet and Chinese allies, and to knock down governments that were perceived as antagonistic to Western interests. Eisenhower would have had trouble boasting publicly about the administration’s most aggressive and secret national security initiatives. During the 1950s, the CIA worked with local forces to topple democratically elected governments in Iran (1953) and Guatemala (1954). 1956 presidential election, Democrats failed to find a candidate able to take advantage of these national security issues, which were still overshadowed by a booming economy and Eisenhower’s personal popularity. The president faced off again against Adlai Stevenson. Stevenson’s campaign appealed to younger Democrats who were seeking new directions for their party as well as senior liberals such as Eleanor Roosevelt who continued to see the witty and intelligent Stevenson as the natural heir to FDR. He proposed social initiatives in areas such as health care and outlined a new vision for foreign policy that focused on diplomacy and the pursuit of peace rather than military threats and a defense buildup. During the campaign, he proposed a partial nuclear test ban treaty as well as the abolition of the draft, warning audiences that the “struggle we are engaged in is not basically a military struggle and cannot be won by military means.”48 Stevenson attacked the Eisenhower administration’s foreign policy as “a contradictory clatter of boasts and threats.” He warned that America was “suffering defeat abroad” even while the president was promising Americans that “all is well, the Communists are on the run and our brinksmanship is brilliant.”49 Stevenson did not offer a very coherent alternative, however. He adopted congressional Democratic arguments about the need for more missiles and air force spending. But Stevenson focused on a different kind of Democratic

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approach, which highlighted Eisenhower’s failure to pursue diplomacy, his inability to distinguish anticolonialism from communism, and his lack of imagination in finding measures to promote his world peace. In one television spot, Stevenson and Senator Kennedy sit together discussing how Democrats differ from Republicans in their hope to pursue peace. Stevenson tells Kennedy that it is important to separate the spread of communism from the “revolution of the newly independent people,” which would have happened “whether there was any Communist problem at all.” Kennedy says that there were three elements to achieving peace: “First, to maintain our traditional allies; . . . secondly, to weaken the hold that the Soviet Union has on its satellite countries; and thirdly, to win as we’ve already discussed the friendship of these people now emerging.” Lasting for a little over four minutes, the ad captures what made Kennedy so exciting, the candidate for the future. When the ad begins, Stevenson has trouble figuring out how to position himself in his seat and after a minute suddenly stands up as the camera awkwardly tries to follow him. Kennedy remains seated, cool and collected throughout.50 Toward the end of the campaign, two foreign policy crises occurred in very different parts of the world—Egypt and Hungary. Eisenhower had wanted good relations with Egypt and offered financial and technical assistance for developing the Aswan Dam to provide Egypt improved water supplies and hydroelectric power. But after Egypt recognized the People’s Republic of China and bought weapons from the Czechoslovakian government, he decided to withhold the aid. On July 26, Egypt’s President Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal, which had previously been run by a British and French corporation. Western nations, including the United States, depended on the canal for access to oil, and the nationalization threatened powerful economic interests. During the next three months, British Prime Minister Anthony Eden, along with the French and Israelis, secretly developed a plan for retaking control of the canal.51 On October 29, Britain, France, and Israel attacked Egypt, with Israel leading the way, a military operation that Eisenhower opposed. By November 2, after the U.N. had passed a resolution, proposed by the United States, calling for a ceasefire, Israeli forces had decimated the Egyptian army and seized control of most of the Sinai. The Soviets supported the resolution in an odd alliance during a very heated moment of the Cold War. But the fighting continued. On November 5, a day before U.S. voters chose their

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president, British and French soldiers entered the area near the canal, and reports came to Eisenhower that the Soviets were contemplating intervening to assist the Egyptians. In late November and December, under pressure from the United States and the United Nations, France and Britain withdrew their forces, and the Israelis left in March 1957. The second crisis occurred in October and early November when the Soviets crushed a civilian uprising against the communist government in Hungary. Khrushchev’s speech had inspired people to believe that change could occur, but it turned out he was not talking about freeing Eastern European states from Soviet control. His response to the uprising was firm and violent. After internal deliberation, the Eisenhower administration decided against responding. The president understood that any type of military action could escalate into nuclear war. The Hungary decision constituted a blow to the claims that Eisenhower had made in 1952 about seeking liberation for those under communist rule and also the New Look’s promise to use the threat of nuclear weapons as a substitute for conventional armed forces. As for Secretary of State Dulles, like many hawks who would follow him, once confronted with the challenges of governance, he proved to be more pragmatic than his vitriolic rhetoric suggested.52 Many on the Republican Right were upset. Senator Knowland wrote Dulles that “the abandonment of the Eastern European Countries to the Soviet Union or to Communism of a more local variety is not an acceptable solution.”53 Democrats pointed to Hungary as evidence of the shortcomings of the New Look.They said that it revealed the hypocrisy of the Republican “policy of liberation,” which had been sold as an alternative to containment.Yale’s Eugene Rostow urged candidate Stevenson to put “the Republicans on the defensive on the great issue, Ike’s passivity in allowing the Communists to alter the balance of power, to weaken our alliances, to gain in the uncommitted areas, and to grow faster than us in economic, military, and intellectual strength.”54 Democratic Party officials made open appeals to Americans whose families descended from Eastern European countries and who had been attracted to Republicans through promises of liberation.55 In a major address in Los Angeles on October 27, Stevenson castigated Eisenhower for having brought the nation to the brink of war. He attacked Republicans who the previous week had said Eisenhower deserved credit for his handling of the Hungarian uprising. Stevenson mocked the president for having gone hunting, played golf, or been on vacation when a series of important decisions had

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to be made. Eisenhower, according to Stevenson, had abdicated his responsibility to lead and as a result “brought the coalition of the free nations to a point where even its survival has been threatened.” Stevenson warned that most Americans were nervous about having Richard Nixon as vice president. To play on these fears, Democrats issued warnings about the lingering health concerns about Eisenhower’s heart attack in September 1955 (a major one from which he had recovered) and that they “can’t imagine putting Richard Nixon’s hand on the trigger of the H-bomb. They just can’t trust him.” But Stevenson was not the man to challenge Republicans on the issue of national security, and his emphasis on negotiation and peace did not work. Eisenhower remained enormously popular and, if anything, the twin international crises in October and November only strengthened his standing as commander in chief. “Not since the Democratic convention of 1936,” observed James Reston at the Republican convention, “has a president dominated a political rally the way the president is dominating this one.”56 In 1956, with all of his problems, Eisenhower coasted to re-election, with 457 electoral votes and 57.4 percent of the popular vote to Stevenson’s 73 electoral votes and 42 percent. All was not well, however, for the GOP. Eisenhower did not win either chamber of Congress. Divided government would define his second term. In a conversation with Nixon, he blamed the situation on “those damned moss-backs and hard-shell conservatives” who were holding the GOP back.57 provided Democrats with a base from which to attack the president. With Stevenson having failed in his attempt to articulate a Democratic strategy that focused on peace, diplomacy, and respect for anticolonialism, the hawkish Democratic approach gained appeal. A few months after the 1956 election, Symington’s subcommittee released a report warning that U.S. vulnerability to attack had increased over the past decade because the Soviet Union had developed a stronger air force while the United States maintained an inadequate “defense warning system.”The subcommittee minority, including Leverett Saltonstall and James Duff, rejected the conclusions as unduly pessimistic and overly partisan. The media devoted extensive coverage to the report. Editors at the Wall Street Journal wrote, “The danger in these hair-raising reports is that the United States might succumb to the temptation to play this numbers game—even, as some of its more exuberant proponents

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advocate, go into deficit financing in order to produce a vast additional quantity of military machines that in all probability would end up on the junk heap.”58 Refusing to be intimidated by such warnings, during the summer of 1957 the president continued his campaign to achieve budget cuts. Speaking to the NSC in July, he said that many missile programs duplicated each other and that the government needed to decide on the best “all-around” projects since the United States could not afford everything.59 He also told his cabinet that without defense cuts, large deficits would create the economic conditions that socialism needed to take root in America. Looking at the projected $53.7 billion national security budget for the upcoming fiscal year, a frustrated president asked his advisors, “How far do we have to go before we convince Russia?”60 were drowned out on October 4, 1957, when Americans learned about Sputnik. Sputnik played directly into Democratic warnings that the United States had fallen behind in the arms race. As one official told the NSC, “while we could not permit ourselves to be panicked by the Soviet achievement,” the success of the satellite was nonetheless significant because “if we lose repeatedly to the Russians . . . the accumulated damage would be tremendous.”61 On October 5, Symington urged the president to call Congress back into special session. Meanwhile, Senator Russell convinced Lyndon Johnson to chair hearings through the Defense Preparedness Subcommittee. As a close ally of Johnson, he wanted to prevent Symington from gaining too much media exposure since he was expected to be Johnson’s toughest competitor for the Democratic nomination in 1960. Johnson’s top assistant, George Reedy, saw the benefits for his boss: “The issue is one which, if properly handled, would blast the Republicans out of the water, unify the Democratic party, and elect you President. . . . You should plan to plunge heavily into this one.”62 Meanwhile, the administration struggled to minimize public concern. On October 9, Eisenhower told reporters that Sputnik would not have serious military consequences. He explained that the United States maintained superiority as a result of technology such as the B-52 bomber. On October 11, Vice President Nixon tried a different approach, blaming Democrats, pointing to studies demonstrating that missile production had suffered more under Truman

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than under Eisenhower. He predicted that if Sputnik turned into a partisan battle, “we can tear them to pieces.”63 During a meeting of the NSC, Dulles characterized Sputnik as part of a broader propaganda effort by the Soviets to demonstrate to Third World nations the superiority of communism. Nixon warned that the administration needed to be proactive as it became the target of congressional investigation, and the president asked NSC members to keep restating that they already had a good plan in place and were going to stick with it regardless of recent events.64 Nixon sent a detailed letter to Arthur Krock of the New York Times, rebutting each charge made by Symington, and Krock published the upshot of Nixon’s position. Symington responded with his own memo attempting to show how Nixon was mischaracterizing the data about missiles, and Krock published the senator’s side as well. The problems for Eisenhower increased on November 4, when the Soviets launched a second satellite into space. On that same day, the report of a presidential commission compounded Eisenhower’s national security headaches. The director of the commission, James Gaither, informed the president and the NSC that the United States had fallen behind the Soviet Union in missile production. According to Robert Lovett, Truman’s secretary of defense from 1951 to 1953, reading the confidential report was “like looking into the abyss and seeing Hell at the bottom.”65 To stress the economic costs of a massive escalation, the president asked commission members if they were prepared to propose the kind of measures that would be needed to finance such an ambitious program.66 Eisenhower saw the report as a political problem, not a substantive national security concern. Later in the evening he went on radio and television to address the nation and assure citizens that the missile issue was under control, but polls would reveal later that month that the public was greatly concerned about U.S. defense, with only twenty-six percent of respondents stating they were satisfied with current policies.67 Throughout these weeks, Eisenhower refrained from making public the most compelling evidence suggesting that the Democrats were wrong. Photographs from secret U-2 reconnaissance flights indicated that the Soviets were exaggerating their missile capacity. But Eisenhower could not disclose the pictures for fear of undermining the classified program. On November 25, calling Sputnik a disaster “comparable to Pearl Harbor,” Lyndon Johnson opened his subcommittee’s hearings into the perceived gap in missile production.68 Although Johnson

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promised to conduct the hearings in bipartisan fashion, Symington, who served on the panel, proved impossible to control. Because of the hearings and because so much information from the secret report was being leaked, the White House reluctantly confirmed the existence of the Gaither commission. But when Johnson’s subcommittee requested a copy of the report, the president refused for reasons of national security. In the middle of this controversy, on December 6, there was another public relations disaster for the administration when the United States launched its first satellite, which, after only seconds in the air, exploded. By late December, newspapers were providing readers with detailed descriptions of the Gaither report. In the Washington Post, Chalmers Roberts wrote that it “portrays a United States in the gravest danger in its history.”69 The New York Times lamented that by underestimating “the Russians, the Communist Chinese, the Nasser Egyptians and other opponents of our free way of life . . . we have lived in a state of pampered luxury, while our enemies gathered strength against us.”70 In January 1958, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund released a study by a panel of prominent Republicans including Nelson Rockefeller, Arthur Burns (former chief economist for President Eisenhower), Harvard professor and special studies director for the Rockefeller Brothers Fund Henry Kissinger, and the physicist Edward Teller, the director of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. It backed up the gist of the Gaither report and concluded that programs vital to national security were not adequately funded. The United States would have to increase defense spending by $3 billion a year.71 In its report, released in January 1958, Johnson’s subcommittee agreed with the basic analyses of the Gaither and Rockefeller reports. The president slowed down Democratic momentum on January 7 by calling for higher levels of spending on missile development and air force defenses, and then on January 31 the successful launch of a satellite into outer space helped boost confidence in the nation’s scientific expertise. By February, Johnson’s advisors told him that the public no longer cared about the issue. According to one, Jim Rowe, “you have gained all you can on space and missiles.” George Reedy added, “the public had begun to calm down and the Buck Rogers serials had played themselves out.”72 The missile controversy, however, soon returned. Attacks came from the Democratic Advisory Council, a group put together to

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reinvigorate the Democratic Party before the 1960 elections. The DAC invited Dean Acheson to chair a committee charged with generating new ideas about foreign policy. Acheson’s group published a series of hawkish booklets and pamphlets that warned about Eisenhower’s failure to keep up with the Soviets under Khrushchev.73 In the summer of 1958, New York Times reporter Hanson Baldwin published a book about the missile gap, while Joseph Alsop wrote a series of articles in the Washington Post that issued similar warnings. During all the debates over missiles, however, Eisenhower had come to believe that the United States had a decisive military advantage over the Soviets so that trying to calm tensions would create greater international security and reduce pressure within the country to ramp up the defense budget. And so, on October 31, 1958, Eisenhower announced that the United States had suspended nuclear tests and asked the Soviet leadership to participate in a conference in Geneva on drafting a nuclear test ban treaty. Conservatives were furious. They claimed arms agreements could never be verified and were a way for the Soviets to achieve military superiority. At Geneva, the United States and Soviet Union agreed to a oneyear moratorium during which they would continue to negotiate to see if they could reach a permanent agreement. The negotiations would prove to be extraordinarily difficult, as fundamental differences emerged over issues like verification. The possibility of a permanent agreement seemed to totally disappear on May 1, 1960, when the Soviet Union shot down a U-2 plane on a joint CIA/air force reconnaissance mission over Soviet territory. Eisenhower denied that it was a spy plane, saying that it was a weather plane that went off course.The Soviets then revealed that the pilot, Francis Gary Powers, had survived and had confessed that he was on a spy mission. Khruschev demanded that Eisenhower apologize for the flight, but Eisenhower refused, and the negotiations collapsed. Democrats genuinely believed the experts who warned about a missile gap and also saw this as a problem that could benefit Democrats politically. “There has been a noticeable quickening of the fear people have over growing Russian power,” pollster Louis Harris reported in his study of the electorate in Massachusetts. “This is cumulative, stemming in part from the apparent weakness of the western alliance, but has also resulted from the well-publicized advances of the Russians in missiles and jet aviation and their political inroads into the Middle East.”There was great concern among voters that previous investments in defense were not paying off. As a result, it seemed

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that the “surest fire area of political advantage for Republicans in the Eisenhower era—foreign policy—has now lost its vote-getting prowess.”74 Democratic attacks on Republicans about national security offered a unifying theme at a time when the Democratic Party was wrestling with internal divisions over domestic policy. The struggle over the Civil Rights Act of 1957, the first such legislation to pass Congress since Reconstruction, had intensified tensions between southerners and northerners. Lyndon Johnson had been able to hold the factions together through deft maneuvering, but the coalition was fragile.75 During the 1950s, liberal Democrats were making a stronger push for legislation like civil rights and medical care for the aged that many southern Democrats wanted to leave off the agenda. Many of the northern candidates running in the 1958 congressional campaigns were unwilling to defer to the southern chairmen in the House and Senate. Democrats emerged from the 1958 congressional elections with overwhelming majorities in both houses: 65 Senate seats and 283 House seats. Eisenhower spent most of his final two years in office fighting against Congress to achieve a balanced budget, making this quest a defining issue for his presidency.76 The president warned legislative leaders that if Democrats “decide to put another $3 billion into the budget every time Russia tries to push, they might as well go all the way to a garrison state.”77 But the pressure for spending did not subside. In 1959 and 1960, a series of publications by scholars associated with the RAND Corporation depicted a Soviet Union willing to initiate a devastating first strike. Founded as a nonprofit think tank in 1948, RAND provided sophisticated systems analysis to the Department of the Air Force, which had responsibility over the nation’s nuclear arsenal. RAND’s Herman Kahn and Albert Wohlstetter rejected Eisenhower’s assumption that nuclear weapons diminished the chances of war since a rational Soviet leadership realized that any attack on the United States would result in the annihilation of much of the Soviet Union. Kahn and Wohlstetter argued that the Soviets would try to attack bomber bases in order to knock out the U.S. nuclear capability and then begin a ground war with their superior forces.They also worried that Eisenhower’s New Look could undermine the credibility of American threats because it was unclear how the United States would actually retaliate to Soviet aggression.78 They urged the government to start planning for higher levels of defense spending to

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develop a second-strike capability against the Soviets (which meant being able to strike back after being hit by nuclear bombs) and to accept the possibility of authorizing limited nuclear wars.79 HE BIGGEST INTERNATIONAL story to unfold in these years did not take place between the United States and the Soviet Union or between China and the United States. Rather, the growing tensions between the Soviet Union and China would divide the communist world and eventually create opportunities for future U.S. policy makers. Mao had introduced new economic programs in 1958 that departed from the Soviet model, in an effort to improve production and economic conditions. The efforts were a failure, as economic conditions rapidly deteriorated and starvation spread throughout rural areas. In response to Mao’s adversarial posture, the Soviets in 1959 demonstrated their frustration—and compounded China’s economic crisis—by announcing that they would no longer provide technological and scientific assistance. When the Soviets made statements in August 1959 about a border dispute that was taking place between the Chinese and India, statements that Chinese leaders interpreted as taking India’s side, the animosity between the superpowers intensified. But U.S. politicians were more concerned about what was happening ninety miles away from American shores rather than the fissures in Sino-Soviet relations. White House officials began the year 1959 with the news that Cuban revolutionary forces led by Fidel Castro had overthrown the repressive and corrupt regime of Fulgencio Batista, which had close ties to key U.S. economic interests. On February 7, an interim government was established and nine days later Castro became prime minister. Initially, these events were welcomed in Washington. The corrupt (though pro-American) regime of Batista was no more. Eisenhower reached out to the new government. The title of the Washington Post’s editorial captured the mood: “Cuba’s New Day.”80 But that support quickly soured as Castro came to be seen as too leftist and an ally of the Soviet Union. Meanwhile, the controversy over the missile gap accelerated in January 1960, when the Pentagon announced that it had revised its intelligence estimates. The Pentagon sent out a “truth squad” to counter the claims of Democrats. All of the Democrats who would potentially be competing for the presidency, including John Kennedy, Hubert Humphrey, and Stuart Symington, denounced the administration for having adjusted the figures to shore up its defense

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credentials. Symington said that “the intelligence books have been juggled so the budget books may be balanced.”81 Kennedy warned that Republicans were “gambling with our survival.”82 Kennedy had not been the favorite to win the Democratic nomination. Most liberals preferred Adlai Stevenson, whom they thought could defeat the probable Republican candidate, Nixon, while most political experts believed that Symington had the best possibility of winning centrist Democratic votes if the convention was deadlocked. Kennedy, however, had worked hard in 1959 to build his support among party leaders and campaigned around the country to increase his visibility among voters. During most of the sixteen primaries that took place in 1960, Kennedy did not face any real competition beyond write-ins. Lyndon Johnson decided to depend on his position on Capitol Hill to generate support within the party.83 In the contested primaries that did take place, Kennedy defeated Minnesota’s Hubert Humphrey, who was seen as the more liberal candidate, in Wisconsin on April 5 (where JFK depended on Catholic voters) and West Virginia on May 10 (where there were few Catholic voters). At the convention in July, Kennedy won the nomination on the first ballot and tapped Johnson as his running mate. During his acceptance speech, Kennedy proclaimed that the United States stood on “the edge of a New Frontier—the frontier of the 1960s—a frontier of unknown opportunities and perils—a frontier of unfulfilled hopes and threats.” Republicans nominated Nixon at their convention. Nixon had been forced to fight back against a challenge from New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, who on June 20 publicly criticized Nixon and the Eisenhower administration for having weakened the nation’s defense system and for failing to push aggressively enough on domestic initiatives like civil rights. Nixon scrambled to set up a meeting with Rockefeller at his Manhattan apartment. On July 22, just two days before the Republican Convention, Nixon and Rockefeller reached an agreement in New York, dubbed the “Compact of Fifth Avenue.” Rockefeller agreed to stop his challenge for the nomination. Nixon agreed to release a joint statement with Rockefeller that called for higher defense spending, criticized existing policies for having limited the growth of the military, and came out more strongly in favor of civil rights and domestic spending legislation to counteract the slowdown in the economy. Though they reached an agreement and averted a showdown at the convention, the meeting caused significant political problems for

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Nixon. For example, Eisenhower became angry at his vice president for his implicit criticism of the president, and less willing to throw his weight behind the campaign. At the same time, the conservative senator from Arizona, Barry Goldwater, felt that Nixon had capitulated to the liberal base of the party. The Compact of Fifth Avenue, Goldwater said, “will live in history as the Munich of the Republican party.”84 Kennedy ran as a Cold War hawk against Nixon. In addition to JFK’s proposals for accelerating economic growth and supporting programs such as medical care for the elderly, Kennedy argued that only a Democratic administration could re-establish American dominance over communism. Kennedy said that during the EisenhowerNixon administration, “our security has declined more rapidly than over any comparable period in our history—in terms of defensive strength and retaliatory power, in terms of our alliances, in terms of our scientific effort and reputation.”85 The senator was convinced from the polls and his advisors that national security was a central, if not the central, issue in the election.86 Arthur Schlesinger Jr., who was serving as an advisor to Kennedy, suggested that achieving peace, both through negotiation and a strong military, was the “one big, all-absorbing issue” that could bring together all of the different factions of the Democratic coalition (Schlesinger wanted Kennedy to increase his emphasis on disarmament and negotiation).87 Besides the missile gap, Cuba was a big issue for Kennedy and other Democrats. The relationship between Cuba and the United States deteriorated as the year progressed. Castro had rebuffed Eisenhower’s initial gestures of goodwill, being in no mood to compromise with a nation that he felt had exercised immoral imperial influence over his people throughout the twentieth century. Castro nationalized much of the economy and imprisoned or executed Batista’s supporters. He re-created aspects of the police state that his supporters had condemned under Batista. More open about his socialist political agenda than when he came to power in January 1959, when he had stressed the rebellion against a corrupt regime, Castro opened relations with the Soviets. On October 6, Kennedy said of Nixon’s pre-revolution visits to Cuba, “He talked with the leaders. He knew what our aid program consisted of. But his only conclusion as stated in a Havana press conference, was his statement that he was ‘very much impressed with the competence and stability’ of the Batista dictatorship.” Kennedy did not mince words: “Major policy on issues such as Cuban security is made at the highest levels—in the National Security Council and

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elsewhere—and it is the party in power which must accept full responsibility for this disaster.” Connecticut Representative Chester Bowles told the senator to stress that a Democratic president would never have allowed a government like Castro’s to come to power so close to American shores and that the Republican administration had to be held responsible for the “Cuban ‘disaster,’ the Cuban ‘blunders,’ the Cuban ‘catastrophe.’”88 Ridiculing Nixon’s tendency to boast about his foreign policy experience—and aiming to undercut the vice president’s potential advantage—Kennedy said that during the Eisenhower-Nixon administration, “Khrushchev has not been impressed, deterred or confined in his efforts to build a Communist empire.”89 After the first of the famous televised Nixon-Kennedy debates, Louis Harris reported that Nixon’s advantage on foreign policy was not as decisive as when the campaign started since “Kennedy seems now to have blunted the ‘get tough with Russia’ issue.”90 Nixon was frustrated because he could not reveal the secret operation that was being planned by the CIA to invade Cuba. Instead, he had to sit on his hands as he was depicted as too timid about using military power. He warned that Kennedy’s proposals would result in war by instigating Soviet intervention. Nixon implored fellow administration officials to do something about Cuba, and on October 19, the administration responded by announcing an embargo on Cuba on all items other than food and medicine.91 Kennedy won a narrow popular-vote victory, 49.7 percent to 49.6 percent, but the Electoral College spread was wider: 303 to 219. Democrats retained control of Congress. On the evening of January 17, 1961, Eisenhower gave his farewell address to the nation. “We face a hostile ideology,” he said, “global in scope, atheistic in character, ruthless in purpose, and insidious in method.” Yet he warned that the nation needed to resist ongoing demands to spend more, without limit, on defense. Because of the Cold War, he said, “we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment.” Understanding that the permanent national security state had created a permanently large defense budget and a powerful world of military officials, legislators, and defense contractors who would always seek to grow these programs, he said that the nation had to be on guard:

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This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence—economic, political, even spiritual—is felt in every city, every statehouse, every office of the federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

And with that warning, John F. Kennedy started his presidency.

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address on January 20, 1961, President John F. Kennedy stressed his commitment to fighting communism: “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”Then he struck a conciliatory note:

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But neither can two great and powerful groups of nations take comfort from our present course—both sides overburdened by the cost of modern weapons, both rightly alarmed by the steady spread of the deadly atom, yet both racing to alter that uncertain balance of terror that stays the hand of mankind’s final war. So let us begin anew—remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.

Democrats and Republicans alike praised the speech, though Richard Nixon refused to comment. Republican New York Senator Kenneth Keating called it “brilliant.” Oklahoma Senator Mike Monroney, a Democrat who had now heard twelve inaugural addresses beginning with Woodrow Wilson’s in 1917, singled out the passage “Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate” as the best line in Kennedy’s speech.1 148

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From the start of his administration, however, the Republican Right worked hard to undercut JFK’s appeal on national security. The John Birch Society, founded in 1958 by California-based businessman Robert Welch, included 100,000 members, mostly in the Sunbelt. Anticommunism was the glue that held the society together, though opposition to civil rights was important for its southern members. Conservative radio hosts railed against the administration’s failures to stand up to the Soviets. Conservatives enjoyed a vibrant period of book publishing with companies like Regnery, founded in 1947 by conservatives in Chicago. Some of the early movement books included William F. Buckley Jr.’s God and Man at Yale (1951),Whittaker Chambers’s Witness (1952), and Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind (1953). As the sociologist Daniel Bell observed, it was in the early 1960s that “the ‘radical right’ emerged into prominence on the American political scene.”2 The failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba offered conservatives their best opportunity to attack the administration. The covert plan had been hatched in 1960, when the CIA started to train a group of Cuban exiles to invade their homeland; the involvement of U.S. forces would be kept top secret. Candidate Nixon had to keep the plan a secret during the campaign, even as Kennedy criticized him for not doing enough about Castro. Concern over Cuba stemmed not just from its proximity to the United States but also from a growing concern in the United States—as well as in Western Europe, the Soviet Union, and China— about the impact of anticolonial and nationalistic movements. Whereas immediately after World War II the focus of American policy was on Japan and then Western Europe, now the target of concern was Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East, where hundreds of millions of people had achieved independence from colonial rule.3 In these parts of the world, the United States, the Soviet Union, and China struggled to influence events so that new governments did not ally with their opposition. U.S. military leaders were bullish about being able to trigger a revolution in Cuba through the invasion, whereas State Department officials and many of Kennedy’s top advisors, as well as the president himself, were concerned not just about whether an invasion would work but also about the political repercussions in Latin America. As Arthur Schlesinger Jr., special assistant to the president, wrote, an invasion “would fix a malevolent image of the new Administration in the minds of millions.”4

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It was a bad idea from the start. The first strike took place less than three months into the new administration, on April 15, 1961, as U.S. forces attacked Cuba with American airplanes that had been disguised to appear as Cuban aircraft stolen by Cuban exiles. The CIA’s goal was to destroy as much Cuban airpower as possible to set up the best conditions for a ground invasion. But the CIA failed to destroy Castro’s air force. Kennedy called off a planned second air strike, fearing that U.S. planes would be hit and Cuba would be able to prove to the world—and Latin American neighbors—that the “imperialist” United States had been behind the invasion rather than disgruntled Cuban exiles.5 Castro gained some extra time to regroup. On April 17, a CIA-sponsored invasion by Cuban exiles began, but it was poorly executed and resulted in 140 of them killed and 1,189 captured. The invasion did not trigger a revolution, as the CIA had hoped, just a huge embarrassment for the United States. The State Department initially denied that there was any connection between the exiles and the United States, but the plan was revealed to the public through the press within a few days. The president was devastated, feeling that the CIA and Joint Chiefs of Staff had provided him with poor information and false promises. He publicly took responsibility for the failure. The admission response worked politically: Kennedy’s approval ratings shot up. Reacting to a Gallup poll showing that his approval was over eighty percent, Kennedy joked to an aide, “It’s just like Eisenhower; the worse I do, the more popular I get.”6 But the president was badly shaken by the fiasco, convinced that he needed to prove his competence in foreign affairs or the Soviets would try to take advantage of his perceived weakness. Reporters and foreign leaders were not as impressed as voters by his handling of the situation. On April 22 Kennedy invited Eisenhower to Camp David, where the two took a long walk. Kennedy said, “No one knows how tough this job is until after he has been in it a few months.” Eisenhower replied, “If you will forgive me, I think I mentioned that to you three months ago.”7 The White House released the photograph of the two men, combined with a general statement of support from Eisenhower, to generate bipartisan support. Within a few days, however, the partisan criticism began. Kentucky Senator Thurston Morton, the Republican National Committee chairman, said that the invasion had been “disastrous” and that the Kennedy White House was a “prisoner of its own pre-election propaganda.” Morton asked what Democrats would say if Nixon had “landed us in this predicament.” On June 11, New York Representa-

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tive William Miller, who had replaced Morton as chairman of the Republican National Committee, accused Kennedy of having rescinded a plan by Eisenhower that would have provided the exiles with air cover during the invasion.8 The fiasco led Kennedy to doubt the judgment and intelligence data of the Defense Department and the CIA. It discouraged him from authorizing military operations in Laos toward the end of April, where communists had taken control. Policy makers had perceived Laos as strategically the most important of the three countries in Southeast Asia that had been under French control (Vietnam and Cambodia were the other two). The Pathet Lao, the communist nationalist force in Laos, had defeated the French after World War II and continued to fight against the government established in 1954, which was sympathetic to Western interests and received assistance from Eisenhower. When Kennedy took office, Eisenhower warned him that military force would be needed to stop a takeover by the Pathet Lao. Kennedy rejected the advice, and most Republicans and Democrats, including General Douglas MacArthur, agreed that it was not worth the fight. But as a result of Laos and Cuba, Kennedy was losing some of the hawkish luster he had developed in the Senate and the 1960 presidential campaign. “He was like a young prizefighter,” observed James Reston, “toying gracefully with his opponent, jabbing at will and casually waving to the crowd, when suddenly he was clipped on the chin. . . . The magic of the first two months has vanished.”9 Conservatives found more fodder with a scandal that unfolded between April and June. J. William Fulbright, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sent the Defense Department a memo describing the activities of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, a conservative organization that paid right-wing speakers to run seminars for U.S. troops. The Fulbright memo explained that the speaker series was one of several efforts to “educate” troops in conservative ideas. Various organizations were taking advantage of a national security directive about the need to teach soldiers about anticommunism, in response to allegations that North Koreans had brainwashed U.S. troops.10 The speakers and lesson plans charged that Kennedy was weak in combating communism abroad and sympathetic to domestic “communistic” forces pushing for racial equality. Meanwhile, stories emerged of an army report about Major General Edwin Walker, a World War II and Korean war veteran who was commanding the 24th Infantry Division in West Germany. Walker had given talks to U.S. soldiers that were critical of the

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Kennedy administration and went so far as to suggest to soldiers which political candidates they should vote for in 1960, relying on the ratings of the conservative Americans for Constitutional Action. The decision over what to do about this issue fell on the shoulders of Kennedy’s Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, a former president of the Ford Motor Company and registered Republican, though now he considered himself an independent. McNamara did not have much patience with right-wing activists, nor was he happy to hear about a member of the military using his post to spread Birch Society propaganda. McNamara ordered the general to step down from his command and conducted an investigation into his right-wing network. The Republican Right reacted quickly. South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond (at the time a Democrat, he would cross the aisle in 1964) warned of a “concerted conspiracy to intimidate persons in this country who speak and warn against the Communist menace.” Republican Texas Senator John Tower said, “We certainly cannot allow civilians to dictate to the military what their training methods should be.”11 Arizona Republican Senator Barry Goldwater criticized “radicals in the White House” for coordinating the investigation.12 On June 12, the secretary of the army admonished Walker. The army hoped that would end the controversy, but Walker wouldn’t let the issue die. In defiance, he resigned from the military and continued his campaign against Democrats. In the middle of the Walker controversy, Kennedy traveled to Vienna in June for a summit with Soviet Premier Khrushchev. Kennedy had proposed the meeting back in February as part of his effort, announced during his inaugural, to find ways to cool tensions with the Soviets. But the meeting went badly. Khrushchev treated the president dismissively. He threatened to sign a peace agreement with East Germany that would end the four-power-sharing agreement from World War II and ensure that the Soviets would assist in blocking Western access to West Berlin, and he said he was prepared for war if the United States tried to stop him.13 Khrushchev wanted to prevent skilled East Germans from fleeing to West Berlin, which was under the control of the United States, Britain, and France. The president privately called the encounter the “worst thing in my life. . . . He thinks because of the Bay of Pigs that I’m inexperienced. Probably thinks I’m stupid. Maybe most important, he thinks that I had no guts.”14 Following their discussion in Vienna, Kennedy focused much of his attention on Berlin. From the time that news emerged about

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Khrushchev’s intention to sign a diplomatic agreement with East Germany, Americans began worrying about the possibility of nuclear war. Companies that made survival goods for nuclear attack experienced a massive surge in sales.15 Media criticism mounted that Kennedy was not able to take a decisive position. “Look at this shit,” Kennedy said to his press secretary, Pierre Salinger, about some magazine stories, “this shit has got to stop.”16 The Joint Chiefs of Staff, former Secretary of State Dean Acheson, and others urged Kennedy to authorize a full-scale military buildup and declare a national emergency in order to scare the Soviets into backing down. But Kennedy took the counsel of advisors like his secretary of state, Dean Rusk, and Arthur Schlesinger, who wanted to leave the door open for diplomacy.17 In a speech on July 25, he announced he was prepared to open negotiations over the issue, while at the same time warning that the United States would protect Western access to Berlin.18 Still shaken from the meeting in Vienna, he called for an increase in civil defense funds, the expansion of the military draft, and the creation of armed forces more capable of nonnuclear warfare in Europe. He sought to reverse Eisenhower’s policies that had reduced the size of the conventional forces in order to build up nuclear capacity. On August 13, the Soviets constructed a wall separating East and West Berlin. Although U.S. and Soviet soldiers faced off against one another throughout August, Kennedy resisted military pressure to use force and allowed the wall to be constructed. “A wall is a hell of a lot better than a war,” he said in private.19 In return, after extensive negotiations, Khrushchev agreed in November that he would not seek a treaty with East Germany. Although a wall was now in place, Kennedy had persuaded the Soviets to back down from seeking to end Western control over West Berlin. The press hailed the resolution as a great triumph for Kennedy. He had defused the crisis and protected Western interests, even though the wall had been erected. Theodore Sorensen, the president’s special counsel and chief speechwriter, boasted that if Republicans accused Democrats of appeasing communism, “we point to our defense buildup and our Berlin stand (and introduce them to those Republicans who are complaining about the Reservists being called up and the budget not being balanced).” Several polls indicated that Republicans would not be able to make use of the anticommunism issue since the public was pleased with how Kennedy had handled Berlin.20 As his early penchant for diplomacy revealed, the president was interested not just in military options. Like most proponents of

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liberal internationalism since World War II, Kennedy believed that economic assistance to vulnerable countries was essential to combating communism. Ultimately, the United States needed to help build democratic nations if it wanted to stave off communism. The president’s advisors felt that successful nonmilitary programs to foster economic development could serve foreign policy objectives. They wanted to import the ethos of the New Deal, Fair Deal, and New Frontier to developing countries to diminish their susceptibility to communism. In 1960, Walt Rostow, an MIT economist and influential Kennedy advisor, had published The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto, which provided an intellectual vocabulary to discuss these policies. Rostow argued that there were different stages to economic growth, and in the early stages in developing countries the instability of economic, political, and civic institutions created opportunities for communists. Modernization, he said, was the best antidote to communist expansion, and the United States needed to provide money and manpower to nurture institutions, to build nations, and to keep them secure. There were precedents for this line of thinking. Americans had seen the successful occupation and rehabilitation of Japan as well as the revitalization of Western Europe through the Marshall Plan. Economic assistance—despite the opposition of the Republican Right—had been championed by President Truman as an integral component of containment. Kennedy promoted his own version of these ideas through three initiatives in 1961. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), created in 1961 through an executive order, served as a central body to coordinate foreign aid programs. The Alliance for Progress sought to strengthen ties between North and South America through economic assistance. And the Peace Corps, established through an executive order, sent young Americans to work in government and civic institutions in less developed countries. In November, largely because of the Bay of Pigs, Kennedy asked CIA Director Allen Dulles to resign, replacing him with a wealthy businessman from California, John McCone, who had served as the special deputy to Secretary of Defense James Forrestal and as undersecretary of the air force in 1950, as well as chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission for Eisenhower from 1958 to 1960. McCone, a lifelong Republican, was a hard-line anticommunist whom Kennedy felt could bring credibility to efforts to reform the agency. Looking toward the 1962 midterm elections, Kennedy’s pollsters started to feel that foreign policy was the “sleeper issue” that could

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“work decisively for Democrats. . . . Kennedy has gone a long way toward eliminating the traditional GOP cry that the Democrats are on the one hand the party of appeasement and on the other, the party of war.”21 security challenge to Democrats politically, however, remained Cuba. The fall of Cuba to communism had been an embarrassment to Republicans in 1959, their China, but by 1962 the island nation was of political concern to both parties. The Bay of Pigs had eliminated any advantage Kennedy enjoyed on the issue. As Castro acted defiantly toward American power, Democrats and Republicans both needed to demonstrate that they would stand firm against this nearby threat. In the same polls that indicated Kennedy’s surging popularity, questions about Cuba almost always elicited negative responses about the president. The failure to eliminate Castro and allegations about the presence of the Soviets on the island symbolized to conservatives Kennedy’s inability to follow through on his hawkish promises. Unknown to the public, in June 1962, Khrushchev had begun to deploy missiles, antiaircraft batteries, bombers, and military and technical personnel to Cuba to deter another attack on Castro and to improve the Soviet position in negotiations with the United States over Berlin. Khrushchev planned to reveal the deployment after the midterm elections, with a dramatic visit to Cuba, intending to convey Soviet superiority, both to the United States as well as to the Soviets’ other rival, China.22 There were some early warnings about what was going on. In March, the Miami News published a story about plans for Soviet missile sites in Cuba. In June, South Carolina Democrat Mendel Rivers of the House Armed Services Committee warned McCone that “four IRBM [Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missile] bases are ready in Cuba.”23 By July, Cuban refugees were telling U.S. officials that the Soviets had undertaken a significant buildup, reporting that more and more young men who looked like combat troops were arriving on Castro’s island.24 The only comforting news to Kennedy was that top intelligence estimates had not found evidence “thus far” that the Soviets had delivered offensive missiles.25 The president was concerned that the revelation of these rumors could hurt Democrats in the elections.26 The summer of 1962 was shaping up to be a tough period. The economy had started to slow down just as tensions over civil rights were heating up. Congress

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HE GREATEST NATIONAL

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stalled on the administration’s proposal to provide medical care for senior citizens. The Cold War was also intensifying in those summer months. Khrushchev’s dismissive and aggressive attitude toward Kennedy signaled to many policy makers that the Soviets were aiming to expand the Cold War and make gains in new territory. Despite his diplomatic victory in Berlin, Kennedy was concerned that Khrushchev still intended to pursue a separate treaty with East Germany. On June 9, the administration warned the Soviets about provocative actions by East German soldiers who fired on East Germans fleeing to the West. The Soviet Communist Party newspaper Pravda warned that the United States was getting ready to launch a nuclear war under political leadership that was more savage than Hitler’s. Although Khrushchev privately promised U.S. officials that he would not raise the issue of Berlin’s status, which the Soviets continued to think should be part of East Germany and thus inaccessible to westerners, until after the U.S. midterm elections, Kennedy speculated that the Soviets might change their minds to test how his administration and Congress would respond. Like Harry Truman in 1950, Kennedy was desperate to increase the number of northern liberals within the Democratic congressional majority to diminish the power of the conservative coalition, which had stifled most of his domestic initiatives from the New Frontier such as medical care for the aged and a tax cut for the middle class. In 1962, Congress approved only 44.3 percent of Kennedy’s legislative requests, with many bills never leaving committee.27 On August 5, a U-2 reconnaissance flight discovered evidence of Soviet military equipment, including antiaircraft missiles, in Cuba. Kennedy acknowledged to reporters that there was proof of large quantities of equipment coming into Cuba from the Soviet Union, as well as an increased number of technicians. But, he said, there were no signs of troop movements. Kennedy assured reporters that the administration was examining the significance of the evidence. But privately Kennedy was increasingly troubled by the Cuban situation. On August 22, McCone told him that it “appeared more alarming to us than it did on August the 10th. . . . What has happened is that a substantial number of ships have come into Cuba: 21 in July and some 17 in August. They’ve brought in substantial quantities of materiel, military as well as special electronic equipment, many large cases, which might contain fuselages of fighter airplanes or it might contain missile parts. We do not know.”28 That day, a CIA

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study concluded that “the step-up in military shipments and the construction activity once again provide strong evidence of the magnitude of the USSR’s support for the Castro regime.”29 Cuban informants, notoriously unreliable, were characterizing this as an offensive buildup. CIA reports were treated with skepticism by administration officials. Many in Kennedy’s inner circle did not trust McCone, since he was a loyal Republican sympathetic to the right wing of his party, a hard-line anticommunist, and more eager than Kennedy to pursue military options. Undersecretary of State George Ball, an advocate of liberal internationalism, suspected that the director was trying to scare the president into a reckless invasion. On August 23, however, McCone left Washington to spend his honeymoon in France.30 That day, the president instructed the National Security Council to analyze the impact of Cuba having surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), which are defensive as opposed to offensive surface-to-surface missiles (SSMs).31 While McCone was away, the Defense Department obtained further satellite pictures from a U-2 flight, confirming that the Soviets were shipping material and technicians to the island, as well as defensive SAMs. The administration accelerated its analyses into what could happen if the situation deteriorated.32 Throughout August, Republican Senators Kenneth Keating (New York) and Homer Capehart (Indiana) had been attacking Kennedy for ignoring what they saw as the growing crisis in Cuba. Although all of the information from the informants and the CIA remained classified, these two Republicans placed the issue in the news. Keating, who had been elected to the Senate in 1958, was relying on anticommunism to preserve his support among national Republicans for a possible run for the presidency. He needed to remain liberal on domestic policy, however, to maintain his electoral strength in New York. Keating called on the president to insist that NATO members stop allowing their ships to deliver Soviet cargoes to Cuba. He called on the Council of the Organization of American States (OAS), which had excluded Cuba in January 1962, to take action against Castro. Keating, who was not up for re-election until 1964, ridiculed the president’s distinction between offensive and defensive weapons: “Who is to say whether a weapon is offensive or defensive? It depends on the direction in which it is aimed.”33 Keating refused to share his sources, which made it impossible to confirm or disprove his allegations.34 Some later studies would claim that

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Clare Boothe Luce, a former congresswoman, an anticommunist conservative, and the wife of Time editor Henry Luce, had been giving him the information, though this has not been confirmed.35 Capehart was a different breed of Republican than Keating. A die-hard conservative, he had been an ardent opponent of Roosevelt and Truman’s domestic policies, and although he had opposed the Marshall Plan and the creation of the United Nations, over the years he had moderated his stance. Still, he had been one of the Kennedy administration’s toughest critics following the Bay of Pigs. In the upcoming senatorial election, Capehart hoped to beat his far younger challenger, Birch Bayh, by, according to House Minority Leader Charles Halleck, placing “all of his eggs in the Cuban basket.” Speaking in his home state of Indiana, Capehart asked, “How long will the President examine the situation . . . until the hundreds of Russian troops grow into hundreds of thousands?”36 Concerned about his Republican opponents inside and outside the administration, the president told Marshall Carter, acting director of the CIA while McCone was away, that he did not want any of the U-2 information leaked to the media because it would turn into political fodder for the GOP and exacerbate tensions with Khrushchev. Because he did not think the photographs revealed any kind of serious offensive threat, he didn’t see any need to share the data with the public. He refused to believe that the Soviets would take a chance by sending their nuclear weapons so far away. And once again, the early intelligence revealed only sightings of SAMs, nonnuclear antiaircraft rockets, the kind that the Soviets had provided to a number of its allies, including Syria and Indonesia.37 Decades later, Soviet archives would reveal that Khrushchev intentionally sent these to Cuba first to throw Kennedy off guard and use them to prevent air surveillance of the nuclear missiles through the SAMs’ ability to shoot down U-2 aircraft. And Walt Rostow, now chairing the State Department’s Policy Planning Council, was fooled, assuring the president in early September that “the Soviet military deliveries to Cuba do not constitute a substantial threat to U.S. security.”38 Yet the administration understood that it was facing a serious political challenge. Assistant Secretary of State Robert Manning warned NSC Director McGeorge Bundy that “in the public mind missiles are missiles” and that “the presence of anything that can be termed missile installations on Cuban soil is certain to have heavy psychological impact on the American public, and on public opinion in the hemisphere and elsewhere.” Agreeing with the analysis, Bundy wrote the president, “Any missile deployment in Cuba will

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strengthen critics of the Administration’s ‘softness’ on Cuba. . . . The expectation is that any missiles will have a substantial political and psychological impact, while surface-to-surface missiles would create a condition of great alarm, even in the absence of proof that nuclear warheads were arriving with them.”39 Kennedy understood he had to calm these political storms. Even though the administration did not have a plan of action, the president told Secretary of State Dean Rusk and Bundy that he would invite “the leadership down here, the Republican, key gasbags and others,” to update them on some of the information that he had about the SAMs. By doing so, he hoped to undermine Republican claims that the president was withholding information.40 On September 4, the president met with a bipartisan group of congressmen. Marshall Carter, Curtis LeMay (chief of staff of the air force), and Kennedy assured the legislators that, based on the information they had, the weapons in Cuba were not offensive. Senator Richard Russell responded that the Cubans could turn “every bit of this stuff ” into offensive use. Iowa Republican Senator Bourke Hickenlooper said he was concerned about “the argument that we’re a paper tiger and the fomenting groups in Latin America say, ‘See, look what’s happening 100 miles from the United States. They do nothing about it . . . we have nothing to fear, we can spit in their face, we can do this, that, and the other thing.’”41 Kennedy searched for a middle ground between military action and diplomacy. He issued a statement announcing that he would use “whatever means may be necessary” to prevent Soviet aggression. He also reminded reporters that there was no evidence that the Cubans had gained “significant offensive capability.” On September 6, the CIA reported to him that it had verified nine SA-2 SAM sites under construction and eight patrol boats with short-range surfaceto-surface missiles.42 The next day, Kennedy asked Congress for stand-by authority to call up 150,000 men from the Ready Reserve. He said there would be amphibious operations close to Cuba in mid-October.43 When a reporter asked White House press secretary Pierre Salinger if this request was a result of the situation in Cuba, he answered, “You can draw your own conclusion on that.”44 On September 8, the CIA reported that a “completely reliable source” had told them of three more SAM sites under construction, bringing the total to thirteen.45 Although the Senate passed the Ready Reserve bill within a week (without opposition), the measure became bogged down in the House, where Republicans seized on the debate as an opportunity

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to criticize Kennedy. Ohio’s Clarence Brown said that the bill would not “impress the master of the Kremlin one bit.”46 Kennedy’s responses had not satisfied most Republicans, nor would they let the issue die. Some in the GOP claimed that Kennedy had agreed to a “horse trade” with Khrushchev: The Soviets had allegedly promised to refrain from further action in Berlin if the administration did nothing about their activities in Cuba.47 Goldwater, who was contemplating a run the for presidency in 1964, said, “The American people will not be satisfied with the President’s reiteration of a ‘do nothing’ policy toward Cuba. . . . We have before us today this humiliating picture: The Soviets pushed a huge military build-up on our Southern doorstep. Khrushchev warned the United States not to interfere. And President Kennedy holds a news conference and says military intervention by the United States cannot be either required or justified.”48 Other Republicans talked tough as well. Senate Minority Leader Dirksen and House Minority Leader Halleck called for a congressional resolution that would “reflect the determination and clear purpose of the American people and will demonstrate to the world the firmness of this nation in meeting this problem.”49 Richard Nixon, running for the governorship in California, proposed that Kennedy should implement a quarantine of Cuba in order to prevent the Soviets from shipping arms. On September 10, one day after a Chinese Nationalist U-2 was shot down over the mainland, Kennedy suspended reconnaissance flights over Cuba. He was concerned that any embarrassing incidents would subvert negotiations over Berlin.50 Poor weather over the island was also resulting in poor-quality photos. In a memo to the president, McGeorge Bundy wrote, “The congressional head of steam on this is the most serious that we have had.” He urged Kennedy to provide an “aggressive explanation of current policy and of its justification.”51 On September 12, Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield informed the president that in the Senate Majority Policy Committee, there was “a great deal of concern” over the “domestic-political” implications of the situation in Cuba. The feeling among senators, Mansfield explained, was that a “‘do-something’ gesture of militancy” had become necessary. At their most recent meeting, Democrats had discussed a full array of actions, ranging from a quarantine of Cuba to an all-out war that might involve Russia. “There was some talk,” Mansfield reported, “that those Democrats running for re-election in November would have to leave you on this matter un-

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less something were done. . . . If public pressures on Democratic members now begin to lead them to engage in an attempt to outdo Republicans in militancy on Cuba, I am concerned as to where it might end.”52 On September 13, the CIA told Kennedy that there had been “no abatement in the Soviet buildup.”53 At a press conference that day, Kennedy assured reporters that the shipments did not constitute a “serious threat” of any kind, but that if Cuba interfered with the nation’s security in any way, he was prepared to take swift action. To turn up the heat under Kennedy, Republicans proposed a congressional resolution that would authorize the president to use U.S. troops in Cuba if necessary. Democrats responded by working with the administration, and Republicans, to devise such a resolution, as the House continued to debate the Ready Reserve bill. Kennedy sensed that if he did not use tough language in the resolution, Republicans would build support in Congress for something “much worse.”54 On September 19, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Armed Services Committee unanimously approved a resolution, which asserted that the United States would not allow Cuba to develop a military capability that threatened the nation. Although Kennedy agreed to support this version, Republicans hoped to demonstrate that they were the party taking the initiative. On September 20, the Senate passed the resolution, stating that the United States was “determined . . . by whatever means may be necessary, including the use of arms” to make certain that Cuba did not pose a threat to American security. The Senate vote was 86–1 (Vermont Republican Winston Prouty was the only dissenter in the Senate, feeling the language was not tough enough). Democrats were able to hold back Republican efforts to make the language even stronger. Some Republicans had also called for a naval blockade of Soviet arms shipments. In a televised address, Castro said that in the U.S. Congress there was “a competition to see who can shout most. . . . It doesn’t matter to them that they play with the destiny of the world and play with war.”55 In a memo to the president, pollster Lou Harris said sixty-two percent of the public was against Kennedy’s Cuba policy. The president, Harris reported, needed to do a better job of persuading Americans that Republicans would “deliberately shoot craps with the destiny of this nation, would play petty politics with the national security, whether in Mississippi, Cuba, or Berlin to try to gain votes this fall. The American people will not be fooled by this political chicanery.”56

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The political pressure to take action became so intense that on October 1 the administration contemplated a blockade of Cuba. McCone, since returning to Washington from his honeymoon on September 26, had been pressuring the president to renew U-2 surveillance flights. Near the end of September, reports had surfaced of a possible medium-range ballistic missile site in Pinar del Río Province.57 On October 7, Dirksen said that Kennedy had a “sorry record” on Cuba: “There is a mess in Cuba, a mess of our own making that began with the New Frontier.” Dirksen charged that the Soviets had completed eight missile bases in Cuba, with sixteen more being built.58 The president authorized a new round of U-2 reconnaissance missions over Cuba on October 9 and took these issues on the campaign trail. In early October, he traveled to Indiana to campaign for Birch Bayh against Homer Capehart. He warned that “these selfappointed generals and admirals who want to send somebody else’s sons to war, and who consistently voted against the instruments of peace, ought to be kept home by the voters and be replaced by somebody like Birch Bayh, who has some understanding of what the twentieth century is all about.” Kennedy asked how someone like Capehart with a “19th century” voting record in the Senate could possibly benefit the state. He said that Capehart’s “rash” words strengthened “our adversaries.” Republicans responded with equal vigor. On October 10, Keating announced that he had “fully confirmed” information that the “construction has begun on at least six launching sites for intermediate range tactical missiles.” Keating said, “My own sources on the Cuban situation, which have been 100 percent reliable, have substantiated this report completely. . . . Six launching sites are under construction—pads which will have the power to hurl rockets into the American heartland and as far as the Panama Canal Zone.” By this time, the senator had delivered sixteen speeches that included complaints about the administration withholding information about the Soviet intervention in Cuba.59 The October 10th speech constituted the most direct challenge to Kennedy’s statement that there were no missiles of concern in Cuba. Keating asked the administration to respond. The State Department denied the accusation.60 Keating’s speech disturbed Kennedy, more than any of the others that the senator had made, given that it contained a level of specificity that had been absent from previous statements. Keating’s words, according to one senior CIA officer, “hit like a bombshell at the White House [and] infuriated President Kennedy.”The adminis-

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tration scrambled to find the source of the information. McCone personally met with Keating, asking him to “lay his cards on the table.” Keating refused.The meeting disintegrated into an ugly verbal fight. A second meeting was scheduled, but Keating did not even show up.61 On the day that Keating delivered his speech, McCone had shown Kennedy photographs of Soviet ships carrying crates toward Cuba that his advisors believed might contain offensive weapon material.62 According to McCone, “The President requested that such information be withheld at least until after the elections as if the information got into the press, a new and more violent Cuban issue would be interjected into the campaign and this would seriously affect his independence of action.”63 During a speech in Boston on October 15, Eisenhower attacked the “dreary foreign record of the past 21 months,” which the press interpreted as signaling a formal decision by the Republican Party hierarchy to open this issue up in the campaign. Then the flood gates broke. On the morning of October 16, the CIA showed the president the first “hard evidence” in the form of aerial photographs of offensive missile sites in Cuba. According to presidential advisor Kenneth O’Donnell, Kennedy approached him in the morning and asked if he still thought all the “fuss” about Cuba was politically unimportant. “Absolutely,” O’Donnell said as he assured Kennedy that “voters won’t give a damn about Cuba.” Kennedy then showed him the photos. After inspecting them with a magnifying glass, O’Donnell said that he couldn’t believe his eyes. “You’d better believe it,” Kennedy replied, “we’ve just elected Capehart in Indiana and Ken Keating will probably be the next President of the United States.”64 The president told his brother Robert, who was not only his attorney general but his closest advisor, “The campaign is over. . . . This blows it—we’ve lost anyway. They were right about Cuba.”65 Most administration officials who saw the pictures knew that they only had a few days before the information became public. After all, as Rusk said, “Keating has already, in effect, announced it on the floor of the Senate.”66 The final U-2 photographs were delivered to the president at the same time as Republicans announced that they were going to focus the final weeks of the campaign on foreign policy. RNC chairman William Miller issued a statement on October 16—endorsed by Senator Goldwater and California Representative Robert Wilson— that “we are distressed to note that Administration spokesmen in their campaign speeches have studiously avoided forthright discussion of

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foreign policy. If we were asked to state the issue in one word, that word would be Cuba—symbol of the tragic irresolution of the Administration.”67 By October 18, Cuba had emerged as the top campaign issue in a poll of congressmen and media editors. Out of 344 editors, 301 selected Cuba as the top issue; 155 out of 208 members of Congress who responded made the same choice.68 While the last set of photographs still remained top secret, the president faced tremendous pressure from his own circle of advisors to authorize a military strike or invasion. LeMay said that unless the United States responded militarily, the Soviets would read Kennedy’s decision as a signal that they could do what they wanted without fear. Eisenhower told McCone that Soviet bases in Cuba were intolerable, and he supported an all-out military action. During one meeting of ExCom, the top-secret committee of senior policy makers who advised the president throughout these pivotal weeks, a Republican advocate of an air strike, Treasury Secretary Douglas Dillon, slipped Sorensen a note: “Ted—Have you considered the very real possibility that if we allow Cuba to complete installation and operational readiness of missile bases, the next House of Representatives is likely to have a Republican majority? That would completely paralyze our ability to react sensibly and coherently to further Soviet advances.”69 But Kennedy resisted the pressure to respond with military force. Throughout the ExCom meetings, as LeMay chided the president and spoke to him in a demeaning fashion, Kennedy rejected his push to use military force. Like President Truman with General MacArthur in 1951, Kennedy stood up to the pressure from the military. Polls suggested that the president was on the right track. Although Goldwater told a reporter that if the president left it up to voters, “We’d be in Cuba tomorrow,” in fact the Gallup poll revealed that sixty-three percent of those polled did not agree with sending armed forces to Cuba.70 As he deliberated over whether to impose a blockade or authorize a military strike, the president continued to think about the political repercussions of the missiles. In the context of the past month, this crisis threatened to undermine all of the momentum that Democrats had regained on national security with the missile gap debate, potentially triggering a revival of Republican power. After one meeting about the missiles, Kennedy spoke with RFK and Sorensen on the Truman balcony of the White House. He said that the crisis would harm Democrats because some voters would say that the

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GOP had been correct all along and that Kennedy was wrong. “Well,” Sorensen recalled the president saying, jokingly, “I guess Homer Capehart is the Winston Churchill of our generation.” Kennedy feared that if he pursued too aggressive a stand, however, he would open Democrats to the old charges that Republicans had used against Woodrow Wilson in 1918 and Wendell Willkie had used against FDR in 1940, and other Republicans had echoed thereafter, that they were the “war party.”71 Notwithstanding his private fears, after October 16 Kennedy resisted the temptation to make a political issue of the crisis. The fact that news of the crisis had not yet been made public to voters or members of Congress afforded him some breathing room to deliberate over what to do without the full-blown pressure of politics.72 The minutes of the ExCom meetings reveal few discussions of political considerations as Kennedy and his staff deliberated over the options. Even while the president remained on the campaign trail (until October 20, after which he canceled all of his political events), he did not talk about Cuba.73 Kennedy decided to announce a quarantine (which was not as strong a measure as a blockade and which Nixon had suggested a few days earlier), with the warning that there would be tougher action if the Soviets violated it. The quarantine only applied to offensive weapon equipment. The president did not propose any stringent enforcement measures. In other words, he wanted to maintain as much flexibility as possible to avoid an attack. To placate the two active Republicans on ExCom, McCone and Dillon, he rejected proposals to combine the quarantine with suggestions for negotiations over a number of issues including, most prominently, removal of U.S. Jupiter missiles in Turkey.74 Anticipating Republican attacks once the photographs became public, Kennedy instructed McCone to update Eisenhower about them and his decision to impose a quarantine. Following the meeting, on October 21, Eisenhower delivered a speech in which he stated that any foreign policy crisis should not be part of the election. The next day, Kennedy personally called Eisenhower to explain why he had decided on a quarantine and to say that he anticipated the situation would get worse. The president said he would move troops from San Diego to Florida in case the “invasion business” was needed. He said that if the OAS agreed to U.S. actions, that would be good, but if it didn’t, the United States would proceed unilaterally. Eisenhower responded that the military option was the only

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“clean cut” way to resolve the threat. He disagreed with Kennedy that the Politburo would bring Berlin into the situation and doubted it would allow missiles to be fired in retaliation for a U.S. invasion.75 In the afternoon of October 22, the president briefed congressional Democrats and one Republican, Senator Dirksen, at the White House to provide them with a full report and to tell them that he was leaning toward a quarantine rather than military strike. Since Congress was not in session, Kennedy used Air Force One to transport senators and representatives. He did not invite Keating or Capehart.76 During the meeting, Senator Russell, Lyndon Johnson’s mentor and close ally, told the president, “I think that our responsibilities demand stronger steps than that in view of this buildup here. . . . We’re either a first-class power or we’re not.” Russell predicted that the quarantine would give the Soviets an opportunity to make more “incendiary” comments, which would ultimately lead to a broader war.77 Senator Fulbright thought the president should not make any announcements until he was prepared to invade, calling the proposed quarantine the “worst of the alternatives” since it would force the United States to directly confront the Soviet Union rather than the Cubans.78 Kennedy departed from the tense meeting with the legislators extremely frustrated. As he went to get ready for his address to the nation on the situation, he said, “If they want this job, fuck ’em, they can have it. It’s no great joy to me.”79 That day, 8,000 conservatives rallied in Madison Square Garden in support of military action against Cuba. The audience included luminaries like William Buckley and Frank Meyer. When one speaker said that by doing nothing Kennedy had been a “silent partner in tyranny,” the crowd booed the president and cheered when speakers called for invading Cuba, yelling, “Fight! Fight!”80 Later, in the evening, Kennedy appeared on television to outline the situation to the public in a seventeen-minute speech. This urgent transformation of Cuba into an important strategic base—by the presence of these large, long-range, and clearly offensive weapons of sudden mass destruction—constitutes an explicit threat to the peace and security of all the Americas, in flagrant and deliberate defiance of the Rio Pact of 1947, the traditions of this nation and hemisphere, the joint resolution of the 87th Congress, the Charter of the United Nations, and my own public warnings to the Soviets on September 4 and 13.

