D. Eisenhower: The Chance for Peace
Washington, D.C. April
Bryan, distinguished guests of this Association, and ladies and
gentlemen: I am happy to be here. I say this and I mean it very
sincerely for a number of reasons. Not the least of these is the
number of friends I am honored to count among you. Over the years
we have seen, tanked, agreed, and argued with one another on a
vast variety of subjects, under circumstances no less varied. We
have met at home and in distant lands. We have been together at
times when war seemed endless, at times when peace seemed near, at
times when peace seemed to have eluded us again. We have met in
times of battle, both military and electoral, and all these
occasions mean to me memories of enduring friendships.
I am happy to
be here for another reason. This occasion calls for my first
formal address to the American people since assuming the office of
the presidency just twelve weeks ago. It is fitting, I think, that
I speak to you the editors of America. You are, in such a vital
way, both representatives of and responsible to the people of our
country. In great part upon you-upon your intelligence, your
integrity, your devotion to the ideals of freedom and justice
themselves-depend the understanding and the knowledge with which
our people must meet the facts of twentieth-century life. Without
such understanding and knowledge our people would be incapable of
promoting justice; without them, they would be incapable of
Finally, I am
happy to be here at this time before this audience because I must
speak of that issue that comes first of all in the hearts and
minds of all of us-that issue which most urgently challenges and
summons the wisdom and the courage of our whole people. This issue
In this spring
of 1953 the free world weighs one question above all others: the
chances for a just peace for all peoples.
To weigh this
chance is to summon instantly to mind another recent moment of
great decision. It came with that yet more hopeful spring of 1945,
bright with the promise of victory and of freedom. The hopes of
all just men in that moment too was a just and lasting peace.
The 8 years
that have passed have seen that hope waver, grow dim, and almost
die. And the shadow of fear again has darkly lengthened across the
world. Today the hope of free men remains stubborn and brave, but
it is sternly disciplined by experience. It shuns not only all
crude counsel of despair but also the self-deceit of easy
illusion. It weighs the chances for peace with sure, clear
knowledge of what happened to the vain hopes of 1945.
In that spring
of victory the soldiers of the Western Allies met the soldiers of
Russia in the center of Europe. They were triumphant comrades in
arms. Their peoples shared the joyous prospect of building, in
honor of their dead, the only fitting monument-an age of just
peace. All these war-weary peoples shared too this concrete,
decent purpose: to guard vigilantly against the domination ever
again of any part of the world by a single, unbridled aggressive
purpose lasted an instant and perished. The nations of the world
divided to follow two distinct roads.
States and our valued friends, the other free nations, chose one
The leaders of
the Soviet Union chose another.
The way chosen
by the United States was plainly marked by a few clear precepts,
which govern its conduct in world affairs.
people on earth can be held, as a people, to be an enemy, for all
humanity shares the common hunger for peace and fellowship and
nation's security and well-being can be lastingly achieved in
isolation but only in effective cooperation with fellow-nations.
nation's right to a form of government and an economic system of
its own choosing is inalienable.
nation's attempt to dictate to other nations their form of
government is indefensible.
And fifth: A
nation's hope of lasting peace cannot be firmly based upon any
race in armaments but rather upon just relations and honest
understanding with all other nations.
In the light
of these principles the citizens of the United States defined the
way they proposed to follow, through the aftermath of war, toward
This way was
faithful to the spirit that inspired the United Nations: to
prohibit strife, to relieve tensions, to banish fears. This way
was to control and to reduce armaments. This way was to allow all
nations to devote their energies and resources to the great and
good tasks of healing the war's wounds, of clothing and feeding
and housing the needy, of perfecting a just political life, of
enjoying the fruits of their own toil.
government held a vastly different vision of the future. In the
world of its design, security was to be found, not in mutual trust
and mutual aid but in force: huge armies, subversion, rule of
neighbor nations. The goal was power superiority at all cost.
Security was to be sought by denying it to all others.
The result has
been tragic for the world and, for the Soviet Union, it has also
of Soviet power alerted free nations to a new danger of
aggression. It compelled them in self-defense to spend
unprecedented money and energy for armaments. It forced them to
develop weapons of war now capable of inflicting instant and
terrible punishment upon any aggressor.
in the free nations-and let none doubt this-the unshakable
conviction that, as long as there persists a threat to freedom,
they must, at any cost, remain armed, strong, and ready for the
risk of war (applause).
them-and let none doubt this-to attain a unity of purpose and will
beyond the power of propaganda or pressure to break, now or ever.
remained, however, one thing essentially unchanged and unaffected
by Soviet conduct. This unchanged thing was the readiness of the
free world to welcome sincerely any genuine evidence of peaceful
purpose enabling all peoples again to resume their common quest of
just peace. And the free world still holds to that purpose
nations, most solemnly and repeatedly, have assured the Soviet
Union that their firm association has never had any aggressive
purpose whatsoever. Soviet leaders, however, have seemed to
persuade themselves, or tried to persuade their people, otherwise.
