The Menlo Roundtable

A New Look: From Containment and Conventional Arms to Deterrence and Mutually Assured Destruction

Eisenhower’s belief in the necessity of a proliferation of nuclear warheads and his endorsement of the massive retaliation doctrine were merely short-term means to an end, insurance for his aspirations of international demilitarization, collaboration, and peace in the long-term.

“The Eisenhower years,” historian and presidential archivist Thomas Soapes explains, “were a time when the United States and the Soviet Union began to move, however slowly, away from nuclear confrontation and toward negotiation.” However in conflict Eisenhower’s objectives may have seemed, he did not regard his pursuit of nuclear disarmament as inherently “contradicted by the ‘New Look.’” He realized that obtaining a satisfactory arms agreement that would “leave the United States secure while at the same time reducing the nuclear threat … would be a difficult and lengthy process;” to achieve such a goal, the U.S. would have to maintain its military strength, both to defend itself and to preserve its bargaining power in future negotiations concerning disarmament, for another forty years—as Eisenhower predicted in 1958.