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This action also contradicts the repeated assurances of Soviet spokesmen, both publicly and privately delivered, that the arms buildup in Cuba would retain its original defensive character, and that the Soviet Union had no need or desire to station strategic missiles on the territory of any other nation.

The president said that a quarantine would begin the next morning, and that more aggressive action would follow if the buildup continued. Johnson, who attended meetings with legislators but played a marginal role in the two-week deliberations, reported to Kennedy that he had spoken with his former colleagues in Congress and the speech had been well-received. He had watched the address with Russell and Fulbright, and “the attitude was much better than was indicated” at the White House meeting earlier in the day. Johnson felt that the president explained more clearly to the public how he would prevent the use of missiles against the United States. The Organization of American States voted unanimously to support the quarantine. Response by most of the foreign press was positive.81 As the news unfolded, Americans watched their television sets as Soviet ships approached the U.S. quarantine ships. Many legislators asked the leadership if they could return to their homes to be with their families. Citizens planned how they would evacuate cities. Although there were no reports of widespread panic, there was increased demand for transistor radios, family radiation kits, bottled water, and concentrated foods. Republicans promised to leave the crisis out of their campaigns. Keating said, “If the price the Republicans must pay for his action is the loss of some seats or some votes, I think it’s a pretty small price.”82 Eisenhower agreed: “So far as Cuba and the Soviet Union are concerned, in the weeks ahead we cannot be partisans.”83 According to Arthur Krock of the New York Times, “The issue which the Republicans sought to make paramount in the 1962 Congressional campaign was that President Kennedy had failed to ‘do something’ about the transformation of Cuba into a Soviet missile base. Hence this issue is now ‘dead’ . . . the President killed it Monday night by ‘doing something,’ indeed by an act, which by its nature assured the unified support of the American people.”84 Yet such promises of bipartisanship were not universal. Conservative groups staged a protest outside the White House, carrying signs that read “Appeasement Is for Cowards” and “Damn the Missiles, Full Speed Ahead.”85 Missouri Republican Thomas Curtis, a member of the House Ways and

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Means Committee, described the confrontation as “phony and contrived for election purposes.”86 More common were Republicans who agreed to support the president but nonetheless questioned the timing of his announcement and speculated why Kennedy was only now doing what Republicans had been demanding for several months.The leaders of the Republican congressional committees said that the president’s actions in Cuba had a “distinctly political ring” given that they were occurring two weeks before the midterms.87 Goldwater said, “I hope there was no political motivation in the President’s decision. But I can’t get away from the idea that he didn’t act until after he got out in the country campaigning and found that what I and a lot of others have been saying about Cuba was true.”88 Meanwhile, according to John Finney of the New York Times, Washington was buzzing with speculation about how the United States had missed this intelligence and why Senator Keating seemed to have more information than the administration. “The questions,” he told readers, “are being heard at diplomatic receptions, at Washington cocktail parties and on homebound buses filled with government officials.”89 Both JFK and RFK acknowledged privately that they were vulnerable to these attacks and questions. At a meeting of ExCom on the morning of October 23, the attorney general said, “What we are doing now is, in fact, closing the barn door after the horse is gone.”90 While the Department of State insisted Keating had been wrong about the specific types of missiles that the Soviets had been moving into Cuba, the president and his brother worried about how the events would look to the public.91 Americans breathed a bit more easily when the Pentagon announced on October 25 that all but a few of the Soviet ships that had been heading to Cuba had turned around. That same day, U.N. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson humiliated Soviet Ambassador Valerian Zorin at the Security Council. Stevenson asked Zorin to answer whether the Soviets had offensive missile bases in Cuba. When Zorin, who had charged that the United States had been making false claims, refused to give a straight answer, Stevenson revealed photographs and maps of the bases. On October 26, the president received a letter from Khrushchev, imploring him to avoid war, suggesting that Kennedy was giving in to political pressure from the elections: “We must not succumb to intoxication and petty passions, regardless of whether elections are

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impending in this or that country, or not impending. These are all transient things, but if war should indeed break out, then it would not be in our power to stop it, for such is the logic of war.”92 Then came his offer for a resolution to the crisis: He would remove the missiles if the United States ended the blockade and promised not to invade Cuba. In the end, the Soviets did not challenge the quarantine. The worst moment in the crisis occurred on October 27 when a U-2 spy plane was shot down over Cuba and the pilot was killed. The Joint Chiefs of Staff and most of the officials on ExCom urged the president to attack. Kennedy resisted. That same day, Kennedy received a second letter from Khrushchev, in which he added the demand that the United States remove its missiles from Turkey. Kennedy officials assumed hard-line officials in the Kremlin were pressuring Khrushchev to take a tougher stand. The letter, which was reported on in the U.S. press, generated criticism from Republicans. Richard Nixon, who supported Kennedy’s insistence that the Soviets dismantle the missile bases in Cuba, warned that giving up the missile bases in Turkey would destroy an “anchor of N.A.T.O.” by abandoning “our friends in the Near East and our allies in the free world.”93 At the United Nations, Adlai Stevenson warned that there would be military action if the Soviets did not stop work on the missile bases, which intelligence showed was accelerating. Kennedy instructed state governors to put civil defense programs into effect. War seemed possible. Following some of the tensest days in American history, on October 28, the administration reached a deal with the Soviets. Ignoring the second letter, Kennedy promised Khrushchev that the United States would publicly agree not to invade Cuba and privately promise to remove its missiles from Turkey after the midterm elections. The Soviets assured the administration that they would not reveal the second part of the deal, realizing the problems it would cause with NATO as well as Republicans in Congress. In exchange, the Soviets dismantled their missile sites. The president had excluded four members of ExCom—Republicans Douglas Dillon and John McCone as well as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Maxwell Taylor and Vice President Lyndon Johnson—from the final discussions over this deal. He was concerned that Dillon and McCone might leak information of the deal to fellow Republicans, who would subvert its success. Taylor was steadfast in his opposition

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to a missile deal, while the president’s general distrust of LBJ, which had caused him to exclude him from deliberations on many other decisions, resulted in his absence at this final stage.94 What was the state of the two parties now vis-à-vis national security? Tom Wicker of the New York Times summed up the situation: “Since 1952, when the frustration of the Korean War stalemate gave the Republicans the opening for attacking on this line, they have persistently pictured themselves as the party that knew best how to deal with Communists. Now, having gone as near the brink of war as the Republican Administration of Dwight D. Eisenhower ever did, with dramatic results, Mr. Kennedy and his party should have gone a long way toward scotching this recurrent issue against them.”95 take long for partisan forces to reassert themselves. After the crisis ended, Eisenhower boasted that Republicans deserved credit for having pushed the president to stand up to the Cubans.96 Conservatives formed the Committee for the Monroe Doctrine, which criticized the president’s decision to abandon that doctrine by promising not to invade Cuba. On November 1, Senator Goldwater and Representative Wilson told reporters that the president should answer eight questions about Cuba, including whether the no-invasion guarantee meant that the United States had accepted the permanence of communism in Cuba and whether it would abandon Cuban refugees seeking to overthrow Castro. RNC chairman Miller called for an investigation into the failure of “intelligence agencies to advise the President more promptly of the medium-range missile buildup in Cuba.”97 On a Sunday morning talk show, Keating said that he was baffled why the administration had denied his charges in September and early October when, he charged, they knew the information to be true.98 But the attacks did not work in the short term. “Republicans may argue that the blockade was too little and too late,” said the editors at the Wall Street Journal, “but they can no longer contend that Mr. Kennedy did nothing or is not succeeding so far.”99 The midterm elections were a success for Kennedy and liberals in the Democratic Party. Democrats expanded their Senate majority by two and only lost four seats in the House. It was the first midterm contest since 1934 in which the party in power was able to maintain and even expand its numerical strength. Some of Kennedy’s top critics on Cuba, including Capehart and Representative Walter Judd, were defeated in upsets. Richard Nixon, who had advocated military action against Cuba, lost to incumbent

I

T DID NOT

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California Governor Edmund G. “Pat” Brown. The resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis undercut Nixon’s campaign, which had focused on Democrats’ weakness on the issue of anticommunism. There were many factors behind the outcome of the midterm election. But most pundits, as well as many politicians, agreed that Kennedy’s leadership in the crisis helped the party, given how well Democrats had performed.100 “If the President was running for office in this campaign he’d even carry Maine and Vermont,” said one Democrat of those then rock-rib Republican states.101 However, the election did not provide Kennedy with comfort for very long. He was concerned about the Republican resurgence in Texas, where conservative activists had mounted a ten-year campaign to build a stronger GOP. He believed that despite the upward swing in his popularity as a result of the missile crisis, 1964 would be a “tough campaign,” warning that incumbent Democratic presidents had often encountered unexpectedly rough contests. He thought the midterm elections showed the country was closely divided with Democrats holding only a slight advantage.102 Republicans were not giving up on national security. In 1963, some charged that the president had covered up or ignored CIA warnings while failing to authorize U-2 flights in September. Keating charged that, while McCone had provided shocking data to the president throughout August and September 1962, “our Government kept busy denying everything.”103 Gerald Ford, who chaired the House Republican Conference and served on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, said that the “whole situation has a peculiar odor.” Reporters referred to the “photo gap” and the “picture gap.”104 After the United States announced it would dismantle the Jupiter missile bases in Turkey in January, Republicans charged that this was a result of a secret deal to resolve the Cuban Missile Crisis. Admitting that he could not prove the charge, Pennsylvania Senator Hugh Scott said, “there may have been some kind of understanding . . . between Khrushchev and our President whereby before the election Khrushchev would remove the (Cuban) missiles and after the election we could abandon our bases along the Mediterranean.” Undersecretary of State George Ball urged Republicans to stop their partisan attacks on the administration’s Cuba policy.105 To make matters worse, Republicans and some southern Democrats—supported by internal CIA documents—said that Kennedy was ignoring another Soviet buildup. While the administration focused on covert efforts to remove Castro from power, Senators Stennis, Goldwater, and Thurmond warned that large numbers of Soviet

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troops had moved into Cuba since the famous weeks of October and could be preparing to reinstall missile bases. In his newsletter, Thurmond wrote, “hopes based on the Soviet Union’s show of removing its missiles are being shattered.”106 Keating told McCone that he had reports of 35,000 to 40,000 Soviet personnel in Cuba and many more armored units than suspected. Keating produced a position paper that called for the removal of all Soviet-bloc forces, weapons, and military equipment, as well as the overthrow of Castro’s regime.107 “I do not think the people of the United States have been told all the facts,” Keating said in February. “I don’t think the Congress has a sufficient knowledge of the facts as a whole.”108 The attacks were so serious that Secretary of Defense McNamara interrupted popular shows on February 6 to show pictures confirming that offensive missiles had been removed and to explain that the number of Soviet personnel in Cuba had actually declined since October 1962. He wrote Keating that, while he did not want to engage in “partisan debate” on such an important issue, the senator’s statements about Soviet medium-range sites in Cuba were “incorrect.”109 A Senate investigation, conducted by a committee that included hawks like Symington, Jackson, Thurmond, and Goldwater, concluded that Keating’s charges were unfounded. In May 1963, Symington told Democrats that a majority of Americans felt the president had the Cuba situation “under control last fall but had now lost it.”110 In October, Goldwater wrote that the United States had become a “laughingstock since a comparatively unarmed Cuba soundly kicked the daylights out of a U.S. sponsored invasion force at the Bay of Pigs; the ‘get tough’ ultimatum to Khrushchev about missile withdrawal was found to have been offset by the shutdown of our own bases” in Turkey.111 Meanwhile, a new political controversy loomed as Kennedy tried to change the basic terms of the Cold War by proposing a nuclear test ban treaty. Proponents of a ban on atmospheric and underwater testing of nuclear weapons had been pushing for some kind of treaty since 1952, when the United States tested the first hydrogen bomb. The Soviets, under Khrushchev, had supported a ban since the mid-1950s. Adlai Stevenson had called for a ban in both of his presidential campaigns in 1952 and 1956, while Dwight Eisenhower slowly came around to this position by 1958, though his administration failed to reach an agreement. The main opponents of a nuclear test ban in 1963 were many and powerful. The Joint Chiefs of Staff feared it would endanger national security. Members of the Republican Right argued that a test

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ban was part of a broader effort by McNamara to slow the production of nuclear weapons and redirect funds toward conventional forces. They said that McNamara’s interpretation of nuclear confrontation, which he called Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD), did not include Eisenhower’s insistence on maintaining the nuclear primacy of the United States. McNamara was arguing that in order to make nuclear war implausible, neither superpower should have any sense of nuclear superiority. Conservative activists felt that McNamara had won acceptance for lowering nuclear weapons production just at the moment the Soviets were accelerating theirs.112 Kennedy’s determination to sign a test ban treaty had increased after the Cuban Missile Crisis. He sought ways both to radically decrease the possibility of war and lower the defense budget. Without a test ban, he felt, both objectives were impossible. Kennedy was also worried that the Chinese were closer to obtaining nuclear weapons themselves, and only a treaty could diminish their drive. The Soviets were equally concerned about the Chinese, though not willing to say so in public. Kremlin officials also concluded that a test ban would help diminish the U.S. advantage in several weapons systems. Many Republicans in Congress had tamed their public opposition in the aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Without a treaty, everyone understood, the threat of rapid nuclear proliferation was increasing every year. Negotiations on the test ban occurred from March through May, but disputes over verification hampered the discussions. To move the process forward, on June 10 Kennedy delivered a dramatic and eloquent commencement address at American University. I speak of peace, therefore, as the necessary rational end of rational men. I realize that the pursuit of peace is not as dramatic as the pursuit of war—and frequently the words of the pursuer fall on deaf ears. But we have no more urgent task. . . . No government or social system is so evil that its people must be considered as lacking in virtue. As Americans, we find communism profoundly repugnant as a negation of personal freedom and dignity. But we can still hail the Russian people for their many achievements—in science and space, in economic and industrial growth, in culture and in acts of courage.

He said that through a test ban the United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union could “check the spiraling arms race in one of its most dangerous areas.”

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The speech was well received by the Soviets.113 On August 5, 1963, the United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union reached an agreement for a Limited Test Ban Treaty that prohibited atmospheric, space, and underwater testing.The ban would not prevent the three from underground testing or even using nuclear weapons. The administration remained nervous about whether the Republican Right and hawkish scientists like Edward Teller would subvert the ratification process. By limiting the test ban rather than agreeing to a total moratorium, Kennedy undercut the opposition of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. When it came to Congress, the president had wisely consulted with three Democrats and two Republicans throughout the negotiations. Now, he aggressively lobbied the Senate, with the hope of avoiding the fate that President Wilson had suffered with the League of Nations. On September 24, the Senate ratified the treaty, 80 to 19. Polls showed that Americans overwhelmingly approved of the treaty.114 Although Kennedy believed that his chances for re-election in 1964 were extremely good, the attacks on the Test Ban Treaty and his handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis concerned him. Advisors were warning him that the “right-wing seems to have been more successful, politically, than is generally realized.”115 HE PRESIDENT’S NERVOUSNESS

about conservatives influenced his actions in another major area of conflict. For the West, the problem of Vietnam did not start in 1963 but rather with the 1954 defeat of the French colonial army by the indigenous Viet Minh, headed by Ho Chi Minh. Ho had formed the Viet Minh in 1941 to fight against the Japanese occupiers and then, after they were defeated, against the French. As the Cold War intensified in the late 1940s, President Truman sent U.S. military support to the French and, along with other policy makers, perceived the conflict through the prism of the Cold War rather than as a local conflict over nationalism and imperialism. Eisenhower continued the policies of Truman by sending more assistance to the French. He resisted proposals by some, including Vice President Nixon, to send ground troops. At the Geneva Conference held from May 8 to July 21, 1954, the Soviet Union, China, France, and Great Britain agreed to provisionally partition Vietnam. Secretary Dulles attended the conference but had no intention of giving ground to the North Vietnamese. In the South was the Western-allied government under Ngo Dinh Diem, a Catholic trained at a seminary in New Jersey who had re-

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turned to Vietnam as a strong opponent of communism. In the North was the government of Ho Chi Minh, more a nationalist than a communist.The Geneva Accords promised that there would be national elections in 1956. The Soviets and Chinese had pressured Ho Chi Minh into accepting the division, anticipating that he would easily win a national election. Throughout, Dulles maintained an adversarial posture. He insulted Zhou Enlai, the Chinese foreign minister, when he did not shake his hand or sit near him. Dulles attended the conference with the intention of making the North Vietnamese think that the United States might take action on its own. After having sat through the first part of the deliberations in “almost pathological rage and gloom,” according to British Foreign Minister Evelyn Shuckburgh, Dulles went back home, leaving Undersecretary of State Walter Bedell Smith to handle the rest with instructions coming from Washington.116 Although the final terms were more favorable to the West than Dulles had expected, the administration refused to sign the accords, in order to give the United States maximum room for maneuver against the North Vietnamese in years to come. In September, the United States signed on to the creation of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) in a commitment to prevent the spread of communism. France, Britain, New Zealand, Australia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Pakistan were the other signators. If the communists ruled a reunited Vietnam, some U.S. policy makers feared, neighboring countries would fall one by one to communism. And so the United States rejected any possibility of thawing tensions with the North Vietnamese and gave its full support to the corrupt and autocratic government of Diem and his brother Ngo Dinh Nhu. Although Eisenhower did not deploy combat troops there, the United States established a strong presence in South Vietnam, through economic assistance and CIA operatives from 1955 to 1961. Kennedy expanded the commitment by sending military advisors to help train Diem’s forces against the National Liberation Front (NLF), also called the Viet Cong, founded in 1960 as the main opposition force in the South. The NLF received extensive military support from the North. While sending advisors to the region, Kennedy remained reluctant to commit troops. He was ambivalent about what to do in Vietnam. He was receiving reports (including from Secretary McNamara) of the difficulties the United States was experiencing in the

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region and the dangers of escalation, but he resisted proposals for an immediate withdrawal. According to presidential advisor Kenneth O’Donnell, Kennedy recalled the politics of the 1950s: “If I tried to pull out completely now from Vietnam we would have another Joe McCarthy Red scare on our hands. But I can do it after I’m reelected. So we had better make damn sure that I am re-elected.”117 Yet Kennedy was also sensitive enough to the risks involved with the region to firmly oppose using ground troops. “The troops will march in; the bands will play,” Kennedy said, “the crowds will cheer; and in four days everyone will have forgotten. Then we will be told we have to send more troops. It’s like taking a drink.The effect wears off, and you have to take another.”118 And so he stuck with advisors, but a considerable number of them by mid-1963, approximately 16,000. Then in the summer of 1963, the situation disintegrated into a total crisis. International support for Diem rapidly eroded as he violently repressed his opponents. U.S. support for his regime became harder to justify. The protest of Buddhists—including a monk who immolated himself in front of photographers on June 11—stunned the world and confirmed the impression that the United States was supporting an autocrat. Kennedy attempted to stabilize the situation by working with his ambassador to South Vietnam, former Senator Henry Cabot Lodge Jr., whom he had selected to build bipartisan support for his policies. Kennedy allowed a coup to take place once it was clear by October that there was no hope for a rehabilitation of the government. During the coup on November 2, Diem and his brother Nhu were killed, something that Kennedy had not explicitly disapproved of but which he did not expect. Many in President Kennedy’s inner circle have said that he was planning to withdraw the advisors from Vietnam once he was reelected. We will never know. Kennedy’s confidence in foreign policy combined with his continued high approval ratings (after reaching over eighty percent in his first year, they were still high in 1963, averaging sixty-three percent) offered incentives to remove the United States from this conflict. He had demonstrated with Laos, Cuba, and the Limited Test Ban Treaty that he was willing to choose diplomacy even when facing enormous pressure to choose war. But at the same time the immediate political considerations of 1963, with fears of how a withdrawal would play into the hands of Republicans in the presidential election, resulted in his staying the

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course and meshed with some of his strategic objectives. Khrushchev made overtures about arms negotiations, in an effort to cut his defense budget and lessen the chances of nuclear war, but Kennedy concluded that the United States could prevent the spread of communism in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, and so he focused on ways of doing that rather than on détente with the Soviets.119 On November 22, 1963, Kennedy went to Dallas. He had privately called it “nut country,” and conservative protesters were everywhere. An associate of General Edwin Walker handed out 5,000 handbills about Kennedy modeled after police “most wanted” circulars. “This man is wanted for treason,” the handbills read, for “turning the sovereignty of the U.S. over to the communist controlled United Nations” and for having been “WRONG on innumerable issues affecting the security of the U.S.”120 These would be among the last faces the president saw. That day he was assassinated, and it is not surprising that many observers assumed the far right was responsible.121 days, President Kennedy revitalized the political standing of liberal internationalism. At a critical turning point, facing a concerted effort by Republicans to use national security to regain electoral ground lost in the late 1950s, he emerged from the Cuban missile crisis emboldened by a model of how Democrats could protect the nation. He had resisted political pressure, and as a result, improved his party’s standing. But the events of 1963 demonstrated that Kennedy, and other like-minded Democrats, had not eliminated the Republican Right nor its powerful hold on the GOP. It remained a vocal source of opposition. Instead, both parties were just surviving in an intensely competitive environment. And when Kennedy was killed, he left behind a dangerous and volatile situation in Vietnam that his successor, Lyndon Johnson, would have to resolve.

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his presidency, in May 1964, Lyndon Johnson told National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy that Vietnam was the “biggest damn mess I ever saw” and that it looked to him like they were getting “into another Korea.” Recently he had looked, he said, at a sergeant he knew, who had six children, and wondered why he should send him to Vietnam: “What in the hell am I ordering him out there for?”1 Yet Johnson did not listen to the people who were telling him to avoid war and instead followed the recommendations of advisors and legislators who urged him to take a tougher stand against the North Vietnamese, first obtaining from Congress authorization in August 1964 to use force and then Americanizing the conflict in the spring of 1965 with a massive influx of troops. Historians have offered many reasons for why Johnson intensified America’s involvement in Vietnam: his sense of machismo and fear of looking weak, the domino theory whereby if one country fell to communism all the others in the region would follow, the political pressure he felt to stand firm against communists and avoid another political fiasco like “losing China,” and so on. During one discussion with Georgia Democratic Senator Richard Russell in 1964, Johnson wondered what would happen if he tried to exit Vietnam: “They’d impeach a President, though, . . . wouldn’t they? Outside of [Senator Wayne] Morse, everybody I talk to says you got to go in. . . . I don’t know how in the hell you’re gonna get out unless they [Republicans] tell you to get out.”2

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While the risk of impeachment was clearly an exaggeration, Johnson’s general fears were very real in the political context of the times. Combined with his acceptance of the domino theory, Johnson, like Kennedy, faced tremendous political pressure to accelerate rather than curtail the intervention in Vietnam.3 He believed that Republicans would capitalize on any sign of Democratic weakness to build support for a more lethal war that included nuclear weapons. He felt that he had to succeed in Vietnam in order to achieve his ambitious domestic agenda, the Great Society. 1964 PRESIDENTIAL campaign pushed Americans deeper into Vietnam. Neither Democrats nor Republicans exhibited much restraint when dealing with national security during their campaigns, both adopting a vicious tone as the natural expression of almost fifteen years of partisan battle. The campaign pitted two politicians who embodied the competing ideologies of the era— liberal internationalism (Johnson) and conservative internationalism (Goldwater). Johnson was a product of the 1950s Congress, a legislative creature who always kept an eye on the political ramifications of any move he made, for himself and his party. He was a southern Democrat from Texas who had spent his entire political career trying to strengthen the marriage between liberalism and the South. During the New Deal, Johnson had used his position as the head of the Texas branch of the National Youth Administration to direct federal funds toward African Americans and Mexican Americans. After serving in the House of Representatives from 1937 to 1949, he was elected to the Senate in 1948, becoming minority leader in 1953 with the support of his mentor, the Senate powerhouse Richard Russell. Johnson’s signature accomplishment as majority leader had been the Civil Rights Act of 1957, as he convinced southerners to vote for the first civil rights bill since Reconstruction, although most liberals saw it as too watered down. On foreign policy, Senator Johnson was a Cold War hawk who championed a strong liberal internationalist position for the Democratic Party, allying with President Eisenhower against Senate Republicans on certain national security bills where the GOP found itself divided and attacking the administration for being excessively timid on questions like missile construction and Cuba. Johnson desperately wanted to be president, and he had southern support. But John F. Kennedy eclipsed his ambitions in the 1960

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election, rising up as the charismatic star of the party, leaving Johnson with little choice but to settle for the vice presidential slot. On the campaign trail, the Austin-Boston connection created a powerful bridge within the party, but it was one the administration could not sustain once in power. Johnson didn’t like Kennedy, his brother Robert, or the circle they brought to Washington. He felt that members of Kennedy’s inner circle were arrogant and inexperienced, undeserving of their success. Johnson’s enormous ego and overbearing persona made it difficult for him to live in the shadow of the younger and more popular JFK. But Kennedy’s assassination changed everything. Three weeks before Kennedy’s death, there had been a coup in South Vietnam, with the tacit support of the United States, resulting in the death of President Diem. Johnson was now dealing with a crumbling regime in Saigon. Upon taking office, he was determined to move forward with a bold vision of domestic policy, one that included civil rights, health care for the elderly, tax cuts, and antipoverty programs. The death of Kennedy created public support for him to complete what JFK had left unfinished. “Let us continue,” said the new president. assumed the presidency under such traumatic circumstances, LBJ felt he had to prove to the nation, to Congress, perhaps even to himself, that he was a legitimate president. And the only way to prove that was to have a decisive election victory of his own in 1964. And as a creature of Congress, he was well aware how important the size of the Democratic majority would be to his success on Capitol Hill, as well as the size of the conservative coalition. Johnson’s opponent, Barry Goldwater, was the son of Protestant and Jewish department store entrepreneurs. As a boy, his unimpressive school grades convinced his parents to send him to a military academy, where he thrived. During World War II, he served in an air force unit in charge of carrying supplies, an assignment primarily for older soldiers. His record was not much more impressive than that of Johnson, who had spent most of the war inspecting shipyards for the navy. Johnson had received a Silver Star in 1942 for the one mission on which he was sent after repeatedly asking to see some kind of combat, but he was only a passenger on the flight and it was unclear whether the plane encountered gunfire or turned back as a result of a mechanical problem. The historian Robert Dallek has argued that Johnson received his medal by lobbying General MacArthur and promising to persuade FDR to send more support to MacArthur’s

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forces.4 After working in local government for several years, Goldwater ran for the Senate in 1952, stunning Democrats by defeating Majority Leader Ernest McFarland. Goldwater was comfortable, and shaped by, the arguments of the Republican Right, emerging as one of its most promising stars. In 1954, he was one of the twenty-two senators who voted against censuring Senator Joe McCarthy. He scorned Eisenhower’s moderate Republicanism as “dime store New Deal” and called United Auto Workers President Walter Reuther a “more dangerous menace than the Sputnik or anything Soviet Russia might do to America.”5 Goldwater gained national attention with his 1960 book The Conscience of a Conservative, in which he advocated a war against communism that relied on everything from nuclear weapons to foreign aid.6 He reluctantly accepted that big government was needed to defend the nation and defeat communism: “As a conservative, I deplore the huge tax levy that is needed to finance the world’s number-one military establishment. But even more do I deplore the prospect of a foreign conquest, which the absence of that establishment would quickly accomplish.”7 If the defense budget had to grow, however, something had to shrink. And so Goldwater advocated cutting New Deal domestic programs, including Social Security, and containing the expansion of presidential power, whose supporters, he said, had shown a “totalitarian philosophy that the end justifies the means,” weakening the other branches.8 Because of Goldwater’s candidacy, the Republican primaries turned into a debate about the character of the party, not just a contest between two Republicans. Nixon, who had demonstrated the ability to appeal to the different factions of the GOP, decided not to run. Goldwater’s candidacy represented an open effort by the Republican Right to win control of the party. His main opponent, New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, represented the northeastern liberal wing of the party, centrist on social policy but hawkish on foreign policy. Rockefeller portrayed Goldwater as a dangerous extremist, asking primary voters who they wanted in the room with the “H-bomb button.” The Republican Convention at the Cow Palace in San Francisco was a raucous affair. When Rockefeller went to the podium to speak, Goldwater’s supporters loudly booed him and yelled insults. As the delegates chanted “We want Barry!” Rockefeller warned against the “extremist threat” facing the party. But Goldwater had the delegates. In his acceptance speech, he responded to Rockefeller’s admonition, famously, and to thunderous applause: “I would

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remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” As for Vietnam, he knew how to get right under LBJ’s skin: “Yesterday it was Korea. Tonight it is Vietnam.” As a result of his identification with right-wing activists, Goldwater’s candidacy became a test case to see whether a Republican who fully embraced the positions of the Republican Right could win a presidential election, or if they had to continue to work through “mainstream” Republican leaders to promote their ideas. Goldwater told supporters that the administration was hiding its true intentions to escalate the war in Vietnam. America was already at war, he said, and the president needed to acknowledge this and authorize a full-scale military attack, through bombing, rather than half-hearted measures. Although most Republicans were not enthusiastic about a large military campaign in Vietnam in 1964, Goldwater was not the only one in his party criticizing Johnson for a timid stance toward communism.9 Republicans were warning of trouble in Moscow, as Khrushchev was forced to resign under pressure from hard-liners in October. He was replaced by Leonid Brezhnev, who was also a product of the post-Stalin era but gave indications he would adopt a tougher stance toward internal opponents and a more confrontational posture toward the United States. Nixon, who was then working as a lawyer in a prominent New York firm and also speaking around the country to build his reputation on foreign policy, said in a televised address that the new Soviet leadership was “tougher than the old Khrushchev was, they are more dangerous for that reason. . . . Against the new team in the Kremlin, America needs a new team in the State Department and in the White House.”10 The Republican platform in 1964 promised that the GOP would fight for a “free and independent government in Cuba” and insist on a complete withdrawal of Soviet forces from the island. A flood of right-wing books hit the bookstores including the third edition of Phyllis Schlafly’s A Choice Not an Echo and J. Evetts Haley’s A Texan Looks at Lyndon.11 Senate Minority Leader Dirksen warned that Johnson’s “indecision” was “dribbling away both American lives and American prestige in Southeast Asia.”12 These attacks posed a difficult challenge to Johnson since Democrats had not yet coalesced around a clear position on Vietnam. Behind the scenes, this period was marked by confusion, uncertainty, and division. There were many top advisors who privately were not convinced that defending South Vietnam was a tenable or necessary

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objective. William Bundy, whose brother McGeorge served as national security advisor to Kennedy and Johnson, was one of those doubters. He had extensive experience in national security, having started his career as an analyst at the CIA in 1951—where he had a confrontation with Joseph McCarthy, who questioned his loyalty— and entering the Kennedy administration as deputy to the assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, Paul Nitze. He replaced Nitze in 1964 when his boss moved on to become secretary of the navy and was then named by LBJ as assistant secretary of state for the Far East. Although he was a Cold War hawk with impeccable credentials, Bundy had privately expressed doubts about the mission in Vietnam to his colleagues. In internal memoranda, he rejected the argument that the collapse of Vietnam to communism would result in a domino effect or that sticking with the South Vietnamese government was wise. In 1964, Bundy favored an aggressive bombing campaign to convince the North Vietnamese, without the use of U.S. troops, to accept a coalition government with the South Vietnamese government and the National Liberation Front, a plan that France’s President Charles de Gaulle supported. Although most of Johnson’s advisors advocated continued military involvement, congressional Democrats did not have a clear vision of what to do. If anything, most Democrats were skeptical about the commitment to Vietnam, doubting that the war could be won. Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield had asked the president in December 1963, “What national interests in Asia would steel the American people for the massive costs of an ever-deepening involvement of that kind?” In January 1964, referring to a phone call where Johnson said he did not want another China in Vietnam, he wrote the president: “Neither do we want another Korea. It would seem that a key (but often overlooked) factor in both situations was a tendency to bite off more than we were prepared in the end to chew.”13 While warnings from senators such as Idaho’s liberal Frank Church were predictable, Johnson was also hearing from the southern conservative Democrat George Smathers, who reported he was having trouble finding legislators who thought “we ought to fight a war in that area of the world.”14 As Max Frankel of the New York Times wrote, “It is beginning to look as if the Democrats plan to be their own most vigorous critics in this year’s election debate.”15 Most Americans had little knowledge about events in South Vietnam and strongly supported peace in the region or at least nonintervention. As Johnson himself acknowledged, “I don’t think the American people are quite ready for us to send our [combat] troops.”16

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The most revealing example of this opposition to the war within the Democratic Party came with Johnson’s most trusted ally, the hawkish Richard Russell, who did not support American involvement. On May 27, Johnson called the senator to let him know that he needed advice on the “Vietnam thing.” Russell said it was the “damn worst mess I ever saw,” and there was no way out without a major war against China in the jungles. Russell said the U.S. position was “deteriorating,” and it looks like “the more we try to do for them the less they are willing to do for themselves.” He said that the American people were not prepared to send in their citizens to fight. If it came to the option of sending Americans in to fight or getting out, Russell said, “I’d get out.”When Johnson asked him what was at stake, Russell responded that the territory was not worth a “damn bit” to the United States. Russell also said he was concerned that Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara was not as “objective” as he needed to be in surveying conditions in Vietnam and that he didn’t understand the “history and background” of the Vietnamese people. Even McNamara, Russell added, had admitted to Congress that the situation was not improving. Calling it a “tragic situation,” Russell said this was a crisis where Johnson could not win. He warned Johnson that Senator Wayne Morse, who was one of the most vocal opponents of escalation, reflected the sentiment of a majority of Americans.17 At the same time, the conflicted president felt intense pressure to maintain America’s presence. He remained one of the strongest hawks in the executive branch.18 He feared what his hawkish advisors were telling him, that the loss of South Vietnam would constitute an enormous strategic defeat in the war against communism.19 Speechwriter Theodore Sorenson agreed with Johnson that proposals for a neutralization of South Vietnam (a plan, promoted by Senator Mansfield, which had originated with de Gaulle, to allow the Vietnamese to resolve the conflict without international intervention) were not yet tenable: “The commitment to preserve Vietnamese independence was not made by Democrats—but we are not free to abandon it.”20 As opposition to escalation increased on Capitol Hill and in the media in early 1964, McNamara, Secretary of State Dean Rusk, McGeorge Bundy, and Sorenson all wrote Johnson memos that included warnings of the political ramifications he and Democrats would face for failing in Vietnam, by reminding him of the politics of the 1950s.21 Defending McNamara as a “flexible fella” who

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wanted to avoid provoking the Chinese into a war, Johnson explained to Russell that the Pentagon was being lobbied by Republicans and the conservative media to be more aggressive in bombing North Vietnam.22 The president said that Americans in places like Georgia would “forgive you for everything except being weak,” especially with Goldwater “raising hell” about going on a “hot pursuit” with more bombing. Russell, who was, of course, from Georgia, agreed with Johnson’s assessment.23 Always thinking five steps ahead, Johnson was not worried about public opinion at the moment, since it was clear there was not strong sentiment for the United States to open up a lengthy war in South Vietnam, but where public opinion could move and how Republicans might capitalize on it. Johnson said, “The Republicans [are] going to make a political issue out of it, every one of them.”24 When confronted with proposals to withdraw forces from Vietnam, Johnson could not stop thinking about the period when Democrats in the 1950s had paid a high price because of accusations of not standing firm against communism. “I’m not going to lose Vietnam,” Johnson told his ambassador to Vietnam, Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. “I am not going to be the president who saw Southeast Asia go the way China went.”25 He told one reporter in February that he could not “run and let the dominoes start falling over. And God Almighty, what they said about us leaving China would just be warming up, compared to what they’d say now. I see Nixon is raising hell about it today. Goldwater too.”26 Strategic and political considerations were connected in Johnson’s mind. Besides electoral politics, the administration feared that if Republicans gained control of Congress or the White House, they would produce a much deadlier war than the Democrats would, likely triggering a nuclear conflict by drawing in China. As Johnson advisor George Ball explained, “Our principal concern was . . . that there would be a kind of orgasm of outrage in the Congress and that some of the right-wing hawk Republicans might take such action that would be in effect a declaration of war or would put the administration in a position where we had to do things which we thought would be very unwise, that might involve bringing the Chinese in or offending somebody else.”27 In the heat of the campaign, Johnson was determined to make sure that the issue did not weaken his chances for an overwhelming victory in November. While many observers dismissed Goldwater as an extremist who had no chance of winning, Johnson had seen

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enough in his political lifetime, including Dewey not beating Truman in 1948 and Democrats losing their reputation on national security by 1952, to understand that overconfidence in American politics was foolhardy. The president was also hoping for a landslide victory for himself, along with huge congressional majorities, so that he could disprove the skeptics (some real, some imagined) who did not think that he deserved to be president and would never win a national election. The competitive Johnson dreamed of outdoing Roosevelt’s 60.8 percent in 1936.28 The president took steps to ensure that he would not be vulnerable to conservative attack. His major goal was to make it hard for the GOP to make an issue out of Vietnam by demonstrating that he was tough and would be ready for war, should it come, while also proving to the public that he was less likely to actually drag the nation into a conflict.29 He made certain to display his hawkish credentials as a politician who had spent more than a decade in the legislative trenches in the war against communism. A few weeks before the Democratic convention, in late July, Johnson stepped up secret naval operations in the Gulf of Tonkin, just off the coast of Vietnam, with the hope of intimidating the North Vietnamese and taking the defense issue away from Goldwater, an issue that Lou Harris reported was “working” for the Republicans.30 The president downplayed an attack that may have occurred on a navy ship in the gulf on August 2 and refused to approve proposals for a military response. Johnson concluded that it had probably been a mistake or the result of a decision by a low-level commander. In a phone conversation, Johnson told McNamara that he wanted to leave the impression with the public that he would be firm “as hell” but without saying something “dangerous.” While leaving this incident alone, Johnson reiterated the point that the country wanted him to be firm because Goldwater was “raising so much hell about how he is going to blow them off the moon and they say we oughtn’t to do anything that the national interest doesn’t require but we sure ought to always leave the impression that if you shoot at us you are going to get hit.”31 That approach did not last long. In the early hours of August 4, there were scattered reports of another attack. At the first NSC meeting after the reports, Treasury Secretary Douglas Dillon, a Republican, told the president, “There is a limit on the number of times we can be attacked by the North Vietnamese without [the United

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States] hitting their naval bases.” When Johnson met with members of Congress to inform them about the situation that evening, several Democrats wavered about what to do while all the Republicans in attendance (Senators Saltonstall and Dirksen and Representative Halleck) supported a congressional resolution authorizing the use of force. During a walk with presidential advisor Kenneth O’Donnell, Johnson and he agreed that the administration was being “tested” and that a tough response was essential, not just for the North Vietnamese, but with an eye toward Goldwater. Johnson was not convinced an attack had taken place (the evidence has continued to suggest that Johnson was right to doubt), but he used the alleged incident to seek broader powers. The president pushed for a resolution granting him sweeping authority to increase military operations in the region. Electoral calculations were central to his request.32 Johnson privately asked Goldwater on August 4 to support him. Goldwater said he thought this was the “proper action.”33 The senator, who was also not convinced that the attacks on U.S. ships had taken place, released a statement proclaiming, “We cannot allow the American flag to be shot at anywhere on earth if we are to retain our respect and prestige.”34 The resolution was sold to legislators as a limited measure to protect the navy and prevent further attacks. Johnson had assured Fulbright he would return to Congress if he needed to expand the operation.35 Almost all Senate Democrats, who were nervous about granting this expansion of presidential power, went along for a variety of reasons. Arkansas Senator J. William Fulbright—the respected chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee—personally assured them that Johnson would not misuse the authority they gave him and that the measure would protect the president, and Democrats, from rightwing attacks in the election.36 It would ensure that Goldwater, seen by most in the party as far more dangerous, would lose. Liberal and moderate first-term senators elected in 1958 in heavily Republican states were worried about keeping their seats. The administrative assistant of Ohio’s Stephen Young, who was up for re-election, told his boss that a vote against the resolution would be political suicide. Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution on August 7 with only two votes in opposition, Oregon’s Wayne Morse (who had become a Democrat in 1955) and Alaska Democrat Ernest Gruening. Many legislators from each party, all regions, and various ideological backgrounds, however, expressed deep reservations about the measure.37

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Through the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, Johnson sent a strong signal to voters that he would not back down in the face of communism. Johnson was elated as his poll numbers, which were already high, continued to rise.38 On August 10, Lou Harris reported that the number of Americans who trusted Johnson, rather than Goldwater, to handle the situation in Vietnam had risen from 59 percent before the attack to 71 percent after it.39 Johnson also hit Goldwater hard for his proposal during the campaign to establish an all-volunteer army. Goldwater echoed a familiar criticism by conservatives, opposing the draft as an excessive form of government intrusion and an inefficient way to build an army. The president responded by playing it both ways. Secretary McNamara revealed that the Pentagon was already conducting a study on shifting to a professional army, but the administration also said that it was wrong for Goldwater to play politics with the draft. Johnson and his supporters had hit Goldwater hard for making a reckless proposal to end the draft given the international challenges America faced. Johnson urged newspaper editors to repeat this point. The New York Times noted, “When Adlai E. Stevenson raised this same question in the 1956 campaign, Senator Goldwater did not dissent from the thunderous Republican chorus of charges that to end the draft would gravely weaken the nation’s defenses.”40 McNamara charged that Goldwater had been irresponsible when he promoted an end to the draft before an alternative system was found.41 In the context of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and the defense of the draft, the president surrounded himself with Kennedy’s most hawkish advisors, including Walt Rostow, Dean Rusk, and McGeorge Bundy. Breaking the tradition of insulating secretaries of defense from elections, Johnson instructed McNamara to deliver speeches rebutting Goldwater’s claims that the United States would lose ninety percent of its “deliverable nuclear capacity” by the 1970s as a result of Democratic policies.42 Johnson instructed Rusk and McNamara to monitor Republican statements on Vietnam and prepare strong responses for reporters as the debate turned uglier.43 While Johnson protected himself from hawkish attacks, he simultaneously turned the tables on Goldwater by claiming that the senator was an unstable individual who could not be trusted with a nuclear stockpile. Americans for Democratic Action President John Roche suggested to presidential advisor Bill Moyers that Democrats could mount a “savage assault” on Goldwater. He proposed a bill-

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board that read “Goldwater in 64—Hotwater in 65?”44 The president capitalized on a statement by Goldwater in an ABC television interview back in May. The senator said that in Vietnam Johnson was fighting the kind of defensive war that “is never won,” and to really shut down the hidden trails that the communists were using to move troops through the jungles, Goldwater discussed several situations where the United States might defoliate the area by using “low-yield atomic weapons.”Although he added that he did not think the United States would use this option, the comment was taken out of context by Democratic campaign officials to suggest that Goldwater intended to use nuclear weapons. In discussions with reporters, Johnson pointed to such statements as evidence of Goldwater’s recklessness and implicitly questioned the stability of the Republican.45 By late August, many of the nation’s most prominent and respected journalists, such as Walter Lippmann, were warning that Goldwater would take the nation into a full-scale war. At this point in the campaign, Johnson believed that the most important development in the race, even more important than the white backlash against Democrats from civil rights legislation, was the “Republican backlash” of moderates against Goldwater.46 As Johnson explained to House Majority Leader Carl Albert (Oklahoma), according to a Gallup poll completed in early September, “The three issues are roughly, peace, prosperity, and Medicare . . . the party best [to] keep us out of war, Democrats 44, Republicans 20.”47 On September 7, 1964, the Democratic National Committee played on these perceptions by airing the famous “Daisy” ad on prime-time television during a showing of the movie David and Bathsheba. The ad opens with a little girl picking petals off a daisy. She counts the petals to ten, then viewers hear a male voice count down from ten to one. The camera zooms in on one of her eyes, then a nuclear explosion fills the screen, and we hear the voice of President Johnson: “These are the stakes—to make a world in which all of God’s children can live, or to go into the dark. We must either love each other, or we must die.” Then another male voice says, “Vote for President Johnson on November 3. The stakes are too high for you to stay home.” The commercial caused a firestorm. The chairman of the Republican National Committee accused Democrats of libeling Goldwater. Dirksen, whose support in June had been crucial to Johnson in ending the filibuster against the Civil Rights Act, wrote the

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National Association of Broadcasters that the commercial violated the NAB code of ethics and took “political campaigning to a depth never before approached in the history of television.”48 Both parties later pledged to a Fair Campaign Practices Code in which they would avoid vilifying opponents through unfair accusations. The Johnson campaign pulled the ad after that one airing, but the effect of the spot and the national media reporting about it was to tar Goldwater as an out-of-control militarist. Through that ad, boasted Bill Moyers, the Democrats had “hung the nuclear noose around Goldwater and finished him off.”49 He wrote the president, “I think we succeeded in our first spot—the one on the control of nuclear weapons.” In response to complaints that the ad was “reckless,” Moyers added, “That’s exactly what we wanted to imply. And we also hoped someone around Goldwater would say it, not us. They did.Yesterday was spent in trying to show that Goldwater isn’t reckless. . . . This particular ad was designed to run only one time.”50 In subsequent statements, the president asserted he was the only candidate who would “keep the United States out of the war in Vietnam.”51 On November 3, 1964, Johnson won 61.1 percent of the popular vote (outdoing, as he had hoped, FDR’s 60.8 in 1936) and 486 electoral votes (less, however, than FDR’s 523 in 1936). Democrats enjoyed big majorities in the House, 295 to 140, and Senate, 68 to 32. Most observers concluded that conservatives had been totally marginalized and that Johnson had a mandate to aggressively expand domestic programs into new areas of American life. Johnson, while crafting a domestic program that appealed to liberals who were hoping to extend the reach of the federal government beyond the New Deal, had succeeded where Truman had failed. He had neutralized Republicans on national security by proving to voters with the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that he would be tough in Southeast Asia but also promising to keep the nation out of war, the same kind of posture that the country had seen from Wilson in 1916 and FDR in 1940. VEN THOUGH THE election marked a major victory for Democrats, the president did not rest easy. Johnson, the consummate politician, could still find ample reason to worry. For example, Goldwater’s victories in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina had expanded on Eisenhower’s success at breaking into the Democratic South. House Republicans also made gains in the South. The main reason for these victories was the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Because of that landmark legislation, Johnson report-

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edly told aide Bill Moyers, who asked him why he looked so down the night he signed the landmark legislation, “I think we just delivered the South to the Republican party for a long time to come.”52 But the loss of states in the most hawkish region of the country made Johnson especially, if not overly, sensitive to how appearing “soft” in the war against communism would affect the future of Democrats and his own presidency. On November 5, he asked McNamara for an update about the situation in Vietnam. McNamara told the president that Vietnam was a “worrisome problem,” explaining that he, Rusk, and Bundy were not sure what would come next. McNamara said that they were trying to find something in between the “clobber China” school and the current course of action.53 After reviewing the results of the election, Johnson returned to Russell. The Georgian’s feelings about Vietnam, which he called Johnson’s “worst problem,” had not changed. He said they needed to find a way to “get out of there,” because if they started “messing around with those Chinese,” troops would be there for ten years.54 On December 1, Johnson approved a bombing campaign against the North Vietnamese, a plan that had secretly been in the works throughout 1964. He concurred with the recommendation of General Maxwell Taylor, who was then a special consultant to LBJ, that the U.S. military should use every bomb it had. “We don’t want to send a widow woman to slap Jack Dempsey,” the president said.55 Following an attack on army barracks in Pleiku on February 6, Johnson launched Operation Rolling Thunder, one of the fiercest bombing campaigns in military history. The bombs started to fall in early March, with the objective of destroying the roads, bridges, and tunnels that the North Vietnamese depended on to have access to the South. Early on, Johnson tightly controlled the operation, picking targets himself. Still, at this point, full-scale war was not yet inevitable. A number of international leaders, policy advisors, legislators, and pundits with hawkish Cold War outlooks continued to warn the president that increasing U.S. involvement would be disastrous, ranging from Senators William Fulbright and Richard Russell to Vice President Hubert Humphrey and Undersecretary of State George Ball to President de Gaulle. On March 6, Russell told Johnson that the war “scares the life out of me. . . . We just got into the thing and there is no way out and we’re just getting pushed forward and forward and forward.”56 In a memo, Humphrey urged Johnson to call for a withdrawal, since 1965 “is the first year when we can face the Vietnam

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problem without being preoccupied with the political repercussions from the Republican right.”57 Through their willingness publicly and privately to criticize expanded U.S. involvement, congressional Democrats had created some political opportunity for Johnson to avoid escalation. But it was an opportunity he did not take or feel that he really had. Upon reading Humphrey’s cautionary memo, the president wrote him back that “we don’t need all these memos,” and he thereafter kept the vice president outside the inner circle of decision making.58 The warnings from colleagues and his own doubts did not overcome the president’s Cold War beliefs and his political fears of the right, both of which led him to side with his hawkish advisors.59 While there were many hawks opposed to U.S. involvement in Vietnam and there were not many vocal proponents for sending ground troops, Johnson’s continued concerns about another political fiasco like Korea were grounded in the political dynamics he had witnessed throughout his career. Polls in the American South were now showing very strong support for an aggressive military strategy in Vietnam, and pushing for some sort of neutralization plan, designed by France, could be risky in Johnson’s home region.60 Even as Republican legislators remained Johnson’s strongest congressional allies against the left with regards to Vietnam, the partisan attacks continued. On June 14, the second-ranking Republican and chairman of the House Republican Conference, Wisconsin’s Melvin Laird, said that Republicans were “dangerously close” to withdrawing their support for Johnson’s Vietnam policy because the president was not clear on whether he would accept a “large-scale use of ground forces to save face in Vietnam.” Republicans, Laird said, could only conclude that the administration’s policies were aimed not at achieving victory but rather at a negotiated settlement for a compromise over a coalition government that included communists. Senator Dirksen, however, intervened, insisting that Laird had spoken out of line and that Republicans would continue to support the president. But Laird’s statement, reflecting arguments other Republicans had made in recent months, such as Lodge’s warning in April that Vietnam could be won if the United States didn’t “play into the enemy’s hands by counting on a quick, sensational and easy way out,” worried Democrats.61 The press interpreted Laird’s words as signaling the opening blow in a partisan divide. In the New York Times, Arthur Krock observed, “Republican leaders in Congress have be-

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gun to amalgamate into a party line their increasingly critical comments on President Johnson’s conduct of the war in Vietnam.”62 Hearing these kinds of statements led Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield to warn his colleagues against returning to the partisanship of the 1950s: “That may be ancient history, but the scars of partisan politics are still with us years afterward. Let no one doubt that we have paid a massive price for the politics of foreign policy of an earlier day. We have paid for its divisiveness with lives and with billions of dollars of foreign aid—much of which has vanished without a constructive trace into the maw of Asia—and I hope we are not now beginning to pay for it, once again, in many lives.”63 Johnson was acutely aware that after the election he had a limited window to pass his social legislation, and so he was willing to accept the recommendation of General William Westmoreland, commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam, for an open-ended troop increase when it arrived on his desk on June 7, 1965, and to do so without any televised speeches or call-up of the reserves. According to Undersecretary of Health, Education, and Welfare Wilbur Cohen, Johnson said, “Every day that I’m in office and every day that I push my program, I’ll be losing a part of my ability to be influential, because that’s the nature of what the president does. He uses up his capital. Something is going to come up . . . something like the Vietnam War . . . something else where I will begin to lose all that I have now.”64 That summer, he said, “I don’t want to be known as a war president, [but] if I don’t go in now and they show later that I should have, they’ll push . . . Vietnam up my ass every time.”65 In the summer and fall of 1965 Johnson decided to “Americanize” the war by sending in more and more ground troops to directly fight the battle against the North Vietnamese.To be sure, there were strategic reasons behind the decision to transform Vietnam into an American ground war, as the president continued to see the battle over the country as a central step in the struggle against Asian communism. If Vietnam fell, according to the logic of the domino theory, the entire continent would soon be lost. Yet for Johnson, everything came back to politics. Importantly, he was not concerned by the grassroots pressure that had started to emerge against the war from a small minority of Americans who were following the events closely. Peace rallies in New York City and Washington in 1965 drew 25,000 people each. The Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), an organization of left-wing university students formed in 1960 to protest the erosion of democratic

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practices, had turned its attention toward Vietnam after the United States started its bombing campaign in February 1965. In March, students conducted teach-ins at the University of Michigan, where they gathered to discuss, and to protest, U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Responding to campus protests, Johnson told Undersecretary of State George Ball, “Don’t pay any attention to what those little shits on the campuses do.The great beast is the reactionary element in the country.”66 While there were protests against the war on college campuses, he did not feel they would turn public opinion. When confronted with data suggesting that the United States could not defeat the North Vietnamese, Johnson said he regretted the situation but believed there was no turning back.67 “If we let Communist aggression succeed in taking over South Vietnam,” he said, “there would follow in this country an endless national debate—a mean and destructive debate—that would shatter my Presidency, kill my administration, and damage our democracy. I knew that Harry Truman and Dean Acheson had lost their effectiveness the day that the Communists took over in China.”68 According to William Bundy, “[T]he president, his advisors, and almost every experienced Washington observer thought that the most serious pressures of American opinion must come in time from the hard-line right wing. To make a ‘soft’ move and get nothing for it . . . was, it was deeply believed, likely to open the way to the kind of wide outcry for extreme measures that had characterized the MacArthur crisis.”69 The reality was even more complex since conservatives themselves remained divided on Vietnam; many on the right believed that Vietnam was a mistake. Phyllis Schlafly thought Vietnam was a communist “diversionary tactic” meant to induce American policy makers to spend more on conventional weapons and that the war would be like Korea in that it would prove extremely difficult to win.70 Yet Bundy was essentially accurate because conservative skeptics weren’t calling for Johnson to end hostilities, but, rather, were demanding a significant escalation of airpower and bombing now that the nation had committed itself to the war, in order to avoid the use of more ground troops. Gerald Ford, whom the House Republicans selected as the minority leader in 1965, argued that Johnson needed to bomb industrial plants, ammunition dumps, and the transportation infrastructure of North Vietnam. “Why are we pulling our best punches in Vietnam? Is there no end, no other answer except for more men, more men, more men?”71

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Republicans were also saying that the president needed to pressure Congress for higher military spending to finance the growing troop presence. Former President Eisenhower told Johnson that the United States could only negotiate from a position of strength.72 Robert Welch, head of the John Birch Society, complained that the administration “has no slightest intention or desire to win this war or to end it, but only to make it larger and longer and a more overwhelming obsession in the minds of the American people.”73 When speaking with congressional Republicans, Johnson did not express any doubts about Vietnam—unlike his private conversations with Democrats like Russell. Instead, to the GOP Johnson acted like an unwavering hawk. After Everett Dirksen had heard Democratic Senators Frank Church and George McGovern “t-ing off ” on the administration’s Vietnam policy in February 1965, he concluded that the president needed some “defense” from the other side of the aisle. Explaining to Dirksen that Eisenhower was in agreement with administration policies, Johnson added that the “worst problem we have” was not the ambushes, raids, or accidents that occurred in Vietnam but the congressional “speeches that are made about, uh, negotiation . . . and about pulling out. . . . They use those, the communists take them and print them up in pamphlets and circularize them in newspapers. . . . They keep all the government fearful.”74 As Johnson kept increasing the number of ground troops in Vietnam during the remainder of 1965, most Democrats hesitantly agreed to support him. Even those legislators who had been strong skeptics, like Russell, backed the president once the operations were under way. Southern Democrats said that if the president was fighting, he should mobilize all of the force available to him to bring the war to a speedy conclusion with as few American casualties as possible. In these early months, Republicans like Dirksen, Ford, and Senate Republican Whip Thomas Kuchel of California were the president’s most solid allies.75 Advisors like William Bundy, who had previously challenged the logic of the mission, fell completely silent. RESIDENT JOHNSON’S POLITICAL

concerns did not subside, however, as the midterm elections of 1966 quickly became a dominant date on his schedule. He understood that midterms invariably hurt the presidential party, and he wanted to minimize their effect. In February 1966, Senator Fulbright used the power of congressional investigation to force the administration into a contentious

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public debate. Eighteen months after the passage of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, Fulbright decided that he could no longer stand by the president in a war he opposed. He was worried, as were most members of his Foreign Relations Committee, that the administration’s optimistic assessments were wrong and that a huge buildup of troops would be required in the coming years. He also felt personally betrayed by the president, who had promised to act with restraint. The Fulbright hearings provided the nation with the first glimpse of such administration officials as Secretary of State Dean Rusk, George Kennan, and former Ambassador to South Vietnam General Maxwell Taylor confronting difficult challenges about the war. Rusk told the committee that, if the United States did not stand firm militarily, “then the prospect for peace disappears,” but Fulbright challenged almost all of his assertions. The senator insisted that there was no need to escalate operations in Vietnam because the conflict did not involve the vital interests of America and could easily be a “trigger for world war.” Johnson was coming to hate Fulbright, whom he privately mocked as Senator Halfbright. But the hearings stung the president. Although public opinion now favored the war, Fulbright emerged as a key figure among the growing antiwar forces, though the courtly southern aristocrat had little in common with the demonstrators increasingly taking to the streets. Indeed, precisely because of his establishment imprimatur, his investigations and statements helped give antiwar protest a certain degree of legitimacy. The hearings also ensured that the mainstream media covered criticism about the war. As Fulbright’s biographer Randall Bennett Woods wrote, “The February hearings, in short, opened a psychological door for the great American middle class. . . . If the administration intended to wage the war in Vietnam from the political center in America, the 1966 hearings were indeed a blow to that effort.”76 As the escalation of troops proceeded and the United States conducted its air bombing in 1965, Johnson found that he was facing a Congress inhabited by more hawks and more doves—the former calling for more bombing and the later for withdrawal—while a diminishing number of legislators actually supported the administration’s middle-of-the-road approach. By October 1966, only fiftyfour senators favored administration policy; as for the rest, twenty-six were doves and twenty were hawks.77 Republicans unified around a hawkish strategy. Nixon and Ford—two Republicans whom Johnson rightly sensed had national

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political ambitions—were openly criticizing the president for failing to take sufficient action against the North Vietnamese. Ford advocated an intensification of the air bombing to reduce the escalating American casualties. On September 19, House Republicans released a white paper accusing the administration of “deception” and suggesting that the president was planning to escalate the war as soon as the midterm elections were over. Right-wing organizations such as the American Conservative Union conducted their largest grassroots effort to date, drawing on lists of Goldwater petitions and contributors from the 1964 election, to influence the elections.78 Conservative arguments were disseminated through a formidable group of foreign policy organizations that included the Center for Strategic Studies at Georgetown, the Foreign Policy Research Institution, and the Hoover Institution at Stanford.79 Johnson saw Nixon as the most dangerous Republican, one who could take advantage of a right-wing backlash against Democratic foreign policies.80 Staking his reputation on improving Republican numbers in Congress, Nixon campaigned for candidates nationally, playing a central role in mobilizing support for the GOP, as he raised $6.5 million.81 While many Republicans were muted on Vietnam in the campaigns, Nixon accused Johnson of supporting a policy of “retreat or defeat” and criticized the troop levels as inadequate.82 Johnson was on the defensive as polls indicated his support was falling. Starting in May, polls tracked a clear downward trend. In June, Gallup reported that Johnson’s approval rating had fallen to forty-six percent, while Harris put it at fifty-five. Either way, these were the lowest in his presidency so far.83 On July 28, 1966, Arthur Schlesinger Jr. noted in his journals that LBJ had undergone a profound change. While Schlesinger had believed that Johnson had only been expanding the Vietnam War as a result of pressure from advisors and that all along he had wanted to achieve a negotiated settlement, the president now appeared to have turned in favor of escalation. To explain the change, Schlesinger speculated in his personal diary, “I cannot resist the feeling that domestic politics—his precipitous decline in the public opinion polls— constitute a major factor. He once told [speechwriter] Dick Goodwin that there was far more chauvinism in the United States than easterners understood, and it now looks as if a course of playing the war to the hilt has recommended itself to him as the best way of reversing the polls and bringing about Democratic gains in November.”