And so it has
come to pass that the Soviet Union itself has shared and suffered
the very fears it has fostered in the rest of the world.
This has been
the way of life forged by 8 years of fear and force.
What can the
world, or any nation in it, hope for if no turning is found on
this dread road?
The worst to
be feared and the best to be expected can be simply stated.
The worst is
The best would
be this: a life of perpetual fear and tension; a burden of arms
draining the wealth and the labor of all peoples; a wasting of
strength that defies the American system or the Soviet system or
any system to achieve true abundance and happiness for the peoples
of this earth.
Every gun that
is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in
the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed,
those who are cold and are not clothed.
This world in
arms is not spending money alone.
It is spending
the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes
of its children.
The cost of
one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more
than 30 cities.
It is two
electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population.
It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals.
It is some
fifty miles of concrete pavement.
We pay for a
single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat.
We pay for a
single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than
This is, I
repeat, the best way of life to be found on the road the world has
This is not a
way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of
threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.
and cruel truths define the peril and point the hope that come
with this spring of 1953.
This is one of
those times in the affairs of nations when the gravest choices
must be made, if there is to be a turning toward a just and
It is a moment
that calls upon the governments of the world to speak their
intentions with simplicity and with honesty.
It calls upon
them to answer the question that stirs the hearts of all sane men:
is there no other way the world may live?
knows that an era ended with the death of Joseph Stalin. The
extraordinary 30-year span of his rule saw the Soviet Empire
expand to reach from the Baltic Sea to the Sea of Japan, finally
to dominate 800 million souls.
system shaped by Stalin and his predecessors was born of one World
War. It survived with stubborn and often amazing courage a second
World War. It has lived to threaten a third.
Now a new
leadership has assumed power in the Soviet Union. Its links to the
past, however strong, cannot bind it completely. Its future is, in
great part, its own to make.
leadership confronts a free world aroused, as rarely in its
history, by the will to stay free.
The free world
knows, out of the bitter wisdom of experience, that vigilance and
sacrifice are the price of liberty.
It knows that
the peace and defense of Western Europe imperatively demands the
unity of purpose and action made possible by the North Atlantic
Treaty Organization, embracing a European Defense Community.
It knows that
Western Germany deserves to be a free and equal partner in this
community and that this, for Germany, is the only safe way to
full, final unity.
It knows that
aggression in Korea and in southeast Asia are threats to the whole
free community to be met only through united action.
This is the
kind of free world which the new Soviet leadership confronts. It
is a world that demands and expects the fullest respect of its
rights and interests. It is a world that will always accord the
same respect to all others.
So the new
Soviet leadership now has a precious opportunity to awaken, with
the rest of the world, to the point of peril reached and to help
turn the tide of history.
Will it do
We do not yet
know. Recent statements and gestures of Soviet leaders give some
evidence that they may recognize this critical moment.
every honest act of peace.
nothing for mere rhetoric.
We care only
for sincerity of peaceful purpose attested by deeds. The
opportunities for such deeds are many. The performance of a great
number of them waits upon no complex protocol but only upon the
simple will to do them. Even a few such clear and specific acts,
such as Soviet Union's signature upon an Austrian treaty or its
release of thousands of prisoners still held from World War II,
would be impressive signs of sincere intent. They would carry a
power of persuasion not to be matched by any amount of oratory.
This we do
know: a world that begins to witness the rebirth of trust among
nations can find its way to a peace that is neither partial nor
With all who
will work in good faith toward such a peace, we are ready, with
renewed resolve, to strive to redeem the near-lost hopes of our
great step along this way must be the conclusion of an honorable
armistice in Korea.
This means the
immediate cessation of hostilities and the prompt initiation of
political discussions leading to the holding of free elections in
a united Korea (applause).
mean, no less importantly, an end to the direct and indirect
attacks upon the security of Indochina and Malaya (applause). For
any armistice in Korea that merely released aggressive armies to
attack elsewhere would be a fraud. We seek, throughout Asia as
throughout the world, a peace that is true and total.
