Neutralism - The eisenhower administration and neutralism




In the mid-1950s, Eisenhower administration public pronouncements on the issue of neutralism sometimes gave conflicting signals. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, the administration's principal foreign policy spokesman, was consistently critical. In October 1955, speaking before an American Legion convention in Miami, he stubbornly declared that "except under very exceptional circumstances, neutrality today is an immoral and shortsighted conception." But several months later, at a June 1956 news conference, President Eisenhower took a more tolerant position. He observed that for 150 years the United States had been neutral, that in 1956 neutrality meant avoiding attachment to military alliances, and that "this does not necessarily mean… neutral as between right and wrong or between decay and decency." He concluded his appraisal by referring the reporters to a speech Dulles was scheduled to give the following week at Iowa State University. There, however, Dulles did not revise his assessment of neutralism but rather reiterated his intolerant stance. Dulles's hostility has been explained in different ways. It may have reflected his personal belief that there was a stark contrast between communism and democracy, and that, therefore, to take a neutral position was tantamount to choosing the former. H. W. Brands, in The Specter of Neutralism, offered another explanation, politics: "The secretary's sermonizing was designed to please conservatives, Republicans for the most part, who distrusted neutralists and continually threatened to block administration initiatives toward countries of the Third World." But what about Eisenhower's contrasting expression of tolerance for neutralism? The answer may lie in the behind-the-scenes deliberations of the administration. The National Security Council, responding to Nikita Khrushchev's "peaceful coexistence" campaign, was reexamining neutralism and all of its ramifications in order to construct a coherent policy toward these neutral states.

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