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This, combined with his own psychological motivations to avoid appearing like a coward (compared to JFK who, as a war hero, “felt no need to prove himself by invading Cuba after the Bay of Pigs or the missile crisis”), according to Schlesinger, led him to accept “the Rusk thesis that this is Munich all over again, . . . if we don’t hold the line in Vietnam, we are condemned to ‘wars of national liberation’ all through the underdeveloped world. And he now seems to have become a hard-liner.”84 On October 25, Johnson took a trip to Manila for a three-day summit with Asian allies, to bolster domestic support for the administration’s Vietnam policies and obtain improved press coverage.85 When the president returned, Nixon attacked the administration for conducting the meeting for political purposes and having made diplomatic promises endangering America. Johnson was deeply concerned about the Republican criticism. He complained to Fulbright that Nixon sounded like he wanted the United States to “permanently occupy” Vietnam. When colleagues tried to calm the president, he insisted that Nixon commanded media attention as the “boys around him” had made him into a “martyr.” It was just “the old traitor stuff that he pulled on Truman and Rayburn,” Johnson complained.86 Johnson reminded foreign leaders that the real threat in the United States did not come from the left and that the election results would thus not change the administration’s basic posture in Vietnam. “The Republicans have been all out on Vietnam,” he warned them. North Vietnamese and Soviet officials were predicting, he said, that the “agitation and division” would result in his being overthrown by dissidents like Fulbright and Morse and the White House team becoming a political minority after the November elections, but Johnson asserted that the Democrats would “not lose a race on Vietnam, not a damn one.”87 Johnson was becoming furious with Democrats who openly opposed his policies. During one conversation with Indiana Senator Birch Bayh, Johnson said that antiwar Democrats like Vance Hartke would hurt themselves “in due time.” Hartke enjoyed the “limelight,” he said, that came from attacking the president on the war. Hoping that Bayh would respond to Hartke’s criticism of the war, Johnson told Bayh to stress with Indiana voters how bad the economy would become under Republican control, that the alternative to Johnson Democrats were Republicans, not liberal antiwar legislators. Increasingly strident, Johnson said, “I didn’t start this thing, I

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didn’t make this commitment! But I have my choice of evacuating out there and running, or standing and fighting.”88 Going into the election, Johnson’s greatest fear was that Democrats might lose control of the House. As he told Arkansas Representative Wilbur Mills, head of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, “We could lose the thing, and we don’t want to lose that, because we would be in a hell of a shape to have a House that is Republican.”89 The president warned Secretary McNamara that the “danger” they faced was “if we lose the Congress, as we could very well, then the next two years, as we go into election, they’ll tear the Democratic Party wide open and it will be in much worse shape than it was when Stevenson took it in ’52 for the ’68 election. . . . The liberals are not prudent folks, and they don’t evaluate carefully and they don’t see that.”90 While Richard Russell tried to assure his friend that the House majority was large enough to prevent any shift in control, Johnson said he was still worried because of his plummeting approval ratings.91 Even if Democrats retained control, he did not want the conservative coalition to expand in size. During 1966, the coalition had shown new life following its devastating losses in the 1964 election. On foreign policy, for instance, the coalition in the House and the Senate was able to obtain reductions in foreign aid.92 Johnson and McNamara appeared at the president’s Texas ranch on November 5, three days before the election, to announce some positive developments. McNamara told reporters that the troop commitment would increase at a much slower rate than in 1966. McNamara packaged this with other optimistic news, such as claims that the North Vietnamese could no longer achieve victory and that military spending would be reduced. Republicans protested. Nixon charged that the president had used the secretary of defense as a “political stooge.”93 The Defense Department, meanwhile, under pressure from Republicans, was forced to publicly acknowledge that McNamara’s predictions did not “necessarily rule out” increasing the number of troops to 500,000 by the end of 1967. In 1966 the number of American forces had already risen from 181,000 to 345,000.94 Although the election outcome was not as bad as Johnson had feared, Republicans increased their numbers in the House by fortyseven seats, from 140 to 187, and by four seats in the Senate from thirty-two to thirty-six. The conservative coalition, however, vastly expanded. Republicans gained some 700 state legislative seats (reversing losses from 1964) and eight governorships. Polls indicated

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that concern over the war was central to Republican success, as voters were seeking a way to bring the conflict to an end and were listening to GOP promises that more intense bombing could achieve these results without a military loss. Pollster George Gallup called the war the “great underlying issue and probably the prime reason why the G.O.P. did so well.” Thirty-two of the new Republicans were far more hawkish on Vietnam than the legislators they had replaced, and 77 of the 108 Republicans for whom Nixon had campaigned won.95 Much of the Republican attack in the campaigns had also centered on implicit or explicit appeals to Americans who believed that the civil rights struggle was fueling racial conflict and disorder in the cities. But Republicans effectively framed the results as a referendum on Johnson’s leadership in Vietnam. The press picked up on this interpretation, pointing to Nixon as the new voice of the nation on the issue of Vietnam.96 The new governor of California, Ronald Reagan, called on Johnson to authorize a full mobilization for war. Surveying the results, Nixon warned that the nation needed to avoid a move toward appeasement in Vietnam.97 He called the election a rebuke to the administration’s policies. It should be “absolutely clear to Hanoi and Peking,” Nixon said, “that the new House of Representatives will be much stronger than its predecessor as a bulwark of support for a United States policy of ‘no reward for aggression.’”98 The cover of Time magazine depicted six smiling Republican politicians. The story quoted Ray Bliss, RNC chair, at a news briefing: “This press conference . . . will be a little different from my first one, when you were asking me if the Republican Party would survive. . . . It looks to me . . . as if we have a live elephant.”99 Through the elections,Vietnam had struck a huge blow to Johnson’s ambitious domestic programs. House Majority Leader Carl Albert, who felt that Vietnam had been the key factor in the losses, said that the elections “broke the back of the Great Society right there. . . . Thus fortified, [Republicans] proceeded to turn back new initiatives and reduce old ones to sepulchers haunted with dead promises of what might have been.”100 Johnson and Vice President Humphrey tried to console themselves by looking at history. Humphrey said that he was “bruised and battered but not down” since the party still had a “pretty good” majority and the 90th Congress had the same number of Democrats in the House as, and more in the Senate than, the Democrats had had in the 88th Congress. Humphrey compared Johnson in 1966 to Roo-

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sevelt in 1938, saying that this was a natural phenomenon: Voters tended to seek a balance after big elections. Johnson thought Republicans were exaggerating the victory and downplaying historic trends. But, he admitted, if they say it enough “like Hitler” then everyone thinks it’s “awfully terrible.”101 In the month that followed the election, the president continued to repeat this message as he compared his midterm experience favorably to other famous presidents.102 Meanwhile Johnson was getting it from both sides. At the same time that Senator Fulbright brought administration officials before television cameras to ask them about the errors leading up to the Vietnam commitment, Mississippi Senator John Stennis conducted hearings that offered a forum for the military to criticize Johnson for tying its hands. While there were hundreds of antiwar demonstrations and protests taking place every day by this point, on March 13 over 200,000 people demonstrated in New York to support the war. While Republicans continued to be critical of the war itself and did not support an escalation of the ground operations, they maintained firm pressure to intensify the bombing.103 Ronald Reagan asked his supporters, “Isn’t it time that we either win this war or tell the American people why we can’t? Isn’t it time to recognize the great immorality of sending our neighbors’ sons to die with the hope we can do so without angering the enemy too much?”104 HE POLITICAL BATTLES from Cold War America pushed Johnson and congressional Democrats deeper into a military conflict that would cause irreparable damage to the Democratic Party and liberal internationalism. Politics, with pressure emanating from Republicans on national security, was something that Johnson could not ignore from the election of 1964 through the midterms of 1966. Johnson’s experiences as Senate Majority Leader in the 1950s caused him to be acutely sensitive to the political threats and the electoral dangers liberals faced in this so-called liberal era.105 His political instincts were so fine-tuned that he could not help but think about how a great moment of party advantage—as existed for Democrats following the 1964 elections—could quickly turn into a moment of defeat. Democratic leaders in the White House and Congress made very big mistakes between 1964 and 1966, but they did so as they confronted very real political threats. One year after the midterms, a top pollster would tell the president that a majority of those polled wanted to intensify the attacks in Vietnam: sixty-three percent were against withdrawal and thirty-one

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percent were for it.106 Johnson said to Undersecretary of State Nicholas Katzenbach that antiwar protesters were convincing the North Vietnamese to continue their fight, thinking that the draft card burners and “agitators” represented the “sentiment of the country,” while the reality was that more people want “more [military force] than we thought was wise.”107

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PRESIDENT JOHNSON started to send more troops to Vietnam in mid-1965, most Democrats believed that the draft remained an essential tool of national security. It was a signature achievement of proponents of liberal internationalism. The successful outcome of World War II had lent strong support to arguments about the need for a permanent draft. The nation’s youth were raised in families where fathers valorized their service in the war. Millions of Americans participated in the system, and, following the war, college and university students encountered Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) programs that held an esteemed place on campuses. The draft enjoyed strong approval ratings. The G.I. Bill of Rights, a program of educational and economic benefits for veterans that Congress passed in 1944, had enshrined the value of soldiers in American politics by advancing the notion that military service was one of the most important contributions that a citizen could offer the nation. Since the 1940s, the survival of the draft had depended on relatively united liberal support. Republicans had never really liked the draft. They only agreed to live with the system for practical political purposes, fearing that any opponent of the draft would suffer electorally given the rampant fears of communism, and because strategically it seemed like the best existing option to recruit sufficient forces—and better than more expansive alternatives such as President Truman’s Universal Military Training. For very different ideological reasons, activists on the left saw the draft as an infringement on citizens’ rights. Both kinds of opponents were calmed by its limited use in the 1950s. With an increase in the numbers of draft-eligible

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men in the 1950s and Eisenhower’s New Look resulting in a reduction of conventional forces, Congress was able to design an extensive and generous system of deferments that exempted many Americans from service even though the public perception of the system remained that it was equitable.1 And then, thirty-three years after Congress enacted the draft, America abandoned it—with a majority of liberal Democrats accepting the change—and the government established a professional army. the draft resulted from broader Vietnam-era opposition to the Cold War agenda, as proponents of liberal internationalism fell into political turmoil because of the war, with Democrats becoming internally and bitterly divided over national security. At the same time, the draft exacerbated the disillusionment by making the war’s impact felt in millions of families. Vietnam undermined political support for proponents of liberal internationalism by convincing many Democrats that the national security policies from the 1940s needed to be fundamentally reformed or totally abandoned. As the war in Vietnam escalated dramatically in the mid-1960s, the turmoil in Southeast Asia raised doubts, as well as outright opposition, among liberals about the arguments and promises that had been made in the early Cold War era. Vietnam discredited the claim that most international conflicts were a result of Cold War rivalries, or communism versus market-based economies and/or political democracies—as opposed to local civil tensions about nationalist aspirations.Vietnam undermined the belief that Americans always fought for just causes and that the moral standing of the U.S. military forces was superior to that of its adversaries. The quagmire in Vietnam also raised doubts about American power itself, as the world’s dominant military was unable to defeat a Third World army and guerrilla force. As the war in Vietnam drained resources and energy from the Great Society, the promise of providing guns and butter seemed false, and the two came to be seen as a trade-off. For many Americans, the notion of total obligation to a national security system became dubious, particularly if the state engaged in abusive behavior back home against wartime opponents and conducted unnecessary wars abroad. The debate over the draft in the 1960s stemmed from the broader opposition that emerged to liberal internationalism as a result of Vietnam. In 1965, the number of draftees increased from

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16,000 to 40,000 per month. There were 2,655,000 men in uniform in 1965, whereas 3.5 million were serving by 1968.2 Criticism of the draft spread across the streets and homes of mainstream America as the situation in Vietnam deteriorated. Each time that Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara announced an increase in the draft call, Johnson told Secretary of Treasury Henry Fowler, “that gets every goddam father in the country upset, and every mother and every wife.”3 Democrats who became disaffected with liberal internationalism in the 1960s offered three major arguments against the draft. The first was that the federal government did not have the right to require Americans to fight in an unjust war. The second was that deferments were biased against working- and lower-class Americans. When Johnson started to send substantial numbers of troops into Vietnam, critics asked why the middle class were able to avoid serving simply because they could afford to attend college or because their families used connections to obtain spaces in the national guard or reserves.4 Antiwar critics were convinced that deferments made it easier for presidents to launch wars by protecting them from the wrath of middle-class voters. “Conscription is the handmaiden of militarism,” said a leader in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.5 Liberal opponents of the draft also argued that the induction process was unfair because it was so decentralized. There were more than 4,000 local boards in the country, each with a different size, composition, and set of criteria for determining classification. Draft supporters had boasted that localism ensured the Selective Service System retained close ties to local communities. Local boards, they had said, also enabled the federal government to save money. With all of these scattered administrative bodies, it was evident that the system lacked national standards and was a source of inequity. An eighteenyear-old could receive a deferment or exemption in one region of the country but could be classified 1-A, available for unrestricted military service, in another. A potential draftee’s fate depended on where he lived. Under the supervision of the state directors, local boards had the discretion to ignore directives from the director of Selective Service. Local boards rarely included African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics, poor people, or women.6 The protest against the draft was nationwide and took place in countless arenas. One draftee in particular made headlines: world heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali. Ali had changed his name from Cassius Clay in 1964 after joining the Nation of Islam.

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Like millions of other young American men, Ali had to consider the issues of war and the draft. When reporters asked him about the war, he said with characteristic punch: “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Vietcong.” The superhawk chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, South Carolina Democrat Mendel Rivers, threatened to investigate the local board if it granted the African American boxer a deferment. As the controversy intensified, Ali’s determination to make a statement grew stronger. He asked a reporter, “Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs?” Ali’s appearance at the Houston induction center in April 1967 turned into a protest demonstration. “Don’t go!” yelled supporters outside the center. Inside, during roll call, the officer in command called out “Cassius Clay” twice, but Ali was silent. The officer warned him he could go to jail for five years if he did not cooperate. After a few tense minutes, Ali filled out a form to request exemption as a conscientious objector. At his trial two months later, Ali was sentenced to five years in prison and fined $10,000, and on appeal a higher court upheld the sentence. The World Boxing Commission and the New York State Athletic Commission stripped him of his world title. The government spent years trying to incarcerate him, but in 1971 the Supreme Court unanimously overturned his conviction, ruling that he had met the conscientious objector criteria. During this period, at the height of his powers, Ali was barred from his profession, but in 1970, the bans against him began to be lifted. Of course he went on to a renewed career in the ring, becoming one of the most celebrated boxers of his time in the process.7 In President Johnson’s mind, the most politically dangerous attacks on the draft, and the military operations that it supported, emanated from mainstream Democrats who by 1966 were starting to openly oppose the war. Here was the most visible sign that liberals were questioning their support for the national security state. Ironically, the man who became the face of the Vietnam War to millions of Americans, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, harbored grave doubts about the fairness of conscription. He had been shaken by a 1964 Defense Department study that found that the deferment system privileged wealthier families while simultaneously concluding the draft was needed to maintain an adequate number of soldiers. This study endorsed limiting the number of deferments,

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offering national public service as an alternative to the military, and centralizing the classification process. The main authors of the study were a deputy assistant secretary of defense who was also an economist, William Gorham, and Walter Oi, professor of economics at the University of Washington. The commission established the intellectual foundations for future study by introducing new types of economic cost-benefit analyses that would later become integral to designing an operational volunteer force.8 In 1966, McNamara made a speech in Montreal where he publicly acknowledged that deferments created inequities. Critics of the draft jumped on his statement. “Public confidence in the draft,”Wisconsin Democratic Senator Gaylord Nelson warned after hearing of the speech, “is at an all-time low.” New York Republican Senator Jacob Javits praised McNamara.9 Admitting that Johnson’s staff had cleared an earlier draft of the speech, presidential aide Bill Moyers insisted that McNamara’s words did not indicate a shift in policy.The draft also brought the war home to Democratic legislators personally. The senior senator from Indiana,Vance Hartke, for example, had two sons, and as the president said in a phone conversation with Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield in October 1966, Hartke had become hostile to the administration’s policies because “he is afraid [his sons] are going to be drafted and he raises hell with me. . . . He’s just gone nuts because he is scared to death.”10 Johnson believed that minor reforms would be sufficient to rebuild support for the draft, a policy that he, like most southern Democrats, still endorsed, and to calm public anger over the war. Johnson relied on studies, minor adjustments, public relations efforts, and punitive actions to quell liberal discontent. In July, the president announced the formation of the National Advisory Commission on Selective Service, to be headed by Burke Marshall, who had worked in the civil rights division of the Department of Justice when Robert Kennedy was attorney general. Marshall was credible in the civil rights community and so could deal with the criticism that the draft imposed an unfair burden on African Americans and the poor. The president arranged a private meeting for the commission with Lewis Hershey, Mendel Rivers, Richard Russell, and former Johnson press secretary George Reedy in order to send a strong message as to what Marshall could realistically expect to accomplish. Members of the commission explained that they were considering proposals to centralize the selection process by creating

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regional boards, implementing a lottery system, and curtailing graduate deferments. Hershey indicated his discomfort with any change to the local board system, Rivers and Russell said that they didn’t think much of the proposed reforms, while Reedy didn’t feel it was wise to cut any deferments. All four of these intimidating powerhouses expressed clearly to Marshall and his fellow commissioners that they should certainly not contemplate proposing anything more.11 Before the release of the commission’s report, LBJ’s senior domestic advisor Joseph Califano warned him that the recommendations “will stir deep nationwide interest.”12 Johnson, however, never had any serious intentions of implementing the recommendations. most incensed Johnson was that of New York Senator Robert Kennedy, who had come to oppose Johnson’s escalation of the war. Johnson despised the slain president’s younger brother, whom he once called a “grandstanding little runt.” Ever since the assassination, Johnson was convinced that RFK wanted to run for president and that he was doing everything in his power to undermine the administration. Johnson had previously feared that Kennedy would roast him for abandoning President Kennedy’s commitments if he withdrew from Vietnam. Senator Kennedy’s embrace of the antiwar movement had been slow, but by 1967 he was increasingly outspoken about his doubts about the war. Kennedy’s criticism was especially troublesome given that polls showed the public was coming closer to RFK’s position than Johnson’s, as support for the draft had diminished from seventy-nine percent to fifty-eight percent.13 Polls showed that less than a majority of the country thought the draft was equitably administered; this was the first time since pollsters asked the question that the results were so low.14 Draft evasion was frequent by 1967. Some men attended college or graduate school primarily to gain student deferments. Others married, knowing that the Selective Service would place them further down the list of men to be called. Others faked homosexuality, illness, or physical injury so that they would be disqualified. Thousands left the country. But for most Americans, the most vivid incarnation of discontent with the draft came from the grassroots antiwar movement, and that included burning draft cards or turning them in at local military centers. By doing so, activists literally renounced their obligations to the federal government and risked legal punishment even though most could easily have obtained deferments. In 1967, more men

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were prosecuted and convicted for draft violations than in any year since World War II.15 At colleges and universities activists demonstrated against recruiters from the ROTC and defense contractors. Major newspaper editors and reporters were criticizing the war on the grounds that Johnson had plunged the nation into a conflict that could not be won and where the costs were far greater than any reward. The escalation of the fighting in Vietnam made the war a major concern to many Americans even as polls indicated strong public support for total military victory as well as for maintaining the draft itself. On March 4, the White House released the Marshall commission report, which concluded that a volunteer system was not feasible and that ending the draft would be too costly and would result in an unaccountable mercenary force. Moreover, the commission believed that ending the draft would have a detrimental effect on volunteers to the military. Since the creation of the draft, Congress had insisted on continuing with a partial volunteer system in order to diminish, as much as possible, the pressure to rely on conscription. Studies repeatedly found that, rather than waiting for Uncle Sam to call on them, many chose to volunteer for the air force, navy, or army air corps, which were perceived as less dangerous than the army ground troops. The reserves and national guard depended on this incentive as well. Without a fear of being drafted fewer Americans would make this choice. The report stated that “the nation must now, and in the foreseeable future, have a system which includes the draft.”16 Not everyone was pleased with the commission’s work. House Republicans Donald Rumsfeld (Illinois) and Thomas Curtis (Missouri) said in a letter to their colleagues that, contrary to the commission report, the country had the means to create a voluntary system. They thought that a professional army would be more effective militarily because the nation would obtain more motivated soldiers and politically appealing because it would diminish support for the antiwar movement, and they argued that the commission had ignored contradictory research in order to make its case for preserving conscription.17 Johnson’s response to these critics was to propose reforms that did not threaten the status quo. He instructed his staff to craft a proposal based on the Marshall commission recommendations and was careful to put forth a package that Hershey would accept. Hershey had several concerns. At the top of his list was to make sure that the draft adhered to the decentralized structure Congress established

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in 1940. Johnson rejected Califano’s suggestion that he “inform” Hershey that the administration was considering limiting deferments, implementing random selection, and centralizing administration. Instead, Johnson told Califano to meet with Hershey to determine what he would accept.18 When Hershey stated his opposition to tampering with the local board structure, Johnson took it off the table. On March 6, Johnson sent a reform proposal to Congress that eliminated most graduate student deferments (except in the health and sciences professions), restricted undergraduate deferments, and created a lottery that would begin with nineteen-year-old men. “The changing conditions which have come to our society since that Act was established,” Johnson said of Selective Service, “have prompted concern—in the Executive Branch, in the Congress, and in the Nation generally—with whether the System might have drifted from the original concept of equity.” At the same time, he said, “the United States must meet its military commitments for the national security. . . . To maintain this ability we must continue the draft.” When Johnson submitted his proposal, several legislators countered with alternatives. Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy, for example, proposed instituting a lottery, ending most deferments, and liberalizing the criteria for conscientious objector status.19 While Rumsfeld and Oregon moderate Republican Senator Mark Hatfield circulated proposals for an all-volunteer army, most legislators agreed with Secretary McNamara that ending the draft “would make it very difficult, if not impossible, to guarantee that the necessary manpower would be available in time to meet the kind of rapid changes in military requirements which we have encountered in recent years.”20 On June 30, 1967, Johnson signed legislation that was much less ambitious than the proposals advanced by most critics of the draft. It authorized a lottery system, but only after Congress approved its implementation. The legislation granted the president power to issue national standards for classifications, but local boards did not have to abide by them. Finally it increased the number of people eligible for undergraduate deferments. Burke Marshall said that the law “made the system worse than before.”Ted Kennedy felt the legislation “satisfies no one.”21 Since Johnson expended little energy fighting for anything stronger, the status quo remained. The legislation added insult to injury by instructing the courts and the Department of Jus-

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tice to pay greater attention to the prosecution of cases involving draft-law violators. Sidestepping the issue of local boards, Johnson proposed another study to evaluate the system. The task force he set up included McNamara, Hershey, and Director of the Budget Charles Schultze.They released their report in October 1967, rejecting most of the recommendations of the Marshall commission.While sticking to his promise to oppose centralization, Johnson told Congress that the government should make sure that local boards were more representative. Over 400,000 U.S. troops were now in Vietnam. Efforts toward negotiation had fallen apart. Johnson doubted that further escalation would be effective. McNamara had given up hope that the bombing or ground war would work. The antiwar movement mounted its biggest protests in late October, with Stop the Draft Week. Thousands of demonstrators turned in their draft cards or burned them. In Oakland, California, hundreds of protesters shut down the Armed Forces Examining Station until police attacked them with clubs and tear gas. At the University of Wisconsin in Madison, students clashed with police as they tried to prevent Dow Chemical Company from conducting interviews on campus. Dow produced napalm, the flammable gasoline-based gel that the U.S. military used to defoliate the jungles in Vietnam—but which was incidentally injuring, horribly maiming, and killing military and civilians alike.22 Stop the Draft Week culminated with tens of thousands demonstrating in Washington and marching on the Pentagon. Advisors had informed the president that violence could be expected, especially after one organizer, David Dellinger, warned, “We are not all pacifists.”23 When Attorney General Ramsey Clark told the president that some of the antiwar groups were linked to communist organizations, Johnson ordered him to share that information with the media.24 The administration refused to give protesters access to electricity, water, toilets, or first aid.25 Georgia Democratic Senator Herman Talmadge warned that there would be a “shameful display of anti-Americanism” giving “aid and comfort to the enemy and prolonging the war in Vietnam.”26 Following Stop the Draft Week, the president launched Operation Chaos, instructing the FBI to investigate alleged ties between antiwar protesters and communists. On October 26, Hershey sent a directive to the local draft boards that ordered them to reclassify “misguided registrants” who were burning draft cards or staging protests near induction centers

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by denying them any deferments.27 The directive, which became public on November 8, triggered a backlash. Columbia University suspended military recruiting on campus after 150 faculty members signed a letter protesting Hershey’s instructions on the grounds that he was attempting to intimidate protestors. The CIA stopped recruiting on most university campuses.28 The American Civil Liberties Union filed lawsuits in four cities against the reclassification of protesters.The editors of the Los Angeles Times wrote, “Hershey is not a law unto himself.”29 Even Richard Nixon, who was preparing to run in the Republican primaries against Nelson Rockefeller, Michigan Governor George Romney, and possibly Ronald Reagan, did not agree with Hershey’s directive. As one newspaper editor wrote, “When Nixon prepares to abandon a ship it must truly be sinking.”30 Nixon’s reaction to the directive confirmed his decision to promote a professional army instead of continuing with the draft. In fact, Nixon had been thinking about the possibility of a professional army since July, when the economist Martin Anderson sent him a proposal outlining why the draft was undemocratic and inefficient and how it was possible to form a professional army.31 In November, as the American media was still debating Hershey’s directive, Nixon surprised a group of law school students when he said that “an entirely new approach” to recruiting should be developed and that a “broad-based draft” was no longer necessary since wars would be either nuclear or guerrilla. Nixon concluded that America needed to “move toward a volunteer army by compensating those who go into the military on a basis comparable to those in civilian careers.”32 President Johnson sent mixed messages to members of his administration about how to handle protesters. Sometimes he supported Hershey’s tough stand. During a tense meeting with Hershey and Clark on November 18, Johnson scolded the attorney general for having only prosecuted 1,300 out of 7,300 people who had failed to show up for induction. The president requested that Clark write a comprehensive report on the criminal statutes for sabotage and espionage. He later wrote Clark to tell all United States attorneys that the government’s policy was “that persons who violate the law—for example, by disrupting peaceful meetings, preventing public officials from carrying on their work, impeding the operations of the Armed Forces and the Selective Service System—will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.” Underneath his signature, the

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president noted, “If you need further legislation in this connection, please submit suggestions at once.”33 The president was worried in this period about appearing to be too soft toward the antiwar protesters, thus providing fodder to the conservative coalition in Congress that had been revitalized after the 1966 elections. The coalition enjoyed its best record of victory since 1961, particularly in the House, as southern Democrats and Republicans were able to defeat several White House initiatives— including bills involving crime control, foreign aid, and antipoverty spending.34 But Johnson was also extremely sensitive to the political fallout regarding Hershey. The reaction to him had been so severe that the president turned down Hershey’s request for an executive order to back up his directive. Johnson’s advisors warned that implementing an executive order would raise complicated administrative issues and that the president should stay out of it.35 The president became doubly worried about the war after November 26 when Robert Kennedy appeared on CBS TV’s Face the Nation and said that Johnson had departed dramatically from the foreign policies of his brother. Kennedy went a step further by challenging containment, the domino theory, and more. He said Johnson was tearing the nation apart. He observed that as demonstrators shut down government offices, “the Selective Service silences protesters.”36 In response, Johnson made Hershey and Clark release a joint statement to reporters on December 9 that endorsed the right of protesters to demonstrate against the war, promising that “the lawful exercise of rights of free expression and peaceful assembly have incurred and will incur no penalty or other adverse reaction. These rights are guaranteed by the Constitution. They are vital to the preservation of free institutions, which our men in Vietnam are fighting to protect.”37 A few days later, however, Clark, who was sympathetic to the antiwar movement, and Hershey publicly quarreled over their statement. Hershey said that his position from October 26 remained unchanged. On December 28, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Hershey in a case involving a ministry student who had returned his draft card to his draft board.The board had taken away his conscientious objector exemption, which had stated that he could not be drafted as long as he was a student or minister. In another case, however, the court upheld a congressional measure that had made it a federal crime to mutilate or destroy a draft card.

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For years, Pentagon officials had been painting rosy scenarios, saying they saw “light at the end of the tunnel.” In the early morning hours of the last day of January, the day of the most important Vietnamese holiday, the lunar new year, or Tet, all of that blew up in their faces. The Viet Cong launched a surprise attack on the U.S. Embassy in Saigon and on other American targets throughout South Vietnam. Millions of Americans who had not been involved in the antiwar movement now questioned the entire war. For those who had protested the draft, the attacks symbolized the futility of sending young men abroad to be killed in a senseless war. In response, General Westmoreland, commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam, requested 200,000 more troops and continued to give positive assessments of the war. HE DISCORD OVER Vietnam shaped the presidential election of 1968, one of the most turbulent and chaotic in modern American history. The impact of liberal unrest over Vietnam was a powerful factor when Minnesota Senator Eugene McCarthy, the antiwar candidate, received a surprising 41.9 percent of the vote in the New Hampshire primary, not far behind Johnson’s 49.6 percent. “We do not need presidents who are bigger than the country, but rather ones who speak for it and support it,” McCarthy told his emboldened supporters. The outcome of the primary shook the confidence of the administration in President Johnson’s future. After initially refusing to challenge the sitting president, Robert Kennedy now entered the race on March 16, believing that McCarthy was not presidential material. In late March, speaking at Idaho State University to an audience of students benefiting from deferments, RFK said, “We must realize that the system from which we have sent a disproportionate number of Negroes, Mexican-Americans, and Indians to fight in Vietnam is a faulty one. That is why I support the establishment of a professional army.”38 Johnson now made a decision that changed the course of the election. Even his closest advisors had not been told about it. After he announced on Friday, March 29, that he would make a speech in two days, his speechwriters spent most of the weekend writing about changing Vietnam policy to bring about a negotiated settlement. On Sunday morning, Johnson met with Vice President Humphrey and

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James R. Jones, chief of staff, to show a draft of his speech and asked Humphrey for his thoughts. Humphrey read through the text, affirming that it was very good, until he came to the last part: Johnson would not run for re-election. A speechless Humphrey, according to Jones, looked up at Johnson and looked like he was having an anxiety attack.39 That evening, Johnson delivered the news to the country. A few days later, on April 4, came news of the killing, by a white racist, of the civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., who had been urging an end to the war. Robert Kennedy was about to give a campaign speech in an African-American neighborhood in Indianapolis when he heard. In eloquent, extemporaneous remarks, he broke the news to the crowd and invoked the memory of his brother, also “killed by a white man.” He concluded: “Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world. Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and our people.” That night, riots broke out in over a hundred American cities, but not in Indianapolis.40 In 1968, draft calls reached 299,000. Manpower was severely strained. In April, Johnson called up 24,500 military reservists for active duty, something he had resisted doing so as not to further aggravate middle-class opinion. News reports indicated that the Pentagon was considering an even larger call-up of national guardsmen and reservists, with estimates of up to 50,000.41 On April 27,Vice President Humphrey threw his hat in the presidential ring. In a time of war and a tragic assassination, he tried, somewhat incongruously, to strike a note of optimism: “Here we are, the way politics ought to be in America, the politics of happiness, the politics of purpose and the politics of joy. And that’s the way it’s going to be, too, all the way from here on out.” Humphrey stayed out of the primaries, allowing surrogates to run for him and depending on party officials to manage his selection. The decisive contest took place in California on June 4, and Kennedy won, but in the early hours of June 5, he was fatally shot minutes after he’d given his victory speech. By this time, Johnson was under constant attack from members of his own party. Dismissing Fulbright and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a frustrated Johnson complained to Clark Clifford in May that the senator “wants to run this government from that damned old post, as all of the rest of them have, the Lodges, and the goddamn Borahs and the Wilson’s ‘willful men’ [senators who filibustered Woodrow Wilson’s armaments bill in 1917] and the whole

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crap and none of them have ever been right on anything. There is something about being on the committee that makes you basically wrong with the exception of Connally and Vandenberg who took their stuff from Truman.”42 Johnson remained hawkish on Vietnam. Recently released White House telephone transcripts reveal that he had not been moved much by the antiwar protests or the antiwar candidacies of Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy. In a conversation with the Democratic governor of New Jersey, Richard Hughes, Johnson said that he could not “for a political reason, say to those men [the soldiers in Vietnam]— and certainly some of them are my own sons [talking about his sonin-law Charles Robb]—that I’m abandoning you in this hour because I’ve got a convention coming. . . . And General Eisenhower said today to the Republicans that you must not do that—that’s murder. But that would be mass murder by a commander in chief.”43 During the tumultuous Democratic primaries, the draft had become another victim of Vietnam. Whereas Johnson had felt that Goldwater’s opposition to the draft in 1964 offered an opportunity to brand Republicans as extremists, in 1968 all of the major candidates openly criticized conscription. McCarthy supported a volunteer system and Humphrey endorsed substantive reforms, including an end to undergraduate deferments.44 South Dakota Senator George McGovern, now also in the running, proposed ending the draft, which he compared to a system of forced labor.45 Johnson was furious with the statements being made by Democrats such as McGovern about the war. A few days before the start of the Democratic convention in Chicago, Soviet troops cracked down on protests in Czechoslovakia. Johnson phoned Nixon and said that events in Eastern Europe had shown “the folly of professors trying to write into platforms, strategy and tactics and whether you stop bombing or whether you don’t stop bombing. . . . What are they going to put in there about Russian tanks? What are these goddamn pink sympathizers going to say about these goddman troops that are crossing the borders? Have they got a plank on that? And what are they recommending there?” He suggested that when Nixon was on the campaign trail, he should repeat parts of what Johnson had said.46 The convention revealed to the country the troubled plight of FDR’s coalition. Inside the convention, insurgents supporting McCarthy attempted to challenge the credentials of delegates on the grounds that the party had not selected a sufficient number of African American delegates. Antiwar delegates also fought for a peace plank. Humphrey turned back all challenges.

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Outside the convention hall, angry activists gathered in Grant Park to protest the party’s support of Vietnam and refusal to adopt the peace plank. Chicago Mayor Richard Daley ordered police to be tough with the protesters. Humphrey found himself gaining the party’s nomination as police were pummeling protesters. Republicans conducted an orderly affair in Miami and selected Richard Nixon, who had slowly rebuilt his public image by traveling across the country and delivering speeches on foreign policy, criticizing Johnson’s conduct of the war. Alabama Democratic Governor George Wallace, who had defiantly opposed civil rights, ran on the American Independent Party ticket, courting normally Democratic white working-class voters disaffected with what they had seen at Chicago and on the streets of urban America. Besides a not-so-subtle appeal to white racism, Wallace also stood for a tough defense posture against communism, selecting as his running mate the now retired Air Force General Curtis LeMay, who had tried to goad President Kennedy into going to war during the Cuban Missile Crisis and was now saying that the United States should bomb North Vietnam back to the Stone Age. In his acceptance speech, Nixon said, “When the strongest nation in the world can be tied up for four years in a war in Vietnam with no end in sight, when the richest nation in the world can’t manage its own economy, when the nation with the greatest tradition of the rule of law is plagued by unprecedented lawlessness, when a nation that has been known for a century for equality of opportunity is torn by unprecedented racial violence, and when the President of the United States cannot travel abroad or to any major city at home without fear of a hostile demonstration—then it’s time for new leadership for the United States of America.” In an unorthodox campaign to court conservative Republicans, broaden the base of the GOP, and undercut the antiwar movement, Nixon made a number of unexpected moves. One of the most important was to come out against the draft. In October, Nixon delivered a radio address in which he formally endorsed the creation of a professional, all-volunteer army as soon as the war ended: “A system of compulsory service that arbitrarily selects some and not others simply cannot be squared with our whole concept of liberty, justice and equality under the law.”47 Nixon’s stand against the draft was part of the effort to run as a hawk who rejected the arguments of the New Left yet showed to voters that he wanted, and would be able, to end the messy conflict in Vietnam. Nixon believed that the existence of the draft was the main reason most middle-class

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Americans cared about the war. If draft calls diminished and a volunteer army was on the horizon, he believed, Americans would not fear that their sons would be drafted, and this would allow his administration sufficient time to find a workable resolution to the war. Nixon told voters that he had a “secret plan” to end the war. In September, Humphrey bounced back from a massive deficit in the polls to narrow the gap with Nixon. Crucial to this bounce was that he had finally decided to break with Johnson’s Vietnam policies. On September 30 he delivered a speech in which he distanced himself from the administration and called for an unconditional halt to the most recent phase of the intense bombing campaign of North Vietnam, which had started in the spring of 1967. Johnson was working to negotiate an end to the war but felt immense pressure from antiwar Democrats and conservative Republican hawks. He urged Secretary of State Rusk to continue negotiations with the North Vietnamese, but he said in the strongest fashion that he refused to get talked into another bombing pause, as he had done in December 1965, wanting to avoid “surrender” or “retreat” before he left office: “If we can get a deal that will stand up against all these Nixons and hell raisers that talk about Yalta, well and good, but I want to be damn sure it is something that stands up. I don’t want something that’s jello, and will be out from under me and will make me look like I’m a nut and a fool and they just outwitted me.”48 On October 31, Johnson announced a bombing halt and that the North Vietnamese were going to participate in renewed negotiations in Paris.The announcement boosted Humphrey’s standing.The South Vietnamese, however, did not play ball, refusing on November 2 to attend the peace talks. Johnson was livid. His intelligence sources told him that Nixon’s foreign policy advisor, Henry Kissinger, had stifled negotiations by contacting the South Vietnamese and assuring them they would get a better deal with Nixon in office. Johnson was furious about Nixon’s covert operation, which he equated with treason. He told Senator Russell that the South Vietnamese didn’t understand the limits of presidential power and that if Nixon was elected, antiwar Democrats in Congress would continue to exert enormous influence: “They don’t realize they’ll have you and Fulbright and all the Congress that I’ve had. And they think that they get Nixon they get all of Nixon’s policies. Now, they’re not going [to], Nixon’s not going to be able to be much harder than I have been.”49

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The president decided not to go public with his suspicions about Nixon, in large part for fear of subverting Nixon if he became president. But he was convinced that these kinds of political moves— as well as Humphrey’s promise of an unconditional end to the bombing—were undermining his ability to negotiate an end to the war. Johnson was convinced that the South Vietnamese were using the election to get a better deal, the mix of politics and negotiation he had hoped to eliminate by withdrawing back in March. Nixon won the election, albeit by an extremely narrow margin. With 43.42 percent of the popular vote, to 42.72 percent for Humphrey and 13 percent for Wallace, Nixon’s was the smallest winning percentage since Woodrow Wilson’s in 1912 (against Theodore Roosevelt and President Taft). Nixon’s Electoral College lead was larger: 301 electoral votes to Humphrey’s 191 and Wallace’s 46. Democrats retained control of Congress; in the Senate, 58 to 42; and in the House, 243 to 192. The election of 1968 revealed, and was a product of, the fractured state of the Democratic Party and the imperiled condition of liberal internationalism. After the election, the future status of the draft remained uncertain, as did all components of the liberal internationalist agenda. On the one hand, in January the new president instructed the Pentagon to craft a plan to establish an all-volunteer army.50 On the other hand, Nixon remained hawkish because Republicans were determined to paint Democrats as weak on defense. The future of the draft depended on what the new president perceived as being in his own best political interest. What was clear in 1968 was that support for liberal internationalism within the Democratic Party was fragile. The draft thus became vulnerable, as it had been a creation of the architect of liberal internationalism, and FDR’s followers were no longer standing by the national security policies that had evolved from what Roosevelt had created. which the draft ended, with a Republican president—a hawk who was one of the founders of the Republican Right—taking advantage of this turmoil for his own electoral benefit, reflected the new direction of national security politics. Richard Nixon, by ending the draft, sought to protect the national security state from retrenchment, re-establish the international power of the United States, and ensure his own re-election. As a result, the same politician who had made his name pursuing communist spies

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and promoting internationalist policies within the GOP undertook a dramatic transformation of the nation’s military. Nixon did not think that the antiwar movement represented the majority of America. Talking with fellow Republicans about antiwar legislators in the Senate, he advised: “Don’t run with these people. . . . They live here, unreal atmosphere, Washington. . . . They read Time, and Newsweek, and the New York Times and Washington Post. . . . These congressmen and senators they go out to discuss votes in Georgetown . . . and they get the idea that that’s America.”51 But Nixon was a shrewd enough politician to understand that the antiwar movement posed a serious challenge to his presidency. Public opinion had shifted solidly against the Vietnam War. According to one poll, one-third of Americans believed that Vietnam was integral to national security, but more than half thought the war was a mistake.52 Given the narrowness of his win, Nixon could not afford to ignore liberals and moderates unhappy with Vietnam. He believed that he needed to build as broad a coalition as possible if he wanted to be re-elected. While he needed conservative support, he also was counting on moderate and independent voters.53 The president believed that the Democratic Left had become extremely influential in Congress, party politics, and the media. “You are all aware,” he warned his cabinet, “of the growth of isolationist sentiment in this country. The very group that carried out our postwar foreign policy, and the very people who founded NATO, are now neo-isolationists.”54 Within Congress, antiwar legislators were far more assertive than they had been under Johnson and vigorously challenged presidential authority. A strong presidency, once an aspiration of Democrats such as Fulbright and Arthur Schlesinger Jr., turned into a problem with Johnson and, even more so, with an aggressive Republican in the White House. Liberal legislators exercised new political muscle by trying to impose limits on executive war power. Even if they could not bring an end to the war through legislation, Oklahoma Senator Fred Harris explained that fellow Democrats intended to create pressure on their candidates to “help to create the climate within which the president can do the right thing.”55 Throughout his presidency, Nixon believed that Congress was intent on curtailing the national security state. Legislators pushed for restricting funding on operations in Southeast Asia, and Congress would formally impose limitations on presidential war powers and cut military appropriations, reversing the direction of the period

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leading into the 1960s. Defense spending as a percentage of GNP fell from 9.3 percent in 1968 to 8.2 percent in 1970. That figure declined during the remainder of his presidency, reaching 5.5 percent by August 1974. “From the beginning,” Kissinger later recalled, “Nixon was determined to resist these trends, believing that American power was not only morally defensible but crucial for the survival of free countries. But in the existing climate, strengthening our defenses proved no simple task. Not only the conduct of a war but the sinews of national security were under assault.”56 Nixon believed that he needed to take whatever steps were necessary to win re-election in 1972, even if those entailed temporarily shifting to the left. For Nixon believed that only if he could return to the White House in 1972 without then having to worry about winning another election, only then could he take the steps that were needed and have the leverage he required to persuade Congress to support larger national security budgets. “We can’t do much,” Nixon’s chief of staff, H. R. Haldeman, noted in his diary, “about building a strong defense for the United States during this term because Congress won’t support us. What we have to do is get reelected and then move into the defense setup at that time.”57 The antiwar movement influenced Democratic Party politics. Following the debacle of the 1968 Chicago convention, reformers argued that the old party elites, under the control of urban machine bosses and organized labor, had prevented the party from moving to the left. The failure of the Democratic Party to take a stand against the Vietnam War, as evidenced by the nomination of Humphrey, was a pivotal moment for these reformers. The party opened up the nomination process and placed the emphasis more on primaries than on conventions. New rules for primaries allowed women, minorities, and young people to have a greater voice in the choice of nominee. The news media was another base for antiwar sentiment that concerned Nixon. Reporters relied more heavily on unofficial sources than on information from government.58 They not only were critical of the war but also produced stories about drug abuse, racial tensions, and desertion in the military. Nixon could not sympathize with antiwar protesters, nor did he care about pleasing them. But he did feel that given their continued ability to mount large demonstrations that influenced the media and liberal Democrats in Congress, the grassroots forces posed a threat he needed to deal with. Between the Moratorium marches on October 15, 1969, and the Mobilization protests in November 1969, almost a

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million people demonstrated in Boston, Washington, New York, and other cities and towns. The protests even included family members of people in the Nixon administration.59 IXON NEVER THOUGHT that he would convince left-wing Democrats to like him. “This idea that you can defuse them is bull,” Nixon told his national security advisor, Henry Kissinger. “If we cater to these bastards, they will eat us alive.”60 Instead, the president’s strategy was to minimize the political appeal of the left by eliminating policies that were causing problems for Republicans.61 Nixon told Haldeman that he refused to end up like Johnson, trapped in the White House by Vietnam, and he intended to bring the war to an end.62 Nixon’s immediate goal was to “break the back of the establishment and Democratic leadership [and] then build a strong defense in [our] second term.”63 The president perceived Vietnam as an enormous distraction that could prevent him from dealing with what he saw as the real foreign policy challenges facing the nation, such as relations with the Soviet Union. While speaking of the war, Nixon told Virginia Democratic Senator Harry Byrd and Republican Senator Gordon Allott, “We’ve got the left where we want it now, but when the Right starts wanting to get out . . . that’s our problem.”64 Kissinger agreed that Vietnam was a disaster, and the United States needed to extricate itself, although in such a way as to not undermine America’s international standing.65 The president was prepared to undertake dramatic initiatives so that he would be able to move forward with the rest of his agenda. Through Vietnamization, a plan designed by Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird (a former congressman, the first ever selected to head the Pentagon) with a keen eye toward how unpopular this war had become with voters, Nixon started to gradually withdraw American ground forces from Vietnam as a way to reduce domestic protests. The president calibrated announcements of troop reductions in direct response to antiwar activities.66 Nixon did not believe the war was winnable and felt that for his re-election in 1972, as he told Kissinger, “I’ve got to get this off our plate.”67 Nixon did not perceive Vietnamization as a retreat from world affairs, although he understood that “peacenik types” would see it that way. His strategy of letting the South Vietnamese fight their own war was, Nixon explained, “devised to make it possible for us to play a role—and play it better, more effectively than if we continued the

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policy of the past in which we assume such a dominant position.”68 Vietnamization led to a gradual, albeit dramatic reduction in troop levels, dropping from about half a million troops in 1968 to only about 95,000 by 1972. Although Nixon understood that the public wanted to bring the war to an end, he heeded the advice of advisors to wait until after the 1972 election to avoid any negative political fallout. The strategy was to withdraw enough troops before 1972 that he could calm antiwar sentiment going into the election while leaving enough forces to maintain support from the right. The gradual withdrawal was scheduled based on electoral concerns.69 Nixon combined Vietnamization with a massive bombing campaign in North Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. In December 1970, the president said to Kissinger, “I want everything that can fly to go in there and crack the hell out of them.”70 A few months later, he said that the doves were “petrified because they know we’re going to end it [Vietnam].” White House Chief Counsel Charles Colson replied, “They want to take credit for it if it comes out right but they want to be positioned so they can be critical if it doesn’t.”71 In Laos and Cambodia, a secret bombing campaign was justified on the grounds that it would destroy routes that the North Vietnamese were using to move military equipment and manpower to the South. Nixon hoped to further undercut the antiwar movement by taking advantage of what he saw as a historic opportunity to end the draft. In 1969 Nixon said that he wanted to allow the draft to expire in the middle of 1973 while keeping the authority to reinstate it in the case of an emergency, and then on January 30, 1969, the media reported that the president told Defense Secretary Laird to plan to replace the draft with an all-volunteer force as soon as possible.72 Nixon took the political advice of Laird, who said the president should emphasize they were reducing the draft calls rather than establishing a new volunteer system, realizing that “the objective of each is identical.” This approach, he said, would dampen public discussions about shifting to a new system.73 Laird was the administration’s point man charged with winning public support on this issue.74 Ideally, Nixon thought that moving to end the draft would cut the lifeblood from the antiwar movement, but he had to move with caution. The leaders of the armed forces warned that they would not be able to attract a sufficient number of volunteers (many top officials in the army, though, were coming to accept that the draft was no longer a recruiting device that could work over the long run).

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Representatives from the national guard and national reserves insisted that they would experience a steep decline in recruitment if Americans no longer feared being drafted. The Joint Chiefs of Staff told Nixon that the failure to continue the draft would produce a chaotic situation that would prevent the army from achieving its mission.75 Yet even their warnings were tempered given that most army leaders (including General Westmoreland) had concluded that the army had to take dramatic steps to restore its image and that the draft was bringing in many who were prone to drug abuse, lack of discipline, and erratic performance.76 Senior southern Democrats, generally conservative on national security issues, remained convinced that the draft served a positive civic role. John Stennis, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Louisiana’s Edward Hébert, a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee who would become chairman in 1970, were opposed to eliminating the draft.77 Stennis warned that without a draft “we will lose the essential spirit of the modern American Army, that is, the GI who comes in as part of his obligation to his generation and his country. . . . We are abandoning the essential spirit of the modern services when we say we are going out to do whatever is necessary to induce a man solely based on money.”78 Even some liberal congressional Democrats, such as Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy, wanted to overhaul the Selective Service System rather than abandon it. While the draft always had at best only tenuous support from conservative Republicans, Nixon perceived that for the first time since 1948, many northern liberals were now opposed to the system because it was inequitable. Within Congress, one poll revealed that support was almost two to one in favor of ending the draft.79 House Minority Leader Gerald Ford predicted that Congress would eliminate the draft in a year because the situation in Vietnam would have improved by then.80 Polls confirmed that a majority of Americans supported a volunteer army.81 When Nixon called for a professional army, he drew on the ideas of economists who argued that conscription was inefficient, undemocratic, and ineffective. They provided Nixon with the intellectual justification that he needed to promote his proposals as a conservative, not as a dove. The University of Chicago’s Milton Friedman claimed that the system imposed an unfair tax on the men who served since they were forced to lose marketplace wages during their time in the armed services. Friedman also argued that the draft generated resentment about the armed forces rather than inspiring

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civic pride. Presidential advisor Martin Anderson agreed, adding that the draft produced an inferior military by forcing people to fight.82 Nixon could not predict what long-term political or military impact dismantling the draft would have on America. Nor was he convinced that the change would be permanent. But he was certain that in the near future, moving to end the draft would benefit his administration by undermining the left. When Kissinger reported that conservative writer William F. Buckley Jr. wanted the administration to end the draft, Nixon responded that “ending the draft gives us breathing space in Vietnam. We’ll restore the draft later, but goddamn it, the military, they’re a bunch of greedy bastards that want more officers clubs and more men to shine their shoes. The sons of bitches are not interested in this country.”83 Nixon decided to pursue an incremental strategy. As with Vietnamization, the president decided to complete the process of changing over to a professional army only after the 1972 election, a schedule that in addition to its political appeal would also avoid ending the draft too soon and thus undercut the administration’s negotiating power in Paris with the North Vietnamese. In May 1969, Nixon requested a series of measures to reform the draft, most of which were greeted enthusiastically by the media, whose biggest complaint was that Nixon did not go far enough. In September, he told Republican leaders that the GOP should make draft reform a major issue since it affected every family in America.84 Congress passed legislation based on several requests from Nixon, including the creation of a national lottery and the modification of the order of the draft call. In 1971, Nixon ended student deferments, which he believed had primarily benefited the children of the “highly privileged” and forced the poor to fight.85 “For eight years,” Nixon told Republican congressional leaders, “Democrats talked about draft reform; we have done something about draft reform.”86 Meanwhile, Lewis Hershey had become a liability. The seventyfive-year-old Selective Service director was generally seen as an outof-date figure who stubbornly defended a system that was biased against the poor and minorities. Donald Rumsfeld had written Nixon after the election that it would be a “terrible, terrible mistake if he were not replaced.”87 William Buckley’s National Review urged Nixon to fire Hershey since he had taken “undesirable” actions in a position that “requires a bureaucrat of the most colorless sort at its head.”88 “Someone has to play the goat,” Hershey said, “and I’m it.”89 And so, in early October 1969, the White House announced

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that Hershey was being replaced by air force official and former university president Curtis Tarr, who went on to implement a number of administrative reforms and spoke out on behalf of the viability and equity of an all-volunteer army. Furthermore, the administration pushed for improved working conditions for soldiers, aiming to strengthen Nixon’s standing with military families since soldiers suffered from low salaries and often dangerous and even deadly living conditions. Nixon linked these pay increases to his objective of ending the draft by 1973. Passage of these improvements was seen by most supporters of the professional army as essential.90 The administration implemented salary increases, improved housing conditions, and instituted more generous leave policies. Finally, Nixon authorized a public relations campaign to improve the image of the armed forces so that more people would want to volunteer. While Johnson used studies to quash momentum for draft reform, Nixon relied on them to advance the cause of a professional army. The first study he commissioned did not produce findings favorable to the administration’s position.The Department of Defense’s “Project Volunteer” highlighted the financial and practical problems related to switching to a professional force. The findings confirmed the fears of Martin Anderson, who told Chairman of the Federal Reserve Arthur Burns that the “study” was simply a way for the Department of Defense to prevent a shift in policy despite the president’s public pronouncements. Anderson said that “another expensive study at this time is redundant—except of course for updating vital statistics. The decision has been made to establish an all-volunteer force, the question is now one of how to accomplish it.”91 Unhappy with the first study, Nixon launched another under the direction of Thomas Gates, secretary of defense under Eisenhower. Anderson had put together a group of outside experts, many of whom were actually committed to the idea of an all-volunteer force.92 Although it included members who supported the status quo, the intellectual weight of the commission leaned toward a volunteer force with the inclusion of economists such as Milton Friedman and Alan Greenspan.93 The Gates commission focused on compiling enough evidence to support a move toward a professional all-volunteer force. Members of the commission heard from both liberal (Americans for Democratic Action) and conservative (Young Americans for Freedom) organizations that were biased toward this outcome. When Gates encountered negative testimony, he put forth data to refute it.