Out of this
can grow a still wider task-the achieving of just political
settlements for the other serious and specific issues between the
free world and the Soviet Union.
None of these
issues, great or small, is insoluble-given only the will to
respect the rights of all nations.
Again we say:
the United States is ready to assume its just part.
already done all within our power to speed conclusion of a treaty
with Austria, which will free that country from economic
exploitation and from occupation by foreign troops.
We are ready
not only to press forward with the present plans for closer unity
of the nations of Western Europe but also, upon that foundation,
to strive to foster a broader European community, conducive to the
free movement of persons, of trade, and of ideas.
would include a free and united Germany, with a government based
upon free and secret ballot.
community and the full independence of the East European nations
could mean the end of the present unnatural division of Europe.
As progress in
all these areas strengthens world trust, we could proceed
concurrently with the next great work-the reduction of the burden
of armaments now weighing upon the world. To this end we would
welcome and enter into the most solemn agreements. These could
limitation, by absolute numbers or by an agreed international
ratio, of the sizes of the military and security forces of all
commitment by all nations to set an agreed limit upon that
proportion of total production of certain strategic materials to
be devoted to military purposes.
International control of atomic energy to promote its use for
peaceful purposes only and to insure the prohibition of atomic
limitation or prohibition of other categories of weapons of great
enforcement of all these agreed limitations and prohibitions by
adequate safeguards, including a practical system of inspection
under the United Nations.
The details of
such disarmament programs are manifestly critical and complex.
United States nor any other nation can properly claim to possess a
perfect, immutable formula. But the formula matters less than the
faith-the good faith without which no formula can work justly and
The fruit of
success in all these tasks would present the world with the
greatest task, and the greatest opportunity, of all. It is this:
the dedication of the energies, the resources, and the
imaginations of all peaceful nations to a new kind of war. This
would be a declared total war, not upon any human enemy but upon
the brute forces of poverty and need.
The peace we
seek, founded upon decent trust and cooperative effort among
nations, can be fortified, not by weapons of war but by wheat and
by cotton, by milk and by wool, by meat and timber and rice. These
are words that translate into every language on earth. These are
the needs that challenge this world in arms.
This idea of a
just and peaceful world is not new or strange to us. It inspired
the people of the United States to initiate the European Recovery
Program in 1947. That program was prepared to treat, with equal
concern, the needs of Eastern and Western Europe.
prepared to reaffirm, with the most concrete evidence, our
readiness to help build a world in which all peoples can be
productive and prosperous.
Government is ready to ask its people to join with all nations in
devoting a substantial percentage of any savings achieved by real
disarmament to a fund for world aid and reconstruction. The
purposes of this great work would be to help other peoples to
develop the undeveloped areas of the world, to stimulate
profitable and fair world trade, to assist all peoples to know the
blessings of productive freedom.
to this new war would be roads and schools, hospitals and homes,
food and health.
We are ready,
in short, to dedicate our strength to serving the needs, rather
than the fears, of the world (applause).
I know of
nothing I can add to make plainer the sincere purposes of the
I know of no
course, other than that marked by these and similar actions, that
can be called the highway of peace.
I know of only
one question upon which progress waits. It is this: What is the
Soviet Union ready to do?
answer is, let it be plainly spoken.
Again we say:
the hunger for peace is too great, the hour in history too late,
for any government to mock men's hopes with mere words and
promises and gestures.
Is the new
leadership of the Soviet Union prepared to use its decisive
influence in the Communist world, including control of the flow of
arms, to bring not merely an expedient truce in Korea but genuine
peace in Asia?
Is it prepared
to allow other nations, including those in Eastern Europe, the
free choice of their own form of government?
Is it prepared
to act in concert with others upon serious disarmament proposals?
If not, where
then is the concrete evidence of the Soviet Union's concern for
before all peoples, a precarious chance to turn the black tide of
If we failed
to strive to seize this chance, the judgment of future ages will
be harsh and just.
If we strive
but fail and the world remains armed against itself, it at least
would need be divided no longer in its clear knowledge of who has
condemned humankind to this fate.
The purpose of
the United States, in stating these proposals, is simple. These
proposals spring, without ulterior motive or political passion,
from our calm conviction that the hunger for peace is in the
hearts of all people- those of Russia and of China no less than of
our own country.
to our firm faith that God created man to enjoy, not destroy, the
fruits of the earth and of their own toil.
They aspire to
this: the lifting, from the backs and from the hearts of men, of
their burden of arms and of fears, so that they may find before
them a golden age of freedom and of peace.