The Cold War

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In his Farewell Address to the Nation (1961), what did Eisenhower say about the Cold War? How did his message reflect the ideas from George Kennan's "Long Telegram" (1946) and National Security Council 68 (1950)?

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George Kennan’s “Long Telegram” to the State Department in Washington in 1946 was one of the main influences associated with the beginning of the Cold War, along with the Truman Doctrine in 1947; Kennan’s document contained US foreign policy toward the communist state and preceded the Truman Doctrine policy outlining containment of Soviet expansion.

Kennan’s “Long Telegram” was released less than a year after Roosevelt’s death. Kennan perceived Roosevelt’s interactions with Joseph Stalin to be overly friendly and cooperative. According to Kennan’s document, the Soviet Union did not view “permanent peaceful coexistence” with the US and its allies as realistic. Kennan ultimately concluded that the Soviets would resort to instigating a “deadly struggle for total destruction of rival power.” Note that, although Kennan disagreed with Roosevelt’s methods of interaction with Stalin, he did echo Roosevelt’s thoughts in terms of the insidious nature of communism, as well as its dangers. In reference to communism, Roosevelt said in his speech:

A revolution which goes on steadily, quietly adjusting itself to changing conditions—without the concentration camp or the quick-lime in the ditch.

In the wake of the Holocaust, and given definitive similarities between elements of Nazism and communism (specifically, nationalism, anti-liberalism, and anti-Semitism), Roosevelt believed similar methods of violence could result from Stalin’s rule. The threat of communism was in direct conflict with each of the four freedoms Roosevelt outlined in his speech, particularly freedom of speech and expression. The most immediate freedom in jeopardy was that from fear; according to Roosevelt:

Freedom from fear—which, translated into world terms, means a worldwide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor—anywhere in the world.

While Roosevelt proposed a greater focus on peace by means of diplomacy, Kennan concluded that weaponry development was the appropriate means of responding to the amassing of weaponry by the communist state. The proposed tactic contained in Kennan’s document was one of the key influences on the US response to the communist threat, which resulted in the amassing of weaponry (including nuclear arms).

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