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Released on February 21, 1970, the Gates commission report recommended the adoption of an all-volunteer force and argued that the additional cost would only be about $3 or $4 billion per year, rather than the $7 to $17 billion previously estimated. The commission found that a volunteer force would not rely much more heavily on minorities or the poor than the existing system. It suggested that the draft should be eliminated by June 1971. Anticipating that the Pentagon might again need a draft if national security conditions changed, the commission included mandatory registration for a draft system that could be immediately started in a crisis. The assumption that policy makers would have the flexibility to reinstate a draft, as occurred in 1948, guided deliberations. The Government Printing Office published the Gates commission report as a cheap paperback and distributed it to newspapers, editorial page editors, and members of the Radio-TV News Directors Association.94 The administration also met with political organizations such as the College Republicans and the moderate Republican Ripon Society as well as veterans groups and local media.95 On April 9, 1970, White House aide Kenneth Cole informed Kissinger, Anderson, chief domestic advisor John Ehrlichman, and a few other top advisors that the president had decided to move toward reducing draft calls to zero, with the stipulation that this would be achieved when it was militarily feasible. Cole reported that Nixon said he would renew the draft in 1971 since it was necessary in order for U.S. “foreign policy to be credible.”96 On April 23, Laird told Republican leaders that the president would send a message to Congress that would translate into law the recommendations of the Gates report, with the goal of moving “in the direction of zero draft calls.”97 IXON’S INCREMENTAL STRATEGY

faced two big challenges. The first was that other politicians would take credit for eliminating the draft. The second was how to negotiate his contradictory stand of defending the draft in the short term while calling for its elimination over time. The president’s greatest immediate concern was credit claiming. He was worried that antiwar Democrats and moderate Republicans would steal his thunder and thus undercut the political victory he hoped to achieve. Republicans such as Oregon Senator Mark Hatfield and Wisconsin Representative William Steiger were offering proposals for a professional military, as were liberal Democrats such as Senators William Proxmire (Wisconsin), Alan Cranston (California), and McGovern, and Representative Allard Lowenstein (New

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York). Hatfield claimed that a volunteer army would increase the pressure on the president to be cautious before going to war since he would need to call on Americans, and their families, to serve. “A volunteer army,” Hatfield argued, “would force the President to rely on persuasion rather than conscription in committing us to longterm conflicts.”98 In a curious ad hoc alliance, liberal Democrats and Republicans such as Hatfield and McGovern worked with staunch conservatives like Barry Goldwater and Robert Dole, who agreed that the draft was an unnecessary extension of government and a poor way to recruit fighters. Since Nixon’s support for a professional military was political, timing was essential. Nixon’s stated goal was to have Congress renew the Selective Service Act in 1971 and allow it to expire two years later, by which time he expected to have U.S. forces fully withdrawn from Vietnam and be re-elected. The president thus worked with southern Democrats to kill legislative proposals to end the draft immediately. Nixon explained his contradictory position by distinguishing between shifting to a professional military after Vietnam and endorsing an immediate end to the draft. Haldeman told Republican leaders: “While we are working hard to get to an all-volunteer armed force admittedly the incentives to volunteer [for] the armed forces are not yet known as to their effectiveness. What we have proposed is clearly an experiment. It is the opinion of the Department of Defense that there will be a shortfall next year . . . of 100,000 men. . . . It is essential that we are able to maintain our armed forces at the proposed budget level. . . . We are satisfied that within a reasonable length of time we can solve the problems of inducing enough young Americans to volunteer in the armed forces but we can’t take the chance that we will solve those problems within one year.”The administration opposed a one-year extension of the draft, which some senators proposed, because that would force another extension in an election year. Nixon added, “You’ve got to have an army. We would like to have it, and prefer it, as a volunteer army but you have got to have an army. . . . This country cannot risk a hiatus when we go, say, all the way to a volunteer army.”99 Postponing a transition until 1973 allowed Nixon to enjoy the best of both worlds by attacking draft opponents before the 1972 election as weak on defense even when Nixon himself supported their position. Nixon always approached this issue from the perspective of a hawkish Republican, not as someone sympathetic to the

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antiwar movement. He wanted to preserve conservative internationalism and dampen the critique of the antiwar movement. Nixon asked advisor Patrick Buchanan to “get a hold of some of your conservatives” and tell them that “those that voted against the draft have voted for America to be number two. Those who voted against the draft would vote to sabotage, basically, our peace initiatives.”The president said that conservatives “ought to raise hell,” reminding Buchanan that Nixon was the “guy who is fighting for national defense, . . . I am fighting for the draft, I am fighting for more appropriations, the Senate is killing us.”100 Nixon told New York Republican Congressman Jack Kemp that he should remind fellow conservatives, “If they get rid of the draft all of our peace initiatives with the Russians, with the Chinese are down the tube. . . . You cannot negotiate from weakness.” Nixon said he understood the need for an army that was “volunteer,” but that “right now we need a certain amount of time.”101 Therefore, the president who would dismantle the draft stood as its main defender in 1971 when legislation extending the Selective Service System for two more years became bogged down in a fight over a liberal “end the war” amendment from Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield, which would have imposed a legislative timetable for withdrawal. In a special message to Congress on January 28, Nixon had announced that “after carefully weighing both the requirements of national security and the desirability of reducing infringements on individual liberties, I urge that we should begin moving toward an end of the draft and its replacement with an allvolunteer armed force, with an eye to achieving this goal as soon as we can do so without endangering our national security.” For the immediate future, the president proposed increasing the pay for the military as well as implementing a series of reforms to make the system more equitable, such as stopping undergraduate deferments. Following three days of debate, the House passed a two-year extension, 293 to 99. The Senate Armed Services Committee agreed to the House bill after an extensive round of amendments. The Senate passed the bill on June 24 by a vote of 72 to 16 after reaching an agreement on a watered-down version of Mansfield’s end-the-war amendment. The original amendment called for the withdrawal of troops from Vietnam within nine months after the legislation went into effect. The compromise eliminated the date and declared it a “sense-of-Congress” rather than a policy. Mansfield promised to keep Vietnam on the “front burner.”102

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Even after senators reached a temporary agreement on the Mansfield amendment, Democrats Mike Gravel (Alaska) and Cranston filibustered the legislation with the hope of killing the draft permanently. The Senate stopped the filibuster with sixty-one votes and passed the bill by a vote of 55 to 30 on September 21. Given the length of time that it took the Senate to get to a vote, the administration was temporarily left without the authority to draft soldiers, since the Selective Service Act had officially expired on June 30. Before the bill reached conference committee, it faced a second threat in September when Senator Allott, a hawk, said he would withdraw his support for the extension unless the president agreed to a significant increase in military pay, which Hébert and Stennis both opposed because of the cost. In response to Allott’s obstructionism, Nixon said that conservatives “ought to start raising hell with the Senate on their opposition to the draft.” Nixon and Kissinger worked in Congress to get the draft extended. Kissinger convinced Senator James Buckley (Conservative, New York) to end his support for Allott.103 Nixon warned that the delay would be “irresponsible” and make the United States the second most powerful nation in the world and undermine the nation’s ability to negotiate in Vietnam or with the Soviets over arms reductions.104 The president quietly worked in the Senate with Hébert to convey the message to the media that failing to extend the draft would undermine America’s bargaining power with the Soviet Union and Europe. Nixon went so far as to agree to appear at a portrait-hanging ceremony for Hébert in exchange for his support.105 With only ten minutes before Allott was going to set aside the bill, Nixon sent word of his commitment to fight for a military pay boost in defense procurement legislation.106 Allott “forced his price,” Nixon said minutes after the deal.107 Allott expected that this would be the last time that Congress renewed the draft law.108 His prediction was right on target. The final legislation extended the draft for two years while adopting reforms including higher pay, a nationalized lottery call, greater rights for draft registrants, and an end to student deferments. Regarding the draft, Hatfield said that the president could “easily” have delivered on his campaign promise of 1968 and convinced enough members of Congress to shift to a volunteer army, but that instead he called out the administration’s “big guns” to scare legislators to oppose an immediate end.109 At the same time, the press reported that Nixon was thinking about stop-

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ping the draft by December 1972, six months ahead of schedule, with much of the change taking place before November despite continued concerns at the Pentagon.110 Some proponents of an all-volunteer army worried that Nixon’s pragmatic statements about short-term needs had undermined confidence that the president really intended to move toward a professional army. In a private letter, Representative Steiger wrote Secretary Laird to complain that there was a “widespread belief that the draft will not end. Since many hold the view that the volunteer force will not work, they believe that come June 1973, the Army will simply obtain another extension of the draft.” The result was that there was little “sense of urgency” to obtain the reforms that were needed to ensure the volunteer force would work.111 In September 1971, Laird announced a so-called total force policy, which was also part of the shift to a volunteer force. According to this plan, manpower planning would include the national guard and reserve forces, which had traditionally been considered secondary, and that they would be prepared to “be the initial and primary source for augmentation of the active forces in any future emergency requiring a rapid and substantial expansion of the active forces.”112 Meanwhile, Nixon continued with his gradual troop withdrawals, which were scheduled with the elections in mind. In his diary, Haldeman noted that when the president was considering a trip to Vietnam in 1971 to announce an end to the war, “[Kissinger] argues against a commitment that early to withdraw all combat troops because he feels that if we pull them out by the end of ’71, trouble can start mounting in ’72 that we won’t be able to deal with, and which we’ll have to answer for at the elections. He prefers, instead, a commitment to have them all out by the end of ’72, so that we won’t have to deliver finally until after the elections, and, therefore, can keep our flanks protected.” The president, according to Haldeman, agreed with Kissinger’s assessment, but “he still feels he’s got to make a major move in early ’71, and he could make the commitment at that time that there would be no further use of draftees in Vietnam, and also make the long-range troop withdrawal commitment.”113 Despite such concerns, in August 1972, Nixon received a report from Laird that showed the move toward an all-volunteer force was proceeding smoothly. Laird asserted that the all-volunteer force was in the best interests of the country since it would produce a stronger and more efficient military. Soldiers would be people who wanted to serve and who were compensated for their service rather than

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random groups of young Americans forcefully dragged into military combat. By July, only 45,000 troops remained in Vietnam.114 Changes in defense policy, Laird said, had resulted in substantial reductions in the size of the active forces and had thus made an allvolunteer force more viable. There was even evidence of a “revitalization” of the national guard and reserve, which he called the “best guarantee against having to use a peacetime draft in future years.” Laird credited improvements in recruiting for steady enlistment levels. “To overcome habits developed through a thirty-year-old draft system in just three years,” Laird boasted, “while reducing draft calls by 250,000 a year and reducing the proportion of draft motivated ‘volunteers’ from 60 percent to 25 percent is an extraordinary accomplishment. Never before has a nation maintained a military force of this size on a strictly voluntary basis, and we are within reach of that objective.”115 1972 presidential election, Nixon faced South Dakota’s George McGovern, who had come to reject liberal internationalism as a result of the war in Vietnam. He had called for a peace agreement in Vietnam and ending the war through strict legislative budget restrictions, and he had openly, and defiantly, questioned the entire Cold War strategy. He had also proposed ending the draft. Predictably, Nixon played the issue both ways when dealing with McGovern, hammering away at the Democratic national security agenda as too soft on communism while also promoting the fact that he himself was moving to end the draft after the war ended. Nixon predicted that future wars would be limited to nuclear wars or guerrilla warfare, neither of which would necessitate large armies. Nixon wrote Kissinger on March 11 saying that he did not want to take any action in terms of withdrawing more troops that would undermine their position in talks with the Vietnamese but neither did he want to shoot himself in the foot politically. Nixon believed that it was “vital” that before the Democratic convention in July, the administration state that most American forces would soon be out of Vietnam.116 On June 28, 1972, Nixon announced that no more draftees would be sent to Vietnam. Exactly two months later, Kissinger met with Nixon and told him that Laird’s recent report on manpower needs and the viability of the professional army made it possible to “reaffirm your commitment to the All-Volunteer concept.”117

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With each statement about the draft and Vietnamization, Nixon hoped to capture a larger share of the youth vote, which had been expanded in 1971 when the twenty-sixth amendment lowered the voting age to eighteen. When Laird was asked if announcements about ending the draft would help the administration win the youth vote, the secretary answered in the affirmative.118 He noted that Nixon’s move to an all-volunteer army had calmed campus unrest.119 Republicans thus made a concerted effort to limit how many votes McGovern captured from this pool of fourteen million. Pollsters and politicians all thought that young voters would lean toward the Democrats. But the administration refused to concede these votes. Ending the draft was a central component to its youth campaign.120 On August 28, Nixon highlighted the fact that the draft would end by July 1973 by canceling the lottery. He said that “sufficient numbers of volunteers can be attracted to the armed forces to meet peacetime manpower needs, and that ending all dependence on the draft will be consistent with maintaining the force level and degree of readiness necessary to meet our vital long-term national security needs.” There was also the other side to Nixon’s campaign, one that aimed at turning McGovern into a symbol for why Democrats were weak on defense. Nixon advisor Patrick Buchanan had called it essential to portray McGovern as “preposterous, foolish, and even dangerous to U.S. security.”121 Nixon told Haldeman that he wanted to conduct a “strong assault in the press on the Democratic candidates” for being been too soft on communist aggression, for undermining the ability of the United States to protect South Vietnam, and for sabotaging the efforts of a Republican president to exit a Democratic war.122 In one of the better-known television ads of the campaign, a hand brushes away toy military models from a table. After outlining specific defense cuts proposed by McGovern, the announcer says, “Nixon doesn’t believe we should play games with our national security. He believes in a strong America, to negotiate for peace from strength.”123 During one of his final speeches of the campaign, in his home state of California, Nixon told an audience that allowing McGovern to control foreign policy would be “dangerous” to the United States and the entire world. With blistering rhetoric, Nixon urged voters to let him finish his “agenda of peace” and that “if we unilaterally slash our defenses now as our opponents in this election advocate, the Soviets would have no incentive to negotiate further arms limitations.”

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In an attack that sounded reminiscent of Democrats criticizing Republicans in 1948, he said, “We have not fallen into the foolish illusion that we could somehow build a wall around America, here to enjoy our comforts, oblivious to the cries or the threats of others.”124 Nixon won the election in a landslide—520 electoral votes and over 60 percent of the popular vote. He carried forty-nine states, leaving McGovern only with the District of Columbia and Massachusetts. Nixon took all of the Democratic South, the first time a Republican had done so since Reconstruction. McGovern barely won 50 percent of the youth vote. Nixon’s victory gave him the political momentum that he needed to complete his plan for adopting a professional military. To the president’s dismay, Democrats retained control of the House and Senate with a 56–42 seat majority in the latter (with one Conservative and one independent). Republicans gained thirteen House seats, but Democrats retained a majority, 242 to 192 with one independent. ITHOUT MUCH FANFARE, Nixon and Congress allowed the draft law to expire in 1973. On January 27, following twelve days of the most intense bombing the world had ever seen, the United States, South Vietnam, the Viet Cong, and North Vietnam signed an agreement in Paris that produced a cease-fire. The North Vietnamese agreed to free prisoners of war while the United States accepted a timetable for leaving the country. The agreement was not very satisfactory in terms of the original goals of the United States. The North was allowed to leave troops in the South, and a coalition government was formed. Just a few hours after the cease-fire was officially signed, Laird announced an immediate end to the draft, except for doctors and dentists: “The all-volunteer era—which our commander in chief, President Nixon, has promised the American people—is upon us.”125 The system in place since 1940 simply ended. Promising that the “total use of selective service will come to an end on the 30th of June,” Laird told Americans that “we are on the verge of achieving our goal of true volunteerism in our military service.”126 On June 30, Congress did not renew the draft law. For the first time since 1947, the United States did not have peacetime conscription. The president was able to end the draft only because the Vietnam War had shattered any serious possibility of sustaining Democratic unity on national security policy. The growing divisions among liberals over national security policies constituted the change

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that made the draft vulnerable. As a result of the liberal backlash against Cold War policies, there was little opposition when the president allowed the draft laws to expire. The most striking political story was how few Democrats opposed Nixon’s decision. To be sure, some liberals denounced the change. New York Representative Charles Rangel said that Nixon’s drive “to create a volunteer Army is mainly induced by his desire to get the articulate young whites off his back and make America’s belligerence in Asia more palatable to their parents. . . . Middle- and upper-class whites will not be enticed to join by financial inducements. But disadvantaged blacks, Mexicans, and Puerto Ricans must volunteer since there are no other economic options open to them. . . . America’s oppressed races would be fighting and dying so that affluent whites can continue to enjoy the fruits of imperialism.”127 Former Johnson advisor Joseph Califano wrote, “In effect with the all-volunteer army, we write into law the concept of one man’s money for another man’s blood.”128 The editors of the Los Angeles Times agreed that the decision to take the “all-volunteer route” had been “dictated by political considerations” and that the president, as well as Congress, had devised “a system whereby the well-off, through their taxes, would hire the not so well-off to provide for common defense.”129 But Rangel, Califano, and the editors of the Los Angeles Times had few allies. By 1973, most liberal Democrats were willing to support Congress and the president as they moved to abandon one of the central contributions of liberal internationalism to the national security state—the ultimate commitment to national sacrifice. draft, Nixon weakened the most immediate connection that existed between the national security state and average citizens. Coming on the heels of the Paris Peace Accords, Nixon’s action helped calm the furor that had dominated politics for over a decade about the cost of an aggressive national security agenda. Although Nixon was motivated by short-term political considerations, his decision had enormous long-term consequences. He correctly predicted that dismantling the draft—at the same time that the United States ended its participation in the Vietnam War—would offer conservatives and moderates breathing space to ask Americans to support a renewed militarism without confronting middle-class fears about their sons (and later daughters). But the victory came at a cost. Nixon had shackled conservatives in his effort to save them from the political aftermath of the 1960s.

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Y ELIMINATING THE

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Nixon accepted this huge risk because he thought that it was necessary at a moment of true international and domestic crisis. He also believed that the draft could be easily reinstated. But Nixon was wrong. Neither he nor others, in either party, would be able to rebuild the coalition that had favored the draft, a coalition created in contention over America’s entrance into World War II, then legitimated in defeating the Nazis and containing the Soviet Union. It would now become harder for the Pentagon to go to war with its hands tied, as conservatives, who were to come to power, would discover. As conservatism came to dominate politics over the next three decades, its proponents were forced to limit themselves to a national security strategy that did not require more soldiers than the professional military could provide. Looking back after Reagan’s election in 1980, Nixon admitted that he regretted the decision.130

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NIXON WAS the president who finally went to China, and he knew it would make for powerful political theater. With all the dramatic strategic talk coming out of the State Department, he understood that forging diplomatic ties with China would damage Democrats politically, as the trip would allow the president to steal from liberals one of their issues, the reputation for being more effective than the GOP at diplomatic negotiation and the peaceful resolution of conflict.1 China, moreover, was one part of a much broader national security strategy. Two Republican presidents in the 1970s, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, both hawkish conservatives, tried to fill the void that had been left by the collapse of FDR’s coalition, as a result of Vietnam, with a centrist agenda of détente when dealing with communism. Nixon and Ford each attempted to avoid the two extremes of the era: massive military retrenchment (left) and massive military escalation (right). Under these administrations, détente resembled conservative internationalism with one huge exception: The presidents were willing to pursue arms and trade agreements with the Soviet Union and China.

R

ICHARD

ICHARD NIXON BELIEVED that the strength of America’s national security state had been jeopardized by the political unrest of the 1960s. Protest movements in Europe, Asia, and the United States, he said, had challenged the authority of the superpowers and

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undermined the stability of the international order.2 Nixon would tell his advisors that “America has only two more years as the number one power.” Reviewing changing conditions, he anticipated a world where there was no single center of power.3 But international changes were not the only challenge that Nixon faced. He felt that American politicians had become fearful of asserting military power and foreign leaders doubted the willingness of the United States to flex its muscles. The president agreed with advisors who said the Soviets were making significant military gains. Speaking to Vice President Spiro Agnew about this threat, Nixon said that historians would look back and ask, “Did we crumble or did we measure up?”4 To secure U.S. influence in a multi-polar world and end the Vietnam War, Nixon concluded that his administration would have to make a series of dramatic moves, including tactical retreats. Just like ending the draft, Nixon would scale back on international military operations (through the Nixon Doctrine, which proclaimed that allies receiving assistance from the United States would have to fight their own wars), dismantle international economic arrangements (abandoning the gold standard), and accept new agreements between enemies (détente). The president decided that opening relations with China and pursuing détente with the Soviets could reaffirm American power abroad and restore domestic support for an aggressive national security agenda. Détente was conceived not as a peace platform but as an effort to overcome crumbling support for national security programs in the wake of Vietnam and to find a politically acceptable way to rebuild U.S. strength. Nixon sought to construct a broad electoral coalition. “You can’t win without the conservatives,” Nixon liked to say, “but you can’t win with just the conservatives.”5 Because he had a strong conservative base, Nixon was confident that he could risk an apparent move toward the center without suffering political disaster. The aim was to capitalize on divisions between the Soviets and China, applying pressure on both sides, to convince the North Vietnamese to end the controversial war, as well as to demonstrate that Republicans could keep the nation out of war without making the United States appear militarily weak. Like the elimination of the draft, détente could undermine the appeal of the antiwar movement. The individual who most eloquently articulated the concepts behind détente was Henry Kissinger, Nixon’s national security advisor. Although Kissinger came from an immigrant Jewish background

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and had been educated in elite academic circles, he shared personality traits with the president that facilitated a good working relationship. In his scholarship on European history, Kissinger hoped to replicate the balance of power achieved at the Congress of Vienna in 1815. His ideas were rooted in the realist tradition of foreign policy which stipulated that the United States should focus only on strategic self-interest within a world of states that were constantly competing. Détente, Kissinger claimed, would result in a policy based on American needs rather than Soviet actions.6 Kissinger was a longtime critic of containment. On the one hand, the nation, he thought, needed to be willing to use force more aggressively in contained situations; since the 1950s Kissinger had supported the use of limited nuclear warfare. Along with Defense Secretary Melvin Laird, he also resurrected an idea that had lost credibility among experts during Johnson’s presidency, the proposal to build an antiballistic missile (ABM) system that could knock down incoming Soviet missiles. With few exceptions, most experts did not believe that such a system could work. But Laird felt that simply by trying to produce it, regardless of how feasible it was at the time, the United States could give the appearance of taking a tough posture on defense—and congressional hawks agreed, as they were instrumental in obtaining Senate approval of the system on August 6, 1969, with Vice President Spiro Agnew casting a tie-breaking vote against a provision that would have stopped most work on the project—while Kissinger and Nixon primarily wanted to use ABM for leverage in bargaining with the Soviets over an arms treaty. On the other hand, Kissinger believed that national leaders needed to negotiate with the Soviets and Chinese.7 In the 1960s, several Western European leaders had paved the way: France’s Charles de Gaulle and West Germany’s Willy Brandt made overtures to the Soviets hoping to improve relations. Nixon felt pressure from these allied leaders to act. results in the 1970 election, when Republicans failed to gain control of Congress, Nixon’s political instincts told him that he should continue to focus on his efforts to achieve international institutional stability to boost his standing. As H. R. Haldeman said, “The President should become known next year as ‘Mr. Peace,’” by making progress on a resolution in Vietnam and easing tensions in relations with China and the Soviets. Nixon told Colson in the fall of 1971 that “international affairs is our issue.”8

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OLLOWING THE DISAPPOINTING

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Under Nixon, the first component of détente involved negotiations with adversaries, beginning in 1971, when Nixon and Kissinger conducted a series of high-level negotiations with China and the Soviet Union. Most Americans were shocked that Nixon was the first president to establish relations with the People’s Republic of China. But the strategy had evolved gradually. Nixon and Kissinger had been contemplating this move since the 1960s. Nixon sensed that there was potential for the United States to take advantage of the divisions between China and the Soviets, perceiving a historic opportunity as a result of the intense rivalry that had developed between the two countries. He was a bit more confident with China, in that he did not see them posing as much of a military threat to the United States as the Soviets. In a 1967 Foreign Affairs article, Nixon wrote that China needed to be integrated into world affairs even if its political system remained abhorrent.9 Two years later, Nixon’s State Department secretly drew up proposals to normalize relations with China.10 Politically, Nixon also sensed by 1971 that some wiggle room existed with China. Little of the once powerful China Lobby remained. Polls were showing that for the first time since 1949 more Americans favored than opposed the recognition of the People’s Republic of China. That said, the political risks of courting Communist China were enormous, as it had been an important symbol for conservative Republicans since the post–World War II period. During a tense meeting with a group of prominent conservative intellectuals and activists in August 1971, including William Rusher (National Review editor), Allan Ryskind (editor of Human Events), Dan Mahoney (chairman of the New York State Conservative Party), and John Fischer (director of the American Security Council), Kissinger lectured them about the political realities of 1970s America, reminding them that Nixon had taken over after a “collapse of foreign policy theory. A new frontier of the 60s had ended in the frustration of Vietnam, a divided country, and vicious isolationism clamored [for] by liberals. The conviction that there was no real danger to our nation was widespread. There was an extreme attack on general principles of authority and, in particular, on the Defense establishment—the military. . . . We came to face an irresponsible Congress.” Kissinger warned that the administration was isolated whenever it made decisions favoring a defense build-up. Kissinger felt that “before the election in 1972, it will not be possible for us aggressively to improve our Defense position.” Even hawkish Mississippi Democratic Sena-

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tor John Stennis, Kissinger said, refused to support increased defense spending: “That is a reflection of how serious the situation is.” He told the conservatives that the right needed to “develop a counterweight to the liberal consensus” and wait until after the election of 1972 since there was currently no political space to push forward on a more aggressive defense strategy.11 According to the Republican Right, one of Nixon’s worst early mistakes took place two months after the meeting with conservatives when the United States failed to prevent the United Nations from seating the People’s Republic of China on the Security Council and expelling Taiwan. The right-wing Congressman John Ashbrook warned that the United Nations was considering allowing “one of the most brutal” regimes in recorded history to become a full member.12 The Nixon administration publicly appeared to support these arguments. Privately, George H. W. Bush, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, doubted the veracity of Nixon’s statements about how far he was willing to go to oppose the inclusion of China on the council, given recent announcements of talks between the two countries: “At this moment I don’t know what our China policy in the U.N. will turn out to be, but all the U.N. people feel that the ballgame is over, Peking is in and Taiwan is out.” Still, Bush lobbied delegates to vote against the inclusion of Communist China, to the point that he thought victory was possible. As Bush prepared to make his speech before the U.N., he was informed that Kissinger was in China on a surprise visit. Bush, feeling betrayed by his own boss, was received at the U.N. with boos as he gave his speech, humiliated that Nixon had tricked him. The U.N. voted against Nixon’s official position.13 Publicly, the administration acted as if they did not agree with the U.N. vote to accept Communist China even though it had tacitly acknowledged its willingness to live with the decision. This kind of maneuvering was quintessential Nixon style, integral, as he saw it, to the successful implementation of the politically explosive policies of détente. California Governor Ronald Reagan, who had become one of the more influential right-wing Republicans in the 1960s, called Nixon to let him know that he was “just sick” about the vote: “I feel so strongly that we can’t . . . in view of ’72 . . . just sit and take this and continue as if nothing had happened.” Reagan, saying that his “every instinct” said to get “the hell out of that Kangaroo court,” explained that the American people “don’t like the U.N. to begin with.” He suggested that Nixon should bring Bush back to Washington to

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let the Chinese “sweat” for about twenty-four hours and then announce that the United States would not vote or be bound by U.N. decisions. Dismissing the U.N. as a “debating society,” Reagan said it would “put those bums in the perspective they belong.” He concluded by telling the president that this would be a “hell of a campaign issue” since Americans were “thoroughly disgusted.” Reagan said Republicans could challenge Democrats about what they would do and those who responded that they would not take action would be “hung out to dry.” Nervously laughing as Reagan spoke, Nixon responded that “naturally we can’t do that.”14 In a separate conversation in the Oval Office, the president ridiculed Reagan’s “typical right wing simplicity.”15 He instructed Haldeman to make Reagan happy by sending the governor to “gallivant around” in Taiwan and report to the administration.16 Refusing to back down, Nixon told Alexander Haig, deputy assistant to the president for national security affairs, that he should not be a “bit” defensive with these “goddamn right wing” politicians and that conservatives needed to remember that “we have common enemies.” Except for the right-wing fringe, Nixon predicted, most people would forget about the U.N. vote by the 1972 elections.17 Reagan was not the only conservative who was upset with Nixon’s overtures to China. Nixon speechwriter Patrick Buchanan said that conservatives couldn’t believe that there had been no way to “put those little nations” in line.18 Twelve well-known conservative Republicans published a full-page declaration in the National Review criticizing Nixon for his failure to stop Soviet advances and for his overtures to China that became public that year.19 To conservative Republicans, the courtship of China was a betrayal of everything that Nixon had stood for. After learning of the decision to open discussions with China, William Rusher called Buchanan and said, “I am just phoning . . . to say goodbye.”20 This came at a time when conservatives were generally unhappy with what they perceived as their diminishing presence in the White House. Given the existing tensions within the GOP, Nixon and Kissinger planned a diplomatic trip to China in top-secret mode. The president was terrified that any leak of the plan would enable Republican conservatives to subvert the negotiations.21 Although Nixon did not initially think that he would win many votes from the China initiative, he told Kissinger that an important political benefit would be to quiet “intellectuals and the newsmen” about

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Vietnam by refocusing their attention.22 More optimistic, Colson noted that “RN’s election is in the hands of Peking.”23 News of the China trip clearly improved the president’s popularity, placing him well ahead of his Democratic challengers. Cognizant of the political benefits, Nixon urged the Chinese to avoid invitations to other American politicians before his trip.24 The White House handled the president’s visit in February 1972 like a television production, carefully orchestrating the trip so that Americans saw only the most dramatic images on their television sets. The air force transported forty thousand pounds of equipment, including a full television ground station. The two most striking images were Nixon enthusiastically shaking hands with Premier Zhou Enlai—in vivid contrast to Secretary of State John Foster Dulles’s refusal to shake Zhou Enlai’s hand in 1954 at the Geneva Conference, an act that was famously humiliating to China—as well as Nixon’s walk along the Great Wall.25 During their meeting, politics was on Nixon’s mind. As he told Mao Zedong, “Those on the right can do what those on the left only talk about.” Conservatives couldn’t believe their eyes. Observing the meeting between Nixon and Mao, one prominent conservative journalist said, “He would toast Alger Hiss tonight, if he could find him.”26 But those voices were drowned out temporarily given that the trip was generally popular, and it brought the administration praise from unexpected quarters. As the editors of the Washington Post grudgingly acknowledged, “An opening exists where there has not been one for 22 years; a beginning has been made; the potential is vast and for this much the President is entitled to great credit for it was a bold stroke. . . . It was something like going to the moon.”27 The trip was a political goldmine for the president. As Nixon told Kissinger, “It’s good to go to China and good to go to Russia, because we’re going to have to use everybody in the campaign.”28 The dramatic images from this trip were not just intended for American eyes but for the Soviets’ as well. By talking with China, Nixon hoped to play to the Soviets’ sense of competition with the other communist superpower and accelerate Soviet-U.S. negotiations and compel them to pressure North Vietnam to end the war. On April 19, Nixon instructed Kissinger to give the Soviet leadership the same message he had conveyed to the Chinese, namely that the president “can deliver what the so-called liberals promise because he has the confidence of the right in our country. . . . No President could go at this time and come back with an arms control

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agreement and so forth and sell it to the American people except this President. He would have a riot on the streets of the right wing.”29 Nixon was adamant because he and Kissinger believed that Leonid Brezhnev wanted an accord with the United States. Brezhnev feared the success of a Chinese-U.S. alliance. Brezhnev also considered détente to be his central objective. He hoped that détente would strengthen his country vis-à-vis China and limit the expenditures that the Soviets would have to allocate for defense.30 Nixon’s strategy with the Soviets required U.S. policy makers to support the use of military force. Diplomacy would only work, Nixon told fellow Republicans, if the Soviet Union and China believed that U.S. threats were credible. The United States would therefore need to maintain large defense budgets and embark on targeted military actions. Nixon believed that the United States was falling behind in defense spending just as the Soviets were increasing their budget for weapons such as ICBMs, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and long-range bombers.31 The Soviet leadership and the Nixon administration opened the secret “Channel,” which consisted of direct talks between Nixon and Brezhnev as well as ongoing conversations between Henry Kissinger and Anatoly Dobrynin, the Soviet ambassador to the United States. The discussions were not known to members of the State Department or others in the foreign policy establishment. Kissinger and Dobrynin spoke frequently about the principles of détente with the objective of facilitating smoother discussions over specific arms agreements, economic trade deals, and calming hot spots in key regions. The strategic and political payoff for the administration was to complicate Soviet expansionist plans with the lure of negotiation while simultaneously counteracting the liberal peace movement so that there would be public support for military action if necessary. In his memoirs, Kissinger recalled: “I, too, was ambivalent, profoundly distrustful of Soviet motives, determined to prevent Soviet expansion, scornful of those critics who abjectly accepted Soviet advances or relied on history to undo them. To some extent my interest in détente was tactical, as a device to maximize Soviet dilemmas and reduce Soviet influence as in the Middle East; in part it was domestic, to outmaneuver the ‘peace’ pressures so we could rally our public if a showdown proved unavoidable.”32 This aspect of détente also posed enormous political risks to Nixon. As with the opening to China, arms agreements with the Soviets had been depicted by the Republican Right as proof of failure in foreign policy and evidence of the willingness of moderates and

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liberals to accept dangerous deals based on delusional trust in adversaries. Unlike with China, there had not been any serious thaw in popular culture with regard to attitudes about the Soviets, whose leadership—and citizenry—remained in the public mind the same cold, calculating, and ruthless adversaries who had been seen in the 1950s, with leaders who were perceived as having stepped directly out of a James Bond movie. Initially, Soviet actions suggested that Nixon’s strategy was working as planned. Soviet and American officials met in Helsinki and Vienna. Kissinger continued to conduct his own personal negotiations with Dobrynin in top secrecy. Nixon traveled to the Soviet Union in May, one month before the break-in at the Watergate in Washington that would rock his presidency, marking the first time that an American president had set foot inside the country since FDR. The Soviets, who were in terrible shape economically, were seeking to reduce the size of their defense budget. During the discussions, they agreed to the first Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT I). This landmark agreement imposed restrictions on the future construction of offensive weapon systems, including land- and sea-based intercontinental warheads. They also agreed to stop the production of antiballistic missile systems. The two sides signed a Basic Principles of Relations that proclaimed the core ideas behind détente, establishing, according to Nixon, a “road map.”33 The deliberations over SALT I revealed that the Republican Right was not the only source of criticism of Nixon’s détente, as neoconservative Democrats firmly opposed the talks. Neoconservatives were Democratic politicians, staffers, and intellectuals who were convinced that their party had moved too far to the left in the 1960s. During the 1960s, neoconservatives like Nathan Glazer, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and Irving Kristol warned that many domestic policies were having a negative impact on the people whom they were created to assist. Neoconservatives, a term coined by the socialist writer Michael Harrington,34 found common ground with the Republican Right on national security. While commanding the support of a few interest groups, neoconservatives primarily operated through an insulated world of congressional staff offices, government agencies, and think tanks. Neoconservatives rejected the notion that verifiable nuclear arms agreements could be achieved with the Soviet Union, warning that the Soviets were making tremendous advances on the United States militarily and that there were numerous methods to cheat on weapons limitations. Many of them felt betrayed by Nixon’s agreement to ban

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antiballistic missiles after he had worked closely with conservatives in Congress to advance the ABM program in 1969. The most prominent neoconservative was Washington Democratic Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson. Although liberal on most domestic issues, Jackson was a conservative on national security. While a member of the House in 1945, he had been profoundly affected by a visit to the Buchenwald death camp with General Eisenhower. The Soviet explosion of an atomic bomb in 1949 led him to believe that the United States might not be keeping up with the Soviets. During the 1960s, Jackson, who had been a member of Stuart Symington’s 1950s gang who beat up on Eisenhower for the missile gap, remained a hawk on Vietnam. In 1969, he pushed legislation that authorized the construction of an ABM system. While Nixon contemplated moves to attract moderates, Jackson emerged as the champion of Democrats who wanted to maintain an aggressive position on national security. Jackson capitalized on his institutional base as the chair of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Committee on Government Operations and as a senior member of the Armed Services Committee. Not only was Jackson a power in the Senate, he was also a top presidential prospect. Nixon called him “our most formidable opponent.”35 Jackson and his allies were wary of arms limitation agreements as they believed that the United States was lagging behind in the arms race. During the 1940s and 1950s, the United States had achieved “nuclear primacy” through an arsenal that could deter a Soviet attack. The United States had been capable of launching a lethal second strike should the Soviets risk a nuclear attack. In the mid-1960s, however, the Soviets invested in a massive weapons buildup that enabled them to conduct a second strike as well. As a result, neoconservatives insisted that the United States needed to expand its weapons stock and create antimissile defenses.36 In their minds, the United States could not afford to enter stringent arms agreements to which the Soviets would never adhere. on the minds of neoconservatives. They were unhappy with Nixon’s efforts to improve economic trade with the Soviet Union and to link economic trade with diplomatic relations. With Nixon, the United States would attempt to create incentives for favorable Soviet foreign policy actions. The Soviets, saddled with a stagnant economy, needed access to modern technology and economic trade with the West in order to boost productivity.37

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Soviet moderates depended on economic concessions to counter pressure from Kremlin hard-liners.38 Nixon had been lobbying the Democratic Congress to ease trade restrictions by granting the Soviet Union most-favored-nation (MFN) trade status, which would have the effect of normalizing trade with the country. The administration mobilized top business leaders who saw the potential for massive profits from normalized relations.39 In response to Nixon’s proposals on trade, Senator Jackson demanded that the Soviet Union liberalize its policies toward the emigration of Jews. The human rights of Soviet Jews became a centerpiece of the neoconservative attack on détente. Until the early 1970s, most policy makers and diplomats had assumed that there was not much that could be done about their plight.40 During the winter of 1970, the Leningrad trials of Soviet Jews who had requested exit visas to move to Israel and were arrested on charges of hijacking a plane seeking to escape from Leningrad to Israel caused international outrage and mobilized many American Jews. Nixon raised expectations in the Jewish community by making bold promises about what his foreign policies could accomplish with the hope of boosting his short-term electoral standing.41 This was part of a concerted effort to increase the president’s percentage of the Jewish vote in the 1972 election, while branding George McGovern as an opponent of Israel.42 But Nixon had trouble controlling the issue. In August 1972, the Soviets had implemented a burdensome “exit tax” on emigrants from their country, many of whom were Jews. Jackson opposed Nixon’s proposals to grant the Soviet Union MFN status unless Brezhnev allowed more Jewish citizens to leave the country. After the issue was virtually ignored in the 1972 summit over SALT, the situation became worse. Jackson called the exit tax policies a gross violation of human rights and a sign that the Soviets could not be trusted. Many liberals, including George McGovern, also endorsed limitations on Soviet trade status as a human rights issue. In September, the press reported on a confidential White House memorandum concluding that the president’s positions were worsening conditions for Soviet Jews.43 Politically, this issue was extremely important for Jackson’s presidential aspirations. He had unsuccessfully run for the Democratic nomination in 1972 and thought that a strong position on Soviet Jewry could earn him the support of Democrats who promoted a strong Cold War posture as well as of Jewish voters in 1976. Dismissing

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official Soviet claims that they were easing restrictions on Jews, Jackson wrote Ambassador Dobrynin in 1973 to highlight contradictions between public statements and actual practice.44 Republican and Democratic politicians at the time sensed that Jewish voters were a voting bloc that could soon be up for grabs. Jewish citizens, who tended to be very active voters, well-organized, and generous with their political donations, had traditionally supported Democrats. Since the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, however, American Jews were becoming uneasy with the positions of the Democrats, especially in the Middle East. Jackson refused to concede the Jewish vote, knowing that most Jews were more comfortable voting Democratic because of domestic issues. With regards to his opponents in Congress, Nixon felt that Jackson would never compromise and was solely motivated by the national attention these controversies brought. Nixon and Kissinger rejected the argument that foreign policy should attempt to sway the internal behavior of the Soviets. While Nixon’s conception of “linkage” was based on creating incentives to encourage certain kinds of external behavior by adversaries, the administration opposed trying to influence the internal conditions of other countries. When the administration intervened in internal affairs, the operations were covert. In Chile, Kissinger and Nixon authorized a covert CIA operation to destabilize the regime of the democratically elected socialist leader Salvador Allende, who died in a 1973 military coup. In fact, the administration argued that Jackson was making things worse for Soviet Jews. “They [the Soviets] feel they’re being deliberately humiliated,” Kissinger warned one colleague, “and that every time they yield on something, immediately another demand is made.”45 Kissinger explained to a group of liberal congressmen who were advocating a human rights agenda that “when we started talking quietly there were only 400 Jews allowed to depart annually. By quiet discussions we were able to build up the number to 35,000.”46 Some Democrats were equally frustrated. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair J. William Fulbright asked colleagues to “consider how the American people would have responded if Mr. Brezhnev had canceled his recent visit because of the Watergate [scandal] or taken the occasion to lecture us on political corruption. We would of course have told Mr. Brezhnev to get stuffed.”47 Nixon told Jewish organizations that the “politically favorable course of action” that Jackson pursued would only make the Soviets feel more isolated, causing them to completely lock their doors on the Jews.48 The Soviets accused Jackson of trying to score polit-

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ical points. Brezhnev told Kissinger that Jackson was engaging in “demagoguery.”49 Although conservative Republicans and the neoconservatives differed on many issues, especially domestic programs, on national security they started to find more consensus than conflict. In the National Review, William Buckley publicly welcomed disaffected Democrats into the fold: “C’mon in, the water’s fine.”50 on détente from Democrats and Republicans, President Nixon benefited from his centrist national security agenda. His impeccable credentials as a conservative offered him considerable protection from attacks from the right. Nixon’s uncanny political ability helped him use dramatic events to sell the abstract concepts behind his strategy. Nor did Nixon ever ignore conservatives, telling Kissinger that they needed to court Democratic and Republican hawks. “It is no comfort that the liberals will praise the agreement. . . . Let us always remember that the liberals will never support us—the hawks are our hard-core, and we must do everything that we can to keep them from jumping ship.”51 Nixon even used the threat of conservatism to his advantage. “If détente unravels in America,” Nixon warned Brezhnev, “the hawks will take over, not the doves.”52 Privately, Nixon made concessions to Jackson at the time of the 1972 election, giving some indications that he would start supporting a harder line in arms negotiations.53 Many pundits credited his landslide victory in 1972 to his national security policies.54 In an administration increasingly beset by the Watergate scandal, détente stood as Nixon’s glorious policy achievement. Combined with his move to end the draft, détente allowed Nixon to run as the candidate who could achieve world peace and ease the strain of national security on average Americans, while simultaneously painting his opponent, McGovern, as a Democrat who was weak on defense. Following his landslide victory, Nixon continued in 1973 to use détente to explain favorable developments overseas. He built on public opinion polls that showed Americans were becoming less hostile to the Soviets.55 When the North and South Vietnamese signed a Peace Accord in 1973 that ended U.S. involvement in Vietnam and instituted a cease-fire, Nixon pointed to the resolution, which Johnson had failed to achieve, as proof that détente worked. Tired of the war, many Americans were pleased. Détente was a policy, from the perspective of 1973, which his successor could confidently inherit.

D

ESPITE THE ATTACKS

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More difficult for Nixon and Kissinger to present as evidence that détente was working to create international peace was the ArabIsraeli war in 1973. Under the Nixon Doctrine, the administration had attempted to strengthen the U.S. position in the region in response to Soviet incursions and to protect oil. The objective of the Doctrine was to shift from fighting wars around the world to supporting allied governments who could conduct the combat themselves. The United States had increased military assistance for Iran, for example. Soviet military assistance for Arab nations in this war illustrated to neoconservatives the Soviets’ disregard of détente and their intent to continue an expansionist policy. The war broke out on October 6, the Jewish high holiday of Yom Kippur, when Egyptian and Syrian forces launched an attack on the Israelis. In the first three days Israeli troops were devastated. When Israel turned to the United States for help, Kissinger, now secretary of state as well as national security advisor, handled the crisis because Nixon was virtually inoperative as a result of Watergate, and so the White House was slow to respond. Kissinger was making a calculation that by allowing the Egyptians and Syrians to achieve some early success, negotiations with them would be much easier. Nixon did step in after a few days, ordering Kissinger to find a way to bring the crisis to an end. When the United States sent military support, the Israelis were able to regain their ground. The United Nations announced a cease-fire on October 22, but the Israelis continued to do battle, with Kissinger tacitly approving. The Soviets warned that they would send troops into the war and U.S. forces were placed on DefCon3, the highest level of nuclear alert, a move that Kissinger later described as tactical.56 After intense negotiations, all of the warring sides agreed to a resolution at the end of the month, and back-channel negotiations between the Soviet Union and the United States helped keep the war from turning into a full-scale superpower Cold War conflict. The Coalition for a Democratic Majority, a Washington-based organization of prominent neoconservative intellectuals, government officials, and professionals, approved a resolution stating that “the events of October in the Middle East should finally dispel the dangerous illusion that the President has, through personal diplomacy, achieved détente with the Soviet Union, ended the Cold War, and initiated an era of negotiation instead of confrontation. There is no détente.”57 The administration, however, argued in response that behind-the-scenes discussions between Kissinger and the Soviets were integral to calming tensions and preventing this regional conflict from escalating into something worse, such as a world war.

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But the Watergate scandal was more powerful than any success, or perceived success, that Nixon could claim. The scandal tarnished everything associated with his administration, including détente. The scandal grew out of a burglary at the offices of the Democratic National Committee in 1972 at the Watergate office-apartment-hotel complex in Washington. It spawned multiple investigations in 1973 into the connections between the burglary and the White House, as well as illegal tactics that the president’s staff had used in his 1972 reelection bid. The Senate, the courts, and the media uncovered all sorts of wrongdoing by high-level officials, including Nixon’s own effort to stifle the investigation. It didn’t help that economic conditions were worsening. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) imposed an embargo that sent oil prices skyrocketing in 1973 and 1974 at the same time as supplies dwindled. Americans had to wait in long gas lines and found themselves without sufficient fuel. The economy was stagnating with unemployment and inflation rising (dubbed stagflation), and the crisis played into conservative warnings that Congress had made the military too weak to maintain America’s role in the world. By generating massive distrust among voters of Nixon, the GOP, and most politicians in Washington, the Watergate scandal made governing almost impossible. By the summer of 1974, when Nixon finally resigned, Kissinger said the administration was “up to its ears in problems” and could no longer take risks on foreign policy.58 Conservatives charged that Nixon was pursuing negotiations over arms control in the final months of his presidency to divert attention from Watergate.59 In his memoirs, Nixon recalled that the “convergence of antidétente forces would have existed regardless of any domestic political problems. But Watergate had badly damaged my ability to defuse, or at least to circumvent, them as effectively as I otherwise might have been able to do.”60 Watergate had an immediate political consequence, taking away a crucial legislative vote and ally for Nixon’s national security agenda, by helping Dale Bumpers upset Senator Fulbright in the Arkansas primary. With a number of issues at work,Watergate weakened the senior Fulbright as it did most legislators who were seen as part of the political establishment. This was costly to the GOP since Fulbright was one of the strongest proponents of détente and an ally of Kissinger. The attacks against détente became more effective after Gerald Ford became president in August 1974 upon Nixon’s resignation;

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Ford had been appointed as Vice President after Spiro Agnew resigned in October 1973 as a result of a corruption scandal. Since becoming House Minority Leader in 1965, Ford had believed that Republicans needed to appeal to mainstream voters if they wanted to expand their numbers.61 As president, Ford continued to promote détente.62 He reappointed Kissinger to serve in the dual roles of national security advisor and secretary of state. Ford and Kissinger argued that détente promoted a sound diplomatic strategy and diminished the appeal of Democrats and liberals by showing voters that Republicans could maintain peaceful relations across the globe.63 The conventional wisdom by 1974 suggested that détente was still an enormously successful policy with voters, one area where Nixon’s achievements were greater than his failures. Boasting that polls showed Kissinger’s own “personal popularity” had reached an “extraordinary” eighty percent, the secretary of state/national security advisor told Brezhnev that opponents of détente, who included conservative Republicans, Jewish organizations, and intellectuals, could be defeated because they were no longer “dealing with a President who has no public support.”64 On August 15, Senators Abraham Ribicoff (Democrat, Connecticut), Jackson, and Jacob Javits (Republican, New York) announced that there had been “significant” movement by the Soviets on the issue of Soviet Jewry, and they were optimistic about reaching an agreement on trade without a restrictive amendment.65 In September, Kissinger informed President Ford that “the Soviet Union has gone out of its way to create a good atmosphere.”66 Ford, though, was the wrong man to protect détente from the national security challenges that his administration confronted. He lacked Nixon’s foreign policy experience and political talent. In September 1974, the new president learned just how shaky détente’s political base was. Jackson intensified his demands that the Soviets allow a minimum number of citizens to emigrate each year. Jackson wanted to attach this requirement to the pending Trade Reform Act, thus making normal trade status for the Soviets contingent on agreement on a specified number of emigrants. Javits, Ribicoff, and Ohio Democratic Representative Charles Vanik worked with him. Jackson received the strong support of AFL-CIO President George Meany, whose organization still defended the tough stand against communism that many Democrats had abandoned. Each time that Ford obtained a verbal commitment from the Soviets, Jackson publicly insisted on a higher number from them and

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wanted a written agreement. As Dobrynin later wrote, “Probably no other single question did more to sour the atmosphere of détente than the question of Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union.”67 The pressure from Jackson came at a difficult time for the administration. On September 8, Ford had ensured that voters would not forget Watergate when he pardoned Nixon for crimes that he might have committed. Democrats turned the controversial pardon into a campaign issue, and Watergate again became a central media story. Ford’s popularity plummeted. As the president struggled with the fallout from the pardon, he and Jackson and the Soviets privately agreed on September 20 to a compromise. Congress would pass an amendment to the trade legislation stating that the United States could not offer MFN status to countries that had restrictions on emigration. The Soviets would be granted an eighteen-month waiver during which they would need to release a certain number of emigrants. The waiver was subject to congressional review after the eighteen months, which Jackson had timed to occur in the middle of the next electoral cycle. But at a White House meeting on October 19 completing the agreement, Jackson publicly boasted that the Soviets had caved to U.S. pressure and specified that 60,000 Jews would be allowed to leave. The Soviets were livid since they had never approved that figure and objected to the release of official documents involving this matter. Testifying before Congress, Kissinger denied that there had been any “hard and fast” agreement with the Soviets.68 Although Ford opposed the Jackson-Vanik amendment, he concluded that he had no choice and signed the Trade Reform Act of 1974. “It is our conviction,” Kissinger explained apologetically to Brezhnev, “that in the present Congressional situation this is the best we can do. And of course we have every intention, and I think every expectation, of renewing it when it comes up for renewal. . . . Nor do we have any intention—and I can assure of this now—of linking the renewal of MFN to any other conditions.”69 The Jackson-Vanik amendment constituted a political setback to détente since it legitimated the notion that human rights should be relevant to diplomacy. Imposing human rights requirements that the communist leadership was not likely to accept made economic trade with the Soviets—a key component of détente—difficult. The amendment did not accomplish its goal. The Soviets refused to abide by the agreement. The number of Jews allowed to leave Russia plummeted.70 Discussions about détente were nonetheless still alive. An agreement, signed at Vladivostok in late November 1974, informally

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established a framework for a future accord on arms limitations. Ford was very enthused about the meeting, noting that “as soon as technicians had ironed out the few remaining problems, we would sign a SALT II accord.”71 Just as southern Democrats had joined Republicans in the 1940s and 1950s to form a coalition against liberal domestic policies, neoconservative Democrats in Congress allied with hawkish Republicans in the 1970s to subvert presidential initiatives on détente. The alliance was fragile given that the two factions in this coalition disagreed on as many issues as those that brought them together. One of the chief Republicans in the alliance was Ford’s own secretary of defense, James Schlesinger, a holdover from Nixon’s administration, who argued that the Soviets could not be trusted and that they had already surpassed the United States in military power.72 This new conservative coalition felt that it had its work cut out for it as a result of the congressional elections that followed Nixon’s resignation, which brought an influx of Democrats from Republican districts, the Watergate babies, who were determined to tackle new issues such as the environment and consumer protection. Many of them were inspired by the congressional decision on November 7 to override President Nixon’s veto of the War Powers Act, which required the president to consult with the legislative branch within forty-eight hours of deploying troops and required the president to obtain congressional authorization if troops were in combat for sixty days. Although the legislation would turn out to be terribly ineffective and poorly conceived, at the time it was perceived by many new legislators as a symbol of congressional activism. Democrats increased their majority by forty-nine seats in the House to a total of 291 and three seats in the Senate to a total of 60. The new Democrats were determined to bring down the senior bulls of the Democratic Party who they believed had used the committee system to stifle the liberal agenda, and they would depose four prominent senior House Democrats,—Wilbur Mills, Edward Hébert, and the Texans Wright Patman (who had been one of the most liberal members of Democratic Party but by this time was seen as part of the old guard) and W. R. Poage. Politics was thus moving left and right at the same time. By the end of 1974 a conservative movement had formed with a network of intellectuals (William Buckley), politicians (North Carolina Republican Senator Jesse Helms), issue organizations (National Rifle Association), think tanks (Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute), fund-raising operations (Committee for the Survival

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of a Free Congress, National Conservative Political Action Committee), evangelical leaders (Jerry Falwell), and activists and campaign professionals (Phyllis Schlafly, Richard Viguerie, Terry Dolan, Paul Weyrich).73 The conservative movement sought to reorder the priorities of government. In domestic policy, they sought to shift funding away from Great Society programs and economic regulations while agreeing to funding in areas like Social Security and education. Some wanted to use government in new realms such as regulating social norms. In foreign policy, conservatives felt that politicians had become too timid to use force. The movement drew its strongest support from the Sunbelt region, where former Democrats turned to the GOP in search of new leadership. HE TIPPING POINT in the battle over détente within the GOP took place in 1975. With conservatives openly criticizing the administration, a series of national security crises allowed the conservative internationalism that had been promoted by the right since the 1940s, as opposed to the ideological mutt that Presidents Nixon and Ford championed, to gain the upper hand politically. As Ford attempted to keep détente alive, the Soviet Union became involved (although often to a lesser extent than American policy makers believed) in a number of international conflicts that created the perception of bolder Soviet ambitions, including the failure of peace negotiations in the Middle East, the fall of South Vietnam to communism, the controversial visit of a Soviet dissident, tension over an international arms accord, and, finally, a civil conflict in Africa. The Middle East was the first area where Ford antagonized conservatives. In early 1975, President Ford instructed Kissinger to pursue a peace agreement between Egypt and Israel. Although the new Israeli Labour government headed by Yitzhak Rabin was not comfortable with Ford, Kissinger nearly achieved an agreement in which Israel would withdraw troops from important territory in the Sinai Peninsula in exchange for a non-belligerency promise from Egypt and assurances that it would ease its participation in an anti-Israel boycott. This was a boycott organized by Arab states even before the founding of Israel, in which participants refused do business with Israel or to even purchase or trade goods with firms that sold in Israel or traded goods that were made in Israel. Coca-Cola had been blacklisted in 1966 because it opened a plant in Tel Aviv; Xerox Corporation was placed on the list because it sponsored documentaries favorable to Israel.74

