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Book Reviews 677 link between political science and the health of the American body politic. Not only should this volume provoke further initiatives to engage the public, but it should engage other scholars in research that expands upon the findings and recommendations herein. Bartholomew H. Sparrow The University of Texas at Austin The Gaither Committee, Eisenhower, and the Cold War. By David L. Snead. Columbus, Ohio: Ohio State University Press, 1999; pp. χ + 286. $39.95 cloth; $19.95 paper. It has always been in some ways incongruous that the phrase "military industrial complex" was first coined by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in his 1961 farewell address to the nation. President Eisenhower, after all, was a quintessential part of that military industrial complex, both as a career military officer and five star general who commanded the largest military organization in the history of the world, the Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe during World War II. And, yet, as president , Eisenhower resisted huge proposed increases in the military budget to the chagrin of both political supporters and opponents alike. It is not hard to determine, however, from reading a history of the Gaither Committee why Eisenhower became, against all reason, one of the most staunch opponents of some of the more extreme proposals for expanding the American defense capacity in the 1950s. The Gaither Committee is an example of a unique institution in American politics, the "blue ribbon" task force, appointed by the president to grapple with some of the country's more politically intractable problems of the day. These ad hoc advisory councils, comprised of prominent citizens, often appointed from outside the government, serve for only so long as it takes to issue their report. The president then is able to use their recommendations as a basis for making controversial policy recommendations, which have the veneer of professional expertise and bipartisanship. The Tower and Grace commissions during the Reagan administration come to mind as more modern examples of this phenomenon. The Gaither Committee was formed in May 1957 at the request of President Eisenhower to reevaluate defense policies inherited from the Truman administration and, more to the point, to mute criticism directed at the administration in the aftermath of a speech made by Secretary of State John Foster Dulles advocating a policy of massive retaliation. The conventional wisdom, even at the time, was that massive retaliation was not an adequate response to the less than all-out provocations that were most likely to occur in Cold War confrontations with the Soviet Union. Because it was likely that something other than a policy of massive retaliation would require a huge expenditure of new funds for the military and for civil defense, 678 Rhetoric & Public Affairs the Gaither Committee would be useful for laying the political groundwork for such spending. However, the problem was that in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, the explosion by the Soviets of a hydrogen bomb, and the launching of Sputnik in late 1957, the public didn't need much persuasion about the danger of the Soviet threat—quite the opposite. Ultimately, the president ended up opposing some of the more extreme recommendations of the Gaither Committee, including a $25 billion dollar expenditure for bomb shelters (total outlays for the entire Federal Government in 1957 were $76 billion). In turn, the Committee's findings were promptly leaked to the press and became the basis for the (unfounded) missile "gap" claim made by Senator John Kennedy in his 1960 race for the presidency. No wonder President Eisenhower in 1961 finished his term railing against the military-industrial complex, many members of which were at the core of the Gaither Committee. Professor Snead has written a well-documented, if sometimes dry account of this very important moment in American history. I am not always sure that the author is able to completely back away from the minutiae of his account to garner the true significance of what was going on at the time. The Gaither Committee, it appears to me, was less important for what it did than what it represented. Whether or not Eisenhower, in the main, approved or disapproved of the Gaither Committee's Report (a point of minor...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-5238
Print ISSN
1094-8392
Pages
pp. 677-678
Launched on MUSE
2010-06-24
Open Access
No
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