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Spirits of the Cold War

Contesting Worldviews in the Classical Age of American Security Strategy

Ned O'Gorman

Publication Year: 2012

In spring of 1953, newly elected President Eisenhower sat down with his staff to discuss the state of American strategy in the cold war. America, he insisted, needed a new approach to an urgent situation. From this meeting emerged Eisenhower’s teams of “bright young fellows,” charged with developing competing policies, each of which would come to shape global politics. In Spirits of the Cold War, Ned O’Gorman argues that the early Cold War was a crucible not only for contesting political strategies, but also for competing conceptions of America and its place in the world. Drawing on extensive archival research and wide reading in intellectual and rhetorical histories, this comprehensive account shows cold warriors debating “worldviews” in addition to more strictly instrumental tactical aims. Spirits of the Cold War is a rigorous scholarly account of the strategic debate of the early Cold War — a cultural diagnostic of American security discourse and an examination of its origins.

Published by: Michigan State University Press


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xviii

This book examines the worldviews inherent within four major strategic statements in the early Cold War: containment, massive retaliation, deterrence, and liberation. The early Cold War (the period lasting, in my view, from 1946 through the pivotal year of Sputnik, 1957) represents the rise of American world supremacy, the crucible...

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pp. xix-xxi

There are far more who have been integral to the composition of this book than I can acknowledge here. First, there are all the authors and their books—those works and words, sacred and profane— without which I could not have conceived of this project, let alone pursued it to some sort of end. Then there are all my teachers, so many....

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pp. 1-20

When in the summer of 1945 the United States brought a world-historical culmination to World War II by dropping atomic bombs on Japan’s Hiroshima and Nagasaki (immediately killing well over 100,000 Japanese and leaving tens of thousands more to die slowly of radiation sickness), many in America believed that the United...

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1. The Care of the Self: Kennan, Containment, and Stoicism

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pp. 21-74

The eminent Cold War historian and Kennan biographer John Lewis Gaddis describes strategy as “quite simply the process by which ends are related to means, intentions to capabilities, objectives to resources.”1 However, this conception of strategy is deceptively simple. As Paul Kennedy has shown, approaches to strategy in the twentieth century...

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2. Protest and Power: Dulles, Massive Retaliation, and Evangelicalism

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pp. 75-121

In a September 1952 speech, “Principle Versus Expediency in Foreign Policy,” John Foster Dulles, then one of presidential candidate Dwight Eisenhower’s chief foreign affairs spokespersons, attacked containment as a “non-moral policy.” Of Kennan, he told the Missouri Bar Association, “I respect highly his scholarship, intellectual integrity and...

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3. Deeds Undone: C. D. Jackson, Liberation, and Adventurism

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pp. 123-166

Spirits die hard, but when they do it can be disastrous. Such was the sentiment that brought together an illustrious group of American intellectuals, journalists, and government brass for three days in Dedham, Massachusetts, in May 1957. The list of invitees included Alfred H. Barr (director, Museum of Modern Art), Richard M. Bissell (CIA), Lyman...

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4. The American Sublime: Eisenhower, Deterrence, and Romanticism

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pp. 167-231

Some three decades before the premature 1989 provocation by Francis Fukuyama associating the end of the Cold War with the “end of history as such,” the Eisenhower administration brought a literal end to human history firmly within America’s material capabilities by stockpiling thermonuclear weapons.1 Indeed, one month before Dulles’s...

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pp. 233-249

I have examined four worldviews discernable within the early Cold War, the classical age of American security strategy. I have argued that stoicism, evangelicalism, adventurism, and romanticism were articulated in containment, massive retaliation, liberation, and Eisenhower’s nuclear deterrence respectively. Contests in the early Cold War...


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pp. 251-298


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pp. 299-314


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pp. 315-321

E-ISBN-13: 9781609172374
Print-ISBN-13: 9781611860207

Page Count: 340
Publication Year: 2012