T

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The president was optimistic that the deal could create regional stability. Ford tried to entice Egypt to agree by selling it six C-130 airplanes. These were equipped to operate in very tough terrain, the kind that was common in the Middle East, and which were particularly useful for dropping troops into areas of combat. He justified the sale on the grounds that Egypt had cut itself off from Soviet aid and that Sadat had been supportive of an agreement with Israel.75 On March 17, Ford told Jewish leaders that this agreement would make Egypt more dependent on American resources, thus increasing U.S. leverage in peace negotiations with Israel while simultaneously avoiding the emergence of a Soviet-backed, united Arab world that isolated Israel and the United States.76 But Ford miscalculated. At the last minute, he tried to secure the deal by sending Rabin a letter threatening to reassess U.S. policies if the agreement did not work. The Israeli government responded by withdrawing its support for the deal, Egypt soon followed, and the deal fell apart. Ford was furious with these developments. He told a bipartisan group of congressional leaders on March 24 that he planned to review U.S. policy in the Middle East. Four days later, he stalled on sending financial and military support to Israel and announced the suspension of some diplomatic contacts. Ford privately criticized “professional members of the American Jewish Community” for having launched a public relations campaign that claimed Ford had abandoned his support for Israel.77 Kissinger didn’t have much sympathy either given that he thought the American Jewish community was too dogmatic and too powerful. He once told the president that “Israel has an unbelievable domestic structure and a vicious group of politicians. They have a Jewish community here which vicariously tries all the time to prove its manhood. The same people who were doves on Vietnam are hawks on Israel.”78 When Kissinger advised Ford that he should “tilt a little against Israel,” the president responded, “That is not hard.”79 As Ford ruffled political feathers with his positions on the Middle East, the conflicts in Vietnam and Cambodia came to an end, with communism coming out on top. Since January, the Ford administration had attempted to obtain half-hearted financial assistance from Congress to support the South Vietnamese and Cambodians in their fight against the communists. Ford interpreted secret letters from Nixon to South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu, revealed to the public in early April, to mean that with the 1973 Peace Accords the administration had promised (without the

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knowledge of Congress) that the United States would continue to provide assistance as Americans pulled back their military. The administration, however, underestimated congressional opposition to any further financial support. On April 2, 1975, the southern conservative chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, George Mahon (Democrat of Texas), reported to the administration that voters in his district felt that the South Vietnamese army would simply not fight.80 Congress, however, was in a fighting mood. In 1973, over President Richard Nixon’s veto, Congress had passed the War Powers Act, which required the president to consult with the legislative branch within forty-eight hours of deploying troops and to obtain congressional authorization if troops were in combat for sixty days or more. Congress finally flexed its muscles on Southeast Asia in late January 1975, denying Ford his budgetary requests for Vietnam. The decision was not surprising, as most presidential advisors understood by this time that Vietnam was a lost cause. When the president proposed a $722 million supplemental spending package in April despite these warnings, just weeks before South Vietnam collapsed, it was greeted with bipartisan condemnation. Polls had seventy-eight percent of the public disapproving of the spending. Congress refused to approve the request.81 On April 16, the resistance to the communists came to an end in Cambodia. On April 21, Thieu resigned. On April 30, the enfeebled leadership of South Vietnam surrendered to the communists. “It was the saddest hour of my time in the White House,” Ford later said.82 As Ford confronted these blistering attacks, he adamantly defended his record. He said that “we are committed to a furtherance of our policy of détente with the Soviet Union” and that “it would be very unwise for a President—me or anyone else—to abandon détente. I think détente is in the best interest of the country. It is in the best interest of world stability, world peace.”83 Ford also tried to assert his determination to be tough militarily and ignore his congressional opponents. On May 12, 1975, two weeks after the fall of Saigon, another crisis erupted when Cambodian soldiers of the new Khmer Rouge government seized a U.S. merchant ship, the Mayagüez, with thirty-nine Americans aboard. The Mayagüez was in international waters near the Poulo Wai Island, and the Khmer Rouge wanted to claim control over this area. Ford saw an opportunity to demonstrate that the United States was willing to take military action. Ironically, the strongest advocates of a forceful response were moderates such as Kissinger, who said,

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“The United States must carry out some act somewhere in the world which shows its determination to continue to be a world power.”84 On the day of the attacks, Ford and Kissinger were thinking about the next election. Heeding Kissinger’s counsel, Ford ordered a rescue mission that resulted in the recapture of the ship at the expense of thirty-eight American soldiers killed and fifty wounded. He did not consult Congress despite the War Powers Act. Although the incident boosted Ford’s poll numbers, it had minimal political impact. Americans were more concerned with their declining economic fortunes with stagflation and conservative claims of Soviet superiority. Most conservative activists dismissed this as a minor incident that was blown out of proportion for political purposes. Ford’s tension with conservatives deteriorated in June and July 1975 when the Soviet dissident writer Aleksander Solzhenitsyn visited the United States, five months after he had been expelled from the USSR. Solzhenitsyn objected to détente as a policy that masked a brutal dictatorship. Conservative Republicans such as Jesse Helms greeted Solzhenitsyn as a hero. When the AFL-CIO asked the president to attend a dinner honoring the writer, Ford turned down the request. The president also turned down an invitation from Senators Strom Thurmond and Helms to organize a dinner with Solzhenitsyn on July 4. Kissinger and his staff advised Ford that a meeting with Solzhenitsyn would offend the Soviets with less than a month remaining before the president was scheduled to attend a thirty-five-nation summit including the Soviet Union in Helsinki.85 “I decided to subordinate political gains,” Ford later wrote, “to foreign policy considerations.”86 Détente still governed his and Kissinger’s thinking. Ford’s decision angered hawkish Republicans and disaffected Democrats.87 Ford’s normally taciturn deputy chief of staff, Richard Cheney, wrote a lengthy memo to his superior, Donald Rumsfeld, in which he spelled out the feelings of fellow conservatives on this issue: “I think the decision not to see him is based upon a misreading of détente. . . . At most, détente should consist of agreements wherever possible to reduce the possibility of conflict, but it does not mean that all of a sudden our relationship with the Soviets is all sweetness and light. I can’t think of a better way to demonstrate [than meeting with the dissident] for the American people and for the world that détente with the Soviet Union . . . does not imply also our approval of their way of life or their authoritarian government.” Cheney warned Rumsfeld that insulting Solzhenitsyn would harm “the President’s capability to deal with the right wing in

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America.”88 One Ford staffer concluded, “our refusal to see Solzhenitsyn will come to symbolize a Munich-like deafness in this period.”89 When the president privately sent an invitation to Solzhenitsyn to meet with him in secret (a compromise worked out by Kissinger) after he returned from the Soviet summit, the insulted dissident refused. Even in the face of these conflicts, Kissinger urged the president to stand his ground. He believed that the SALT treaties were proof that détente could work. On July 15, Kissinger asked of his opponents: “What is the alternative that they propose. . . . Do they wish to return to the constant crisis and high arms budgets of the cold war?”90 Kissinger told the president that the Soviet Union would never be intimidated into abandoning its competition with the United States in the contested parts of the world nor would it reform its internal policies under pressure.91 By 1975, Kissinger’s anger with neoconservatives became personal. At one meeting with the president, Kissinger said that Richard Perle, Senator Jackson’s top staffer, was a “psychopath.”92 With a tin ear for domestic politics, Kissinger still believed that détente was working in the electoral arena.93 When Ford took actions that should have placated critics of détente, he faltered. On August 1, the United States signed on to a set of agreements with the Soviet Union at the Helsinki summit, which had two components. The first outlined a bold set of human rights principles, such as the right of families to reunify across borders. Ford thus obtained the first formal statement from the Soviet Union that human rights were a legitimate diplomatic concern. The human rights aspect of the Helsinki agreements, however, was overshadowed by the second component, in which the participating countries recognized the territorial claims of the Soviet Union over Eastern Europe. Underestimating the political impact the statement would have in the United States, Ford believed that this part of the agreement merely acknowledged what had been a political reality since World War II. According to one of Ford’s speechwriters, however, conservatives in America saw the agreement as a “new Yalta.”94 In September the president’s attention was brought back to the Middle East when legislators from many different perspectives castigated Ford and Kissinger for unfairly pressuring Israel. After a full-scale lobbying campaign by American Jewish organizations, seventy-six Republican and Democratic senators sent Ford an open letter imploring him to maintain full support for Israel. Ford backed down. In

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September 1975, Israel and Egypt signed an accord stating that Israel would withdraw from some limited territory but only in exchange for over $2 billion in military aid from the United States for the following year, as well as private assurances that the United States would not negotiate with the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) until it recognized the right of Israel to exist. Egypt was likewise offered economic aid for the first time in eight years. The deal, according to most analyses, preserved the status quo.95 Ford tried to shake things up in October and November through personnel changes. He had some success calming conservatives with his appointment of Daniel Patrick Moynihan as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. A neoconservative intellectual who had served as Ambassador to India in 1973 and 1974, Moynihan believed that the U.N. unfairly criticized Western governments while ignoring atrocities committed by Third World countries. Moynihan had met with the president earlier in the year and impressed Ford and his advisors when he said there was an international consensus to “screw” the United States.96 The news media reported on the appointment, as Ford had hoped, as a signal that the administration wanted to take a tougher line in the U.N. Moynihan earned his stripes over tensions with “bloc voting” by Third World countries after the U.N. agreed to a draft of a resolution equating Zionism with racism (which passed on November 10). Moynihan called it a “reckless act, one of the most grievous errors in the 30-year life of the United Nations.”97 He believed that the Soviet Union was working with Third World dictatorships to manipulate human rights rhetoric as a weapon against the United States. There was a strong reaction in Congress and the media against the U.N. House Majority Leader Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill called for congressional hearings into the role the United States should play in the United Nations.98 Texas Republican Senator John Tower said that a number of his fellow Republicans were prepared to “reassess the commitment of the United States to the United Nations.”99 Attempting to slow the momentum of his opponents and build on accomplishments such as the Moynihan appointment, Ford implemented a major shake-up of his cabinet. He demoted Kissinger by relieving him of his job as national security advisor though he remained secretary of state. He fired Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger. The secretary’s constant criticism of the administration as well as tense interaction with Congress with regards to the defense budget, and ongoing clashes with Kissinger, became too much for Ford.

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Since this last move would anger conservatives, the president replaced him with forty-three-year-old Donald Rumsfeld, a national security hawk and a leading opponent of SALT. Rumsfeld had come to the House of Representatives in 1963 and cut his teeth attacking the Kennedy administration for being soft on communism. Moreover, Ford promoted Richard Cheney from deputy chief of staff to serve as his chief of staff and also nominated the head of the Republican National Committee, George H. W. Bush, to direct the CIA. Brent Scowcroft replaced his former boss, Kissinger, as national security advisor. Finally, Ford announced that his vice president, Nelson Rockefeller, whom he had named in 1974 but who was anathema to conservatives, would not be his running mate in 1976. The shake-up turned into a political disaster. The president had hoped to please conservative Republicans by demoting Kissinger, promoting Rumsfeld, and abandoning Rockefeller. But news about the changes leaked before the president announced them. Schlesinger learned of the decision through the press rather than the president. Conservatives focused most of their attention on Schlesinger. Ronald Reagan told reporters, “I am not appeased.”100 Critics dubbed the shake-up the “Halloween Massacre,” recalling Nixon’s infamous “Saturday Night Massacre” when he fired Independent Prosecutor Archibald Cox at the height of the Watergate scandal. Most observers assumed that Rumsfeld had manipulated the change for his own advancement. The press pointed to the decision as another sign that Ford could not handle the job. Schlesinger’s firing had a visceral, immediate effect, which sideswiped the impact of the other decisions. According to the head of the President Ford Committee, which was handling the 1976 reelection campaign, “The initial reaction is that Kissinger won over Schlesinger. This appeared as a defeat for a man who understood Soviet strength and spoke for a strong defense. Most Americans want a strong defense and want someone who stands up against the Soviet Union. Détente is not popular now. The change was viewed as a victory of détente over defense.”101 The president was worried. On November 14, 1975, campaign advisor Robert Teeter warned that “détente is a particularly unpopular idea with most Republican primary voters. . . . We ought to stop using the word whenever possible.”102 The president had shelved any further discussions of arms limitations with the Soviets. The move was primarily political. “I never backed away from détente as a means for achieving a more stable relationship with our Communist

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adversaries,” Ford later explained, “but the situation that developed in connection with the presidential primaries and the fight at the convention made it necessary to deemphasize détente.”103 As he confronted all the tensions with conservatives over foreign policy, the president was trying to ward off pressure from liberal Democrats to reform the CIA. New York Times reporter Seymour Hersh had published a series of shocking articles in December 1974 that documented illicit activities by the CIA overseas, including assassination plots against foreign leaders, as well as domestic surveillance initiatives. The stories were based on leaks from an internal 693-page CIA report, which had been commissioned by James Schlesinger in 1973 when he headed the agency, in response to revelations that CIA agents had been involved in the Watergate breakin. When CIA director William Colby met with Ford on January 3 to present the findings of the report, he admitted that “we have a 25-year-old institution which has done some things it shouldn’t have.”104 A day later, the president told former CIA Director Richard Helms, “Frankly, we are in a mess.”105 Ford concluded that he needed to take some kind of action. On the one hand, he wanted to protect the CIA from liberal reforms.106 “What is happening is worse than in the days of McCarthy,” Kissinger warned the president. “You will end up with a CIA that does only reporting, and not operations.”107 On the other hand, Ford understood that the findings required reform.108 He wanted to handle the CIA crisis through the executive branch rather than having Congress impose its own reforms. He was increasingly sympathetic to the post-1960s generation of hawkish Republicans who were shedding their remaining hostility toward executive power. In the shadow of Nixon’s humiliating downfall—and as Congress came to be seen as the most secure base for liberal Democrats—conservative Republicans began to champion presidential power on national security policy. The administration established a commission, under the direction of Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, to examine the policies of the CIA. At the same time, in late January the Senate established a select committee under the direction of Idaho Democratic Senator Frank Church, which worked on its own study of CIA activities. The Rockefeller report, released in June, confirmed a number of domestic operations that the CIA had illegally conducted. In midSeptember, after eight months of investigation, Church opened high-profile hearings. He was planning to run for president, and he showed no restraint in looking into Hersh’s findings. Ford had un-

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successfully attempted to block Church from releasing information about the assassination operations; he warned that the disclosure would “result in serious harm to the national interest and may endanger individuals.”109 As the hearings went on, Church continued to pressure the administration to release information and Ford continued to resist. On November 20, the Senate met in secret session to decide whether to authorize the publication of the committee’s findings, which included the history of the assassination plots. As the Senate deliberated, Church released portions of the findings on his own. The Senate would then publish a six-volume report, including information about the assassinations, and urged expanded oversight of the CIA. The final blow to Ford’s relationship with conservatives came as a result of civil conflict in Angola. Following the 1974 announcement by the new government of Portugal that it would withdraw from its former colonies, three factions attempted to take control of Angola and its oil: the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), supported by Cuba and the Soviet Union; the National Front for the Liberation of Angola (FNLA), which received support from China and Zaire and covert assistance from the CIA; and the National Union for Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), which received covert support from South Africa and the United States, including the CIA. Ford said that Soviet involvement in Angola was damaging prospects for détente. In fact, this was another example where mistaken impressions among the superpowers were exacerbating the Cold War, since the Soviets had actually played a minor role in assisting the MPLA before mid-1975.110 At first, most legislators paid little attention to reports about Angola. But attitudes changed by December, when Ford made a request for money to fund the operation. South Africa’s recent intervention in the war had angered many liberals. Many congressional Democrats called for cutting off all funding to Angola. Besides the fact that aid was distributed in secret, many felt Angola was a lost cause. As one cartoonist quipped, “If you liked Vietnam, you’ll love . . . Angola.”111 The Senate passed an amendment, sponsored by California Democrat John Tunney and Iowa Democrat Dick Clark, in December 1975 that killed the program. Ford called the action irresponsible. The House confirmed this decision through legislation passed in January. Both chambers rejected presidential requests for direct assistance. Frustrated with these decisions, Kissinger complained to the president, “we are living in a nihilistic nightmare. It proves that Vietnam is not an aberration but our normal attitude.”112

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When the MPLA took control of the country, Ford blamed Congress, but conservatives blamed the president. The assertion of congressional power by liberal Democrats had the unintended effect of fueling conservative demands for tougher anticommunist policies.113 Conservatives pointed to Angola as another example of how détente encouraged communists to expand their reach and how the Ford administration’s timid responses to military crises were inadequate to stopping the communist threat. Neoconservative Eugene Rostow wrote that “the Soviets are evidently convinced that America’s failure to insist on the enforcement of its 1973 agreement with the Soviet Union for peace in IndoChina, and the mood of sullen isolationism in Congress, have so paralyzed the United States that they can embark on the most brazen adventures without serious risk.”114 With liberals saying that the nation would pay for Angola twice by harming negotiations over SALT II, a second stage of the SALT I treaty that would further reduce the production of offensive weapons systems, conservatives were asking how Ford could appease the Soviets after Angola. As 1976 began, Ford was in a defensive mood. Feeling pressure to disprove charges that he had attempted to whitewash the investigation of the CIA, he issued a thirty-six-page executive order in February that granted the NSC greater power over intelligence gathering, established a Committee on Foreign Intelligence (CFI) and an Operations Advisory Group (OAG) to monitor the CIA as well as an Intelligence Oversight Board (IOB), imposed restrictions on surveillance, and banned assassinations of foreign leaders. Ford told Congress that his reforms would “help to restore public confidence in these agencies and encourage our citizens to appreciate the valuable contribution they make to our national security.” The FBI crafted a set of guidelines that curtailed the authority of officials in their investigations. But these actions could not overcome the political damage that had been done. Ford had badly stumbled when trying to sell a compelling national security agenda that could define his party. The challenge had been difficult. Unlike the moral clarity of conservative internationalism, détente involved an extraordinarily complex set of policies—many of which were purposely worked out in total secrecy—that were difficult to translate to an electorate that was becoming more distrustful of government. to détente within the GOP took place during the 1976 Republican primaries. Ford nearly lost to Ronald

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Reagan, who had come to embody the conservative movement in the post-Vietnam era. Going into the campaign season, most Republicans underestimated the threat that the president faced from conservative Republicans in the primaries. In September 1975, Nixon had told Ford advisor Jerry Jones that Reagan was a lightweight. Two months later, Goldwater told Ford staffers that Reagan did not have the strength to win in big states.115 In their private correspondence, top administration officials often referred to the grassroots organizations associated with Reagan’s campaign as “right wing nuts.”116 Going into the election year, moreover, Ford was still committed to détente. Yet Ronald Reagan forced him to change course. The sixtyfour-year-old Reagan was a former Hollywood actor from the Midwest who had cut his teeth in the anticommunist crusade of the 1950s as the president of the Screen Actors Guild and a spokesman for General Electric. Although then still a registered Democrat, Reagan was a devoted reader of the conservative magazines Human Events and National Review. In 1952, he had voted for Eisenhower and ten years later registered as a Republican. On October 27, 1964, Reagan gained public attention through an eloquent televised address, later known simply as “the speech.” It focused on the greatness of the American economic system that emphasized individual freedom, the importance of being victorious in the war against communism, and the repeated failure of government programs to solve domestic problems. Two years later, he was elected governor of California and served until 1974. As governor, he railed against the New Left and championed law and order. The charismatic Reagan knew how to articulate explosive issues in a folksy and optimistic way that appealed to broad portions of the electorate. Conservative activists, who had unsuccessfully approached Reagan to run as an independent candidate, were pleased when he announced on November 20, 1975, that he would run in the Republican primaries. Throughout this earlier part of his career, from his work in Hollywood in the 1940s through his run for president in 1976, Reagan had insisted that the Cold War was a moral struggle, making four basic arguments about communism. First, the Soviet economy was too fragile to withstand the cost of an accelerated arms race. Second, the Soviet Union remained in power in Eastern Europe only as a result of brute force.Third, most Americans would support a substantial increase in defense spending as long as the government demonstrated a genuine desire to achieve peace in the long run.117 And fourth, the

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best way to eliminate the threat of nuclear weapons was to destroy the Soviet Union.118 Like many conservatives, Reagan rejected the logic behind Mutual Assured Destruction. According to Reagan, MAD depended on neither country pulling the trigger. If either government did, total disaster would ensue. MAD, however, did not offer protection from a technical accident or an attack by a madman. By the late 1960s, Reagan had come to believe that MAD was no longer necessary in the Cold War since new technology allowed for the creation of defensive systems that could destroy incoming missiles. More than any other politician of the 1970s, Reagan tapped into the energies of the conservative movement. Young America’s Foundation conducted an extensive fund-raising campaign for Reagan’s Republican candidacy and collected the names of potential supporters. Human Events sponsored radio addresses by Reagan. But in late 1975, conservative Republican activists had not yet proven that they could be a commanding electoral force. Most Republicans remembered the failed campaign of Goldwater in 1964. When Reagan announced his candidacy, Ford released a statement saying that “the simple political fact is that he cannot defeat any candidate the Democrats put up. Reagan’s constituency is much too narrow, even within the Republican Party.”119 Conservative leaders were excited, however, that Reagan could conduct a campaign of issues rather than one of run-of-the-mill politics. Polls suggested enthusiasm about Reagan’s ideas. One Harris poll found that forty-four percent of Americans were favorable to Reagan’s hard line on the Soviets (with twenty-five percent disapproving) and agreed that “he would be unafraid to stand up to the Russians, and that is right.”120 The growing importance of primaries that resulted from party reforms of the early 1970s created a new opportunity for Reagan to challenge the president. Ford could no longer count on state leaders to secure delegates as presidents had done in the past. In 1976, twothirds of the GOP delegates were chosen in primaries. This was an increase from forty percent in 1968 and fifty percent in 1972. Reagan began his campaign by focusing on domestic issues, calling for reforms in Social Security and transferring $90 billion of federal funds to state and local governments. When asked what would happen to the poor in states that lagged behind the others, he responded: “If a state is mismanaged, you can move elsewhere.”121 But Reagan lost to Ford in New Hampshire by a narrow margin, followed by defeats in Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Ver-

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mont. Pundits speculated that he would have to drop out. By March, most of Reagan’s staff was working without pay.122 Facing the possibility of defeat, Reagan turned almost all of his attention to national security. Early in the month, the issue excited his followers in Florida when he said, “Under Messrs. Kissinger and Ford this nation has become number two in military power in a world where it is dangerous—if not fatal—to be second best.” On Meet the Press, he lashed out at détente:“It has been a one-way street. We are making the concessions, we are giving them [the Soviet Union] the things they want; we ask nothing in return.” Sensing trouble, on March 1, Ford stopped using the word “détente.”123 As administration advisor Robert Goldwin wrote to Richard Cheney, the meaning of the word had been twisted. While opponents claimed that it meant “friendship, trust, affection or assured peace,” the administration had always interpreted it to mean simply a reduction of tension that continued to exist. Nonetheless, Goldwin went on, “Sometimes, a slogan or a single word oversimplifies and becomes a source of confusion. That has happened in the case of the word ‘détente.’”124 On March 11, presidential advisor David Gergen warned that the president needed to “posture himself as sufficiently hard-line that no major candidate can run to the right of him on defense and foreign policy.”125 Although he defended Kissinger and his foreign policy, Ford now started to raise doubts about whether a second SALT agreement could be reached.126 But Ford had trouble stopping Reagan’s momentum. On March 22, Reagan exploited the language of a news story by Rowland Evans and Robert Novak about a memo from State Department official Helmut Sonnenfeldt regarding the “organic union” that existed between the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Reagan also warned voters that Ford was secretly conducting high-level talks with the Panamanian government to relinquish control of the Panama Canal. The United States had built and controlled the canal as a result of a 1903 treaty with a newly independent Panama. Retaining control over the canal had become controversial after 1964 when anti-American riots started to break out in Panama. While Johnson and Nixon had refrained from discussions about relinquishing the canal, Ford took on the challenge, with Henry Kissinger leading discussions with the Panamanian government of General Omar Torrijos over negotiating a new treaty. Conservatives complained when they learned of these negotiations. Members of the John Birch Society placed bumper stickers on their cars that

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read: “Don’t give Panama our canal: Give them Kissinger instead!” Reagan used discussions about turning control over to the Panamanians as a central theme in his new emphasis on national security. Reagan often repeated the phrase “We bought it. We paid for it, and General Torrijos should be told we are going to keep it.” One Ford campaign worker described the mythical Republican voter: “Sally Jones, sitting at home, watching Ronald Reagan on television and deciding that she didn’t want to give away the Panama Canal.”127 In North Carolina, Reagan received support from Jesse Helms, the state’s first twentieth-century Republican senator, elected in the Nixon landslide of 1972. Known for his seersucker suits and strong views on virtually every policy issue facing the nation, Helms had close ties to the grassroots conservative movement, including its more extremist elements. His National Congressional Club became a hub for New Right activists. Helms provided financial and manpower assistance to young Republicans in southern states. In the Senate, the “Helms Gang” consisted of a group of hard-liners like Nevada’s Paul Laxalt, who met for lunch every Wednesday.128 In March, Helms traveled across North Carolina to promote Reagan. The National Congressional Club ran a cutting-edge getout-the-vote effort that targeted disaffected Democrats. The Young Americans for Freedom, the American Conservative Union, and other allied organizations mobilized North Carolinian voters. Reagan shocked most observers when he won the North Carolina primary on March 23 with fifty-two percent of the vote. On March 31, he purchased airtime on NBC TV for a live speech. Mocking Ford for merely replacing the term détente with “peace through strength” while sticking with the same policy, Reagan told the audience that “peace does not come from weakness or from retreat. It comes from the restoration of American military superiority.”129 The State Department released a ten-page document responding to each point Reagan had made. Reagan followed his triumph in North Carolina with wins in Texas, Alabama, Georgia, Nebraska, California, and Indiana. Texas was a watershed that caused serious introspection within the Ford administration about the newfound electoral power of the Republican Right. According to one internal administration memo, “Turnout is very high.The people coming to vote or to the caucuses are unknown and have not been involved in the Republican political system before; they vote overwhelmingly for Reagan. A clear pattern is emerging; these turnouts now do not seem accidental but appear to be the result of skillful organization by extreme right wing

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political groups in the Reagan camp operating almost invisibly through direct mail and voter turnout efforts conducted by the organizations themselves.”The memo ominously concluded that these right-wing groups were displaying a “‘rule or ruin’ attitude toward the GOP.”130 Reagan’s victories caused Ford to move to the right on national security. Only five days after he lost North Carolina, the president lashed out at House Democrats for proposing a $7 billion defense cut. Ford said that Democrats “seek a strangely unilateral moratorium on America’s security while the Soviet Union increases its defense expenditures.”131 The statement was part of a larger strategy in which the administration tried to appeal to the right by fighting for an increased defense budget. In March, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld published a report that warned of a massive shift of power as Soviet weapons technology improved.132 “We are at a point,” he told Congress, “where further defense cuts will inject great instability into the world.”133 Rumsfeld devoted his entire tenure as secretary to questioning whether the CIA had accurately estimated Soviet strength and pushing for an expansion of defense spending.134 Attempting to undermine Kissinger’s power, he worked with other neoconservatives to dismantle détente. Rumsfeld’s rhetoric became so dramatic that Kissinger complained to the president that “the impression that we are slipping is creating a bad impression around the world.”135 While Ford tried to tame Rumsfeld’s rhetoric, he took a hawkish position for the remainder of the primary campaign. Although Kissinger said the administration was still committed to détente, he admitted that the campaign was forcing the administration to avoid controversial decisions.136 Ford continued to shelve discussions of SALT II. One Soviet official told the Washington Post that he didn’t think Ford “would dare” to renew negotiations given the political atmosphere.137 Ford’s hawkish credentials were bolstered by the support of Barry Goldwater. But the race was neck and neck. When the primaries ended, neither of the candidates had a majority of delegates. Almost 140 delegates remained uncommitted going into the convention. Between the primaries and the convention, however, Reagan hurt himself by announcing that his running mate would be Richard Schweiker, a liberal Republican senator from Pennsylvania who embodied the type of moderate political views that Reagan supporters detested. The Schweiker nod was an attempt to save the nomination by Reagan campaign official John Sears, in the hopes of

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winning over the very moderates from whom Reagan had distanced himself. The plan backfired. Conservatives, according to administration staffer Jack Marsh, were “incredulous.”138 During the Republican convention in Kansas City, Reagan tried one last time to influence the party’s agenda. His supporters proposed a plank for the platform entitled “Morality in Foreign Policy,” which criticized the records of Nixon and Ford. Yet Ford decided not to attack the language that would provoke a confrontation with conservatives. Instead, he told his delegates to vote for the plank, with the goal of making it appear like the president’s idea, not Reagan’s.139 The final results could not be seen as a mandate. Ford secured the nomination, but by a narrow margin of 1,187 to 1,070. Even though Ford had won, Reagan had both defined the terms of the contest and profoundly influenced the agenda of the GOP. “Reagan was the dominating presence of the 1976 campaign,” concluded William Buckley Jr., “even though Ford was the formal victor.”140 The president’s running mate, conservative Kansas Senator Robert Dole, had also been a proponent of taking a tough line on defense. The Soviets agreed with Buckley’s assessment. A report by the Soviet Foreign Ministry, approved by the Politburo, noted that the statements coming from Reagan and Ford were “a reflection of certain rightist tendencies in U.S. public opinion on issues of SovietAmerican relations.”141 EANWHILE, THE

DEMOCRATS nominated former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter, who had presented himself as an outsider who could restore trust in government. In the primaries, he had defeated a string of better-known candidates—Senators Frank Church, Scoop Jackson, Birch Bayh, and Fred Harris (Oklahoma), Arizona Representative Morris Udall, California Governor Jerry Brown, Alabama Governor George Wallace, former North Carolina Governor Terry Sanford, and former Peace Corps head Sargent Shriver—by promising government reform, which in the aftermath of Watergate resonated with voters, and help with issues such as unemployment that mattered to the liberals. Regarding national security, Carter was hard to pin down. He endorsed most of the policies of détente, although he criticized the secrecy through which the policies had been conducted under Kissinger. Like Nixon and Ford, Carter believed that détente was essential for diminishing the possibility of nuclear war. Carter was hesitant about allying directly with conservative Democrats like Scoop Jackson.142 Carter was less worried than his Republican predecessors

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about proving that he could achieve peace, given that the pursuit of peace was how Democrats were now characterized in the postMcGovern age, and if anything his biggest challenge was to prove to moderate voters that he was willing to threaten and use military intervention when necessary. Yet Carter also ran a campaign that appealed to neoconservatives and a broader audience, including liberals. Carter promised to promote human rights not just in the Soviet Union but also in other parts of the world like Latin America. He hinted that he would embrace an idealistic worldview, one that built on the arguments that came out of the 1960s foreign policy struggles, about the need to recognize the legitimacy of anti-imperial and nationalistic forces throughout the world, and to recognize that U.S. foreign policy had often had less than desirable effects. The human rights argument appealed to neoconservatives, although their primary concern with that issue remained the Soviet Union. As one of Carter’s speechwriters explained, human rights policy was “seen politically as a no-lose issue. Liberals liked human rights because it involved political freedom and getting liberals out of jail in dictatorships, and conservatives liked it because it involved criticisms of Russia.”143 The general election campaign was difficult for Ford. Memories of Nixon and Watergate haunted his campaign. Stagflation left citizens doubtful about the possibility of sustained economic growth, with Ford’s economic policies having failed to curb the rapid decline of the U.S. economy in the 1970s. Ford once tripped walking on the stairs to Air Force One and stumbled on a ski trip, and on the new TV series Saturday Night Live, Chevy Chase played a Ford in a continuous series of comic accidents and pratfalls. Ford also made mistakes that reinforced the poor impressions many Americans had about him. For instance, during the second debate with Carter, Ford asserted that Eastern Europe was not under the control of the Soviet Union. When his advisors implored him to explain himself and apologize, he refused.144 Dole didn’t always help either, triggering media criticism when he said during his vice presidential debate against Senator Walter Mondale that there were enough deaths in “Democrat Wars” of the twentieth century—World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam—to fill up the city of Detroit. The statement drew criticism that he was a hatchet man, believing that only Democrats supported those wars and that he was willing to say anything in the campaign. Carter won, but only narrowly, with 50.1 percent of the popular vote and 297 electoral votes to Ford’s forty-eight percent and 240

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(Reagan received one electoral vote). Democrats retained control of Congress, increasing their majorities in the House to 292 and in the Senate to sixty-one. ITH FORD’S DEFEAT went the possibility of a new national security agenda from the GOP that focused on détente and appealed to moderates. The defeat of détente quickly became a defining moment for conservatives. Although Reagan lost the 1976 primary, his candidacy, and the events that followed, pushed the GOP toward the right. During the next four years, Republican leaders would shy away from the rhetoric or policies of the earlier 1970s and instead adopted a more militaristic outlook toward international affairs.

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1976 put Jimmy Carter in the White House and Democrats in control on Capitol Hill with sixty-one seats in the Senate, one more than was needed to end a filibuster. With united government and Republicans still reeling from Watergate, the poor performance of Ford, and the divided state of the GOP, Democrats encountered an opportunity to recapture the political standing they had lost on national security as a result of Vietnam. The Georgian Carter had even been able to win back the southern vote, which once seemed impossible for Democrats because of the backlash against civil rights. “If President-elect Carter can turn his personal triumph in the South into a viable biracial coalition,” predicted the New York Times, “the Republican Southern strategy will stay wrecked for a long time to come.” The Southern strategy referred to the effort by the GOP to use race, ever since Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, to win the votes of white southern Democrats.1 Yet conservatives were not going to make it easy for Democrats in Congress or the White House and were searching for a way to seize control of the national security issue and advance a renewed American presence in the world. For example, a group of neoconservatives called Team B touted an independent review—which Ford had authorized in the heat of the primaries to counteract the Reagan attacks on détente—that criticized CIA intelligence for having grossly underestimated Soviet military strength.2 Just as conservatives had warned, the commission found that the world’s

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strategic balance of power was threatened as a result of Soviet advances in intercontinental missiles and other weapons. The Soviets, they said, had abandoned the concept of parity, which was the bedrock of Mutual Assured Destruction, in pursuit of military superiority. Scholars later found that Team B had made a series of errors about Soviet advances, but at the time of their publication the dramatic findings went uncontested. The commission proposed that the United States should invest in technology to shield the nation against missiles. Inspired by this report, a group of policy makers sympathetic to the arguments from Team B formed the Committee on the Present Danger (which included Paul Nitze, Eugene Rostow, Richard Perle, and Georgetown professor Jeane Kirkpatrick) to produce an intellectual counterweight to détente. Kirkpatrick explained that their central concern was the “Vietnam syndrome,” which had nurtured a “culture of appeasement, which finds reasons not only against the use of force, but denies its place in the world.”3 These were just some of the kinds of arguments that Carter encountered as he tried to remake the Democrats, seeking to simultaneously solve the economic challenges that faced the nation, provide solutions to the energy crisis, and redefine a national security agenda for the party. President Carter made an effort to offer a moderate path, mimicking the search for a political center that had temporarily shaped Republican rhetoric and ideas in the early 1970s. Given the condition of the GOP, the possibility for success was real, especially when Carter pushed a set of sweeping ideas in his first year, ranging from a program to achieve energy independence to a human rights policy. The president hoped to move the nation beyond Vietnam, seeking strategies to achieve peace with the Soviet Union, while strengthening the image of the Democratic Party on national security. Carter pursued all of the hallmarks of détente, including arms negotiations, trade agreements, and territorial compromises. His most important initiative was human rights. Unlike his immediate Republican predecessors, however, Carter elevated the issue of human rights to the center of his administration’s policies. This was arguably his most dramatic ideological move. Carter believed that the promotion of human rights could give new moral legitimacy to American foreign policy and to mitigate tensions that, he believed, resulted in support for the Soviets. For Carter, supporting human rights and practicing détente could be compatible. Besides his ideological commitment to human

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rights, the political logic behind his stance was simple. With human rights integral to his agenda, critics would not be able to charge the administration with downplaying the importance of democratic and civil liberties in pursuit of arms and trade agreements. On January 20, 1977, in his inaugural address, Carter introduced his proposal for human rights, proclaiming that “our commitment to human rights must be absolute.” Less than a month after his inauguration, Carter inflamed tensions with the Soviet Union by exchanging public letters with the dissident Andrei Sakharov. Carter warned that “any attempts by the Soviet authorities to intimidate Mr. Sakharov will not silence legitimate criticism in the Soviet Union and will conflict with accepted international standards in the field of human rights.”4 When Carter explained to Dobrynin that he did not intend to interfere with the internal affairs of the Soviets or embarrass them with criticism of their human rights record, the Soviet ambassador angrily suggested that the Soviets might well comment on human rights failures in the United States.5 As he criticized the Soviet policies, he simultaneously encouraged arms negotiations. “I believe in détente with the Soviet Union,” he said at the University of Notre Dame on May 22. Crafting a foreign policy that advanced human rights required U.S. policy makers to overcome the “inordinate fear of communism, which once led us to embrace any dictator who joined us in that fear.” Privately, many officials in the administration had deep reservations about the policy. They were not clear whether promoting human rights while seeking détente with the Soviets was wise, or even plausible.6 But the president remained optimistic that he could fight for human rights as he negotiated with accused violators for arms limitation and trade agreements. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Warren Christopher assured the president that such a delicate balancing act was possible.7 There were reasons for the White House to believe that human rights could be a winning political issue. Many administration officials thought the strategy had the potential to unite neoconservatives and liberals in the divided Democratic Party. Advisor Hamilton Jordan wrote the president that “of our numerous foreign policy initiatives, it is the only one that has a broad base of support among the American people and is not considered ‘liberal.’”8 During the first months of his administration, conservatives praised Carter’s human rights policies, which, combined with signs that he was taking a tough stand on arms negotiations, offered evidence that he might support their concerns.9 On May 14, the

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Coalition for a Democratic Majority congratulated him for his “boldness in the advocacy of human rights around the world and in the quest for bilateral arms reductions.” If he remained firm on arms negotiations, the coalition predicted that the Soviets would “respond to your SALT proposals not with counter-proposals, but with theatrically indignant polemics, and when they respond to your human rights statements with threats and bombast, they are merely stonewalling. Only when they see that they cannot successfully browbeat you—and us—will a constructive negotiating process begin.”10 With the outline of Carter’s human rights strategy still vague, the National Review found it “exhilarating to contemplate the new Administration’s straightforward criticism of Soviet treatment of nuclear physicist and political dissident Andrei Sakharov.”11 By embracing human rights, Carter built on a strong base of pre-existing congressional and interest-group support. In addition to Democrats such as Scoop Jackson who raised human rights concerns with regards to the Soviets, there was an influential liberal human rights lobby in the House that included Donald Fraser of Minnesota, Edward Koch of New York, and Tom Harkin of Iowa. Human rights and civil rights constituted the same struggle for these liberals. Their quest for human rights resembled FDR’s efforts during the 1940s to marry New Deal activism to foreign policy through institutions like the United Nations. Indeed, human rights activists literally dated their campaign back to the adoption of the U.N.’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, which outlined different kinds of human rights that the international organization would defend. Carter, Fraser, Harkin, and others came out of the 1960s believing that foreign policy needed to be grounded in the same kind of social values that their party had promoted in the domestic realm with civil rights and other aspects of the Great Society. Vietnam was not the only national security crisis that motivated them. These Democrats were also driven by congressional and journalist revelations in the 1970s about how the U.S. government, particularly the CIA, had participated in covert warfare throughout the Cold War to protect anti-democratic, and often brutal, forces in the fight against communism. The CIA even overturned democratic decisions, as had been the case in Iran in 1953 and in Chile in 1973. “It was not just Vietnam,” wrote Fraser, “it was also the realization that the United States had been actively involved in assisting repressive regimes.”12 Human rights, in their minds, was not some idealistic pursuit but integral to a smart foreign policy. Only by recognizing the centrality

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of human rights, and defining foreign policy around these principles, could America avoid making another mistake like Vietnam. Only by recognizing human rights, they said, could the United States regain its international standing. Because of rampant Soviet abuses, the post-Vietnam liberals’ vision of human rights did not reject the Cold War strategy of containment. Rather they wanted to acknowledge that not all struggles were about communism, and the United States needed to be concerned with other goals. Proponents claimed that governments that adhered to human rights were more stable and reliable whereas others, such as Iran, could not be counted on. The number of legislative proponents for human rights had expanded considerably following the election of the “Watergate Babies” in the 1974 midterm elections and a similar surge of northern and western liberals in the Senate in 1976. There were also interest groups and international organizations such as the Human Rights Working Group of the Coalition for a New Foreign and Military Policy, Amnesty International, and Freedom House.13 These nonprofit organizations produced an outpouring of information through overseas fact-finding missions, hearings, and academic reports about the kinds of abuses taking place.14 Carter institutionalized his human rights agenda, establishing a Bureau of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs in the State Department and appointing Patricia Derian as the first coordinator and then as assistant secretary of human rights. The State Department began to release an annual human rights report that graded each country on how it treated its citizens. Carter also named as ambassador to the United Nations an African American representative from Georgia, Andrew Young, a civil rights leader who had controversially equated American abuses against “political prisoners” from the New Left and civil rights movement with those of the Soviets. As a result of human rights, Carter pushed for a reconsideration of Africa, a continent that had become a hotter location in the Cold War during the mid-1970s. For Carter, Africa was a perfect example of how the Cold War had led policy makers astray. He felt that the recognition of majority rule was essential to countering the appeal of the Soviets and Cubans, especially given the lack of domestic support in the United States for military action on that continent. The administration frequently used this argument as it increased pressure for democratization in countries such as South Africa and Southern Rhodesia, though Carter was not always consistent in how much pressure he called for in the various countries.15

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The international situation was so turbulent, Carter insisted that the time had come to shake things up. The U.S. economy could not recover from stagflation. American companies continued to lose ground as West Germany and Japan emerged as economic powerhouses. Confidence in the United States as a leading superpower had eroded, and the country seemed to be held hostage by OPEC. Soviet expansionism in areas like Africa belied the notion that the threats of the Cold War had ended. The president wanted to shake things up to get out of this mess. Political strategists in the administration sensed that they were standing on dangerous ground as they started to think about the midterm elections. According to one staffer, the size of the House majority was “artificially” inflated as a result of Watergate. Furthermore, any first-term president was vulnerable if voters felt that the administration had not lived up to its promises, regardless of how much legislation passed. The administration was late to develop a comprehensive election strategy, and the president himself remained a mystery to many voters.16 issue in Carter’s relationship with conservatives turned out to be the Panama Canal. Carter decided that turning authority over the canal to Panama was essential to regional peace. He understood the political risks of tackling this issue. In January 1978, Tennessee Republican Howard Baker, the Senate Minority Leader, had said he thought the treaties with Panama that Carter was planning to propose wouldn’t receive even twenty votes.17 The first of the treaties gradually shifted control over the canal to Panama, and the second proclaimed that the canal was neutral territory. When Carter proposed the treaties in August 1978, polls indicated that seventy-eight percent of those familiar with the issue opposed returning the canal.18 One White House official noted that their challenge was to “mobilize middle-of-the-road public support for a SALT Treaty, while avoiding a left-wing vs. right-wing fight [over the Panama Canal] reminiscent of the Sixties. If we fail to act promptly, well-established peace organizations will take the lead, and the anti-disarmament forces will have an opportunity to label us as ‘soft.’”19 The opposition was energized. Conservatives considered the fight over Panama to be a dry run for the upcoming debate over SALT II.20 “It’s patriotism, and that’s the issue we do the best with,” explained the head of the Conservative Caucus.21 Carter’s advisors, meanwhile, felt that they could work with Panamanian leader General Omar Torrijos. He had come to power

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HE MOST CONTENTIOUS

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after a coup in 1968 and formed a quasi-populist coalition while exercising control through the military (though in much milder fashion than other Latin American neighbors), but was facing unstable conditions at home as left-wing forces criticized his government for not doing enough to repair the economy. He faced a possible revolution that could bring instability to the region. In this situation, Carter wanted to demonstrate that the United States was serious about promoting democracy and anti-imperialism.22 He moved forward with the treaties. As expected, conservatives attacked through a variety of lobbying groups that included the American Conservative Union, the Conservative Caucus, the Committee for the Survival of a Free Congress, the American Security Council, and the Young Americans for Freedom. The organizations coordinated their campaign through two umbrella associations, the Committee to Save the Panama Canal and the Emergency Coalition to Save the Panama Canal.23 The lobby sent out a “Truth Squad” of prominent figures—including Reagan, Nevada Senator Paul Laxalt, and Utah Senator Jake Garn— arguing, among other things, that the Soviets would use U.S. withdrawal to gain a stronger foothold in the region. The American Conservative Union ran paid faux television documentaries about the canal that featured senatorial opponents of the treaties asking for contributions and letters of opposition.24 In a special televised program, Reagan delivered a half-hour address in which he opposed the treaties as a fundamental shift in U.S. policy. Point by point, he attempted to rebut all of the arguments that Carter had made.25 For conservative activists, a victory on the treaties was less important than using Panama to expand the movement’s political and financial base. As one activist explained, the controversy was “a good issue for the conservative movement. It’s not just the issue itself we’re fighting for. This is an excellent opportunity to seize control of the Republican Party.”26 Although Carter and allied liberal interest groups fought hard for the treaties, they were not as organized as the conservatives and lacked a grassroots organization. Carter’s most effective tactic was lobbying senators personally and using some old-fashioned horse trading. The challenge was difficult since, as one staffer explained early on, “We have no chips to call in the way President Johnson, President Nixon and President Ford did because we have not been there long enough.”27 To get the vote of Florida Democratic Senator Richard Stone, the administration agreed to a private meeting with the president, a

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personal letter from Carter assuring Stone that the treaties did not mean a reversal of America’s commitment to prevent communistallied governments from spreading in Latin America, and the dispatch of diplomatic experts to Florida to answer questions from Stone’s constituents. In response to the conservative Truth Squad, the administration sent speakers to meet with opinion makers and local elites in the states of undecided senators. The president addressed audiences through state-of-the-art telephone hookups in local communities. Carter took advantage of divisions within the conservative movement to garner support for the treaties—William Buckley, Admiral Elmo Zumwalt Jr., and Hollywood’s John Wayne all were supporters. Although these tactics were sufficient for Carter to win the battle over the treaties, he conceded a key provision in order to obtain the support of Arizona Democrat Dennis DeConcini. The provision authorized the United States to intervene militarily if there was a threat to ships being allowed to pass through the canal. In March 1978, with two-thirds of the Senate needed for ratification, the Senate ratified the first treaty by one vote (68 to 32), and the next month the second treaty by the same margin. Carter saw the treaties as an important policy success. But conservatives emerged with renewed vigor, organizational strength, and disciplined opposition. Carter, at mid-term, had cashed in most of his political chits over the Panama Canal. The president’s attention switched from Panama to SALT. On June 3, he told the White House press corps that he remained committed to SALT and wanted to move “aggressively” with discussions. It was a difficult time to take up the issue. Public approval of Carter’s foreign policy had fallen dramatically because of a perception that he was weak on defense (a New York Times/CBS poll found that the approval rating for his foreign policy had fallen from forty-eight percent in January to thirty-nine percent in April), leaving conservative Republicans optimistic that they could secure the votes of moderate Republicans on SALT II, now that a number of them had demonstrated their bipartisan stripes with Panama. There was no reason for them to do so with another controversial bill.28 “Our opposition,” Frank Moore, the administration’s legislative liaison, warned, “has been working at defeating SALT II since SALT I. Until now they have held the public arena virtually unchallenged, while we have been cautious in counterattacking during negotiations.”29

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Meanwhile, as negotiations began over a new set of SALT agreements in the early summer of 1978, SALT II, the Soviets initiated trials against dissidents including Alexander Ginzburg and Natan Sharansky. Carter called the trials and subsequent imprisonments, exiles, and death sentences an attack “on every human being in the world who believes in basic human freedoms.”30 Senate Minority Leader Baker said Americans were “fed up” about being “pushed around by an arrogant intrusion into Africa, the Middle East, and now these trials of Russian dissidents.”31 Jessica Tuchman, whose position as director of the NSC’s Office of Global Issues included human rights, feared the trials were undermining the administration’s initiatives in this area. “I think we are at a real turning point for the human rights policy,” she wrote the national security advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, “unless we make some major response to the Soviet decision to take every pending dissident case to trial on Monday, the credibility of our policy will not be the same. On the bottom line, the whole policy is judged on the basis of its seriousness vis-à-vis the Soviet Union.”32 In July, Carter announced that the United States would limit the sale of oil and computer technology to the Soviets in retaliation for the crackdowns. After the trials, Carter backed away from the Soviets, focusing his efforts on other, smaller governments in Africa and Central America, which opened him up to critics such as Solzhenitsyn, who said that the president displayed “anger and inflexibility . . . when dealing with weak government[s]” such as Nicaragua’s, and was “tongue-tied and paralyzed when [dealing] with powerful governments” such as the Soviet Union’s.33 Administration officials were also concerned that a war between Somalia and Ethiopia offered evidence to conservatives that the Soviets were intent on expansion. The Cubans and Soviets hesitantly supported Ethiopia. Carter, who insisted that the war would not destroy relations with the Soviets, had admitted in the spring that their policies would “lessen the confidence of the American people in the word and peaceful intentions of the Soviet Union.” The administration perceived the Horn of Africa as a test of whether the Soviets were willing to act in ways damaging to détente. Brzezinski feared that with the Ethiopia-Somalian conflict (as well as with their involvement in another battle in South Yemen), the Soviets were trying to secure control in the area around Saudi Arabia—and its oil.34 Brzezinski’s hope for Soviet cooperation was shattered.35 “Détente lies buried in the sands of Ogaden,” he later wrote.36 President

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Carter noted, “I’m concerned but we mustn’t overreact.”37 Yet even Carter was saying in public that “to the Soviet Union, détente seems to mean a continuing aggressive struggle for political advantage and increased influence in a variety of ways.”38 The other political challenges encountered by proponents of human rights were strategic and practical considerations. In some larger countries such as Indonesia, Carter’s commitment to combating authoritarianism was stronger on paper than in practice. Meanwhile, neoconservative Democrats and Republicans complained that most of Carter’s human rights initiatives focused on weakening right-wing governments in Latin America or Africa rather than governments allied with the Soviet Union.39 The media compounded these difficulties by highlighting tensions within the White House over foreign policy. The press loved to portray Carter as indecisive through stories about the constant tension between Brzezinski, who was supportive of using force to deal with the Soviets, and Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, who believed the dangers were exaggerated and the focus should be on calming down the antagonism. Cartoonists and editorial writers used the two men to caricature a president who was not tough enough to take forceful action even with his subordinates, let alone the leaders of other countries, and incapable of making tough decisions. Republicans like Howard Baker who had supported the Panama Canal treaties were greeted with hostility from conservative activists. Many Republicans tried to avoid speaking about the treaties because of these divisions.40 The “anti-Soviet climate on the Hill,” according to Frank Moore, made peaceful agreements difficult to achieve.41 Carter based his support for a new arms control agreement on a sunny view of America’s military position. Rejecting the report of Team B, the president insisted that the United States had much stronger nuclear capacity than the Soviets. Unlike his opponents, the president was also willing to give Soviet leaders the benefit of the doubt with regards to their desire to reach an agreement. He felt that Brezhnev personally wanted détente to flourish.42 Although polls indicated public support for an arms limitation agreement, the administration realized that the path to SALT II would be rough. Many Americans, who supported the goals of SALT II, doubted that the Soviets could be trusted to keep their end of the bargain.43 Based on Ford’s experience, Carter and his advisors concluded that the legislative support for SALT II was thin.44 These were serious problems for Carter, who did not have the hawkish credentials of Nixon or even Ford to assuage conservative

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anxieties. With regard to national security, one staffer wrote that “no Member of Congress wants to be portrayed as a ‘soft-liner.’”45 In August 1978, Carter played directly into the hands of his critics when he vetoed a $37 billion weapons bill, arguing that the legislation contained $2 billion for an unnecessary nuclear aircraft carrier. Carter’s staff had predicted that the veto would “make you look weak on defense issues at a time when public attitudes are shifting to the right.”46 Critics of course contended that the veto reflected his unwillingness to support strong defense. Throughout the summer of 1978, conservatives demonstrated that they were better prepared to challenge the proposed SALT II treaties than the administration was to defend them. The anti-SALT forces had strong representation at all levels. Within Congress, a group that included senators like Scoop Jackson made it difficult for Carter to dismiss his opponents as fringe extremists from the far right.47 Unlike with Panama, Republicans were relatively unified on SALT II, which they were planning to use as an issue in the 1978 campaigns. Neoconservative Democrats, through lobbying organizations such as the Committee on the Present Danger, were likewise more organized than in the early 1970s and had better press contacts. No one in the Senate leadership strongly supported SALT II. Majority Leader Robert Byrd had little trust of the Soviets and greatly respected, and feared, the hawks in his party. Early on, Howard Baker decided that he could not support, or be intimidated into supporting, another controversial Carter initiative.48 Moderates in both parties were skeptical about the negotiations. Soviets added fuel to the fire with their decision to deploy intermediate-range missiles, called SS-20s, on their borders that were capable of striking Western Europe.The decision confirmed for conservatives that the Soviets could not be trusted to abide by any agreement and that the United States could not afford to be hesitant in the production of weapons.49 There was also trouble brewing for the Western-friendly Iranian regime of the Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The United States had maintained a strong relationship with Iran since it helped in 1953 to overthrow the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh, who had nationalized Iran’s oil reserves. Many Iranians despised the Shah because of his autocratic and repressive regime and his efforts to westernize the country. In Congress, the human rights lobby was critical of the Shah for rights violations.50 Despite his own concerns about this, Carter defended his

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support for Pahlavi, as had Nixon and Ford, because Iran was a key ally in the Persian Gulf region. In August and September, revolutionaries in Tehran started to organize protests, which sometimes turned violent, against their government. On September 8, seven hundred protesters were killed when soldiers fired on them.51 The revolutionary movement included secular intelligentsia and Islamic fundamentalists loyal to the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Most members of the administration saw the crisis through the lens of the Cold War.52 Some were scared that Khomeini was directly supported by the Soviet Union while others feared that any instability opened up opportunities for the Soviets to influence governments in the region. Brzezinski warned of the “arc of crisis” that threatened the Persian Gulf, with the arc extending from Afghanistan to the Horn of Africa. HE VARIOUS CONFLICTS between Carter’s White House and the conservative movement over national security were a major factor in the 1978 elections. Of the twenty senators who voted in favor of the Panama treaties and were up for re-election, six decided not to run and seven ran and lost. The National Conservative Political Action Committee bankrolled several successful candidates, including Gordon J. Humphrey of New Hampshire—who defeated Senator Thomas J. McIntyre, a key moderate on the Senate Armed Services Committee who had supported the Panama treaties. New Right organizations were essential to the financial viability of Humphrey’s candidacy given that he was virtually unknown in the state. Humphrey was a pilot for Allegheny Airlines who was reassigned from Virginia to Massachusetts in 1975 and decided to settle in New Hampshire. Two years after arriving, he volunteered to work for the local branch of the Conservative Caucus, helping to find new members. Panama had been one of the key issues that he spoke about when trying to recruit people, and he made it central to his campaign.53 Prominent conservatives such as Ronald Reagan and Robert Dole endorsed him. Humphrey made McIntyre’s support for the treaties a key issue. In addition to Humphrey, newly elected Senators Roger Jepsen of Iowa (who defeated Richard Clark) and William Armstrong of Colorado were staunch right-wing Republicans who had used Panama as part of their campaigns. The conservative organizations also took on moderate Republicans like Clifford Case (New Jersey), whom they defeated in the primary, and Charles McMathias (Maryland), who won.54

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Although Democrats retained control of both chambers (58–41 in the Senate, with one independent, and 277–158 in the House), Republicans increased their numbers in the House by fifteen seats and Senate by three seats. Conservative Republicans from the South and Southwest—who were winning support from former Democratic voters—were the most notable victors. Conservatives won in Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, and New Hampshire. While the Panama treaties and SALT II were not the only issues that mattered, these high-profile defeats of supporters of the president’s foreign policies, combined with how the media interpreted their losses, forged the connection between national security controversies and electoral results. “There are as many interpretations of the mid-term congressional elections as there are interpreters,” noted the Economist, “but as the dust settled one conclusion seemed even clearer: in the area of foreign policy, the United States Senate has moved significantly to the right.”55 Looking at the Senate, the administration did not like what it saw even though the partisan balance remained roughly intact. Before the election, Carter had barely been able to count sixty-seven potential Senate supporters for SALT II. Five of the liberal Democrats whom Carter had expected to support and push SALT (Clark, McIntyre, Floyd Haskell of Colorado, William Hathaway of Maine, and Wendell Anderson of Minnesota) were defeated. Some of the new Democrats, like David Boren of Oklahoma, were likely to vote no given their conservative electorate. White House Press Secretary Jody Powell admitted that the election would make it more difficult to pass SALT II.56 The mood on Capitol Hill, according to Frank Moore and Hamilton Jordan, was not favorable toward SALT II. There were not many senators or staffers or reporters who believed that ratification was possible. Meanwhile, chief opponents, such as Jackson, were “dominating” media attention while there were no moderate or conservative senators publicly favoring the treaty. Most senators believed that SALT would be unpopular once the attacks by “reputable” opponents intensified. “We cannot dismiss the attacks,” Moore wrote to Carter, “as right wing jingoism.”57 Democrats were nervous surveying the results. “For the first time,” said one senior Democrat, “we can really see the possibility of losing our majority in ’82.”58 New York Representative Jack Kemp, who was extremely popular among conservatives, boasted, “We’ve changed the focus of politics in America from their ground to our ground. We’ve shifted from the defensive to the offensive. They’re now arguing on our turf.”59

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Reading the Electoral College tea leaves, Democrats and Republicans agreed that gubernatorial losses and a net gain of five House seats in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Texas (states that Carter had depended on for his narrow majority in 1976) were troubling signs for the administration. Republicans also took both Senate seats and the governorship in Vice President Walter Mondale’s home state of Minnesota. Although Frank Church took over the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the composition of the committee shifted to the right. Republicans put two senators on the committee, Jesse Helms and California’s S. I. Hayakawa, who were opponents of SALT. As an internal administration memo noted, “The hope of continuing to have a bipartisan foreign policy has been set back substantially by the selection of three partisan, conservative Republicans”—Helms, Hayakawa, and Indiana’s Richard Lugar. The new chairman would be more aggressive than his predecessor (John Sparkman) but would have one less Democrat by his side and, because he was considering a run for the presidency in 1980, would be “overly” influenced by domestic political pressures.60 The new Republican legislators, such as Representative Newt Gingrich of Georgia, were not interested in compromising with Democrats. They believed that the GOP needed to embrace the conservative movement as a way to take control of government. One member of the class of 1978, California Republican Daniel Lungren, explained: “We have to be willing to shake up the system in the House in ways that may make us uncomfortable.”61 Strengthening America’s military presence abroad and cutting taxes were the prime concerns of these freshmen. According to the Americans for Democratic Action’s annual ratings of legislators, Democrats and Republicans in the new Senate had shifted rightward. Brzezinski warned the president on November 18 that, regarding foreign policy, “I feel that we are confronting a growing domestic problem involving public perception of the general character of that policy. To put it simply and quite bluntly, it is seen as ‘soft.’ That, in turn, could hurt us on such issues as SALT or Panama, and the Republicans are increasingly likely to focus on this issue, hoping to capitalize also on conservative democratic support, charging that our policies have been ‘soft’ substantively while lacking constituency in execution.” He urged the president to make some kind of decision that “has a distinctively ‘tough’ quality to it.” Carter stood firm, jotting down on the memo, “Don’t chicken out” with regards to his agenda.62

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Carter fueled the flames on Capitol Hill in December when he unexpectedly announced that the United States would officially recognize China and abandon its pledge to defend Taiwan. One of Carter’s prime goals was to create pressure on the Soviets, which backfired as it made the Kremlin only more obstinate. What made matters even more trying for Carter was that he had never developed a strong working relationship with the Democratic leadership in Congress. Most congressional Democrats personally disliked Carter and his Georgia advisors, who had now inadvertently helped the conservative coalition to increase their numbers on Capitol Hill. Legislative liaison Frank Moore had committed a series of blunders that angered a fractured Democratic Party. The president had threatened to veto water projects that benefited the districts and states of Democratic leaders and failed to inform legislators of which legislation he would be sending to them for their consideration. Irrespective of the problems between Carter and his staff, presidential advisor Stuart Eizenstat joked that given the fractured condition of Congress in the late 1970s Moses himself would have had trouble passing the Ten Commandments.63 Although Democrats controlled both chambers, Carter had to negotiate with an institution that had become highly unpredictable. Congressional reforms in the 1970s weakened the authority of committee chairs, decentralized power, and opened more proceedings to the public and press.64 Carter had also not satisfied the left on many issues that it cared about, as he shifted his focus to inflation instead of unemployment and only gave lip service to urban poverty. National health care, a marquee issue for liberals, including organized labor, was sidetracked. Liberal Democrats turned their attention, and loyalty, to Senator Edward Kennedy, a staunch critic of the administration, as a possible primary opponent to Carter in 1980. of 1979, the opportunity that Democrats had after Watergate and the elections of 1974 and 1976 seemed to have disappeared, turning into a survival act for the president. Carter’s instincts pushed him to the right when dealing with national security.65 Carter called upon NATO members to increase their defense spending by three percent a year above the rate of inflation. On February 28, Brzezinski sent a memorandum to Carter that outlined a new national security framework centering on the Persian Gulf that he felt would be as historic as the Truman Doctrine of 1947. The “return to militarism,” as one historian called it, was under way.66

B

Y THE START

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The one exception was a historic peace accord that Israel and Egypt agreed to in September 1978 at Camp David and signed in March 1979. Despite a series of compromises that were made to reach the agreement, such as ignoring the issue of Jewish settlements around the Palestinian territories, the handshake between Anwar El Sadat and Menachem Begin on March 26 was well received. The agreement stipulated that Israel would remove its troops from the Sinai, and Egypt would recognize Israel and open diplomatic channels. It was hard for many Americans to focus on the accords, however, given the tough times that they faced. They were struggling with high rates of inflation and rising fuel prices. Many gas stations lacked supplies, and to buy at those that did have them, a person had to wait in long lines on certain days. Americans were in the mood to be mad at someone, and Carter was increasingly it. Carter continued to have problems as he pursued SALT II, being outflanked by right-wing organizations like the Committee on the Present Danger, which worked with legislators to make sure the treaties had little chance of ratification. After Brezhnev and Carter signed the SALT II agreement in Vienna on June 18, Carter infuriated conservatives by embracing Brezhnev in front of the cameras. The treaty went to the U.S. Senate with little chance of ratification. In this politically charged atmosphere, every event turned into a huge political challenge, and conservatives demonstrated that they were capable of capitalizing on every incident. In July, Senators Stone and Church revealed that intelligence reports had uncovered a Soviet brigade of two thousand men stationed in Cuba. The senators’ objectives were domestic. For Church, who had headed the investigations into the CIA and supported the Panama Canal treaties, this revelation offered him an opportunity to appear tough on foreign policy and appeal to the more conservative electorate of his state. Church had run into trouble in the 1978 elections when conservative organizations purchased ads that superimposed his face next to Fidel Castro’s, referring to a controversial trip that the senator had made to Cuba in 1977 to explore improved relations between the countries.67 He was doubly sensitive on the Cuba issue, since he had been one of the legislators in the fall of 1962 who went on the floor of Congress and defended the Kennedy administration against Republican charges that there was a Soviet buildup taking place, only to be burned. Stone had taken tough stands against Cuba since entering the Senate in 1973 given the large number of Cuban exiles in Florida.

