The Cold War

Start Free Trial

In his Farewell Address to the Nation (1961), what does Eisenhower say about the Cold War? And how does Eisenhower's speech reflect Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms" (1941)?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Twenty years after Roosevelt delivered his speech, Eisenhower described the threat of communism:

We face a hostile ideology global in scope, atheistic in character, ruthless in purpose, and insidious in method. Unhappily the danger it poses promises to be of indefinite duration.

Neither Roosevelt nor Eisenhower refers to the Soviets...

This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

or any nations directly; unlike Eisenhower, Roosevelt actually makes reference to nuclear weaponry:

That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny, which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.

In his speech, Roosevelt outlines the following freedoms: freedom of speech and expression; freedom of want; freedom of religion; and freedom of fear. Einsenhower's speech refers to the same freedoms, in different words:

Throughout America's adventure in free government, such basic purposes have been to keep the peace; to foster progress in human achievement, and to enhance liberty, dignity and integrity among peoples and among nations. To strive for less would be unworthy of a free and religious people.

Roosevelt's speech focuses on the four freedoms and is brief compared to Eisenhower's, which comments on a variety of public and private concerns. The Cold War had not yet begun in Roosevelt's time; historians assert that it began between 1946, the year of US diplomat George F. Kennan's "Long Telegram" from Moscow and the Truman Doctrine of 1947. Eisenhower's speech discusses circumstances that arrived in response to the Cold War, specifically the military-industrial complex facilitated by the technological revolution:

But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.

In his address to the nation, Eisenhower stresses that the country should not let this combination risk liberties or democratic processes. He emphasizes the importance of defending the nation's peaceful methods and goals, "so that security and liberty may prosper together." An overall message Eisenhower puts forth is balance, in light of the changes the world has undergone over the century, both in regards to military conflict and technological progress.

Eisenhower asserts that "disarmament, with mutual honor and confidence, is a continuing imperative." Note that he is referring to nuclear disarmament, which was viewed as a worldwide objective. As a result of the Cold War, the US had increased its military spending and defense operations an unprecedented amount, and the country continues to lead in this category: according to the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure program, the US remains the top military spender, having spent $610 billion on its military in 2017, a little over a third of worldwide expenditures.

In his speech, Eisenhower supports reconciliation with the "hostile ideology" and its associated weaponry "not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose." Over the previous decades, the National Security Council had supported amassing weaponry in response to the Soviets having amassed weapons. Diplomatic resolution had always been the desired means of diffusing the conflict; amassing weapons was a defensive tactic deemed necessary as diplomacy stalled.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team