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Most military experts agreed that the brigade did not really threaten national security.68 In fact, it had been in Cuba since 1962 and had been authorized by a U.S.-Soviet agreement finalized after the Cuban Missile Crisis. Carter refused to take the threat seriously, insisting that the brigade was not relevant and that the United States remained in a much stronger economic and military position than the Soviets. On September 7, Carter told reporters that the United States had a right to ask that the brigade be removed but that it did not represent a national security danger since it was primarily used to train proxy armies for Africa. On October 1, during a televised address on Cuba and SALT II, Carter warned that “politics and nuclear arsenals do not mix.” A bipartisan group of senior security experts consulting with the administration concluded that even though the two senators should never have claimed that the brigade constituted a crisis, the release of the information had placed SALT in jeopardy by spreading news that suggested the Soviets could still not be trusted.69 The political environment was volatile. The Soviets, Maine Democratic Senator Edmund Muskie said, needed to realize that although ideally the troops and SALT should not be connected, “it would be impossible politically to clinically separate the two and treat them as separate foreign policy issues.”70 Conservative legislators called the brigade further proof that the Soviets had not abandoned their expansionist aims. Polling about SALT II showed a drop from a plurality of support in June to a plurality of opposition by the fall. As a result of the Soviet brigade scandal, many senators wavering on SALT II withdrew their support.71 The brigade crisis took place the same summer as the U.Sfriendly, and highly corrupt, Nicaraguan regime of Anastasio Somoza fell to the socialist Sandinistas. Conservatives blamed Carter for withdrawing assistance to Somoza because of human rights violations. Carter initially attempted to reach out to the new government. But when Congress hesitated to agree to Carter’s request to provide economic assistance, the Sandinistas turned to the Soviets and Cuba for help instead and found a responsive audience. As a result, a new Soviet-friendly socialist government was born close to U.S. shores.72 The rapid succession of national security problems made 1979 feel to Carter a lot like 1975 had felt to President Ford. In January, the Shah, fearful for his life, had left Iran for Egypt, and the forces supporting Ayatollah Khomeini gained control of Tehran. With polls

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showing Carter’s approval ratings under thirty percent, he was struggling over his response when in August the Shah requested permission to enter the United States to receive medical treatment for cancer. Admitting him worried Carter, as the political fallout could be grave. These concerns, however, were outweighed by the fact that the Shah had influential American supporters such as Kissinger and David Rockefeller, and in October Carter decided to allow the Shah in for treatment. Then, the bottom fell out. On November 4, students and workers stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran and took fifty-two diplomats hostage. Although Americans had seen a series of major terrorist incidents in the 1970s, none had hit so close to home and none demanded attention like the hostage crisis.73 Recalling the huge costs of Vietnam and desperate to preserve détente, Carter feared intervening in the region.74 Then the world situation worsened. On December 27, 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. The Soviets had close ties to the Marxist government of Afghanistan, but Islamic fundamentalists had allied with various tribal leaders to fight against the government.The rebellion caused tremendous concern for the Soviets, who decided to invade and re-establish control in this troublesome country on its border. Brzezinski told the president that the Soviets were trying to achieve their “age-long dream” of direct access to the Indian Ocean. Soviet expansion would also jeopardize U.S. efforts to improve relations with China. If the United States could not force the Soviets to withdraw, he said, China would see it as unable to restrain the Soviet Union and have less interest in negotiations.75 But even before the Soviets invaded, the United States had been involved there. Following the 1979 assassination of the U.S. ambassador in Kabul, Carter had secretly sent support to Muslim guerrillas fighting the Afghan communists. Despite this history, Carter was genuinely shocked when Soviet troops crossed the border. “My opinion of the Russians has changed more dramatically in the last week than even the previous two and a half years,” the president said.76 Brezhnev, whose health was poor and who was barely in charge by this time, had underestimated the resistance within the United States to his actions. While some observers saw the Soviet invasion as the logical extension of a superpower seeking to protect surrounding territories, Carter viewed it through a moralistic lens. He feared that the tyrannical Soviet Union was intent on destroying the countries that bordered it.

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The invasion appeared to confirm conservative warnings that the Soviets were committed to reckless expansionism and did not care how the world interpreted their actions. By the end of 1979, public opinion throughout most Western countries had become extremely pessimistic about the possibilities for peace or an arms agreement, and a majority of the American public wanted to increase U.S. military power.77 The neoconservative Ben Wattenberg wrote supporters of the Coalition for a Democratic Majority that “people keep saying ‘all those lies you’ve been telling us—are true!’”78 Carter warned Brezhnev that the invasion could “mark a fundamental and long-lasting turning point in [U.S.-Soviet] relations.”79 “This is the most serious international development that has occurred,” Carter wrote in his diary on January 3, 1980, “since I have been President, and unless the Soviets recognize that it has been counterproductive for them, we will face additional problems with invasions or subversion in the future.”80 On that same day, the president requested that Majority Leader Robert Byrd stop further discussions of SALT II in the Senate, concluding it was useless to bring it up for a vote. The initial response to Carter’s actions was positive. Polls showed support for him. The media focused constant attention on the president, and his firm response to both situations, at least rhetorically, conveyed the impression of a strong commander in chief that had been previously absent. Senator Kennedy, who had decided to challenge Carter in the primaries, shot himself in the foot by making a statement about Iran that was critical of the Shah and which opened him to charges of being unpatriotic. The television networks devoted unprecedented attention to the hostage crisis. ABC launched The Iran Crisis: America Held Hostage, a show every weeknight after the local news devoted exclusively to the crisis. After five months, with the diplomats still held hostage, it was rechristened Night Line with Ted Koppel. Republicans dismissed the president’s change of tone, blaming Carter by saying that the Soviets had been emboldened to invade Afghanistan as a result of the administration’s foreign policies. In early January, the GOP launched a political offensive against the president. RNC Chair Bill Brock said that the “policy of patience” was the “policy of weakness.”81 Republicans were now hitting their stride on national security issues, not simply as a result of circumstance but also because of

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deliberate organization and planning. The GOP was ready to strike whenever opportunities arose. The hostage crisis and Afghanistan offered such opportunities by creating huge national security crises, raising doubts about Carter’s leadership. Citing his current muscular defense budget, Carter said early in 1980, “Peace depends upon our nation being strong.”82 During his State of the Union address, he outlined the Carter Doctrine, a formal U.S. commitment to protect the Persian Gulf region from communism, modeled on the Truman Doctrine. William Odom, one of Brzezinski’s advisors, urged the president to frame this as a response to the “third major challenge” since 1945: “The Soviet challenge in Europe, the Soviet challenge in the Far East, and the Soviet challenge to our vital economic interest in the Persian Gulf.”83 Carter called for an increase in defense spending—a 4.5 percent annual increase for five years. The Coalition for a Democratic Majority wrote the president that “Democrats who have long-standing and deeply held criticisms of your Administration’s conduct of foreign and defense policy are encouraged by some of the measures you have taken in response to the brutal Soviet seizure of Afghanistan.” Yet it warned that it remained “gravely concerned that these measures could be seen as mere election year stratagems, as reactions to a crisis that is only regional in scope, or as gestures intended to persuade the Soviet Union to return to the pattern of conduct it was following before it unleashed its tanks on Kabul.”84 Carter and other officials in his administration and Congress conflated all of the threats the nation faced into one broader picture. Although there were several distinct forces at work at this moment, including radical Islamic forces, nationalistic aspirations, and the territorial interests of the Soviet Union, few officials perceived these as separate. Certainly, Carter did not. Rather, these crises were viewed through the still powerful prism of the Cold War. All of the problems were somehow connected to the Soviet Union.85 Carter was not the only one who misinterpreted these crises by viewing them all within the framework of the Cold War. Reagan revealed the same limitation of vision when he proclaimed: “Let’s not delude ourselves, the Soviet Union underlies all the unrest that is going on.”86 According to a National Security Council analysis, the Soviets were angry about Carter’s response. “Soviet commentary on the retaliatory measures announced by the White House,” the report said, “has made explicit Moscow’s conclusion that the President has finally endorsed the tougher line toward the USSR that Mos-

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cow has up to now associated with only one faction within the Administration.”87 Carter tackled the twin challenges of Iran and Afghanistan as the Democratic primaries played out with a challenger in place. Ted Kennedy did not relent on foreign policy. Speaking of Carter’s response to Afghanistan, he criticized the president for “helter-skelter militarism” and for talking a tough game without having a viable strategy to move the nation toward a peaceful resolution of the crisis. Kennedy spoke for Democrats who wanted to focus on diplomacy and negotiations rather than war, Democrats who believed that a nuclear freeze should be the party’s top priority. These Democrats continued to call for policy makers to distinguish between communism and nationalist movements that experimented with socialism. Yet critics within the Democratic Party did not deter the president. He persuaded Congress to pass legislation that required all males who reached the age of eighteen to register for a draft, should a system be reinstated in the future. The all-volunteer forces were suffering from a manpower shortage and insufficient funding for recruitment. His move was a stark turnaround from the previous year when administration officials, despite pressure from the military and the Senate Armed Services Committee, had resisted a similar proposal that called for registration to begin in January 1980. In June 1979, Deputy Chief of Staff Les Francis had urged the White House to stifle it, speculating how it would hurt Carter in the upcoming presidential primaries: “Can you imagine the fun that will cause in New Hampshire or elsewhere?”88 Moreover, reinstituting draft registration, according to Francis, “will be an explosive social issue. . . . It could be the sort of thing that could cause upheavals on campuses across the country, as well as within Black and Hispanic communities in every city in America. . . . The thought of widespread campus demonstrations and worse is chilling.”89 In September 1979, the House killed a proposal for registration by a vote of two to one. After Afghanistan, however, Carter considered reinstating the draft but was dissuaded by Vice President Mondale and Stuart Eizenstat on the grounds that it would be politically disastrous in 1980. Registration, though, had stronger support, particularly from the influential Georgia Democratic Senator Sam Nunn, who had originally opposed the creation of a professional army. Even liberal senators who had opposed the draft and registration in the past, such as California’s Alan Cranston, were now willing to consider registration.90 After all of the debates—within the administration, in the Congress, and in the media—had ended, Carter concluded that a

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registration system would be necessary, sufficient, and the most he could realistically obtain. Reagan, who opposed the draft and was Carter’s most outspoken foe, said that registration would do nothing for national security. Carter’s announcements didn’t satisfy the neoconservatives in his party. On January 31, 1980, he reluctantly agreed to meet with a group of these Democrats who wanted to determine whether Carter would use force. The meeting did not go well. Admiral Elmo Zumwalt asked about the implications of increased Soviet presence around oil routes in the Persian Gulf and whether existing U.S. naval forces could meet the challenge. Carter brushed off the question. According to one witness, Carter then gave Zumwalt “a stare that in a less democratic society would’ve meant he was destined for a firing squad.”91 Meanwhile, Reagan advisor Richard Allen organized meetings with these neoconservatives, during which they warmed up to the former governor. Carter’s most important symbolic move was his announcement that the United States would boycott the Moscow Olympics, an action that conservatives like Reagan had been promoting since 1976. After Afghanistan Carter jumped on the bandwagon. “There is no single action we could take,” said Marshall Brement of the National Security Council, “which could have a greater effect in the Soviet Union than a boycott or even a partial boycott of the Olympics.”92 Carter believed that a boycott would punish the Soviets and constitute a declaration of moral principles. While critics warned that the boycott would not have a major economic impact, proponents responded that a boycott would damage Soviet prestige.93 Liberal human rights advocate and Massachusetts Representative Father Robert Drinan sent Carter 65,000 signatures supporting moving the Olympics to another country: “Strong measures must be taken to condemn this Soviet aggression in the eyes of the world community.”94 The United States Olympic Committee opposed the boycott, claiming it would punish athletes unfairly. Nonetheless, Carter found congressional and public support for the boycott to be strong, including among sports writers and athletes.95 Democratic and Republican leaders together wrote the Olympic Committee that “we must not let the Olympics be prostituted by the Soviets.”96 When the International Olympic Committee denied its request to change the venue, the U.S. Olympic Committee voted to endorse the boycott. The majority of the committee did so reluctantly because they were under significant pressure from the president and

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Congress.97 After tense negotiations, sixty countries agreed to the boycott. The Soviets had warned the European nations that the success of the Moscow Olympics was essential to the continuation of détente, and thus the only major Western European nation to participate in the boycott was West Germany. Although the European allies resisted, the administration was satisfied that it had made a clear statement. “We have effectively ruined these Olympics for the Soviets,” Brement boasted. “They will get none of the political or prestige spin-offs from them that they had originally anticipated. . . . If our allies had gone along with us it would have been a total fiasco for Moscow. As it is, we are still the clear winners.”98 season, Carter conducted a Rose Garden Strategy, canceling all trips and not going out on the campaign trail. He wanted to make the primaries look like a general election and have voters think about which of the candidates would make a better president, by seeing one of them in action. His campaign ads touted his work on foreign policy, particularly the Camp David peace accords. The plan didn’t always work, as foreign policy cost him some primaries. In New York’s primary, Senator Kennedy was helped after the administration supported a U.N. vote rebuking Israel for building its settlements in “occupied Arab territories” and including Jerusalem in this category. The administration explained that the vote had resulted from a miscommunication; Carter said he had instructed the United States to abstain if all references to Jerusalem were not removed. But Secretary of State Vance defended the overall policy of criticizing the settlements. And so, many New York Jewish voters voted for Kennedy in the primary. There were, in addition, many other factors behind the vote, including the general unhappiness with Carter’s leadership and the state of the economy. Kennedy accused the administration of using national security for political purposes, such as when Carter announced a possible breakthrough in negotiations with Iran the morning that Wisconsin voters went to the polls. Although he could not persuade Kennedy to withdraw, Carter won enough primaries to mathematically assure himself victory by the beginning of April. When Carter finally decided to use military force, it was a failure. On April 7, diplomatic talks with Iran had broken down. While Vance was on vacation, Carter authorized a military rescue attempt of the hostages on April 24. During the operation, two helicopters

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crashed in a sandstorm, eight U.S. soldiers died, and the diplomats were still captives.Vance resigned because he had opposed this operation. The mission turned into a huge embarrassment for the president, so much so that he decided to leave the Rose Garden and campaign in Indiana, Tennessee, and North Carolina to ensure a decisive victory. REPUBLICANS NOMINATED Ronald Reagan. From the start of his campaign, he had focused on the economic crisis of the 1970s and Carter’s national security record. The Iran hostage crisis and Afghanistan served as potent symbols of an administration that had lost control. During a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Reagan called Vietnam a “noble cause” and said that Carter was crippled by the legacy of that war. Reagan attacked the inefficiencies of domestic programs such as welfare and advocated steep tax reductions. The economy was in terrible shape. The energy crisis had become worse again in 1979 when OPEC raised prices. Unemployment remained high, and inflation was out of control. On the campaign trail, Reagan offered a pithy attack on Carter: “Recession is when your neighbor loses his job. Depression is when you lose yours. And Recovery is when Jimmy Carter loses his.” Reagan also focused on Carter’s willingness to negotiate with the Soviet Union and his tolerance of leftists in Latin America. The independent candidate John Anderson (a former Republican representative from Illinois and a moderate) ate away at Carter’s support. Hawkish Republicans saw Reagan as embodying the type of politics that their wing of the GOP had promoted since the late 1940s, but now there was a full-blown conservative movement with organizational muscle and political momentum to support it. Although many neoconservatives were torn about whether they were prepared to leave their party and vote for a Republican, a large number did in fact vote for Reagan. Carter, who started his term with hopes of offering a bold post-Vietnam national security agenda for Democrats—centered on détente and human rights—by working in concert with Congress, did not achieve that goal. In fact, the president’s actions had the opposite effect. Unlike McGovern, who lost the 1972 election, Carter was a Democrat who had been given a chance to govern, with united government, and it had turned into a disaster. Reagan transformed Jimmy Carter into the argument to voters for choosing the GOP and against trusting

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Democrats on national security. Through Carter, Reagan argued that the Democratic Party was incompetent, too far to the left, unable to make tough decisions on domestic and foreign policy, and unable to distinguish adversaries who could be trusted in negotiations from those who posed such high danger that they needed to be isolated or attacked. One of Reagan’s advertisements, entitled “Peace,” shows Third World children looking miserable, while a male voice-over says, “Very slowly, a step at a time, the hope for world peace erodes. Slowly, we once slid into Korea—slowly, into Vietnam. And now, the Persian Gulf beckons.” A close-up of Carter’s face fills the screen, as the voice-over continues: “Jimmy Carter’s weak, indecisive leadership has vacillated before events in Angola, Ethiopia, and Afghanistan. Jimmy Carter still doesn’t know that it takes strong leadership to keep the peace. Weak leadership will lose it.” Above all, Carter could not figure out a way to overcome Reagan’s charisma. The former actor appealed to voters personally. His campaign of renewal and hope contrasted with Carter’s image as a president who couldn’t respond to international crises or economic decline.Whereas in previous campaigns opponents had attacked Reagan as an extremist, this time the political atmosphere was different. Patrick Caddell, Carter’s pollster, warned the president that “Reagan cannot be made an evil person—unlike a decade ago, age has taken the harshness off the image. He is seen as a likeable, friendly grandfather figure. He is not a nut. His simplicity and view of the world has great superficial appeal.”99 The race was a dead heat as the candidates conducted their single presidential debate. When asked how his military policies differed from Carter’s, Reagan replied: “I don’t know what Mr. Carter’s policies are. . . . We can get into a war by letting events get out of hand, as they have in the last three and a half years.” The hostage crisis would be extraordinarily damaging to the president’s political standing. Carter desperately tried to negotiate a deal in the run-up to the election, but failed. As he looked over plummeting last-minute numbers, Caddell reported that “the hostage crisis symbolizes our impotence. Ronald Reagan’s message is, ‘Elect me and you won’t have to take that anymore.’”100 Reagan and his running mate, George H. W. Bush, defeated Carter and Mondale. While the popular vote was not a landslide, the Electoral College tally and the congressional election results told a different story. Reagan received 50.7 percent and 489 electoral votes,

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to Carter’s forty-one percent and forty-nine electoral votes, and Anderson’s 6.6 percent. One of the election’s biggest developments was that Reagan had made serious inroads in the South as well as among northeastern and midwestern blue-collar voters who were normally loyal Democrats. The Senate shifted to Republican hands with the Democrats retaining control of the House. The GOP picked up a net gain of twelve Senate seats with a 53 to 46 majority (and one independent). Nine Democratic incumbents, including George McGovern, Frank Church, and Birch Bayh, lost. They were not only incumbents, but symbols of Great Society liberalism, replaced now by staunch conservatives. While Democrats retained their majority in the House, 242 to 192 (with one independent), Republicans picked up thirty-five seats. Southern conservative Democrats recorded significant gains, thereby reinvigorating the conservative coalition in Congress that had thinned throughout the 1970s. Shortly after the election, more than thirty conservative Democrats convened to form the Democratic Conservative Forum. Speaker Tip O’Neill realized that if twenty-six of these Democrats joined Republicans on votes, the Democratic Party would face defeat on major legislative matters.101 CARTER’S PRESIDENCY came to an unhappy conclusion, the possibility of a revitalized Democratic national security agenda faded away. Carter’s performance as president had been mediocre at best. Democrats ran away from him, Republicans charged right into him. The conservative movement and its representatives had been able to respond effectively when a series of crises emerged within a short time span. As a true outsider, Carter started with a thin base in the Democratic Party, and that base eroded to almost nothing as he encountered trouble after trouble. With Democrats internally divided, the Carter White House found itself facing formidable conservative opponents in Congress and at the grassroots level. Political miscalculations, unfavorable international events, and the organizational strength of the right wing, which demonstrated the ability to react and capitalize when crises occurred, overwhelmed Democratic leaders, transforming Carter into a potent symbol for Republicans of why their party was the true heir to the early Cold War and should be trusted to fight communism.

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Carter’s defeat quickly became a defining moment for conservatives, much like the turmoil of the 1960s had been. With Reagan’s election, the challenge to conservatives changed dramatically. After a tough three-decades-long struggle against liberal internationalism, right-wing isolationism, and politicians courting moderates, the Republican Right had finally triumphed politically and ideologically by capturing the White House, the Senate, and the leadership of the GOP. Conservatives now needed to demonstrate that they could marshal the same type of political success while governing.

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MARCH 23, 1983, President Ronald Reagan announced the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), calling for the construction of a high-tech shield to protect Americans from nuclear attack. Reagan promised voters that a hawkish national security agenda could be achieved with minimal personal sacrifice to the populace. Protected by a shield of X-ray lasers, citizens could maintain their security as government expanded the nation’s weapons arsenal, threatened adversaries, and undertook risky operations. Critics derided SDI as an unworkable scheme, dubbing it “Star Wars.” But by doing so they somewhat played into the hands of SDI advocates, because to much of the population, if SDI connoted “Star Wars,” that meant the action-packed excitement of George Lucas’s immensely popular Star Wars movies, whose third installment, The Return of the Jedi, was set to be released in late May. As Richard Perle, who was then working for the Pentagon, said with regard to the term, “Why not? It’s a good movie. Besides, the good guys won.”1 Not for the first or last time was the old Hollywood actor turned president using film to his advantage. As conservatives switched from being an oppositional movement to the party in power, their leaders confronted the challenges of governance. SDI was part of Reagan’s broader policy for achieving peace through strength, an idea that could be traced back to conservatism in the 1940s. Rooted in the tradition of conservative internationalism, the president argued that the best way to win the Cold War was through conducting a massive military buildup, investing in a technologically advanced defense strategy, refusing to negotiate with the Soviet Union

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over arms agreements until the United States achieved military superiority, and conducting selective military operations and offering covert assistance in key hot spots of the world. The professional army, he said, would be sufficient to protect the nation, and there was no need to restore a draft. He sought to enhance America’s military strength, using technology to make confrontation less costly, without becoming bogged down in lengthy overseas commitments and without asking too much from citizens. His calls for higher defense spending were initially coupled with proposals to reduce domestic programs and constrain the ability of government through steep tax cuts. Like a growing number of conservatives in the post-1960s era, Reagan claimed that executive power was essential and constitutionally legitimate. In response to reforms of the 1970s that had strengthened congressional war powers and constrained executive agencies that handled overseas intelligence and domestic surveillance, and because Democrats retained a powerful hold on the House, Reagan championed the authority of the president to take charge against threats facing America. He also relied on his institutional power to counteract other parts of government that were more in favor of expanding federal intervention on liberal policies like civil rights and welfare than he was. Not all conservatives were comfortable with this. Georgia Representative Newt Gingrich warned fellow conservatives one month after Reagan’s election that “the greatest danger of the Reagan administration is that conservatives will decide they can trust imperial presidents as long as they are right-wing when they are imperial.”2 From the corridors of power, Reagan and his Republican colleagues learned that the responsibilities of holding power posed challenges that had not been fully apparent in the 1970s. The conservative movement, with a president in office and in control of the Senate, would have to layer its policies on top of the ideas and institutions that already existed, just as liberals had been forced to do during the Great Depression. The legacies of liberalism remained strong, the aftermath of Vietnam continued to influence public opinion, and as Gingrich noted when he wrote White House staffers, “it’s vital to remember that neither the American people nor the American news media are intellectually prepared to deal with the world as it is. The American news media are still, in large part, covering Viet Nam and Watergate.”3 In terms of national security, the election of 1980 was not a conservative mandate. The limits of what Reagan would try to

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accomplish in the war against communism resulted not only from the president’s practical political instincts or from his desire for nuclear abolition—both factors, as recent historians and journalists have shown—but also from the political constraints he faced after the 1980 election.4 Public support for an aggressive national security stance was complicated and ambiguous. There was clearly one side of public opinion in the 1980s that showed a renewed hawkish spirit, which Reagan capitalized upon in both of his presidential campaigns. This was the spirit that erupted in the 1980 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid, New York, when the U.S. hockey team won a surprise victory over the heavily favored Soviets, with fans in the stands frantically waving American flags. This was the America that loved jingoistic Rambo movies and told pollsters that their country should be willing to use military force against communism. Yet there was another side to public opinion, one that was equally powerful, which was the part of America that very much existed in the shadow of Vietnam and had little desire for military action or wartime mobilization. Most citizens remembered Vietnam, and most did not have an immediate connection to the military given the absence of a draft. For every movie that valorized the military in the 1980s, such as Rambo, others like Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July, and Full Metal Jacket showed the destructive results of war. Indeed, just two years before the Reagan Revolution hit Washington, The Deer Hunter, which focused on the devastating social consequences that resulted from the Vietnam War, won five Academy Awards, including best picture. This was the America that watched Rambo movies but didn’t actually volunteer to serve in the army, the America that called on politicians to talk tough with the Soviets but then balked when faced with the prospect of authorizing even minuscule operations that would result in casualties or cost taxpayers money. As one of Reagan’s pollsters wrote in a confidential memo: “If the U.S. were confronted with the need to respond to an international crisis with force, it should be understood that there is currently not a general base of public support for such action.”5 Polls consistently found a public that was skeptical about relying on military operations and resisted the use of ground troops. The public only supported limited military interventions, and they usually expressed their support only after the interventions had begun and American troops were in the line of fire.6 Reagan found the volunteer army in a state of crisis in 1981, unable to sign up enough high-quality recruits.

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Democrats, who continued to control the House of Representatives after 1980 and retained influence in the Senate through the power of the filibuster, proved that they were tough partisan fighters. Gains by northern liberals in the 1982 midterm elections, with a legislative process that facilitated strong centralized partisan leadership and discipline, made it more difficult for Reagan to find allies across the aisle. Democratic proponents of liberal internationalism discovered in the early Cold War that there would be no lasting consensus over how to fight communism. Conservatives in the 1980s discovered that there would be no consensus over this issue and that partisanship over national security would continue after Reagan’s victory. Reagan’s political success depended on the United States avoiding any protracted military conflict that would test the depth of support for his agenda. The president spoke and spent like a hawk but was never forced to test whether America’s military institutions and electorate could sustain the ambitious goals that conservatives had laid out. When Reagan authorized interventionist policies against communism, he relied on limited covert operations, handled through the executive rather than legislative branch, and financial assistance to noncommunist allies rather than just using the nation’s armed forces. T SIXTY-NINE YEARS

of age, Reagan became the oldest man to assume the office of president of the United States. He brought with him into the White House a talented team of advisors—three with especially strong influence. James A. Baker III, a wealthy Texan from a Democratic family who had worked in Gerald Ford’s administration and had managed George H. W. Bush’s 1980 presidential campaign, served as Reagan’s chief of staff. Baker thrived in this position. He understood the centrality of negotiation and respected the role of Congress. Michael Deaver specialized in media relations. Together with David Gergen, he crafted an innovative program to make sure the administration controlled the tempo of the news. Finally, Edwin Meese worked as chairman of the Domestic Policy Council and as a member of the National Security Council. He was Reagan’s primary conduit to the conservative movement. Meese believed that the war against communism was the central issue Reagan faced as president. Reagan’s goal was to erase the memories not just of Vietnam but also of détente. He did not place much emphasis on negotiating

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with the Soviets about weapons. As the diplomatic historian John Lewis Gaddis wrote, “Arms control was clearly not one of the administration’s highest priorities: indeed, the president appeared to have gone out of his way to entrust that responsibility to some of its most fervent critics.”7 Reagan argued that the only way to reach agreements with the Soviets would be for the United States to demonstrate so much military power that the communist leadership concluded it was in its best interest to accept certain American demands. Reagan had opposed all of the recent major peace treaties, including the Limited Test Ban Treaty (1963), the Non-Proliferation Treaty (1968), SALT I (1972), the Peaceful Nuclear Explosions Treaty (1976), and SALT II.8 The methods of the hawks, according to Reagan, were integral to achieving the objectives of the doves. In the early 1980s, the time was not right for negotiations. Reagan also believed that the Soviet Union was on the brink of collapse.9 The president appointed to administration positions Republicans and Democrats who had been at the forefront of the fight against détente. By 1981, thirty-two members of the neoconservative Committee on the Present Danger held major positions in the administration.10 Reagan nominated Richard Perle to be assistant secretary of defense for international security policy. Paul Wolfowitz, a neoconservative who had befriended Perle and Senator Henry Jackson in the 1970s and served on Team B, was placed in the State Department. Eugene Rostow, one of the main founders of the Committee on the Present Danger, took over the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency while Paul Nitze became the top negotiator with the Soviets for arms control. Richard Allen, who had resigned from Nixon’s National Security Council in protest about détente and was Reagan’s main conduit to neoconservatives throughout the 1980 campaign, served as the national security advisor through 1981. William Clark, who agreed with Allen’s hard-line views, succeeded him. The United Nations was another area where Reagan’s appointments reflected his desire to imprint conservative internationalism on the national security agenda. The president selected Jeane Kirkpatrick, a staunch neoconservative, to be America’s face to the diplomats of the world. Professor Kirkpatrick was a former Democrat who had been a staffer to Senator Hubert Humphrey but who had grown disaffected with the leftward drift of her party. At the U.N., she attacked the institution for having been corrupted by Third World nations allied with the Soviets. She dismissed attacks on

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Zionism as mere cover for Arab dictators to deflect attention from their brutal regimes. Kirkpatrick, who wrote a famous article in 1979 that urged policy makers to distinguish between “good” authoritarian governments that supported the United States and “dangerous” totalitarian governments that facilitated Soviet expansion,11 influenced Reagan’s decision to pursue relations with anticommunist dictatorships in Argentina, South Africa, and El Salvador. Reagan appointed Elliott Abrams to serve as assistant secretary of state for human rights and humanitarian affairs to place his imprint on human rights policy. Abrams was a staunch neoconservative. He was a former Democrat who had worked as a staffer for Senator Jackson in 1975 and 1976 and Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan from 1977 to 1979. The son-in-law of neoconservative founders Midge Decter and Norman Podhoretz, Abrams began his term as assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs. In 1981, Abrams drafted a memo that argued human rights should be at the “core” of Reagan’s foreign policies, a plan that would advance the war against communism and build domestic support for the administration. Abrams explained that the “Republican theory of human rights” was that “the center of any human rights policy was going to be anticommunism, because the greatest threat to human rights was the Soviet Union.”12 Another appointment that reflected Reagan’s commitment to the conservative national security agenda was Caspar Weinberger as secretary of defense. Although Weinberger had been well known in Washington for his commitment to deficit reduction, he was also a staunch Cold Warrior who rejected détente. “The goal,”Weinberger explained, “is to insure that America is strong enough in all respects so that we would be able to deter any kind of attack upon us from any quarter by making it very clear to any potential enemy that the cost of such an attack would be unacceptably high to them and they would be deterred . . . from undertaking it.”13 As the administration decided on appointments, it was feeling strong pressure from the Senate to remain on the right. Senator Jesse Helms, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, blocked a number of State Department appointments of candidates whom he saw as “the same old retreads” of “Kissinger’s people, and Carter’s people, the very people who had been responsible for the failed foreign policy of the past.”14 Like all presidents, Reagan attempted to balance different perspectives in his administration. But the weight of opinion shifted decisively toward the conservative side of the spectrum on national security.

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The president allied himself with a vocal group of world figures, including British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Pope John Paul II, and the leader of the Polish Solidarity Movement Lech Walesa, who rejected the inevitability of communism. Reagan’s advisors pressured him to send tough messages that the United States would not tolerate Soviet aggression. Many of them believed in the possibility of rolling back Soviet communism rather than containing it. CIA Director William Casey had been a harsh critic of President Eisenhower’s failure to respond to the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956.15 Reagan’s optimistic assessment about what the United States could accomplish was coupled with a dire view about the potential for nuclear disaster. Reagan had been moved by Christian concepts of Armageddon, the notion that a horrific war would eventually bring an end to the world.16 He concluded that the combination of communism and nuclear weapons could produce such an outcome, and he rejected concepts of moral relativism as he portrayed the Soviet Union as an evil empire. Reagan, unlike many evangelical Christians, however, did not believe Armageddon was inevitable. His optimism triumphed over the darker side of his vision. Reagan felt that America could avert catastrophe through the right policies and under the right leadership.17 URING HIS FIRST year Reagan championed tax cuts and military spending as a way to keep his coalition together and keep them motivated as the right confronted the continued power of liberalism. The Earned Recovery Tax Act of 1981 constituted the largest income tax reduction since the end of World War II. Reagan also pushed for an increase in the defense budget. He insisted that a congressional commitment to defense was essential to demonstrate that America had not retreated from world affairs and to allow for effective negotiations. “I wanted peace through strength, not through a piece of paper,” the president said. He believed that an arms race would strain the Soviet economy. Focusing on the military budget offered Reagan a way to circumvent the fact that most Americans supported increased defense spending while opposing major military interventions.18 In March 1981, he proposed the largest military budget since World War II, and for the next four years defense spending would constitute thirty percent of the federal budget. Colin Powell, the senior military assistant to Weinberger, whose nickname was Cap, later wrote, “The once-feared Cap the Knife had become, to his critics, Cap the La-

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dle.”19 Reagan reversed the trend of declining military spending that Congress had undertaken since 1968, falling from about 9.4 percent of GDP to 4.7 percent of GDP by 1979. Discretionary spending for domestic programs declined from 5.7 percent of GNP in 1981 to 3.7 percent in 1987 at the same time that defense spending increased from 5.3 percent to 6.4 percent. Reagan gained acceptance for a defense budget of $300 billion a year of GNP.20 Congress allocated funds toward costly weapons systems such as the B-2 Bomber, Trident II missiles, and Pershing II missiles.21 This constituted the largest peacetime increase in military spending in American history. Reagan felt that Americans agreed with this approach: “When I was asked during the campaign about what I would do it if came down to a choice between defense and deficits, I always said national security would come first, and the people applauded every time.”22 Defense spending helped the president with his ability to attract voters in the South and Southwest who were ideologically more conservative than most of the country but also lived in a region that depended heavily on military bases and the weapons industry. The Reagan administration promoted a broader argument about Vietnam that contrasted with the pessimistic portrayal so common in popular culture. The effort to reconstitute Vietnam in public memory was part of a larger effort to rebuild public support for the national security state. The administration tried to repair the broken army by promoting higher funding for the all-volunteer forces, as well as an aggressive ad campaign, “Be All That You Can Be,” that sold a heroic image of the soldier to potential recruits. Policy makers allied with the Republican Party realized that the memories of Vietnam loomed as a huge obstacle to achieving a hawkish agenda.23 Reagan struggled in his first two years to make national security decisions that were aggressive toward communism without requiring a full-scale military intervention. Image and rhetoric were more than symbolic for Reagan. Through dramatic words, Reagan hoped to undermine international support for the Soviets and send a message that the United States refused to tolerate aggressive actions. As Garry Wills wrote, “Reagan was always Reagan, trusting more to words than actions, to weapons bought than to weapons used. . . . He actually believed that if one just took a tough stance, then bullies would scatter.”24 As National Security Advisor Clark wrote to the president in 1983, “Normally, it has taken an act of considerable force to demonstrate this will. President Ford used the Mayaguez incident; President Nixon used bombing attacks in Vietnam to impress this on

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the Soviets. Yet, you did it in a non-military way—by having the courage to tell the truth about the Soviets. So long as our leaders deliver this message, the Soviets will know that we are not spiritually weak, that we are not Finlandized and that we have not permitted wishful thinking to obscure a clear understanding of Soviet intentions.”25 Though he would call the Soviets the “focus of evil,” Reagan was not all fire and brimstone in his first years in office. He tried to sway public opinion against the Soviets through his bargaining tactics, positioning himself as a hawkish leader who had a genuine commitment to achieving peace notwithstanding his bellicose rhetoric and budgets. In November 1981, Reagan introduced the ZeroZero Option, a dramatic offer to end the deployment of Pershing II and ground-launched cruise missiles in Western Europe on the condition that the Soviets disband every intermediate-range weapon that threatened the continent (SS-20, SS-4, and SS-5). Reagan wanted to use the Zero-Zero Option to give the impression that he was not a warmonger. Reagan made the offer with the full knowledge that the Soviets could not accept it because the deal would force them to abandon their SS-20 missiles and almost 600 other intermediate missiles, which were already in place, in return for the United States promising not to move forward with the deployment of weapons that were not yet in Europe.26 At the very height of his bellicose rhetoric toward communism, besides offering a framework for negotiations, regardless of how outrageous the terms seemed at the time, Reagan also authorized conversations through third parties with Soviet officials and sent signals that he wanted to meet when the time was right.27 EAGAN’S HAWKISH DEFENSE

posture against communism was also a mechanism to keep the various factions of the movement as united as possible in his first year. By the beginning of 1982, there were a growing number of conservative politicians and activists who felt that Reagan was ignoring the movement that had brought him to power. In a letter to his Republican colleagues, Representative Gingrich wrote, “We do risk repeating the Eisenhower years and the decay of the Republican Party in the House under the shadow of a popular, but non-partisan President.” One member of Reagan’s legislative team admitted that Gingrich’s letter was “disturbing.”28 Conservative organizations released a statement in January 1982 that, “In one department after another, crucial positions are occupied by people who have small history of sympathy with, or understand-

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ing of, the Reagan mandate, the principles on which it rests, or the sense of urgency that it communicates.”29 Reagan’s social policies, they said, were too often dismissive of conservative positions. Paul Weyrich warned that the “insensitivity” of the administration toward “the political coalition which brought him to power” was so significant that it threatened the Republican Party, and the president, with “political disaster.”30 “It is my belief,” the conservative activist Terry Dolan wrote James Baker, “that conservatives and Republicans are becoming increasingly aware that the king has no clothes: that Reagan is not the same as Reaganism, and that it really does not mean anything to vote Republican.”31 Foreign policy was also a problem. At the end of January, the administration had agreed to limit arms sales to Taiwan, an apparent betrayal of an old cause for Reagan. “Unfortunately,” complained conservative leaders, “we have watched as this administration has carried out the policies established by [Secretary of State] Alexander Haig to abandon Taiwan—the very same policies President Reagan campaigned against.”32 When conservatives convened a conference to discuss their grievances, some of them blamed poor decisions such as Taiwan on “politics,” as “many of Reagan’s advisors fear that he will be denounced by the Democrats and the media for bungling U.S.-Sino relations should Beijing downgrade our diplomatic ties.” A “broadbased coalition of conservatives who helped elect Reagan,” they warned, “will be greatly demoralized should he adopt the Haig proposals.”33 In another controversial move, the administration lobbied in March and April for the sale of Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) airplanes to Saudi Arabia. Reagan relied more heavily on funding from Saudi Arabia than previous administrations to finance anticommunist campaigns in Afghanistan, Yemen, Angola, and Nicaragua. In exchange, the president had to overcome congressional resistance toward a series of controversial weapons sales to the Saudis, including AWACS. Carter had encountered stiff resistance in 1978 when he sold F-15 airplanes to the emirate. When Reagan decided to offer AWACS—which Carter had purposely avoided— American Jewish organizations complained that the sales were “harmful to American interests, dangerous to the cause of Middle East peace and threatening to our country’s friend and fellow democracy, Israel.”34 The neoconservative Norman Podhoretz charged that these sales were evidence that Reagan was starting to practice policies akin to détente.35

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Max Friedersdorf, chief legislative liaison to the president, recalled that the administration had been caught off guard by the domestic response to the proposed sale of AWACS.36 Reagan promised that new alliances in the Persian Gulf would empower the United States, and a strong America was the most important factor to Israel’s survival. The president, according to his accounts, spent more time on this issue than almost any other. But the sale deeply upset Jewish voters and undermined the unusually strong support that Reagan had received in 1980 from this constituency. Special assistant Elizabeth Dole stated the problem bluntly. She warned Michael Deaver that “unless some actions are taken . . . leaders of the conservative organizations will be unable to get people working in 1982 politics. We have just about reached the point where our passive support will be unable to hold many major conservative groups in line. . . . Their grassroots activists now require some signs from the Administration that it’s worth continuing the fight in the next elections.”37 Reagan could not respond reflexively to conservative complaints since he recognized the ongoing strength of liberalism in American politics. As defense spending rose, domestic spending did not decline, leading the pollster Patrick Caddell to tell Democrats, “The Reagan/Republican army is no longer swift, confident, and disciplined. Its ranks are battered and wary, grumbling various complaints.”38 Reagan’s appointments continued to send mixed signals, even as the criticism from the right mounted. Reagan named George Shultz as secretary of state when Haig resigned in July 1982. Shultz was a respected intellectual. Educated at Princeton and a former marine, he came to the administration with a doctoral degree from MIT and having worked as a professor at the University of Chicago. His political experience was equally impressive, having served as secretary of labor, director of the Office of Management and Budget, and treasury secretary under Nixon. Shultz had been a founder of the neoconservative Committee on the Present Danger. As Shultz later wrote about foreign policy, “The use of force, and the credible threat of the use of force, are legitimate instruments of national policy and should be viewed as such.”39 But he also believed in negotiation, multilateral foreign policy, and diplomacy. Shultz hoped that a balanced combination of tough security policies and negotiation could pressure the Soviets into reducing their weapons stockpile and liberalizing human rights.

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Reagan needed voices such as Shultz because during the second year of his presidency he was feeling intense pressure from liberals, which he could not ignore, regardless of what his supporters wanted. Advocates of a nuclear freeze in the United States and around the world were furious about Reagan’s proposals for Western Europe, where the president insisted on the deployment of 572 IntermediateRange Nuclear Force (INF) missiles pursuant to a NATO agreement finalized in 1979. The decision had originally been a response to the Soviet deployment of 220 SS-20s in the late 1970s.The SS-20s, which were nuclear weapons that could reach European cities within minutes, had become a symbol to conservatives of why arms agreements with the Soviets were futile. While the SS-20s were technically legal according to the SALT agreements, they were the types of weapons that the agreement had intended to ban. The Soviets insisted that the missiles were needed to provide them equality with American weapons systems. While Prime Minister Thatcher, West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, and French President François Mitterrand supported the deployment, tens of thousands of moderate and left-wing Europeans demonstrated against these new weapons on the grounds that they would escalate the potential threat of a nuclear war. The Soviets vehemently objected to the deployment. Reagan refused to retreat. Meanwhile, congressional Democrats became more restive with regards to U.S. policy toward Central America. Under the Reagan Doctrine, the president proclaimed that the United States would support anticommunist forces throughout the world in the struggle to roll back communism.40 In Central America, Reagan claimed that Soviet allies were part of a strategy to close in on U.S. territory. In speaking about the region, he drew on the rhetoric of neoconservatives by depicting this as a war to promote human rights.41 Republicans benefited on this issue from divisions among Democrats. The AFL-CIO supported the administration. Democrats were also wary about opposing the president even though public opinion was on their side. “The possibility that opinion might suddenly change worried members,” according to one Democrat.42 Many members of the administration pointed to Nicaragua as clear evidence that the United States needed to apply pressure for the removal of a hostile regime rather than pushing for incremental reform or relying on diplomacy. U.S. military intervention in Central America, however, was not a policy that elicited strong public or congressional support in the

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early 1980s.43 Reagan ran headfirst into his opposition as he attempted to increase support to anticommunist rebels in Nicaragua. Toward the end of his first year as president, the CIA established a program to work with an anti-Sandinista group, the Contras, to overthrow the government. The Contras were a violent group of rebels that included mostly former supporters of Somoza but a few disaffected former Sandinistas, too. The administration also sought to provide support to the authoritarian government of El Salvador to help them fight against communist rebels. But many Americans were not very excited. On March 29, Reagan advisor Richard Wirthlin wrote James Baker, “The emergence of ‘world peace’ and defense-related issues on the number one problem list is very sensitive to current news events.” The bad economy, he noted, led many Americans who believed in a strong defense to seek cuts in the military budget. “Regarding El Salvador, the biggest fear expressed by the American people is that involvement with the Central American country would lead to another Vietnam. Over twothirds of the public feel that giving aid in particular would precipitate involvement similar to that experienced by the U.S. in Southeast Asia. This attitude surfaces despite the fact that more people recognize the presence of the Communists to be at fault in El Salvador than attribute the current problem to the rightists in the country.”44 Speaker Tip O’Neill stood in the way as Reagan formulated his anticommunist policies. O’Neill came from a generation of Democrats who were willing, and eager, to challenge militarism in the White House. During the 1960s, O’Neill had cut his legislative teeth opposing military operations in Vietnam. Elected to the House in 1952 in a district that combined the intellectual, and liberal, environs of Cambridge and its working-class outskirts, O’Neill agreed to vote for the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in 1964 after being pressured by Speaker John McCormack and warned of the political costs of opposing President Johnson. As the war deteriorated, however, he could no longer sit still. In 1967, he sent out a newsletter in which he declared his opposition to the war. Lyndon Johnson, who was furious with O’Neill, called him into the Oval Office to say, “What a sonofabitch you are. I expect something like this from assholes like [New York liberal Democratic Representative William] Fitts Ryan. But you? You’re one of my own. You’re my friend. I’ve known you since the day John McCormack brought you down . . . to the Board of Education.” O’Neill, according to Johnson, was now following “the students in your area,

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. . . all those guys at Harvard Square.” O’Neill, whose mail was running eighteen to one against the war, was most upset when he heard from working-class Irish constituents who, he said, were saying he had “joined that crowd down at Harvard Square, the flag-burners.”45 O’Neill, whom Democrats elected as their majority leader in 1972 and as Speaker of the House in 1977, was not a pacifist. With Reagan in the White House, O’Neill supported Texas Democratic Congressman Charlie Wilson’s secret campaign to provide the CIA with money and weapons to arm the Afghanistan mujahideen in their fight against the Soviets. The Speaker also rounded up votes for President Reagan when he proposed investing in MX intercontinental missiles, cruise missiles, and other types of “smart” weapons. Understanding that all politics is local, he fought for funding of weapons such as the Patriot Missile that were produced in factories near Boston. But with public opinion behind them, House Democrats, led by O’Neill, had made it clear in 1982 that they would not support a large-scale operation in Central America, which O’Neill saw as potentially another Vietnam. He was deeply influenced by left-wing Jesuits and missionaries stationed in Central America, including his ninety-one-year-old aunt, Eunice Tolan. These religious observers had been highly critical of the types of governments the United States supported. O’Neill’s distrust of anticommunist forces allied with the United States had been confirmed in 1980, when five members of the Salvadoran national guard abducted, raped, and murdered four American female missionaries. When dealing with these and other national security issues, Reagan’s advisors cautioned him from the beginning that he needed to tone down his rhetoric and give more weight to arms control if he did not want to alienate moderate voters. Placing more emphasis on the “peace” component of his “peace through strength” policies would temper his “warmonger” image, they said.46 The nuclear freeze movement was growing and its support in Congress was rising. “The issue in the general arena of foreign relations that could swamp us,” wrote Richard Wirthlin, “if we do not handle it with great care, is the proposed freeze on the production and deployment of nuclear weapons. Even when apprised of the difficulties of verification of this plan, 75% of all Americans favor the freeze.”47 One pollster said, “There is every opportunity at the present time that Ronald Reagan could be to arms control what Richard Nixon was to China.”48

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which took place in the middle of a recession, with unemployment reaching nearly ten percent and over 10 million Americans unemployed, powerfully checked the momentum of Reagan’s attempted revolution. Democratic candidates spoke about the “Reagan Recession” and criticized the administration’s lack of fairness when dealing with the people most hurt by the economy.49 With the economy the dominant theme, Democrats under the leadership of Speaker O’Neill also warned of the international dangers that had resulted from Reagan’s reckless attitude toward the Soviets. Evaluating the campaign from the White House, the administration saw the elections as crucial to the conservative agenda. They understood that Reagan’s success would be deeply affected by liberal margins in the House and Senate. O’Neill had already proven to be a powerful foe on issues such as Social Security and Central America, and his power would increase with more liberal Democrats at his command. The results of the midterms, wrote pollster Richard Beal to Ed Meese, “are pivotal in American political history; it is crucial to sustaining the Reagan revolution beyond his first two years in office.”50 As a result of the recession, international tension, as well as the failure of the GOP to capitalize on redistricting in the South and Southwest, Democrats enjoyed a twenty-six-seat increase in the House, for a total of 269. The number of members in the conservative coalition declined. Although the GOP kept control of the Senate, it was unable to expand its majority, and several previously vulnerable liberal incumbents, such as Senator George Mitchell of Maine, won. Economic issues drove the election, but the outcome struck a blow to Reagan’s national security agenda. Numerous candidates such as New Jersey Democratic Senate candidate Frank Lautenberg favored defense cuts. Nuclear freeze initiatives passed in most states where voters faced the issue, passing by some sixty percent in eight states and twenty-six cities. In the House, the number of liberals increased. There were eighty-one freshmen there, including fifty-seven Democrats. After the elections, sixty-seven percent of all freshman House members announced that they endorsed legislation that would create a nuclear freeze, and fifty-five percent of the House overall agreed, compared to forty-nine percent in the previous Congress.51 Representative Gingrich met with Richard Nixon following the election and expressed his frustration with the outcome. Nixon proposed that Gingrich form a working group of younger Republicans

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to challenge the leadership of the party and propose a different vision for the GOP. Gingrich returned to Washington and organized a group of Republican bomb throwers who met regularly to plan ways to take on Democrats aggressively, and to shift the tone of their party, while connecting with the conservative movement. A few weeks after the midterm elections, Reagan dedicated the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. Reagan said, “We’re beginning to appreciate that they were fighting for a just cause.” In saying this, he took one of the most controversial military actions in recent history, one that had undermined support for the fight against communism, and transformed it into a patriotic moment, which granted legitimacy to the war of the 1960s and 1970s.52 Several Reagan officials believed that this kind of posture on national security could help Republicans win back some of the support they had trouble with in the midterms. Richard Darman, assistant secretary to the president and deputy chief of staff, wrote James Baker that “Populists are hawks. Long after much of the elite had abandoned our cause in Vietnam, the populists continued to stand up for America’s national honor. Populists still wear American flag decals on their hardhats.”53 of the election, Newsweek published an article about how the CIA had been secretly working to overthrow the Sandinistas. The Boston Globe condemned the operation. Furious about the news, the Speaker worked with his close friend, Massachusetts Representative Edward Boland, to attach an amendment to a military appropriations bill in December 1982 prohibiting assistance to the Contras if the money was to be used to overthrow the Nicaraguan government. The Boland amendment reflected the growing willingness of legislators since the 1970s to take a proactive stand toward specific aspects of military spending. The House and Senate Armed Services Committees now were dealing with issues such as salaries and benefits for service personnel, whereas earlier in the Cold War they had left these to the executive branch. In contrast to the pre-1970s, more and more programs had to be annually reauthorized. Legislators were also increasingly willing to add amendments to defense spending bills.54 In 1977, moreover, Congress had created a process that made base closings so difficult that none were shut between 1977 and 1991.55 The Boland amendment frustrated the president, but he had no choice except to sign the bill. The legislation was better than the

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alternative, proposed by Iowa Representative Tom Harkin, which would have banned support for any assistance to groups working against the Nicaraguan government rather than trying to overthrow it. In response to this counterpressure, Reagan rejected the advice of some conservatives who wanted to send in troops to overthrow the Sandinista regime and instead opted for arms and financial support to the Contras, handled by the CIA.56 Reagan and his advisors did not lose their determination to support anticommunist forces in Central America, but facing public opposition and legislative restrictions, they didn’t have many options. Meanwhile, Reagan sent assistance to the authoritarian government of El Salvador to fight communist insurgents. these issues, Reagan had to contend with growing pressure from a vast, international grassroots nuclear freeze movement. The movement consisted of pacifists, socialists, religious leaders, environmental groups, scientists, geographers, psychologists, unions, creative and performing artists, senior foreign policy makers, and others. Over twenty-six separate groups in the United States came together through Citizens Against Nuclear War, which estimated its peak membership at 18 million.57 One of the first major protests when Reagan was president took place in New York City on June 12, 1982, attracting a million people. By early 1983, the freeze movement had drawn support from around the globe. Activists organized protests with millions of people in Western Europe. In addition to grassroots protests and initiatives, the freeze movement gained support from American popular culture. There were books, songs, articles, and films about the dangers of nuclear war. Deputy Assistant to the President Red Cavaney said that the administration needed to wage an all-out public relations campaign against the freeze. But, Cavaney added, “it may be best not to deride those who hold the freeze idea so closely, since their beliefs may be strongly rooted in the morals of the argument.”58 Reagan dismissed the arguments of the freeze movement as “simplistic” and naïve solutions based on a policy that could never be verified and could end up destabilizing international relations. Reagan admitted, however, in an April 17 radio address to the nation, that he agreed with the goals of the freeze movement: “To those who protest against nuclear war, I can only say, ‘I’m with you.’”59 But he didn’t accept the strategy of the freeze movement. His fears of Armageddon led him to believe that the freeze strategy was

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too risky because it could not prevent an accidental launch or crazy foreign leader from causing world destruction.60 He was joined by neoconservatives who saw Democratic support for these proposals as a disaster strategically and politically if the Democrats regained power. At a rally opposing the freeze, Don Todd of the American Conservative Union invoked Munich again, warning that its proponents sent the “same message that Chamberlain sent to Mussolini and Hitler.”61 After the 1982 elections, Reagan charged that Sovietallied organizations were behind the freeze movement.62 Regardless of how sound the arguments were, most members of the administration concurred that the freeze movement constituted a substantial political threat. It was not a quaint relic of the hippie culture but a large, international phenomenon with influential support.63 As the administration fought for large defense budgets and used hawkish rhetoric to discuss communism, the freeze movement acted as a powerful counterweight. The movement put pressure on the president to demonstrate that he had a viable strategy for obtaining peace, and not just military dominance.64 While polls revealed strong support for Reagan’s military buildup, there was equal enthusiasm for the freeze. The conservative physicist Edward Teller was frustrated by the movement, which he believed threatened the defense of the nation.65 for Reagan to find a strategy to oppose the nuclear freeze movement and congressional resistance to his aggressive defense policies. Attempting to marshal, for example, some type of countermovement in favor of nuclear weapons would not work. Besides spreading rumors that the nuclear freeze movement was secretly sponsored by the Soviets, administration officials published opinion pieces, made television appearances, and delivered presidential proclamations to build support for an alternative strategy. The administration also proposed a series of mild arms control proposals to demonstrate that it too was interested in achieving peace, while scaling back on several weapons programs that its opponents had targeted as unnecessary.66 Reagan also offered Americans moral arguments about why his plan was superior to the freeze movement. In response to rumors that the National Council of Churches and the National Conference of Catholic Bishops were preparing to announce their support for the freeze, on March 8, he addressed the National Association of Evangelicals in Orlando, Florida:

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I urge you to speak out against those who would place the United States in a position of military and moral inferiority. You know, I’ve always believed that old Screwtape reserved his best efforts for those of you in the church. So, in your discussions of the nuclear freeze proposals, I urge you to beware the temptation of pride—the temptation of blithely declaring yourselves above it all and label both sides equally at fault, to ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire, to simply call the arms race a giant misunderstanding and thereby remove yourself from the struggle between right and wrong and good and evil.67

The centerpiece of Reagan’s response to the freeze, the Strategic Defense Initiative, was introduced in a speech on March 23. Reagan promised that the United States could create a shield to allow the nation to continue taking an aggressive military stand toward the Soviet Union and its allies without as much personal individual risk as with previous national security programs. SDI, said one of its architects, was “a uniquely effective reply to those advocating the dangerous inferiority implied by a ‘nuclear freeze.’”68 Calling Americans to arms without actually calling them to arms had been at the heart of conservative military strategy since the end of World War II. Military strength without sacrifice defined SDI, which would create an X-ray laser-based shield that the administration said would protect the country from intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs). “Wouldn’t it be better to save lives than avenge them?” the president asked on March 23. The message was delivered as polls showed that the public thought defense spending had increased enough and strong opposition had emerged, in both parties, to Reagan’s proposed ten percent increase in defense spending for fiscal year 1984. At the heart of SDI was the hope of abandoning the policy of Mutual Assured Destruction. If both sides developed the technology, Reagan said, nuclear weapons would be rendered useless. Reagan was the driving force behind SDI. He worked outside the defense bureaucracy with an informal group of advisors to devise the plan. Reagan insisted that SDI was “wholly compatible” with the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty of 1972, but he warned that the improvement of the Soviet military that had resulted from détente left the United States vulnerable to a first strike. The president claimed that the Soviets had already started to develop their own anti-missile system, a by-product of their refusal to comply with treaties. Dis-

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missing congressional concern about the enormous costs of this project, Defense Secretary Weinberger said that “when the cause is as enormously attractive and hopeful as this, then I think that we are going to have to raise our sights considerably above [and] beyond mere fiscal thinking.”69 Although Reagan liked to say that the idea behind SDI resulted from his visit to the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) in Colorado, the station responsible for detecting an incoming nuclear attack, the concept had deep roots in the conservative movement.70 Shortly after World War II, there had been several proposals for creating a defensive shield based on the work of Edward Teller, a Hungarian-born physicist who had been part of the Manhattan Project and a main figure behind the creation of nuclear weapons. Unlike many World War II scientists, Teller never lost his enthusiasm for the military value of scientific discovery. He became a hero to conservatives and an ally of hawkish legislators such as Strom Thurmond and Henry Jackson.71 He introduced Reagan to the possibilities of a shield in 1967 when the governor was touring Teller’s lab near San Francisco. There had been several efforts to develop a system, such as Nike-Zeus in the late 1950s and Sentinel in the 1960s, with the most substantive attempt being Safeguard in 1969.72 After Nixon and Congress abandoned the ABM program in 1972, conservatives formed an informal coalition to lobby for the creation of a shield. While Teller provided scientific expertise, wealthy conservatives like Joseph Coors and Karl Bendetsen provided funds. Coors, along with others in this small lobby, met with Reagan frequently in the first years of his presidency to discuss the general concept behind SDI. James Abrahamson (former NASA administrator) and Lieutenant General Daniel O. Graham (former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency and member of Team B) drew on their experiences in technology research and arms control. Graham was a spokesman for the American Security Council, a conservative group that promoted massive defense spending. In Congress,Wyoming Republican Senator Malcolm Wallop and New York Republican Representative Jack Kemp gradually built legislative support for the plan.73 Working closely with the aerospace industry, Wallop had been one of SDI’s prime advocates before Reagan took office. The industry experts, on Wallop’s behalf, met with senators and representatives to teach them about the proposal.74 In 1981, Graham launched a group called the High Frontier to publicize some of these plans. The conservative magazine Human Events,

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which Reagan avidly read, published several articles about the project in the early 1980s. After Reagan announced SDI, its proponents were elated. “My congratulations on your courageous decision,” Graham wrote Reagan a few days later, “to challenge a policy which has fostered despair and substitute one which offers hope to the American people.”75 According to Reagan’s diary, Wallop assured the president that the laser technology was more advanced than most thought and capable of achieving a missile defense if there was not “bureaucratic foot dragging.”76 These advisors met with Reagan several times without the knowledge of the secretaries of defense or state or the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Proponents of SDI were concerned that if the discussions included the military bureaucracy, the project would encounter instant opposition.77 Finally, in December 1982, Reagan informed the Joint Chiefs of Staff about the plan. On February 11, 1983, they approved it. The chief of naval operations, Admiral James Watkins, who had opposed the idea, reversed his support following a detailed presentation by Teller.78 After Reagan formally introduced these ideas to the public, the administration worked with the SDI lobby to promote the issue in Congress.79 One of the coalition’s most publicized commercials showed a young child drawing a crayon picture of her family, with the voice-over saying, “I asked my daddy what this ‘Star Wars’ stuff is all about. He said right now we can’t protect ourselves from nuclear weapons, and that’s why the president wants to build a peace shield. It’d stop missiles in outer space . . . so they couldn’t hit our house. Then nobody could win a war, and if nobody could win a war, there’s no reason to start one. My daddy’s smart.” The pro-SDI coalition maintained close contact with conservative organizations.80 According to the Republican pollster Arthur Finkelstein, the SDI proposal “appears to have the potential to form a broad based voter consensus. Since it is non-nuclear, it appeals to those voters opposed to nuclear weapons, while attracting strong support from those voters who favor a strong national defense. Simply, the . . . strategy eases voter anxiety over nuclear weaponry by maintaining a strong national defense without nuclear weapons.”81 Lobbying for SDI was essential since there was vigorous criticism of the proposal from respected experts. According to administration officials, a consistent response had been “skepticism. . . . The arguments always center on discussions of eventual system cost, eventual system feasibility, and eventual system effectiveness.”82 Teller

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said that calling the system “Star Wars” was “an invention of the press designed to defeat the proposal.”83 Most respected scientists, however, believed that the shield would be impossible to construct with existing technology. “The X-ray laser is a good idea on paper. But the difficulties of making this into a practical system are staggering,” Cornell Professor Hans Bethe wrote Reagan.84 While it might be possible to create a limited shield in the distant future, some critics said, even then it would not be totally reliable. According to one report, the Soviets possessed 8,000 nuclear warheads aimed at the United States. Therefore, if a shield destroyed 90 to 95 percent of incoming Soviet missiles, powerful warheads would still be able to get into the country. Five hundred warheads would be capable of destroying almost half of the urban population.85 The Congressional Office of Technology Assessment reported that an antimissile shield would actually increase the chances of war, should the United States be able to develop the technology, which the OTA described as unlikely.86 The skepticism was not partisan. Charles Burton Marshall from the Committee on the Present Danger, who served as the “stringer on defense topics” for the National Review, said that SDI would not work and would “cost a hundred times what Dan Graham says it would.”87 A different kind of criticism emanated from NATO leaders, who warned that SDI could diminish interest within the United States in participating in the defense of the European continent. The Soviets said that SDI would result in a race to create ground-based missiles, which would violate the existing agreement to limit ABM systems. If the technology ever worked (the Soviets were also skeptical that this would happen), there would be no incentive for the United States to refrain from launching a first strike. Given that the United States was not reducing its offensive power, expanding its defense system constituted an aggressive action from the Soviet perspective. Reagan turned these arguments against the Soviets: “I wonder why some of our own carping critics who claim SDI is an impractical wasted effort don’t ask themselves, if it’s no good how come the Russians are so upset about it?”88 In his diary, he noted, “They fear our technology.”89 Some in the administration agreed with the critics. Secretary of State Shultz, like many top officials, privately believed that Reagan had confused the possibility of a shield that could protect small areas of the country with a system capable of surrounding the entire nation. Others, such as National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane,

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went along because they thought it was an effective bargaining chip. The cost of SDI, they believed, was more than the Soviets could spend without bankrupting their economy. The freeze movement responded that SDI was impossible, turning to scientific data as proof. Activists insisted that the only viable path to peace was for the United States and the USSR to stop producing more weapons. “The endless cycle of nuclear escalation is more and more likely to end in nuclear conflagration,” warned Senator Edward Kennedy and Oregon Republican Senator Mark Hatfield, “unless we act in time to stop it.”90 Reagan and his advisors dismissed the claim that the program was flawed because it did not offer complete protection. As Graham explained to Gingrich, “It has become very apparent that these naysayers are putting up a vulnerable strawman and knocking him down. Every ‘anti’ remark, article, book starts out with a phrase such as ‘to get a perfect defense,’ ‘to get a leakproof defense’ or ‘to get a total defense’ we’d have to spend half a trillion dollars or it isn’t feasible at all. But . . . what we need is a non-nuclear defense that makes a nuclear attack against the U.S. (or our allies) a forlorn hope and, therefore, constitutes a far better deterrent than the threat of revenge alone.”91 In the end, SDI supporters also fell back on traditional tactics as they blamed much of the criticism as being a product of an international public relations campaign by the Soviets to spread false propaganda. The American Defense Preparedness Association issued a “fact book,” which it distributed to top legislators, warning that “the basic objectives” of Soviet foreign policy were to “weaken and divide the West.”The authors pointed to the World Peace Council as the source for much anti-SDI information, as well as “new fronts” and “satellite groups” like the Generals for Peace and Disarmament, which included eight retired NATO officers. They said that the hope of the Soviet propaganda campaign was that “ominous” language would “play upon Western fears of war and of increased tensions.”The report asserted that “for many years” the Soviets had been developing missile defense technology. The Soviet program, according to the report, was “ongoing, active and expanding.”92 Reagan believed that SDI was a realistic means of reducing the threat of nuclear war. It offered the quintessential promise of modern conservatism: America could remain aggressive and armed while citizens would not have to worry about the threats that such stances could inspire.

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His opponents were having none of it. “The worldwide arms race is getting out of control,” Massachusetts Representative Edward Markey wrote colleagues.93 On May 4, 1983, the House passed a freeze resolution, which would stop the production of new nuclear weapons and maintain current levels for existing nuclear armaments, by a margin of 278 to 149 with sixty Republicans supporting the measure. Sufficient support did not yet exist in the Senate, however, which on October 31 defeated the freeze by a vote of 58 to 40 with twelve hawkish Democrats joining forty-six Republicans (out of fifty-four) in the opposition. time that he encountered intense opposition to his national security policies, the president became more sensitive to his opponents in the fall of 1983 when he came to genuinely believe that the world had entered into a dangerous period with the potential for nuclear war. The events that took place in those months would challenge Reagan’s core arguments about military force and cause him to rethink his position toward negotiations.94 The rapid turnover of leaders in the Soviet Union had caused great concern among U.S. policy makers. When Brezhnev died on November 10, 1982, his successor, Yuri Andropov, got off to a poor start with Reagan. During Andropov’s short term, tensions escalated between the Soviets and the United States. Andropov assumed that the United States was considering a first-strike strategy under a trigger-happy president. The period between September and November was terrifying to many Americans, and to Reagan himself. On September 1, the Soviets shot down a Korean airliner (KAL 007) when the plane entered Soviet airspace, killing 269 passengers and crew. Sixty-one Americans were on board, including Georgia Democratic Representative Larry McDonald, described by the administration as “one of the most conservative members of the House.”95 When Reagan first heard about the incident, he told William Clark, “Let’s pray that it’s not true.” If it was, Reagan said, “we’ve got to be very careful that we don’t overreact.”96 During a meeting with advisors the next morning, Reagan said that he would not continue arms control discussions with the Soviets.97 Tensions were high. Minnesota Republican Representative William Frenzel wrote the president that the “outrageous slaughter . . . demands a response.” New Mexico Republican Senator Pete Domenici wrote to Reagan that the “Soviets must be held accountable.”

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Representative Gingrich wrote the president that the “deliberate murder of 269 human beings” should “remind all of us of the nature of Soviet dictatorship” and that civilization could not consider such “acts of barbarism” as “acceptable.”98 Paul Weyrich wrote to Faith Whittlesey, director of the White House Office of Public Liaison, “I am profoundly disappointed in the President’s leadership concerning the Korean Airlines incident.”99 The president, however, opposed military solutions, insisting that the issue would inevitably work against the Soviets. He didn’t have much choice. Public opinion did not support confrontational policies even after the incident.100 “Without powerful sanctions,” chief speechwriter Tony Dolan wrote William Clark, “the President must rely on the strength of his message.”101 Tapping his pencil on the table after a presentation by a hawkish official, Reagan said, “I don’t think we need to do a damn thing.” Referring to his goal of defeating communism, he said, “The entire world will remember our long-term objectives.”102 The president followed through on this strategy. Although he received electronic intercepts proving that the Soviet air force commanders didn’t know it was a civilian airline, Reagan still condemned the act as barbaric. Reagan said on September 3 that the “murder” of innocent civilians was “a serious international issue between the Soviet Union and civilized people.”The speech was received positively in the media. Speaker O’Neill called the shoot-down an “act of terrorism” and “barbaric.”103 The next month, another event involving hundreds of casualties, this time in Lebanon, tested the limits of how much bloodshed America’s political system would tolerate. The Lebanese crisis had begun a year earlier. Secretary of State Haig had given the green light to Israel to invade Lebanon to destroy the military bases of the Palestinian Liberation Organization and diminish the power of Syria. After the invasion, Lebanon continued to slide further into civil war. Reagan responded by sending troops. “If we show ourselves unable to respond to this situation,” Reagan said, “what can the Middle East parties expect of us in the Arab-Israeli peace process?”104 His commitment was modest, with only 1,800 marines dispatched to the country. By contrast, in 1958, Eisenhower had sent 18,000 there to stabilize civil conflict. Reagan made his decision over the opposition of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which feared the operation would turn into a disaster.105 The JCS were soon proved right. On October 23, 1983, a suicide bomber killed 241 marines in their barracks in Beirut. Reagan denounced the act as a “horrifying

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reminder of the type of enemy that we face in many critical areas of the world today—vicious, cowardly, and ruthless.” Although initially the president publicly warned that the withdrawal of troops would be seen by terrorists as a sign of weakness, under intense congressional pressure, he decided against ordering any military retaliation and in February 1984 would bring the troops back home.106 Neoconservatives were frustrated. Two days after the bombing, Reagan authorized the invasion of the small Caribbean island of Grenada following a coup that could have endangered American students living on the island. It was a political success, though seen by Reagan’s critics as a manufactured distraction from the Lebanon disaster. Even Secretary Shultz recalled: “The situation was bizarre. Here we had a Pentagon that seemed to take any means to avoid the actual use of American military power but every opportunity to display it.”107 It was in this atmosphere of tense international relations that the administration began planning for the 1984 presidential election. One internal study warned that in terms of the top “bad things” that Americans thought could happen during a second Reagan term, fifty-one percent of those polled were worried about the possibility of nuclear war. It strongly recommended that “we should emphasize (if there have been no major foreign policy setbacks by late Fall of 1984) that our dealings with the Soviets have succeeded because they were based on realism (we have dealt with the Soviets as they are—not as we wish they would be), strength, and reciprocity. Further, we should emphasize that we are committed to peace—to arms reduction, and to developing ‘people’ programs to help the nations of Central America and South America.”108 This message became even more important as U.S.-Soviet relations disintegrated further in November. Early in the month, the U.S. military and Western allies conducted an extensive computer war simulation called Exercise Able Archer. The Soviets were aware that the exercise was taking place but could not discern whether it was a simulation or real attack. As a result, the Soviets placed their troops on high alert and prepared civilians for nuclear attack.109 Although the Soviets soon realized that Able Archer was a simulation, the two sides came close to war. According to Anatoly Dobrynin, the early years of Reagan’s presidency “were the most difficult and unpleasant I experienced in my long tenure as ambassador. We had practically no room for really constructive diplomatic work.”110 On November 20, 1983, ABC premiered a fictional film, The Day After, about the devastating effects of a nuclear attack on a small

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town in Kansas. It was viewed by 100 million Americans (which was about forty percent of the entire population), a record for a madefor-television movie. People didn’t just view the show in their homes, they congregated on college campuses, in schools, and in churches to watch with friends and neighbors. “It’s very effective & left me greatly depressed,” the president noted in his diaries after watching a preview.111 Reagan was so concerned about the impact of the film that he sent administration representatives to speak on television and radio and publish opinion pieces responding to the film. According to the president, “We know it’s ‘anti-nuke’ propaganda but we’re going to take it over & say it shows why we must keep on doing what we’re doing.”112 The Republican National Committee worked with White House Director of Communications David Gergen to coordinate the efforts.113 Watching all of these events with growing trepidation, House Democrats continued to apply pressure on Reagan’s Central America policies. Congress extended the Boland prohibition against distributing money to the Contras. This round of voting was not quite as unanimous as the first amendment a year earlier, as the parties started to differ. The House approved the extension 228 to 195. In his diary, the president lamented that “whenever it is us versus the Soviets or Cubans they [Democrats] always come down on the wrong side.”114 Democrats did not relent and continued to limit Reagan’s ability to maneuver in Central America with an assertion of legislative authority. And so on June 25, 1984, President Reagan, Vice President George H. W. Bush, secretaries Weinberger and Shultz, CIA Director William Casey, U.N. Ambassador Kirkpatrick, National Security Advisor Robert “Bud” McFarlane, and several other top national security advisors met in the White House Situation Room to discuss how the administration could provide assistance to the Nicaraguan Contras while Congress resisted. McFarlane reported that “the bad news includes the fact that there seems to be no prospect that the Democratic leadership will provide for any vote on the Nicaraguan program.” When Kirkpatrick complained that the administration had not spent sufficient time spelling out the implications of the funding on Capitol Hill, Shultz disagreed, saying that legislators wouldn’t support any funding.115 Venting their frustration with the lack of support, Casey and Kirkpatrick proposed that the United States should rely on third parties to provide the assistance.

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Unhappy with the direction of the conversation, Shultz interrupted to remind his colleagues that Chief of Staff James Baker, a lawyer by training, had concluded that “if we go out and try to get money from third countries, it is an impeachable offense.” When Casey disagreed, qualifying Baker’s statement to sound less definitive, Shultz reiterated Baker’s basic point that the U.S. government could only “raise and spend” funds for this program through congressional appropriation. Baker’s argument didn’t sway everyone in the room, in a White House filled with politicians and policy makers who held bold views about presidential power.Vice President Bush asked, “How can anyone object to the U.S. encouraging third parties to provide help to the anti-Sandinistas under the finding? The only problem that might come up is if the United States were to promise to give these third parties something in return so that people could interpret this as some kind of exchange.” McFarlane closed the meeting by saying that nobody should make these conversations public nor should they seek third-party support, “until we have the information we need.” Before adjourning, Reagan warned his colleagues that if such a “story gets out, we’ll all be hanging by our thumbs in front of the White House.”116 The conversation expressed the mood of a frustrated conservative administration hamstrung by the political realities of 1980s America. The first term of the Reagan presidency had been characterized by frustration and disappointment. Living up to his own national security rhetoric proved to be enormously difficult as Congress opposed direct military intervention unless some kind of crisis warranted such action. When Reagan was not issuing fiery statements about communism, the Soviet “evil empire,” or ramping up the defense budget, his most expansive national security programs were covert, usually executive-centered operations that circumvented Congress. 1984 election approached, Reagan made the ultimate change as he undertook steps to improve relations with the Soviets. Reagan gradually broke with hard-liners and continued to express an interest in opening negotiations.117 Politics and strategy were moving along the same lines. There was a sense among many intelligence analysts in the administration that the Soviet Union was teetering on the brink of collapse—the economy had fallen apart, internal tensions were becoming more severe, there were high rates of illiteracy while birth rates were too low to sustain an adequate

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workforce, and many struggled with alcoholism. The main problem was that there were no apparent leaders inside the Kremlin who were willing to take the steps needed for reform, including radically slashing the defense budget. Herbert Meyer, vice chairman of the National Intelligence Council, wrote the CIA director, “In a vague but very profound way, Soviet leaders are starting to recognize that something has gone hideously wrong. We are not talking here about merely a bad stretch in relations with the US or a temporary run of bad luck; we are talking here of a perceived fundamental shift in the balance of future power. History is no longer on Moscow’s side—if ever it was—and Soviet leaders sense they lack the wit, the energy, the resources, and above all the time, to win it back.” The biggest danger was that the heightened tension of the past year, Meyer wrote, signaled that some Soviet leaders were taking a “high-risk course” of grabbing territorial power in the Persian Gulf and even Western Europe to save themselves rather than move forward with needed reform.118 One of the responses to this situation, which took hold with the election, was to try to encourage Soviet interest in negotiation rather than confrontation. At the United Nations, on September 24, Reagan made a conciliatory speech. Pointing to the Soviet and U.S. representatives who were sitting before him and whose tables were physically close to each other, Reagan said, “In this historic assembly hall it’s clear that there’s not a great distance between us.” Campaign officials said the speech kicked off a new phase in the effort to present Reagan as a statesman in search of peace and to deprive former vice president and Democratic presidential candidate Walter Mondale of the “war and peace issue.”119 The president continued to see signs that there were political liabilities to championing conservative internationalism, or at least to his aggressive public stance against the Soviets. Voters were telling campaign advisors of their concern that the administration’s policies would result in nuclear war. Polls showed Reagan’s support increasing since he showed interest in negotiation.120 Democrats were able to capitalize on these perceptions by jumping on mistakes, such as when Reagan joked in August during a radio sound check: “My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.” Speaker O’Neill shot back: “The President of the United States broadcast a joke about nuclear war. He left us with doubts ringing in our ears whether our commanderin-chief even knows that nuclear launches are irreversible. . . . The

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Republicans, dominated by the right-wing, want to win the nuclear arms race. We Democrats want to end it.”121 Reagan and his advisors realized that he needed to deal with this kind of criticism or he might suffer at the polls in November. During the campaign, Reagan and Bush faced Mondale, a quintessential New Deal liberal, and New York Representative Geraldine Ferraro. They called for the continued expansion of social programs to counteract the effects of Reagan’s policies while championing the cause of the nuclear freeze movement and negotiations with the Soviets. As the campaign began, Reagan seemed to be in good shape. Unemployment was down, inflation was under control, and the stock market was doing well. When he spoke about national security, he tried to strike a balance. In the second debate, he signaled his willingness to negotiate: “I told Mr. Gromyko we don’t like their system. They don’t like ours. . . . But between us, we can either destroy the world or we can save it.” While Reagan indicated that he would exercise caution when dealing with the Soviets, he also hammered away at Democrats as being weak on defense. As Republican advisors noted, “The increasing 1984 emphasis on jingoism, anti-Communism and defense spotlights three issues that have historically driven a major wedge into the Democratic coalition.This is in sharp contrast to economic issues like fairness and joblessness that re-inforce the Democratic coalition.”122 Reagan used blistering rhetoric to make his point about the Democrats clear: “Mondale as a Senator, later as understudy to Jimmy Carter, and still today has seemed possessed with one simple but very wrong idea: American strength is a threat to world peace.” The president’s campaign staff sensed that Mondale’s “greatest vulnerability” was his “weak record on defense and foreign affairs.”123 Younger congressional Republicans such as Gingrich and Pennsylvania’s Robert Walker were also emphasizing this theme. In a controversial set of speeches from the floor of the House and televised on C-SPAN, they asked Democrats to respond to the charge that they had a “pessimistic, defeatist, and skeptical view toward America’s role in the world.”124 Mondale responded by warning that Reagan would escalate the arms race into outer space. The United States needed a president, he said, who could be effective in negotiations with the Soviets, not merely strident in his rhetoric. In addition to talking about the security risks posed by Reagan’s militarism, Mondale condemned the president for domestic policies that largely benefited the wealthy.

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House Democrats put some teeth in Mondale’s approach to national security by passing another Boland amendment—this one the most restrictive so far—that “no funds available” to the Department of Defense, the CIA, and any other intelligence agencies could be used, directly or indirectly, to assist the Contras. But Mondale’s campaign had serious problems. When it came to personality, he paled next to the charismatic Reagan. He also had trouble rebuilding the Democratic coalition that had been in place since the New Deal and which fractured in the 1970s. There were many working-class and middle-class Americans throughout the country, particularly in the South, who had always voted Democratic but had shifted their loyalty to the GOP under Reagan. In November, Reagan won 525 electoral votes and carried forty-nine states, with fifty-nine percent of the popular vote. Importantly, he had more success than any previous Republican among southern Democratic voters, with seventy-two percent of southern whites voting for him.125 Democrats were frustrated, with many believing that their image on national security had been a central part of their failure. As Wisconsin Democratic Representative Les Aspin, who would become chair of the Armed Services Committee in 1985, observed, “If Democrats want to spend the rest of their career writing op-ed pieces and giving lectures at universities, then we continue to stroke our anti-defense image. . . . Voters are not attracted to national security naysayers. . . . We are the Doctor No of the defense debate.”126 Reagan failed to bring along with him a Republican majority in Congress. Democrats retained control of the House, though Republicans picked up sixteen seats. Republicans retained control of the Senate, but lost one seat. Reagan had failed to create a new governing majority, and he instead had to continue to live with divided government. Not only did Democrats control the House, but there were fewer moderate Democrats with whom he could collaborate, as he had done during his first term. Following the election, some members of the administration called for a new look at some key national security policies, including Nicaragua. In an internal memo, Deputy Director of Intelligence Robert Gates wrote that the idea of containing the Sandinista regime or trying to gradually bring it down would never work. He called the programs being run by the CIA “half-hearted policy,” comparing them to policies during the Vietnam War, in which “half measures, half-heartedly applied” did nothing to the enemy. He called for a more “comprehensive campaign,” including the possibil-

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ity of air attacks, which would bring down the regime. “Hopes of causing the regime to reform itself for a more pluralistic government are essentially silly and hopeless.”127 During a speech at the National Press Club on November 28, 1984, Secretary Weinberger took a different approach, as he assured reporters that the United States would not be sucked into a drawnout war in Central America. He outlined a hawkish doctrine that fit comfortably within the tradition of conservative internationalism and post-Vietnam culture. The Weinberger Doctrine stipulated that the United States should only use force when it was willing to unleash the military’s full power and when there was a strong national consensus over goals. He presented a series of guidelines to be followed. First, that the United States would rely on military force only in defense of the national interest. Second, that the government would demonstrate its total commitment to achieving victory. Third, that the president and Congress should have clear military and political objectives, with a coherent plan about how to achieve those objectives. Fourth, that policy makers would continually reevaluate those objectives, and the forces committed to the mission, to make sure they were sound. Fifth, that the United States would only undertake military action when there was widespread public and congressional support. And, finally, that military force would only be a weapon of last resort. The doctrine, Weinberger explained, “grew out of the Vietnam experience. . . . This was a terrible thing to do, to ask people—our troops—to commit their lives to a cause that we didn’t consider important enough to win.” The Weinberger Doctrine constituted a frank acknowledgment of the constraints on the ability of the United States to project its military power, a fitting end to Reagan’s first term. This measured approach would be crucial to Reagan’s success since he did not authorize a lengthy ground war during his second term, comparable to Korea or Vietnam, that would have tested the effectiveness and political popularity of conservative internationalism for guiding national security. URING HIS FIRST term, Ronald Reagan helped conservatives make the transition into power. National security had been a centerpiece of his efforts. His goal was to bring the Cold War to an end, not through compromise, but with the defeat of communism. Reagan promoted strong executive power, sizable military spending, and a confrontational posture as the national security agenda.

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But conservatives learned that being a hawk was much easier on the campaign trail than in the White House and Capitol Hill. The truth was that the administration was forced to instantly tame its ambitions and rely on jerry-built compromises to advance its national security strategy, and usually not by choice. Reagan’s first few years in office were filled with immense challenges. As he struggled to keep conservatives united, he encountered public, legislative, and social movement pressure against his fundamental approach toward the Soviet Union. Rather than a president boldly going wherever he wanted, Reagan in his first term was a commander in chief responding and readjusting as his options quickly narrowed.

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GORBACHEV’S VISIT to the United States in December 1987 took on the aura of a Hollywood movie premiere. Americans lined up to catch a glimpse of the Soviet leader and his wife, Raisa. The Marriott Hotel called its coffee shop Café Glasnost. The Ritz-Carlton placed “summit cookies” on the pillows of its guests.1 Ronald Reagan’s warm embrace of Gorbachev marked a dramatic turnaround from the president’s earlier career as one of the chief proponents of conservative internationalism. Reagan acted more like a pragmatic politician than an ideologue, recognizing the strategic and political vulnerabilities of conservative internationalism. When an opportunity emerged as a result of historic reforms that were taking place in the Soviet Union, Reagan broke with conservatives and entered into substantive arms negotiations with Gorbachev. As a result, Reagan’s greatest national security triumph involved a landmark arms treaty with the Soviets in 1987, the very kind of action for which he had attacked his three predecessors, Presidents Carter, Ford, and Nixon. Though conservatives were furious with him, the breakthrough could not have come at a better time for Reagan. The negotiations saved him politically from the exploding Iran-Contra scandal, temporarily masking the problems that were starting to become evident with conservative internationalism in the 1980s. The Iran-Contra scandal stemmed from the administration’s reliance on covert, executive-centered national security policies. In the Persian Gulf, Central America, and the Middle East, Reagan had depended on this strategy to combat Soviet influence.

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While the administration usually found some congressional allies who supported these efforts, it primarily worked on these programs without the explicit support, consent, or knowledge of Congress. This had been the case with the Nicaraguan Contras. Several highranking officials established a complex operation whereby the United States sold weapons to Iran in exchange for their assistance in negotiating the release of U.S. hostages in Lebanon. The money made from the sales was used to help the Contras. “The Iran-Contra scandal,” wrote diplomatic historian Robert McMahon, “was born of the desperation of Reagan and his key aides to find a way around the constraints imposed not just by Congress’s Boland Amendments, but, in a larger sense, by society’s Vietnam debacle.”2 The scandal had the potential to destroy Reagan’s presidency. High-ranking officials in the White House had directly ignored a congressional restriction, a revelation that occurred just twelve years after Nixon’s forced resignation and could easily have turned into another Watergate. Reagan’s popularity plummeted in the first months as the news broke. He had trouble moving forward with his legislative agenda as he found himself the focus of several investigations, with some talk of impeachment. But Reagan survived, and Iran-Contra did not end up defining his political legacy. He revived his political standing through a onetwo punch. First he and other Republicans responded defiantly to the accusations. Rather than covering up or denying many of the claims about what had taken place, this time Republicans defended the basic outline of their policy in Central America, presenting the investigations as nothing more than a partisan witch hunt by a Democratic Party that was scared to fight communism, and they turned the scandal against their adversaries by defending the legitimacy and need for covert, executive-centered national security policies. The second component to Reagan’s counter-attack, which was not an initiative that Reagan undertook with the intention of covering himself politically, but which had a positive political outcome for him nonetheless, came in 1987 when the president defied the very conservatives who stood by him in Iran-Contra by opening discussions with the Soviet Union and agreeing to a historic arms treaty, thus scoring an important foreign policy success in 1987—thawing tensions with the Soviets and starting the process of ending the Cold War. RESIDENT REAGAN’S SECOND term got off to a rough start. Donald Regan, the secretary of treasury, had switched positions with chief of staff James Baker. Regan, a disliked figure whom speech-

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writer Peggy Noonan described as someone “who cannot resist appearing to be tough and mean when in fact, inside, you could tell, he wasn’t so tough and he wasn’t so mean,” was responsible for one of the biggest public relations fiascos of the otherwise polished Reagan presidency.3 In early 1985, the president accepted an invitation from German Chancellor Helmut Kohl to speak at a memorial to mark the fortieth anniversary of the end of World War II. Regan signed off on the choice of the Bitburg cemetery as the location for the ceremony. But the media soon revealed that Reagan had missed a key fact. Dozens of German soldiers were buried in clearly marked graves, including members of the SS, where Reagan was to lay a wreath. The American Jewish community was furious. Reagan made things worse when he became defensive and said that there was nothing wrong with honoring German soldiers, who, he added, were “victims” of Nazism, “just as surely as the victims in the concentration camps.” The president refused to cancel the visit because he believed that it would look bad to go back on his word. Regan tried to mitigate the damage by having the president visit a former concentration camp, but the whole event was a disaster, raising questions about the chief of staff ’s damage control skills and undermining the reputation for public relations of the deputy chief of staff, Michael Deaver.4 Nor was a major Reagan initiative doing well. The problem of terrorism was becoming increasingly important. The hostage crisis at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games had done more than any other incident to raise national awareness about terrorism. Each president since Lyndon Johnson had attempted to design a stronger counterterrorism policy, with Richard Nixon making the biggest dent by strengthening airport passenger screening. Following the attack on the Marine barracks in Lebanon, Reagan had proposed comprehensive counterterrorism legislation.5 But Congress had not passed most of the reforms, and terrorist incidents continued. In October 1985, terrorists affiliated with a radical wing of the Palestinian Liberation Organization hijacked the Achille Lauro cruise ship in the Mediterranean. After killing Leon Klinghoffer, a Jewish-American wheelchair-bound passenger, the hijackers docked at an Egyptian port. When the Egyptian government let them as well as the mastermind Abu Abbas escape by plane, Reagan ordered U.S. warplanes to bring down the aircraft in Italy. The United States sought to extradite Abbas for the killing of Klinghoffer, but the Italian government refused. It did indict the Palestinians,

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however, but inexplicably allowed Abbas to go to Yugoslavia until the trial started. He did not return and so was tried in absentia and found guilty in 1986. According to a February 1986 report of a Reagan administration task force headed by Vice President Bush, “Terrorists of the ’80s have machine-gunned their way through airports, bombed U.S. Embassies and military facilities, pirated airplanes and ships, and tortured and murdered hostages as if ‘performing’ on a global theater screen.”6 challenge in Reagan’s second term was, however, Iran-Contra. Reagan’s campaign to have Congress reverse the Boland Amendments had not worked. “Without U.S. funding for the Contras,” Deputy Director for Intelligence Robert Gates had said in late 1984, “the resistance essentially will collapse over the next year or two.”7 On March 16, 1985, NSC staffer Marine Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North wrote a memo for National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane outlining a plan to provide assistance to the Contras if Congress was still “unwilling to support release of $14M in USG funds for the purpose of supporting, directly or indirectly, military and paramilitary operations in Nicaragua.” North was a popular figure in the Council for National Policy, a right-wing group that included the preacher Pat Robertson, beer magnate Joseph Coors, and Edwin Feulner, the founder of the Heritage Foundation. North was a Texan who had been decorated for his service in Vietnam. A workaholic and devout Cold Warrior, North was willing to take on any task to fulfill the goals of his president. In his memo to McFarlane, he proposed that money be raised from alternative sources including private citizens.8 During the summer and fall of 1985, administration officials discussed a proposal to sell weapons to Iran in exchange for Iran’s assistance with the release of American hostages in Lebanon. In November, CIA Director William Casey requested the authority to rely on private individuals to seek the release of hostages, acknowledging that “as part of these efforts certain foreign material and munitions may be provided to the Government of Iran which is taking steps to facilitate the release of the American hostages.”9 During one meeting with Reagan, Casey and McFarlane explained to him that moderate elements in Iran were willing to work with the United States. Casey and McFarlane represented a faction in the administration that believed the United States needed to rebuild a strong alliance with Iran before the Soviets gained control of the sea in the Persian Gulf. Secret discussions had suggested that the

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administration would be able to exploit the fact that there were three major factions in the Iranian hierarchy: conservative clerics; a middle-of-the-road group, including Speaker of the Assembly Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who were convinced the Soviets would not permit Iran to win the war against Iraq, which had been ongoing since 1980; and radical anti-Westerners.10 Secretary of State George Shultz and Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger objected to this plan, saying it would violate the administration’s promise to never negotiate with terrorists, which Reagan had repeatedly made previously and publicly, and that such a plan violated the president’s long-standing promise to isolate Iran, which remained a symbol of terrorism, with memories of the hostages from 1979 and 1980 fresh in the minds of voters. At the time, intelligence reports listed Iran as one of the three leading state sponsors of terrorism along with Libya and Syria. When Weinberger read a confidential memo on the arms sales forwarded to him by Colin Powell, he said that negotiating with Iran would be impossible, writing, “It’s like asking Quadhaffi [Libyan leader Muammar al-Gadhafi] to Washington for a cozy chat.” McFarlane met with Weinberger to argue that this strategy could win over Iranian moderates. Weinberger responded, “The only moderates in Iran . . . are in the cemetery.”11 McFarlane, however, saw the initiative as comparable to Nixon’s policies toward China in 1972.12 While it is unclear how much of the plan was supported by Vice President George H. W. Bush or Chief of Staff Regan, they didn’t stop it. When Casey showed the president a videotape of a physically battered William Buckley, who was taken hostage in Lebanon in 1984, Reagan approved the plan.13 To implement the policy, administration officials worked through Albert Hakim, an Iranian-American connected to the world of illicit arms dealers. The administration sold weapons to Israel, which in turn sold them to Iran. The Iranians were willing to negotiate with the United States since they desperately needed weapons in their war against Iraq, which had begun in 1980. For its part, Israel was eager to work with any moderate element in the Middle East that could improve its security. Although there has never been solid evidence that Reagan knew about the next and final piece of the puzzle, the National Security Council decided to use the profits from the sale of the weapons to finance the Nicaraguan Contras. At the same time that the NSC conducted the covert operations, the president continued to lobby Congress to renew aid to the region. Reagan called the campaign to

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block the administration’s proposal to support the Nicaraguan Contras the “most sophisticated, high priced lobby effort in years . . . & a number of members are buying their falsehoods which means they accept the lobbyists words over ours including our intelligence services, the state dept, etc.”14 The administration responded to their opponents by spreading rumors about journalists who were critical of Reagan’s policies—for example, that a colleague of one Associated Press reporter was allied with the Sandinistas.15 Although the president spent more time personally lobbying members on this than almost any other issue, Congress extended the Boland Amendments in 1985. When the administration approached Congress to renew assistance for the Contras, House Democrats responded with accusations that the Contras were involved in drug trafficking, exporting arms to belligerent groups, currency violations, spying in the United States, using humanitarian funds for fraudulent purposes, and conspiring to commit murder.16 The covert operation to provide funds to the Contras was set up by McFarlane, who delegated responsibility for the logistics and strategy to North.17 Starting in 1984, the two had already obtained assistance for the Contras from the Saudi government (with Reagan’s support) as well from the drug-trafficking Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega. When McFarlane resigned in December 1985, North assumed an even bigger role. Before leaving the administration, McFarlane had urged the president to end the program. Nevertheless, Reagan moved ahead by signing a presidential finding in January 1986 authorizing the sales. Admiral John Poindexter, who replaced McFarlane, granted North autonomy to shape the program.18 News of the exchange started to emerge in the summer and fall of 1986, shortly before the midterm elections. Ironically this scandal broke a year after Congress had finally started to bend on providing humanitarian assistance to the Contras, with Democrats concerned about how Republican attacks on their anticommunist credentials would affect the midterm campaigns. Right when it seemed that Reagan was getting closer to having Congress restore funding for the Contras, the media began asking questions about reports of an informal network of private citizens assisting the Contras financially. The plot thickened on October 6, when Sandinista soldiers shot down a plane transporting military supplies for the Contras. Reports indicated two American pilots were killed in the crash. The Sandinistas also captured a U.S. military advisor named Eugene Hasenfus, who told reporters at a press conference that he worked for the

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CIA. Documents in the plane provided evidence of a broader operation. The revelation opened the floodgates. Some officials refused to become defensive. Elliott Abrams told one reporter that “some members of Congress accuse us of approving of this [private aid] with a wink and a nod. A wink and a nod, hell. We think it’s been fine.”19 On November 3, the U.S. media picked up a story from a Lebanese newspaper, which reported that McFarlane had been in Iran the previous summer to work on a deal to exchange arms for hostages. On November 24, the Speaker of the Iranian Parliament, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, whose nephew was one of the administration’s key contacts, delivered a speech in which he confirmed that the meeting with McFarlane had taken place. facing challenges that raised questions about his approach to international relations. The Soviet Union was undergoing substantial changes in the mid-1980s with the emergence of a new generation of leaders who believed that the communist state was suffering from political and economic lethargy, and that substantive reform was needed to catch up technologically with Western competitors and improve the global image of communism, which was being hurt by the Afghanistan war.20 Momentum toward a treaty had greatly accelerated in 1985 when Mikhail Gorbachev succeeded Konstantin Chernenko as leader of the USSR. The fifty-four-year-old Gorbachev offered a sharp contrast to his elderly predecessors. Due to his extensive travels, he was culturally attuned to Western styles, which gave him an advantage in his appearances on Western television and his diplomatic interaction with U.S. officials. He was considered one of the “men of the sixties,” leaders who had been profoundly influenced by Khrushchev and his challenge to Stalinism.21 Gorbachev’s vision of a renewed Soviet Union had two major, system-wide components: perestroika, or economic restructuring; and glasnost, or political openness and transparency. His plan for foreign policy, called the New Thinking, centered on easing tensions with the West and abandoning the notion of an inevitable conflict between communism and capitalism. In his first year in office, Gorbachev made a series of dramatic moves that placed Reagan on the defensive. One of the most important was to call off a Soviet plan to respond to NATO’s deployment of intermediate-range nuclear force (INF) missiles in Western Europe two years earlier and his announcement of a unilateral moratorium on the testing of nuclear weapons.

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Gorbachev and Reagan began to explore possibilities for a comprehensive agreement on nuclear weapons. At first, most members of the administration did not trust Gorbachev. According to the CIA, Gorbachev’s rise to power was “just another . . . attempt to deceive” the United States.22 Gingrich warned of a “Soviet propaganda offensive” that was creating pressure on Reagan to make more “concessions to the Soviets than any western leader since Neville Chamberlain visited Munich in 1938.”23 While most Americans polled thought that Gorbachev was more “modern” and “energetic” than previous leaders, a majority did not think he could be trusted more than his predecessors. Nor did most expect much to come out of the initial summits, which began in late 1985.24 Gorbachev and Reagan first met to discuss arms control in November 1985. By this time, the president had sent several signals that he was willing to break with the hard-line conservatives.25 The two began with Gorbachev lamenting that relations were at the lowest level ever.26 One of the biggest stumbling blocks was that Reagan refused to abandon the Strategic Defense Initiative. As Reagan wrote in his diary, “this will be a case of an irresistible force meeting an unmovable object.”27 During the summit, Gorbachev said that SDI would result in an arms race in space, fueling mistrust, and suggesting to Soviet officials that the technology was really meant to allow for a retaliatory strike.28 Gorbachev said that it would be difficult to convince colleagues to accept arms reductions if the United States embarked on an ambitious new program.29 Reagan said that Americans should be asked to rely not just on the fact that he personally trusted Gorbachev, but also on the United States building a sound defense policy.30 The opposition to negotiations in Washington emanated from a number of sources. There were conservative Republicans who did not trust Gorbachev and were adamant that Reagan not reverse his hard-line stand on communism. There were veteran insiders from the Nixon and Ford administrations, including Nixon himself, Henry Kissinger, and Brent Scowcroft. These “realists” believed in making foreign policy based on geopolitical strategy rather than rigid ideological beliefs. They feared that an arms agreement would weaken the standing of the United States while worrying NATO allies, given that the Soviet Union maintained an advantage on conventional forces.31 The intelligence community was also leery about Gorbachev. The CIA experts reported to the White House that Kremlin hard-liners were still in control of policy. CIA Deputy Di-

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rector Robert Gates recalled that, until 1987, the agency’s conclusion was that Gorbachev had “changed the tone and the face of Soviet foreign policy, but not the substance.”32 Tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States escalated after the summit. On August 23, the FBI had arrested Gennady Zakharov, a Soviet physicist assigned to the United Nations, as a Soviet spy. The Soviets responded by arresting a U.S. reporter, Nicholas Daniloff, stationed in Moscow. When William Casey told Reagan that Daniloff had no connection to the CIA, the president was furious. Richard Perle, the neoconservative from Scoop Jackson’s staff who served under Reagan as assistant secretary of defense for international security policy, called the arrest “a jarring reminder that the change that many had hoped for, the idea that the Soviet Union was becoming a more open place where a more fruitful dialogue could take place, has been shattered.”33 The Soviets released Daniloff, but conservatives were furious that the president gave Zakharov back to the Soviets. “Ronald Reagan is behaving like a damn fool,” complained Howard Phillips of the Conservative Caucus.34 Despite the spy stories, the country wanted peace, and polls in 1986 showed that a majority felt the United States had “not tried hard enough” to reach an agreement with the Soviets.35 These tensions were in the background of a new summit held in Reykjavik, Iceland, in October 1986. In response to the concerns of conservatives, Reagan insisted that he had put the United States in a “position to challenge the Soviets to join us in meaningful measures that would genuinely strengthen peace, and above all, achieve deep, equitable and verifiable reductions in nuclear arms.”36 He promised Larry Beilenson, a scholar whose writing against arms treaties had influenced the president, that “I have never entertained a thought that SDI could be a bargaining chip.”37 Gorbachev made a bold move by offering that the Soviets would agree to a fifty-percent reduction in strategic ballistic missiles with the goal of dismantling the rest of them within ten years. One Reagan staffer recalled that “we came with nothing to offer and had offered nothing; we merely sat there while the Soviets unwrapped their gifts.”38 When Gorbachev added icing to the cake by calling for the elimination of all nuclear weapons within ten years, Reagan replied: “All nuclear weapons? Well, Mikhail, that’s exactly what I’ve been talking about all along.” But Gorbachev refused to accept SDI and Reagan rejected a compromise that would have confined SDI research to the laboratory. Reagan’s decision to stick by SDI was important to him politically,

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though it angered liberals who felt he was risking world peace for a science fiction project. His tough posture helped him to achieve the delicate balance of continuing to appear as hard-line and anticommunist as ever, thus appealing not only to conservatives but to moderate voters who had supported him because of his aggressive stand toward the Soviets, while continuing to negotiate and trying to find a workable compromise with their leadership. “I can’t give in,” Reagan told his Soviet counterpart with regards to SDI. “I have a problem you don’t have. If they criticize you, they go to jail. . . . The people who were the most outspoken critics of the Soviet Union over the years . . . the so-called right wing, and esteemed journalists . . . they’re kicking my brains out.”39 After Reykjavik, Reagan realized that the new Soviet leadership offered a genuine opportunity to fulfill this hope of abolishing nuclear weapons. Until the summit, his primary policy objective had been to make sure the United States remained militarily superior to the Soviets, through defense buildups and a refusal to negotiate. With the outcome of Iran-Contra uncertain, moreover, the president had a strong political incentive to reach agreement on a treaty so that he would not further alienate voters and end his presidency on a scandal. In the 1986 election, Democrats reclaimed control of the Senate by a 55–45 margin and increased their majority in the House to 258–177. Republicans were troubled that Democrats won in several southern Senate elections, including Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, and North Carolina. In the West, Reagan’s territory, Nevada and Washington went Democratic. While the administration placed the blame on Republican candidates rather than a repudiation of the president, Howard Phillips of the Conservative Caucus said that more organizations and individuals were going to start to say, “Gee, we’ve pulled the curtain and there’s the wizard with his microphone, and he is a nice fella, but there is only a microphone there.”40 As a result of the midterms, Reagan was forced to spend his final years in a divided government with an increasingly partisan tone. The number of centrists in each party continued to decline, as the twenty-four-hour-media-driven, party-centered legislative process fueled the rancor that existed between the two parties. Legislators such as Newt Gingrich who were once seen as mavericks on the margins of the GOP in the early 1980s were now defining the agenda and strategy of their party. Ideologically, congressional Democrats

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had also moved to the left with the growing influence of legislators like Henry Waxman of California. Routine actions became deeply contested on Capitol Hill and the focus of fierce partisan battle. The administration left the elections worried about IranContra. One day after the voting, Vice President Bush noted in his diary, “I’m one of the few people that know fully the details” about the Iranian operation, “and there is a lot of flack and misinformation out there. It is not a subject we can talk about.”41 Chief of Staff Donald Regan warned First Lady Nancy Reagan that the IranContra situation resembled Watergate. The president’s inner circle of advisors avoided using the word impeachment, not because they didn’t fear it, but because, as Regan said, “It was a no-no word. . . . You never used the word impeachment except to yourself, because that was something no one wanted to even think about, but, as chief of staff, I felt I should at least look that beast in the eye to see, you know, if we were going up here to another Watergate.”42 Reagan could not prevent the story from spinning out of control. The brilliant media skills that he had so amply demonstrated throughout his career were failing him. Given the memories of most voting-age Americans, Reagan’s potential wrongdoing was immediately seen through the lens of Watergate.43 There was a rush to uncover the details of this story and find a smoking gun that would prove the president knew that money had been sent to the Contras despite the congressional ban. State Department officials urged senior staffers to respond to questions by saying that there was an informal network but that it was composed entirely of private individuals who were outside the administration. On November 24, Reagan presided over a two-hour session with advisors to express his anger about the news and demanded that they “undo the damage quickly.”44 The next day, Reagan appeared before the press and admitted that “in one aspect” the implementation of his policies had been “seriously flawed.” He announced that North had been fired and Poindexter had resigned. Reagan’s presentation was terrible, and to make matters worse, he just walked off the podium after his announcement, leaving Attorney General Ed Meese to finish and answer questions. Meese reported that NSC officials had transferred to the Contras funds that had been earned from weapons sales to Iran. When asked who knew about the exchange, Meese responded, “The only persons in the United States Government that knew precisely about this—the only person—was Lieutenant Colonel North.”45

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Sensitive to the lessons of Watergate, the administration did not try to stonewall the investigation, although it did delay action as long as possible, giving North and Poindexter several weeks to destroy evidence. Administration counsel developed a defense based on an expansive notion of executive power that would legitimate these actions.46 On December 1, Reagan announced the creation of a special commission to investigate the allegations. To the consternation of his critics, the president appointed former Republican Senator John Tower of Texas to chair the commission. Tower was a hawkish Republican who had been instrumental in Reagan’s campaigns and an ally of the Republican Right since the early 1960s. In December the president’s job approval rating suffered the worst fall in Gallup’s history, from sixty-seven percent in November to forty-six a month later.47 On January 12, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Maine’s William Cohen, who had come onto the national scene by advocating the impeachment of President Nixon in 1974, said that Reagan “cannot escape responsibility” for the mistake of selling arms to Iran and using the money for the Contras. “He must accept the consequences of the actions of those he selected.”48 Released in February 1987, the Tower commission report softpeddled the larger issues, blaming the president’s management style for allowing poor decisions to be made. Reagan apologized in an address to the nation on March 4, without acknowledging any deeper wrongdoing: “Let me say I take full responsibility for my own actions and for those of my administration. . . . A few months ago I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that’s true, but the facts and evidence tell me it is not.” His decision to claim responsibility while simultaneously refusing to disown the policies fueled congressional concerns about what had occurred in the White House in the previous year. In response to political pressure, Meese launched a new inquiry through the Office of the Independent Counsel under prosecutor Lawrence Walsh, a respected Republican lawyer. As the scandal unfolded, the administration continued to maintain contacts with the Iranians.49 Weinberger implored Shultz to end all interaction with them. Congress intervened in the spring of 1987, forming a joint House-Senate committee co-chaired by Hawaii Democratic Senator Daniel Inouye and Indiana Democratic Representative Lee Hamilton. Chief committee counsel Arthur Liman rejected Tower’s contention

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that the president was a passive and inattentive leader. Liman was convinced that Reagan was a driving force behind the exchange.50 Public hearings began on May 5. On May 6, former CIA Director William Casey, who had been treated for brain tumors since December, died. Democrats lashed out at the administration for conducting activities that they believed were as improper as those undertaken by Nixon and his staff. The administration was in a terrible position because of these stories. On May 23, the CBS Evening News reported that fifty-nine percent of those polled believed that Reagan was lying when he said that he didn’t know money from arms sales to Iran had been diverted toward the Contras. A majority of those polled also believed that the congressional hearings had been “fair” to the administration.51 During the summer of 1987, millions of Americans watched the rest of the hearings on television. CNN enjoyed a 70 percent increase in its audience share against the major shows it was competing with as the major networks preempted their daytime shows for key portions of the hearings. When Oliver North testified, fifty-five million viewers tuned in, five times more than for the popular soap opera General Hospital. Many Democrats feared that the American public did not have the stomach for another Watergate given how traumatic Nixon’s downfall had been on the nation. They believed that another impeachment investigation could potentially backfire against Democrats and understood that Reagan was a lame-duck president who would now be even weaker against a Democratic Congress. Senator Inouye tried to contain the hearings by setting them up in the form of a combined committee, so that senators could attempt to hold back their slightly more partisan House colleagues, and the committee rejected subpoenaing the president or vice president.52 Despite Inouye’s concessions, Republicans tried to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the investigation by dismissing the charges as partisan and defending the right of the executive branch to act forcefully when congressional intransigence undermined national security. Democrats rejected the Republican accusations. Reagan wrote to one senator: “Every Republican president was investigated, Ike for the Sherman Adams affair, Dick [Nixon] for Watergate, Jerry [Ford] for CIA and now my own lynching.”53 Illinois Congressman Henry Hyde said, “We’ve been concentrating on executive excesses, overreaching. Doesn’t that cut both ways? Doesn’t Congress, let’s say through the Boland Amendment and other efforts, overreach and trespass on the president’s prerogatives, which,

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as the Supreme Court, the law, has told us, he alone has the power to speak?”54 The claims were believable given that the Democratic leadership on Capitol Hill was full of highly aggressive partisans. In the House, for instance, Speaker Jim Wright of Texas, who had replaced Tip O’Neill, conducted business in a confrontational manner, excluding Republicans from decision making and diminishing minority rights. The situation in the Senate was only slightly less partisan. Meanwhile, as the scandal unfolded, the stock market crashed on October 19, falling 508 points. Lawrence Kudlow, an economist and former Reagan official advising Senate Minority Leader Robert Dole in his presidential campaign for 1988, said, “This is a shot across the Republicans’ bow. I think the stock market crash today raises serious questions about the economy, and since economic growth and job creation has been a strong Republican issue, it could be that even that will turn sour before long.”55 Following ten months of investigation and eleven weeks of congressional hearings, the majority report, signed by fifteen Democrats and three Republicans, was released in November. It was highly critical of top administration officials, although it concluded there was no smoking gun to implicate the president in the diversion of money to the Contras. “The Administration’s departure from democratic processes created the conditions for policy failure, and led to contradictions which undermined the credibility of the United States. . . . The Iran-Contra affair was characterized by pervasive dishonesty and inordinate secrecy.”56 Yet the report blamed the president for not being more cautious and allowing zealots to take control of the White House. The report concluded that high-level officials had been involved in a cover-up. Noting that the administration had displayed a “disdain” for the law, the report concluded that the president needed to take responsibility for having created an environment that encouraged this kind of unlawful behavior. Yet Republicans were able to limit the damage from the hearings. Talk of impeachment faded as the hearings proceeded, as a result of tactical decisions by Democrats. Given that Reagan had less than two years left in his presidency, many Democrats did not want to bring the government to a standstill, especially without concrete evidence that Reagan had been aware of the use of funds to support the Contras.57 Ironically, the Watergate obsession with finding a smoking gun, as well as the conventional wisdom that the president was not good with the details of management, saved Reagan from impeachment.58

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Democrats concluded that launching an impeachment proceeding would have explosive political effects. “I mean people like Cheney [Republican Richard Cheney of Wyoming],” Representative Gingrich explained, “would have been furious. . . . The House Republicans would have gone berserk.” Meanwhile, many Democrats, according to Speaker Wright, felt that the “last thing our country needed was an impeachment outcry or a frontal challenge to the president’s personal integrity. . . . We were getting everything we wanted here in the House.”59 Moreover, many legislators who opposed the administration’s specific tactics supported the objective of freeing hostages and fighting communism.60 Republicans simply refused to be apologetic and built public support for the White House activities even if they were legally questionable. This was not surprising given that, between 1968 and 1986, according to one political scientist, conservatives in Congress voted for the pro-presidential authority positions more often than liberals. Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Reagan gained far more votes from Republicans than Democrats when seeking legislation concerning presidential power.61 The committee minority report, signed by eight Republicans, provided a Magna Carta for the conservative defense of presidential power. While responding to specific charges against Reagan and his team, it provided a detailed legal and political history that legitimated centralized presidential power. The signators included Representatives Cheney, Hyde, William Broomfield (Michigan), Jim Courter (New Jersey), Bill McCollum (Florida), Michael DeWine (Ohio), and Senators Orrin Hatch (Utah) and James McClure (Idaho). Early in the report, they asserted that the nation needed a president who could employ the powers that the founders had intended to provide: “As long as any President has those powers, there will be mistakes. It would be disastrous to respond to the possibility of error by further restraining and limiting the powers of the office. Then, instead of seeing occasional actions turn out to be wrong, we would be increasing the probability that future Presidents would be unable to act decisively, thus guaranteeing ourselves a perpetually paralyzed, reactive, and unclear foreign policy in which mistake by inaction would be the order of the day.”62 Dismissing the majority report as “a weapon in the ongoing guerrilla warfare,” Republicans claimed that there were strict limits to how much Congress could constrain the president. Most of the problems raised by Iran-Contra, they said, stemmed from legislative

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rather than presidential abuses of power. The Boland Amendments, they contended, were not legitimate because Congress did not have the right to use the appropriations process to handcuff presidential options in international relations.63 The ideas in the report flowed out of a body of legal scholarship in the 1980s that opposed the Office of the Independent Counsel on the grounds that it violated the president’s total control over the executive branch. Congress had created the office in 1978 in response to the Saturday Night Massacre, when President Nixon fired Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox in October 1973 as he investigated the Watergate scandal. This literature claimed that the nation needed to vest tremendous power in the executive branch and that within the executive branch accountability should rest directly with the president. Proponents went so far as to claim that the Constitution created an absolute separation of powers and that no branch could infringe on the other.64 According to this scholarship, there were three reasons for supporting executive power. The first was that centralized power would result in more efficient administration of policy. The second was that the president had greater capacity than Congress to coordinate decision making and achieve the best results for the nation as a whole. With this argument, conservatives believed they could rectify the apparent contradiction between their antigovernment principles and this acceptance of stronger presidential power. Whereas presidents could make quicker and more forceful decisions about national security crises, they could also stand as a bulwark against government expansion that was motivated by local pork-barrel politics. Presidential power, conservatives thought, was a necessary response to the demise of the Nondelegation Doctrine in Article 1, Section 1 of the Constitution, which stipulated that Congress retained all the “legislative powers.” Through a unitary executive, conservatives would be able to offer a response to the delegation of that power to independent agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration. The final reason was that a centralized presidency was more democratically accountable than other power-sharing arrangements.65 According to the minority report, the founders believed that an “independent, single Executive—in addition to being more energetic—would also be more responsible politically. It would be much easier to hold one person accountable than a committee. In other words, giving the President some independent, inherent power was not seen as being undemocratic.”66

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The minority report complemented the work of other Republicans who were promoting a similar defense of executive power. Under Attorney General Meese, Justice became a hotbed for arguments that echoed the views of Republicans on the Iran-Contra committee. Meese had instructed his staff to look into the possibility of using presidential signing statements to assert executive interpretations of legislation. Signing statements were notes that presidents attached to legislation upon their signature. In the past, these statements had been used infrequently and usually received little notice; they were considered to be akin to a press release. Meese told Justice’s Kenneth Cribb that these statements could offer a counterweight to legislative excesses.67 The statements likewise provided the president a way to weaken legislation without resorting to an outright veto. Completing the journey that began with the acceptance of big government by the Republican Right after World War II, the conservative response to Iran-Contra was to articulate a forceful and coherent argument in favor of presidential power, from a right-wing perspective, that became the agenda of conservative internationalism. Reagan supporters also made purely emotional, rather than legalistic, appeals in response to the Iran-Contra accusations, tapping into the patriotic sentiment that Reagan had helped rekindle, and on which he had thrived politically, and going on the offensive against Congress. When North testified before Congress, he insisted that the National Security Council had taken the right course of action, arguing that these tactics were necessary for the nation to overcome the dangerous decisions of irresponsible congressional liberals who had refused to see the communist threat that lurked in Central America. “I think it is very important for the American people to understand,” he told the committee, “that this is a dangerous world, that we live at risk.” He said that covert operations were necessary to ensure the safety of citizens and that “by their very nature covert operations are a lie.” Polls showed that many Americans found North to be convincing. He became a minor celebrity, reveling in “Ollie Mania.” Even so, the conservative counterassault was limited in terms of its political effects outside conservative circles. Polls revealed that most Americans did not believe that Reagan was telling the truth. His popularity remained at forty-six percent. The administration made little progress on its legislative priorities. It could not foresee an end to the scandal since the independent counsel moved forward and there were upcoming indictments of administration officials.68

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that had defended the president during the hearings would now be blindsided by a foreign policy success. The landmark arms agreement with the Soviet Union, signed in 1987, seemed to many conservatives to contradict almost everything Reagan had stood for since the 1960s. The potential for successful negotiations with the Soviets had increased given that many of the leading neoconservatives in the White House had left during the second term. Jeane Kirkpatrick resigned in 1985. Caspar Weinberger stepped down in November 1987 and was replaced by Frank Carlucci. Reagan appointed former Tennessee Republican Senator Howard Baker, a moderate, as chief of staff to replace Don Regan. Colin Powell replaced Carlucci as national security advisor while Perle stepped down as assistant secretary of defense for international security policy. Together with Secretary of State George Shultz, the new national security team pushed Reagan to negotiate on all issues. Conservatives perceived the changes as evidence that the president was abandoning the troika of Star Wars, Contras, and taxes.69 The administration embarked on a public relations program, to educate Americans who still had doubts about trusting the Soviets, about the aims of the summit that was to take place in Washington in December.70 Even as negotiations accelerated, however, Reagan delivered hawkish statements that complemented his dogmatic stand on SDI. At the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin on June 12, 1987, Reagan proclaimed: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” The speech was the product of hawkish speechwriters who wanted Reagan to sound bellicose in order to strengthen his ability to move forward with negotiations and who rejected the arguments of State Department officials who feared the combative tone would be harmful.71 Following Brandenburg, the stage was set for a breakthrough. On December 8, Reagan, the conservative who had fought against détente throughout the 1970s, warmly greeted Gorbachev in Washington. During the negotiations, Gorbachev made a bold move by agreeing that arms reductions and SDI could be handled separately. There were several reasons Gorbachev took this step. Congress had slashed the SDI budget. Andrei Sakharov, the dissident who was known as the scientist responsible for the Soviet hydrogen bomb, convinced him that the technology would never work. Once Gorbachev made this concession, both sides quickly agreed on steep cuts in intermediate and short-range weapons. In contrast to older treaties

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that placed ceilings on new weapons, this agreement mandated reductions in existing missiles. The two leaders signed the IntermediateRange Nuclear Forces Treaty on December 8. In the short term, the INF treaty created further political problems for Reagan within the conservative movement. Although vote counts in the Senate indicated strong support for the treaty, many conservative activists were furious that Reagan had signed it.72 Shortly before Christmas, Reagan met with eight Republican senators opposed to the treaty, hoping to convince them to support ratification. Flipping through his note cards, Reagan implored the senators not to load the legislation with “poison” amendments that would kill its chances of passage. Senator Jesse Helms stared at the president and said, “I look around the table and I don’t see a yes man. . . . I’m certainly not a yes man, and you’ve never been a yes man. . . . But if a treaty needs a reservation or an amendment, it’s going to be offered in the Senate.” Senator Malcolm Wallop said, “The Soviets have broken most every treaty they have ever signed. . . . How do we assure compliance with the new treaty? And if they don’t comply what do we do about it?” Reagan tried to assure them that he understood their concern, but the senators were not convinced. “Reagan and I have been friends for a long time,” Helms told reporters. “The President doesn’t need to discard the people who brought him to the dance.”73 “All of this is a repudiation,” one writer observed, “of the fundamental beliefs of the neoconservative movement. They have lost Ronald Reagan.”74 The right did not hide its chagrin. Jeane Kirkpatrick published op-eds in the Washington Post throughout the debate that offered a devastating critique of the treaty and Gorbachev. Paul Weyrich lamented that “Reagan is a weakened president, weakened in spirit as well as clout, and not in a position to make judgments about Gorbachev at this time.”75 William Buckley said that Reagan had “disappointed” him.76 Senate conservatives tried to block ratification. A group of twenty Republicans met every Wednesday to plan strategies for subverting the treaty.77 When Shultz testified before Congress, Helms accused the administration of “confusion, misstatements and . . . even misrepresentation.”When an angry Shultz asked if the senator was claiming that the administration had deliberately provided false information, Helms responded, “I did not say deliberate.” When Senate Armed Services Committee member Dan Quayle (Republican of Indiana) caused problems by asking the administration for written confirma-

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tion from the Soviets that “futuristic” weapons were covered by the treaty, Shultz privately took Quayle aside to reprimand him: “Dan, you have to shut down! We can’t have the president’s achievement wrecked by Republicans!” Not only were right-wing conservatives angry about INF, but Nixon and Kissinger warned that it endangered Europe.78 They received crucial support from Georgia Democratic Senator Sam Nunn, chair of the Armed Services Committee. The conservative movement launched a full-scale public attack against ratification. Right-wing organizations placed ads in newspapers that compared Reagan to Neville Chamberlain.79 Brent Bozell of the Conservative Victory Committee said that Reagan had “insulted” the movement. Richard Viguerie accused him of becoming “aligned” with his “former adversaries,” liberals, Democrats, and Soviets. Howard Phillips called Reagan a “useful idiot” for Kremlin propaganda.80 Unlike with Carter and SALT II in 1979, however, this time the conservative attack failed. By February 1988, sympathetic Republicans were telling the administration that the treaty was “lumbering through” and that most senators had agreed to reject killer amendments. The right was having much more trouble than with Carter and SALT II given that with Reagan they were confronting the icon of conservatism.81 Key Republican senators supporting the treaty, such as Robert Dole, helped win over other conservatives.82 In addition, the popularity of Gorbachev made it difficult for conservatives to stand in opposition. On May 27, 1988, the Senate ratified the INF treaty 93 to 5. The only senators who voted against the treaty were Republicans Helms, Wallop, New Hampshire’s Gordon Humphrey, and Idaho’s Steve Symms and one Democrat, South Carolina’s Ernest Hollings. A sullen Helms admitted he was “licked.”83 It was not a total loss, however, for the far right. The vigorous debate over INF stalled Reagan in his efforts to make progress on another round of negotiations about intercontinental ballistic missiles.84 When Reagan’s term ended, conservatives were not happy with the president’s national security policies. The National Review raised questions in a forum about whether Reagan had made dangerous concessions to the Soviets on missile defense and mocked his willingness to deal with the “terrorists” (the Iranians) he had castigated. Other than Vice President George H. W. Bush, the major Republican candidates in the 1988 primaries denounced or questioned the treaty despite widespread public support. As vice president, however,

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Bush had privately believed that Reagan had been too quick to bargain away nuclear weapons and was extremely skeptical that the Soviets were really prepared to begin new era in foreign policy.85 Republicans, however, were so bullish about their accomplishments at the time that Reagan stepped down that they refused to let go of anticommunism as a political strategy.Vice President Bush was told by his advisors that anticommunism still offered the best way to appeal to a broad base of middle-class voters without alienating the right wing. To avoid the balancing act of courting right and center, one pollster urged Bush to deal with controversial issues such as SDI and Iran-Contra under the thematic umbrella of anti-Communism. Anti-Communism is at the very core of the Republican Party. Ask Nixon, whose early career was defined and kept alive by anti-communism. The loyalty of that base group in the GOP enabled him to win the ’60 and ’68 GOP nominations. . . . As a country, we are generally anti-Communist; when it comes to the specifics of being proSDI or pro-Contra, however, we are deeply divided, with our side left with the short end of the stick. We need to be antiCommunist enough to satisfy the conservatives without being so pro-Contra to alienate the general electorate.86

The 1988 presidential campaign turned into a celebration for Republicans of their national security accomplishments. Quickly putting aside the tensions that had opened up with INF, George H. W. Bush ran a campaign that capitalized on the hawkish image Reagan had promoted for the GOP before 1987. Bush nominated INF opponent Senator Quayle as his running mate. In what reporter Sidney Blumenthal called the “last campaign of the Cold War,” Bush lashed out against his Democratic opponent, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, for being weak on national security. Bush’s campaign emphasized patriotism, opposition to flag burning, and allegations that Democrats were weak on defense. An iconic, and unintentionally comic, image from the campaign was footage of an awkward Dukakis in military garb seated in a tank.87 Bush won 53.4 percent of the popular vote and 426 electoral votes, Dukakis 45.6 percent and 111 electoral votes. Importantly, however, Democrats retained control of Congress, with 55 to 45 seats in the Senate and 260 to 175 in the House.

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challenge, Iran-Contra solidified the partnership between conservatism, presidential power, and national security. American conservatism completed a long-term transformation whereby a large portion of the movement abandoned the tradition of politicians such as Senator Robert Taft who had resisted executive power. Reagan left office enormously popular, and his policies seemed to be vindicated. Courts reversed convictions of North and Poindexter on charges related to Iran-Contra. But Weinberger and others remained under investigation. The former defense secretary was set to go on trial for perjury in January 1993, when in the last weeks of his term, President Bush pardoned him and five others, including McFarlane and Elliott Abrams. Bush refused to make any public apologies for what the men had done. Ironically, Reagan’s decision to break with conservatives and negotiate with the Soviets also encouraged Republicans to continue supporting the agenda of conservative internationalism and to come out from the Reagan years even more confident about how their policies were more effective than what Democrats offered. The mythology that Reagan, as Margaret Thatcher once said, “won the Cold War without firing a shot” became a staple of conservative rhetoric in the coming years, proof of their superiority on national security. The Iran-Contra scandal faded, and Reagan—a child of the conservative revolution—emerged as the one who initiated the demise of Soviet communism. Although the Cold War ended as a result of negotiation rather than confrontation, Republicans spent the next two decades boasting that President Reagan’s tough national security policies were responsible for causing communism to implode. Whether Reagan had actually done much to destroy the Soviet Union didn’t really matter, according to the journalist Peter Beinart, but what was important was that “conservatives came to believe that he had,” and this would motivate their future decisions.88 What the celebration of Reagan’s achievements masked to many in the Republican Party was that White House policies and strategies were not the product of brazen, victorious politicians who were building on a sweeping electoral mandate, but rather a defensive posture born out of the challenges of governance and of the realization that the institutional and ideological obstacles that conservatives faced in the 1980s were immense. These factors would become clear in the coming years.

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N NOVEMBER 9, 1989, almost forty years after the creation of East Berlin, the Cold War came to a dramatic end. Residents from the East and West climbed atop the Berlin Wall to tear it down. President George H. W. Bush’s National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft later recalled feeling that “suddenly anything was possible, even the dream none of us thought we would see in our lifetimes: a Europe whole and free.”1 The following day, Anatoly Chernyaev, Mikhail Gorbachev’s foreign policy assistant, wrote in his diary: “The Berlin Wall has collapsed. This entire era in the history of the socialist system is over. . . . Only our ‘best friends’ Castro, [Romania’s Nicolae] Ceausescu, [North Korea’s] Kim Il Sung are still around—people who hate our guts. . . . This is the end of Yalta . . . the Stalinist legacy and ‘the defeat of Hitlerite Germany.’”2 Violent and nonviolent revolution spread throughout Eastern Europe. On November 20, some 200,000 protesters flooded the streets of Prague to demand democracy. The renowned playwright Václav Havel championed a revolution that culminated in free elections and his election that year as president and ended communist rule in Czechoslovakia. In Romania, massive protests led to the execution of Ceausescu and his wife. Publicly, President Bush expressed caution about what was taking place. He did not want to trigger a backlash from the Soviets by issuing provocative declarations about a sweeping anticommunist revolution. Rather than using words such as revolution, he characterized this as a period of “uncertainty” and “transition.”3

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Despite his initial caution, however, it quickly became clear that America’s old nemesis, Soviet communism, was fading as an international force. Now both of the major American political parties faced the political and strategic challenge of defining the new national security agenda. Bush was heading a Republican Party that remained strategically and politically committed to hawkish national security policies, and he wanted his party to retain its political advantage on this issue. Only a handful of Republicans demanded substantial reductions in the national security infrastructure following the Cold War and opposed almost all kinds of military intervention. In 1991, for a brief moment in this presidency, it seemed as if the GOP found an effective answer to this challenge. Almost as quickly as the Cold War receded from public memory, Republicans offered voters a new set of arguments in defense of conservative internationalism. Republicans spoke about the need to promote markets abroad and protect America’s position as the sole global superpower. To achieve these objectives, the United States would undertake targeted military operations and create economic incentives to contain what they called the new threat—rogue dictatorships, with Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein emerging as the main symbol of their efforts.

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his inauguration, Bush faced a crisis where he had to demonstrate how he would handle the People’s Republic of China. When the Chinese brutally cracked down on prodemocracy protesters demonstrating in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989, killing hundreds on June 4, Bush, unwilling to anger the Chinese leadership, took no formal action. By agreeing with the president’s proposal to renew China’s Most Favored Nation (MFN) trade status in 1990, Congress confirmed that there would not be any hot war with China, and the goal of the United States was to slowly incorporate it into world markets. The end of the Cold War stimulated debates within both parties over whether to reduce defense spending, limit military interventions, or make use of the “peace dividend” for domestic programs or tax cuts. A small number of conservatives such as television commentator and former Nixon speechwriter Patrick Buchanan reverted to the isolationism of the pre–World War II era. Even Republicans who did not concur with Buchanan agreed on the need for lowering defense spending. Arizona Republican Senator John McCain, a Vietnam vetUST MONTHS AFTER

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eran, called on Congress to reexamine the defense budget in search of cuts. But the basic instinct of most Republicans was to remain hawkish. This stance had become the party’s political tradition since World War II, and there seemed to be little strategic or political incentive to abandon it. Given the way that the Reagan presidency ended, most Republicans focused on the success of conservative internationalism, downplaying the problems, and vowed to continue with Reagan’s national security agenda. Before the body of Soviet communism was cold, the White House redirected public attention toward a new international threat that, it said, justified the continuation of an expansive national security state: rogue dictators. These were the heads of smaller states, not necessarily allied to any broader movement and not always an obvious danger to the United States, though often supportive of terrorists threatening Western-friendly nations such as Israel. Whereas the Cold War centered on a contest between superpowers each capable of massive destruction and governed by rational actors who attempted to calculate how they could maximize their geopolitical advantage, Republicans now characterized rogue dictators as unpredictable and irrational leaders willing to trigger international chaos and mass destruction to enhance their power. Although Bush never felt comfortable with the right-wing activists who had brought Reagan into power, he played an important role in advancing the post–World War II Republican national security tradition. Calling for a New World Order, he explained on December 4, 1989, that he was cool to Democrats who spoke about transferring funding used in the Cold War to domestic programs: “it is premature to speak about a ‘peace dividend’—take a lot of money out of defense and put it into other worthy causes. . . . I don’t want to hold out to those that want to rush out and spend a lot more money [in] the hope that that is going to happen.” He backed his words with action. The first major operation of the post–Cold War era began on December 20, 1989, when the administration sent troops into Panama to topple the government of General Manuel Noriega, who had overturned a democratic election by placing his puppet candidate in office. Within Congress, opposition to Noriega ranged from liberal Democrats such as Massachusetts Senators John Kerry and Edward Kennedy, who called for tougher sanctions on Panama because of Noriega’s human rights abuses, to conservatives like Senators Jesse Helms and New York’s

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Alfonse D’Amato, who believed that the general made a mockery of the “War on Drugs” that the GOP had promoted since Richard Nixon. The speed and decisive conclusion of Operation Just Cause were of great political importance in the minds of Republicans. Lee Atwater, Bush’s 1988 campaign strategist and the chairman of the Republican National Committee, called the invasion a “political jackpot.”4 Bush’s approval ratings soared to seventy-six percent.5 “In breaking the mindset of the American people about the use of force in the post-Vietnam era,” Secretary of State James Baker said, “Panama established an emotional predicate that permitted us to build the public support so essential for the success of Operation Desert Storm some thirteen months later.”6 Although the international response to Panama was negative, the U.S. press touted the invasion as a success. The political effect was all that much more important given that Bush’s domestic record was limited. The next stop was the Persian Gulf region, home to some of the world’s largest oil producers. For more than a decade, a group of neoconservative foreign policy experts had warned that Iraq constituted a grave threat to the stability of the region. The Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, claimed policy makers such as Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Paul Wolfowitz, intended to take over Kuwait and then Saudi Arabia, grabbing hold of a vast portion of the world’s oil supplies. Hussein, who ruled through a brutal regime, had also repeatedly threatened Israel. Neoconservatives felt added urgency given Hussein’s desire to obtain nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. All of these warnings resonated with many Republicans who had learned from the 1970s that oil shocks in the Middle East could have devastating domestic political effects on the party in power.7 Before 1990, however, most senior Democratic and Republican policy makers had ignored warnings about Hussein. The Reagan administration had actively supported Hussein’s Iraq throughout the 1980s in its war against Iran. Reagan ignored warnings from Zalmay Khalilzad, special advisor to the undersecretary of state for political affairs from 1985 to 1989, as well as the State Department’s policy planning staff, that the United States needed to focus on containing Iraq. National Security Directive 26, published in October 1989, stated that “normal relations between the United States and Iraq would serve our longer-term interests and promote stability in both the Gulf and the Middle East. The United States Government should propose economic and political incentives for Iraq to moderate its behavior and to increase our influence with Iraq.”

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While explaining that sanctions would be implemented in response to the illegal use of biological and chemical weapons by any country, the directive pointed toward accommodation rather than militancy. When 1990 began, the White House was under pressure to cut defense spending further. The defense budget had fallen throughout the 1970s as a result of congressional cuts, but it had spiked up again under Reagan. While never reaching the levels seen during the Korean or Vietnam wars, it had averaged six percent of GDP under Reagan (it had averaged eight percent of GDP between 1962 and 1973). In January 1990, Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney announced a reevaluation of defense in the post–Cold War era and a steep cut in the number of armed forces that would be stationed in Europe.8 Three out of four Americans, according to one poll, believed that tensions had diminished sufficiently to allow substantive cuts in defense spending.9 Although liberals felt that Bush did not go far enough, the final defense budget fell from 5.6 percent of GDP in 1989 to 4.6 in 1991. Congressional Democrats did not want to cut defense spending by closing military bases since so many of their constituents depended on their business. Nonetheless, the pressure for defense cuts was substantial. While legislators rejected Cheney’s proposed closures of military bases, by using power granted in a 1977 law, they agreed to pass the Base Closure and Realignment Act of 1990, which set up independent commissions to recommend closures. If the president approved the recommendations, Congress had forty-five days in which to pass a joint resolution rejecting them or they would go into effect. At the same time, the administration was embroiled in a heated budget fight with conservative Republicans in Congress over taxes and deficits. Despite Bush’s famous pledge—“Read my lips: no new taxes”—at the 1988 Republican National Convention, he reversed course on June 26 by accepting a tax increase in order to reduce the deficit and in exchange for Democratic agreement on spending cuts. Young Turks in the House such as Newt Gingrich saw his decision as evidence that Bush was willing to betray the conservative movement.While most opinion polls were favorable in terms of how the president was handling the Iraq crisis, his numbers consistently hovered at around forty percent when people were asked about domestic policy. During the late spring and summer, President Bush was also still struggling to clean up the aftermath of what was created by Congress and the Federal Home Loan Bank Board’s decision during the 1980s to deregulate the savings and loan industry. Savings and loan

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institutions, which had traditionally provided loans to small home buyers and operated under strict limitations, had turned into havens for fraudulence and risky speculation once freed from the watchful eye of government. When these institutions started to fail in the mid-1980s as a result of bad practices, and taxpayers were forced to cover the cost of guaranteed loans, political interest in the crisis increased. After having ignored the issue for several years, and after five Senators (four Democrats, John Glenn of Ohio, Dennis DeConcini of Arizona,Alan Cranston of California, and Donald Riegle of Minnesota, and one Republican, John McCain) were tied to a scandal (in varying degrees) in 1987 involving one of the biggest of these thrifts, Congress finally passed legislation in 1989 which reimposed regulations on the industry, creating the Resolution Trust Corporation, and allocated billions of dollars to a federal bailout of the industry. Estimates concluded that the total cleanup would reach between $350 and $400 billion. The issue was not just a policy challenge for Bush, who was trying to reduce the deficit, but turned into a personal issue as well. One of his sons, Neil, had run the Silverado Savings and Loan in Denver from 1985 to 1988, when it collapsed. Neil had authorized highly questionable loans during his tenure. The result for the government was a bill of $1 billion. The government investigated. In May 1990, Neil was called to testify before the House Banking Committee. Throughout the summer, he remained a subject of inquiry by the U.S. Office of Thrift Supervision. Neil claimed the investigations were being driven by partisan interests. President Bush insisted on July 12 that he had full confidence in the “honor and integrity of my son.” The investigation was yet another distraction in a politically difficult summer. In the end, Neil Bush was not indicted but did settle a civil suit in June 1991, for $49.1 million, brought by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation against him and other directors of Silverado. Events in the Persian Gulf offered the president an opportunity to re-establish his political standing, while simultaneously leading the United States through its first major post–Cold War military operation. For a conservative internationalist like Bush, the problem with rogue dictators was not that they were dictators but that they could no longer be contained, persuaded, or used strategically by Western-allied interests. This is exactly what was happening with Saddam Hussein when he showed signs of seeking to expand his power to take control of more oil in the Persian Gulf, moving his forces closer to America’s ally Saudi Arabia. On July 15, the U.S. De-

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fense Intelligence Agency learned that Iraq was relocating troops on the Kuwait border. On the morning of August 1, Brent Scowcroft, Bush’s national security advisor, and Richard Haass, special assistant to the president, informed Bush that the situation looked “very bad.” In the following hours, 140,000 Iraqi troops stormed into Kuwait, with Hussein claiming that that oil-rich sheikhdom had deprived the Iraqi people of their oil revenues because it had seized Iraqi territory earlier in the century. During a National Security Council meeting on August 3, the president’s advisors outlined the threat from the invasion. Scowcroft said that if Hussein’s action was tolerated, Iraq “would dominate OPEC politics, Palestinian politics and the PLO, and lead the Arab world to the detriment of the United States.” Deputy Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger called this the “first test of the postwar system. As the bipolar contest is relaxed, it permits this, giving people more flexibility because they are not worried about the involvement of the superpowers. . . . If he succeeds, others may try the same thing. . . . He would dominate OPEC over time.” Cheney said, “He has clearly done what he has to do to dominate OPEC, the Gulf and the Arab world. . . . If he doesn’t take [Saudi Arabia] physically, with his new wealth he will still have an impact and will be able to acquire new weapons, including nuclear weapons. The problem will get worse, not better.” Chief of Staff John Sununu concurred: “If he moves into Saudi Arabia, he would control 70 percent of Gulf oil; if he moves into UAE [United Arab Emirates], then he would have 90–95 percent of the oil in the Gulf or 70 percent of all of OPEC. It would be very easy for him to control the world’s oil.”10 At the behest of the United States, the United Nations Security Council unanimously passed a resolution condemning Hussein’s actions with the threat of imposing sanctions if Iraq refused to withdraw. The invasion stimulated a surge in hawkish rhetoric within the United States by providing a rebuttal to claims for the peace dividend. Senator McCain told his colleagues, “Hussein has made the case for the battleship.” Bush told reporters, “It is time some of our congressmen wake up to the need to have a strong defense.” Gingrich said, “Danger from Saddam Hussein, I think, makes it much harder to cut defense radically.”11 A number of congressional Democrats agreed. Georgia Senator Sam Nunn said, “The Iraqi invasion made it clear that we still have tyrants in the world, we still have ruthless people that have large military forces and are willing to use them for economic and military gains.”12

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After extensive internal debate, the president heeded the advice of Cheney, Wolfowitz, and Scowcroft when he concluded that military action would be necessary to free Kuwait. The invasion posed a major test to determine whether hostile military actions could or would be checked in the post–Cold War world. On August 5, Bush told reporters, “This will not stand, this aggression against Kuwait.” Three days later, he announced that the United States and its Western allies insisted on a complete withdrawal of Iraqi troops from Kuwait. Hussein responded by threatening Israel and, in mid-August, by closing all the foreign embassies in Kuwait and instructing foreign personnel to leave Baghdad. As soon as Bush learned of the news, he feared a reprise of the Iranian hostage crisis. Secretary of State Baker warned the president, “You’re aware of the fact that this has all the ingredients that brought down three of the last five Presidents: a hostage crisis, body bags, and a full-fledged economic recession caused by forty-dollar oil.”13 These tensions could not have come at a worse time, given that the economy was in poor condition. For several months, an economic slowdown had already been in progress. GNP growth halted. Automobile manufacturers were reporting huge losses and layoffs. Stocks and housing markets fell, unemployment and consumer prices rose, and the cost of oil shot up. When National Security Council staffer Robert Gates told the president on August 17 that the Iraqis were going to detain foreign diplomats and use them as human shields if America attacked, the president became livid. On August 20, he signed a National Security Directive asserting that “the United States will defend its vital interests in the area, through the use of military force if necessary and appropriate, against any power with interests inimical to our own.”14 Operation Desert Shield began on August 7, 1990, and placed almost 80,000 U.N. coalition troops in Saudi Arabia by the end of August. The troops came from Egypt, Syria, Poland, Morocco, and Bangladesh. Britain, Saudi Arabia, West Germany, Australia, Italy, Belgium, Canada, and the Netherlands contributed ships. Bush called on 40,000 national reservists to transport supplies—the first such use since the 1968 Tet Offensive in Vietnam. Operation Desert Shield centered on a massive military buildup near Kuwait, ongoing negotiations with Iraqi leaders, and the enforcement of economic sanctions intended to pressure Iraq into withdrawing without having to use U.N. military action. Secretary Cheney insisted that the administration did not need congressional authorization.15

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The military leaders were more hesitant than the civilian leadership in the administration about rushing to war. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell and Central Command (CENTCOM) Commander Norman Schwarzkopf wanted to allow economic sanctions as much time as possible to work. In a September meeting with congressional leaders, Bush said that the Iraqi action was not “petty” aggression and that if the United States did not respond, the world would pay dearly. The president said there were huge economic stakes as well as a potential hostage situation. While assuring the leaders that the administration would give sanctions time to work, Bush warned that Hussein was using this time to bolster his defenses and chemical weapons programs. Baker, also at the meeting, added that international coalition partners would be willing to concede that the use of the military force would bring an end to problems posed by Hussein.16 The president, it seemed, never had much confidence, if any, in sanctions.17 Bush spoke about how the administration wanted to move beyond the “Vietnam syndrome,” but the looming war in Iraq was deeply influenced by that earlier conflict.18 There were constraints imposed by the continued memories of what went wrong with the Vietnam War, as well as other concrete outcomes from that war, such as the lack of a draft or the willingness of Congress to be assertive with a president if a military operation went wrong. With all of their hawkish rhetoric, White House policy makers knew that because of what had happened in Vietnam, Americans were extremely reluctant to use force. Bush also had to contend with memories of the Iran hostage crisis in 1979–81, when the news media devoted constant attention to the moves and problems of Washington policy makers, causing irreparable harm to the incumbent, Jimmy Carter. During his election campaign for vice president in 1980, Bush had seen firsthand how an administration could be trapped by reporters who were willing to devote unlimited time to covering stories, and that had been before the advent of twenty-four-hour cable news, which was fully operational by late 1990. To avoid the political damage that Democrats had suffered as a result of Vietnam and the Iran hostage crisis, Bush worked hard to articulate a clear rationale to justify U.S. action so that Americans knew what the mission was about and when the operation would end. “What people mean, when they say we worry about a Vietnam,” Bush said, “is they don’t want to put this nation through a

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long drawn-out inconclusive experience that had military action that just ended up with a kind of totally unsatisfactory answer. . . . There’s not going to be any long drawn-out agony of Vietnam.”19 On September 11, the president delivered his first address to Congress on the subject, outlining how crucial a successful resolution was to the stability of the post–Cold War world. “Out of these troubled times . . . a new world order—can emerge: a new era— freer from the threat of terror, stronger in the pursuit of justice, and more secure in the quest for peace. . . . This is the first assault on the new world that we seek, the first test of our mettle.” Almost every member of the administration objected to removing Hussein from power. From the moment the crisis started, Bush told the NSC, “It is one thing to defend and quite another to liberate.”20 Some Republicans like Indiana Senator Richard Lugar had called for a regime change to be the official U.S. objective. But Bush and his advisors were leery about seeking such an outcome. Paul Wolfowitz later explained that an attempt to overthrow Hussein would “have led the United States into a more or less permanent occupation of a country that could not govern itself, but where the rule of a foreign occupier would be increasingly resented.”21 The Defense Intelligence Agency outlined a long list of problems the United States would encounter should the military remove Hussein from power; as Gates later said, “That was for us the Vietnam scenario.”22 At best, Bush hoped that a decisive Iraqi defeat would inspire internal opposition forces to rise up and depose Hussein. Bush attempted to build public support by demonizing Hussein, making the threat seem far greater than it might appear to most citizens. The public affairs office of the White House described Hussein as a “very dangerous dictator, armed to the teeth” who was “threatening a critical region at a defining moment in history.”23 The communications plan of the White House and Pentagon included having the president and his officials deliver statements about U.S. objectives in the Persian Gulf on the fiftieth anniversary of Pearl Harbor.24 An administration working group convened with leaders from business, the media, veterans’ organizations, government agencies, and the international community to promote the war.25 At the start of Desert Shield, Bush tried to keep public attention on one objective, the defense of a sovereign nation against aggression by a ruthless dictator. But as fall and then winter came, he added different rationales, including the protection of Western oil interests and the possibility that dictators like Hussein could become even

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more dangerous and powerful forces, just like Hitler. As war inevitably approached, the administration talked about Hussein’s efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction (WMD). One of the main reasons the president remained confident about selling the operation to the public was that he believed the air force would be able to accomplish most of the mission with minimal casualties, fulfilling a promise that had been familiar in conservative circles ever since the Republican Right championed air and atomic power in the 1940s and when Reagan advocated SDI in 1983. Bush had been persuaded by his military advisors that technological advances in the 1980s had made it possible for the United States to defeat Hussein through a bombing campaign.26 Claims about the potential of the air force calmed the president’s fears since he believed that Americans would not be willing to tolerate a protracted ground war in the post-Vietnam period.27 Some respected advisors, such as Powell, however, counseled that ground troops would be needed. The operation would be the first real test for the professional army since the draft ended in 1973. The forces were in much better shape by 1990 than they had been in the 1970s, as a result of reforms and aggressive public relations campaigns undertaken in the 1980s. But their capacity as a fighting force remained unclear. The mobilization coincided with the 1990 midterm elections. Most Democrats and Republicans agreed that Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait posed a serious threat to American interests. While the buildup was not a central subject in most campaigns—compared to the ongoing economic recession—when Iraq was discussed, the debate centered on the best strategy for pressuring Hussein to withdraw from Kuwait, with Democrats generally arguing that economic sanctions should be given more time and Republicans more eager to use military force. Many House Republicans, however, preferred to be silent on Iraq. They sensed that constituents were not enthusiastic. There were also deep tensions within the GOP because many Republicans were furious with Bush’s tax hikes. In September and October, some Republican candidates began avoiding him. Reagan political consultant Ed Rollins distributed a letter to Republican candidates asserting that running against Bush was good politics.28 The president brought Iraq to the campaign trail. In most of the hundred stops that he made to assist sixty-two candidates, Bush warned that Hussein was a global danger. When confronted by protesters in Iowa who yelled “No blood for oil!” Bush angrily

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responded, “You know, some people never get the word, the fight isn’t about oil, the fight is about naked aggression that will not stand!”29 On the eve of the election, one poll showed that sixty-five percent approved of Bush’s position toward Iraq and fifty-one percent approved of attacking Iraq if the sanctions were not able to convince Hussein to leave Kuwait.30 But public backing for the aggressive policy toward Iraq did not translate into support for the administration. In another poll, the president’s approval rating had fallen dramatically from seventy-six percent in August to sixty percent in October to fifty-one percent in November, a few days before the election.31 The election results in November were not good for the GOP. Democrats retained control of the House and Senate, and the GOP lost one Senate seat and eight House seats. Minnesota Republican Rudy Boschwitz was the only Senate incumbent defeated in the general election. Thirty-five Republican candidates lost in the sixty-two close contests that Bush had focused on.32 After the election, Bush confronted a diminished base of congressional support within a divided government. The results also signaled the first concrete evidence of Bush’s electoral weakness. As one reporter noted, “If the election of 1990 changed nothing else, it undermined the perception that George Bush is all but immune to the normal vicissitudes of politics. Suddenly, and for the first time in his presidency, Bush seemed vulnerable.”33 Conservative activists characterized the outcome as a product of the president having betrayed the right. With the public divided at home, Bush and his advisors set out to strengthen international support. The president undermined Iraqi efforts to build Arab unity behind Hussein by using his extensive personal connections abroad to forge an international coalition of thirty-five countries that included Egypt, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Syria. Crucial to the success of the operation was the decision of the Soviet Union to remain neutral. Besides representing international legitimacy, the coalition spread the financial costs. The major financial and military contributions of other countries were essential given that the president did not want to depart from a central aspect of conservative internationalism—avoiding widespread public sacrifice as part of war. Bush resisted demands for higher taxes even as Japan and Germany, which contributed financially, increased taxes on their citizens. According to polls, most Americans expected a wartime tax surcharge. Several congressional Democrats called for some kind of a wartime levee. The administra-

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tion instead defied the twentieth-century tradition of raising taxes in times of war, lobbying Congress to lower capital gains taxes. 1990 midterms, the administration staked everything it had on national security. Shortly after the election, the president announced that the United States was sending 200,000 troops to Saudi Arabia. Democrats continued to charge that the administration had failed to consult with them and said that this decision was a risky rush to action timed to come after the elections. Bush’s policies gained credibility when the U.N. Security Council voted twelve to two (Cuba and Yemen were opposed, China abstained from voting) at the end of November to endorse existing U.N. decisions about Iraq since the invasion and passed Resolution 678, which stated that Hussein had until January 15 to remove his troops from Kuwait. The Security Council asserted that U.N. forces could use whatever methods necessary to push back Iraqi forces if Hussein did not withdraw voluntarily. Congress cut short its winter break and returned in December. House Speaker Thomas Foley and Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell said that the United States needed to exercise caution. California Representative George Miller, along with 109 other Democrats, sent a letter to the president reminding him that only Congress could authorize a war. House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt of Missouri warned that Democrats could cut off funding for the operation if the president refused to obtain congressional authorization. Democrats were bolstered by polls that showed Bush’s approval rating for how he was handling the Persian Gulf crisis had dropped to under fifty percent with the escalation of forces.34 Cheney had angered many senators when he told them during hearings the previous month, “I do not believe the president requires any additional authorization from the Congress before committing U.S. forces to achieve our objectives in the Gulf.”35 On December 4, the House Democratic Caucus adopted a resolution by a vote of 177 to 37, stating the president needed congressional authorization to send troops into combat. Fifty-four Democrats directly challenged the president in federal court. On December 13, District Judge Harold Greene ruled that the judiciary did not have the authority to become involved since the operation was already underway. Yet he rejected claims of unilateral presidential power, stating that arguments about the right of the executive to undertake military action without congressional consent “would evade the plain language of the Constitution, and it cannot stand.”36

A

FTER THE

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The administration also had some concerns about a few highprofile antiwar Republicans. Patrick Buchanan was the most visible, given his presence on cable news shows. Other journalists who shared Buchanan’s concerns included Washington Post columnists Robert Novak and Rowland Evans. Vice President Quayle noted that “the McGovern-Buchanan axis is there. . . . It is still a very small but vocal minority, but we have got to be sure that it does not get out of control.”37 The polls did not provide Bush with decisive answers, but there were indications of growing support for the president’s policies among every income bracket as well as ethnic and racial groups, except for African Americans. The total number of voters who supported a stronger stand in the Persian Gulf increased from twenty-nine percent to sixty-nine percent in the months between August and January. In January, a GOP survey showed fifty-eight percent of those polled, from the two parties, believed there was “good reason” to go to war, an increase from forty-eight percent in early December 1990. Seventy-two percent of Republicans believed there was good reason, as opposed to forty-two percent of Democrats. If Iraq did not withdraw from Kuwait, fifty-six percent of Republican voters told pollsters in January that the United States should use military force (the percentage had been forty-six in December).38 The public remained divided over whether to start military action if Iraq did not withdraw from Kuwait by January 15. A majority of Americans in December continued to believe that a negotiated settlement was possible. The president’s approval ratings, moreover, were contingent upon whether Bush achieved a favorable outcome in Iraq. When some pollsters mentioned the possibility of war, the president’s ratings fell. According to pollster Louis Harris, “The underlying attitude about the Gulf is distinctly against the expenditure of many American lives.”While people from both parties supported the war, administration polls revealed consistently that acceptance of force and the overall mission was much stronger in the GOP than among Democrats.39 Bush was still confronting the challenges that Reagan had encountered during his time in office and the immense political constraints that conservative internationalism faced in post-Vietnam America. The administration’s efforts to overcome the Vietnam syndrome through this operation were a far cry from the mobilizations of World War I, World War II, and Vietnam. Bush remained circumspect about employing military force, realizing that there was tremendous concern among Congress and the public and that without a

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draft his tools were limited. He continued in his effort to narrowly define the mission so as to avoid negative fallout. Memories of the 1960s and 1970s were on the minds of Bush and his advisors as they debated whether to approach Congress for its consent. Privately, the president, agreeing with Cheney, insisted that he did not need congressional authorization to send troops because the United Nations had passed a resolution allowing for military action. The White House had defended expansive executive power since the election.40 White House Counsel C. Boyden Gray produced several reports that justified taking action without the consent of Congress.41 On the other hand, obtaining a show of support from Congress through a resolution, Gray said, would be useful in “gaining public support for your action.” They didn’t need a declaration of war, he said, because he did not anticipate the White House would need significant emergency powers.42 This way, Bush would not have to take the entire blame if the operation failed.43 Bush also understood the threats posed by Congress, as he had been shown to be involved in the Iran-Contra scandal and was worried it could derail his political career.44 The most persuasive voice was that of Secretary Baker, who said the administration would “be making a big mistake to undertake a war as big as this without first securing a resolution of support from Congress.”The resolution was important if the administration hoped to move beyond the “debilitating post-Vietnam hangover.”45 Polls showed strong support for obtaining congressional approval. Bush, remembering the turmoil of Vietnam, asked in his diary: “As long as the people are with us, I’ve got a good chance. But once there starts to be erosion, they’re going to do what Lyndon Johnson said: they painted their asses white and ran with the antelopes.”46 The president could approach Congress with some confidence given that his popularity ratings were on the rise. One White House poll reported that there was widespread support for Bush’s position on Iraq and Kuwait even though there was ambivalence about military action. The poll found that most Americans supported military force if needed and that the situation “presents an opportunity for the President to solidify his base well into 1992 and beyond. Even without the benefit of a resolution of this conflict, the President easily defeats two of his leading Democratic opponents, [New York Governor] Mario Cuomo and Sam Nunn.”47 On January 4, members of Congress began to debate the conflict. A handful of Democrats questioned the underlying purpose behind

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the operation. “Not a single drop of American blood,” Senator Edward Kennedy said, “should be spilled because American automobiles burn too many drops of oil a mile.” South Carolina Democratic Senator Ernest Hollings rejected the notion that it was worth risking lives for a nondemocratic country. Other Democratic legislators fully supported the administration. New York Representative Stephen Solarz insisted that his party had to go on record in support of the war or it would forever be tarnished as weak on defense. Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman issued similar warnings, as did Senators Al Gore of Tennessee, Charles Robb of Virginia, and Bob Graham of Florida and Pennsylvania Representative John Murtha. On January 3, the president announced that he would send Baker to meet again with Iraqi officials. The last-minute initiative surprised Democrats who were attacking Bush as a president determined on war and inhospitable to diplomacy.48 On January 10, the CIA warned that sanctions were not having their desired effect.49 The debate revealed widespread agreement between the parties over the need to control Hussein and protect Kuwait and its oil resources. Partisan debate focused on procedure (the proper limits of executive authority) and strategy (whether to give economic sanctions more time to work). Democrats remembered what had happened with Vietnam when Congress granted President Johnson authority with the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and when President Reagan simply circumvented the legislative branch with Central America in the 1980s. Influenced by struggles of the 1960s and gun shy because of what Vietnam did to their party, they were also more skeptical about using military force and preferred diplomacy and negotiation. Republicans were more willing to use force and to grant the executive branch all the power it needed in this effort. With these kinds of issues, partisan divisions were strong and remained so throughout the war.50 The debate between the parties centered on the methods through which to achieve the goal of removing Iraq from Kuwait rather than the goal itself. Democratic legislators such as Senators Tom Harkin (Iowa), Patrick Leahy (Vermont), and Brock Adams (Washington) and Illinois Representative Richard Durbin argued that the president needed to request formal authorization from Congress and that a failure to seek permission violated the 1973 War Powers Act. These opponents had the support of Speaker Foley and Majority Leader Mitchell. Bush and his Republican allies in Congress responded by saying that since Truman and Korea in 1950,

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presidents regularly deployed troops without the formal approval of Congress. Legislators had delayed a vote for months, with many hoping they could avoid taking a stand. On January 8, Bush found a midway point, sending a letter to Congress asking for its support without requesting formal authorization. The decision was based on the desire to build political support since Bush’s advisors had rejected the claim that presidents needed congressional authority to send troops into war. The agreement came only as the deadline for Iraq’s withdrawal approached. When Congress finally debated the request, most Democrats said that abandoning economic sanctions would be a mistake. An important voice of opposition came from Senator Nunn, a southern hawk with a long record of supporting the armed forces. Nunn’s support for those resisting immediate action emboldened Democrats to challenge Bush. Following two days of intense debate on January 10 and 11, Congress passed a joint resolution that authorized the president to send troops to liberate Kuwait based on the U.N. resolution. In the House, 165 Republicans (out of 168) supported the resolution. Overall, it passed with a sixty-seven-vote majority (250–183). Solarz and Wisconsin Representative Les Aspin, chair of the House Armed Services Committee, obtained the support of a third of the House Democrats to get the measure through. In the Senate, forty-two Republicans backed the decision, with forty-five Democrats in opposition (the vote was 52–47). Only ten Democrats—Lieberman, Gore, Graham, Nevada’s Harry Reid and Richard Bryan, Louisiana’s John Breaux and Bennett Johnston, Alabama’s Howell Heflin and Richard Shelby, and Virginia’s Charles Robb—endorsed the resolution. Only two Republicans opposed it. When seventy percent of congressional Democrats voted against the war resolution, they revealed a line separating the parties. Although Bush had suffered conservative defections with his tax increase, most Republicans lined up behind him on this issue.51 When he signed the resolution, the president reiterated that the signing did not “constitute any change in the long-standing positions of the executive branch on either the President’s constitutional authority to use the Armed Forces to defend vital US interests or the constitutionality of the War Powers Resolution.” But the congressional debates and fluctuating public polls sent indications that there would in fact be limitations to what the president could do. N JANUARY 16, Operation Desert Shield became Operation Desert Storm. U.S. bombing aimed to destroy the command

O

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and control structure of the Iraqi government. Unlike with Vietnam, the president granted military officials considerable leeway when making decisions. The bombing was handled through CENTCOM, a centralized command group stationed in the Persian Gulf under the leadership of General Schwarzkopf, and lasted thirty-nine days. Seeking to avoid civilian targets in order to maintain domestic support in the United States, the military focused on bombing selected areas to limit damage to civilian infrastructure while killing tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers.52 The first few days of bombing were so successful and so brutal that many Iraqi troops abandoned their weapons to flee the attacks. Republicans worked to define how the public saw the war in historical perspective. Bush, congressional leaders, and conservative pundits compared it to World War II. When the attack started, Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater announced that the “liberation of Kuwait has begun,” recalling General Eisenhower’s D-Day broadcast promising the “liberation of Europe.”The comparison was not only a tactic to build support and undercut Democratic opposition but also an effort to define the enemies of the post–Cold War era. If the enemy in World War II was fascism and in the Cold War communism, Republicans were now trying to paint rogue states as an equally dangerous threat. To Bush, Hussein had the potential to become another Hitler, and Iraq another Nazi Germany. And the Republicans wanted to be the party (and not the party of Roosevelt, which won World War II) to destroy this new incarnation of the old enemy. It did not take long for the partisan war to start. Republicans criticized Democrats for failing to support the president. Bush’s approval climbed to above eighty percent. Three days after the war started, the chairman of the Republican National Committee warned that the Democratic vote on the war resolution would harm them if the operations went well. Nebraska Democratic Senator Bob Kerrey complained that Republicans were trying to “politicize this war and to define victory in terms of electoral gains.”53 But Democrats were not blind to political realities. On January 17 and 18, the Senate and House passed resolutions proclaiming that they stood behind American forces in Iraq. Democrats hoped to make certain that the prewar debate did not haunt them in the 1992 election. Public support for the war was strong. Congressional Republicans were pleased because they expected that the resolution would bolster Bush’s standing. The president and the Pentagon were working hard to make sure that public opinion did not turn on them. Most importantly, the

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Pentagon imposed tight restrictions on the media. The president believed that reporters had been granted too much leeway during Vietnam and saw with the Iran hostage crisis how much trouble reporters could cause.The rapid news cycle of cable television had created even more unpredictability as to how the conflict would be covered. The administration sensed that managing the news would be crucial to the political success of the operation. Powell informed a group of officers that “you can win the battle [but] lose the war if you don’t handle the story right.”54 Bush looked to Reagan’s careful handling of the media during Grenada as a model for maintaining control over the description of events. Reporters were allowed to travel only with military officials, and information was disseminated from official pools of reporters who were working with and following the rules of the Pentagon. Members of Congress were assigned guards to protect them against terrorist threats. Television viewers saw a bombing campaign that looked like a video game. The Pentagon was careful to restrict displays of actual bloodshed. Military officials boasted about the alleged accuracy of high-tech bombs (most of the claims turned out to be overstated) and lent support to the optimistic assessments of conservatism, which promised that technological advances could eventually eliminate the need for ground wars. Super Bowl organizers distributed flags that fans waved during the game. “The Pentagon,” said one observer, “won ground superiority over the press before it achieved air superiority over the Iraqis.”55 By late January, conservatives were praising Patriot missiles, which were used to shoot down Iraqi Scud missiles, as solid evidence that Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative had been on target despite the Democratic ridicule about “Star Wars.” In reality, the Patriot missiles had little to do with SDI and turned out to be less accurate than initially thought. As the bombing campaign reached a conclusion, tensions increased within the administration and among members of Congress. Policy makers still anticipated that Hussein’s elite Republican Guard could cause serious damage to U.S. troops. Few politicians were clamoring for a ground war. “I’ve been plagued with the image of body bags,” Bush wrote.56 At the same time, Bush agreed with military officials who said that ground troops were essential. As the president wrote in his diary, “I have no qualms now about ordering a ground war. I don’t have the aching that I felt the night before the bombing started and we went to war. The reason is that the military are unanimous in

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recommending the course of action that Colin and Cheney outlined to me the other day. I have not second-guessed; I have not told them what targets to hit; I have not told them how much ordinance to use or how much not to use, or what weapons to use and not to use. I have learned from Vietnam, and I think the Army and the other services are doing a superb job.”57 Administration polls, however, sent warning signals to the White House as the conflict unfolded. The Department of State found that a majority of Americans expected the war to last for at least six months, and support had increased among those who anticipated a longer war. But support plummeted if it would cost the lives of more than 5,000 U.S. troops.58 Once the ground war started, it became clear that military officials had overestimated the enemy. Iraqi forces retreated when attacked by coalition troops, the ground war lasted 100 hours, starting on February 24 and ending on February 28, when Bush proclaimed, “Kuwait is liberated.” Only 148 Americans were killed, thirty of them from friendly fire. The speedy victory even took administration officials by surprise.59 The professional army seemed to have passed its first substantial test, performing effectively and efficiently, and appearing to confirm what proponents of ending the draft had promised during Richard Nixon’s presidency in the 1970s: that well-trained men and women (who performed a vastly enlarged number of roles in the operation, challenging their continued exclusion from combat that the Pentagon adhered to), fairly paid for their service and who joined on their own volition, would perform their duties in superior fashion to draftees. The director of the Office of Military Manpower and Personnel Policy, Nick Timens, one of the more critical voices in the Pentagon about weaknesses that the operation had exposed (such as the need for the United States to have more mobile forces to fight a partial military mobilization), still boasted, “The all-volunteer force worked. It took a generation to get here, but in Desert Storm: The enlisted force exhibited unprecedented skill, commitment, maturity, and professionalism. The entire officer corps . . . consistently demonstrated skill, excellence, leadership, and professionalism we have not seen in this century—if ever. . . . The role and performance of minorities in the enlisted force is a huge success. This ought to be a source of enormous pride both to black Americans and the military services.”60 The swiftness of the victory forced the administration to deal more quickly than it had expected with the question of whether

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coalition forces should enter into Baghdad and attempt to remove Hussein from power. Bush feared that leaving him in power, especially after all of the comparisons the administration had made between Hussein and Hitler, would prevent the decisive victory that he believed was needed to overcome two decades of public skepticism about using military force. According to a report by the conservative Heritage Foundation, it was essential to humiliate Hussein and destroy his military capability. If Bush allowed him to “slip away with his army intact” or if he “is drawn into a war of attrition, or if he fails to up America’s war aims if Saddam raises the stakes by using weapons of mass destruction, Bush might not reap the gains that America’s battlefield victories promise to deliver.”61 Concerns about the operation’s conclusion dominated Bush’s thinking. “Why do I not feel elated?” Bush asked his top advisors.62 Some Democrats called for Hussein’s head and argued that he constituted an intolerable threat due to his weapons of mass destruction. But most warned that trying to remove Hussein could result in deadly urban warfare and weaken international support for the war, since the U.N. mandate had never called for Hussein’s removal. The sentiment was bipartisan. As Republican Senator William Cohen of Maine said, “It doesn’t make sense to try to take him out ourselves.”63 On February 26, Bush met with Powell, Sununu, Cheney, Quayle, Haass, Gates, Scowcroft, and Baker. Powell urged the president to end the war immediately. These policy makers had all seen how President Reagan succeeded by accepting the political restraints on military intervention in the contemporary era. While popular support for the Iraqi mission and the president remained strong, Powell said Americans were anxious about the next stages of war. There also were growing concerns about homeland security, with fears that Iraq might retaliate with terrorist attacks on airports and schools.64 The Vietnam syndrome, as Bush called it, turned out to be alive and well. Invading Iraq seemed to be excessive in the minds of the president and his advisors. Most members of the administration agreed that the nation would not tolerate a full-scale ground invasion or the commitment that would follow from overthrowing the regime. Powell also warned Bush that Americans were seeing more carnage on their television sets. Many allies, including the Russians, were calling for an end to the war since the objectives of the U.N. resolution had been achieved. Although the president decided against trying to capture or kill Hussein, he said, “We do not want to

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screw this up with a sloppy, muddled ending.”65 Cheney later explained, “If we’d gone to Baghdad and got rid of Saddam Hussein, we’d have had to put a lot of forces in and run him to ground some place. . . . Then you’ve got to put a new government in his place. . . . How many forces are you going to have to leave there to keep it propped up, how many casualties are you going to take through the course of this operation?”66 The general strategy of the administration was to cool things down. On February 27, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Robert Kimmit wrote Secretary Baker to ask about a number of post-conflict issues. The first was whether it was an explicit goal of the United States to replace the current leadership of Iraq: “Do we want to state this publicly as a political objective—or just work toward the goal as an unstated objective to avoid playing the Saddam vs. the U.S. line.” Baker wrote back that they should keep this objective unstated. Kimmit’s second question was, “Do we want to commit ourselves to an explicit, formal security guarantee for Kuwait or other states?” Kimmit said the U.N. resolution gave the United States continued authority to do so but that most advisors believed the United States should not state this position too forcefully because it would “play into the U.S. ‘hegemony’ line.” Baker noted that the United States would wait to see what the Iraqis did next. Finally, Kimmit asked if the United States would try to form a coalitional tribunal to try Hussein as a war criminal. Kimmit thought this should be done in order to teach Hussein a lesson, but Baker responded: “No—downplay S.H. This would play his game.”67 Sensing that voters would not remember the nuances of these issues, Republican rhetoric ignored the fact that the congressional debate had centered on whether to allow sanctions more time to work; instead the GOP presented the party-line vote over the war resolution as being about which party had favored and which opposed military action. Senate Minority Leader Robert Michel said it most succinctly when he boasted that the success proved that Democrats should stop denigrating the military.68 term, Operation Desert Storm appeared to be a huge political victory for the GOP. “The number of people who don’t like George Bush,” Newt Gingrich joked, “is almost down to the number of people running for the Democratic nomination.”69 As Texas Republican Senator Phil Gramm said, “People see this in the context of Jimmy Carter in Iran, of Dukakis indecisive in the tank. . . . They see this in the context of Democrats’ inability to lead

I

N THE SHORT

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internationally.”70 The president was able to talk about having achieved U.N. objectives without significant American bloodshed. Congressional Democrats quickly found themselves playing political defense. Gingrich was convinced that Operation Desert Storm had given the GOP a historic opportunity to retake control of Congress for the first time since 1954. On March 4, however, Gingrich wrote Sununu that the window of opportunity would close quickly since Americans would soon come to believe one of three things: “The President does not have a domestic agenda. . . . The President has a reform domestic agenda as useful and as innovative as what we did in Desert Storm, and the Democrats are deliberately blocking and smothering that agenda because it terrifies them. . . . The President has a reform agenda and the Democrats are cooperating in passing it.” Gingrich said it was essential for Bush to work as hard as possible to link the success overseas with the president’s vision at home.71 When the president delivered a message to a joint session of Congress on March 6, Republicans greeted him with thunderous applause. Legislators wore yellow ribbons on their lapels and waved American flags. To distinguish themselves from the opposition party, Republicans wore buttons that said, “I voted with the President.” There were many observers who predicted that Bush would be unbeatable in 1992. Secretary Baker later recalled that “in six short weeks, the bitter legacy of Vietnam seemed to have been swept away by Desert Storm.”72 Hawkish Democrats came under attack as being nothing more than dovish liberals in the McGovern tradition. The war had even boosted support for the military as an institution. According to one study, almost ninety percent of the public were confident in the military as a result of the operation.73 Schwarzkopf and Powell were treated like heroes. When the troops returned, they were treated to