Description

    Eisenhower on the topic of nuclear arms: "Never has the matter ceased troubling me"

    Dwight D. Eisenhower Typed Letter Signed. Two pages on White House letterhead, 7.25" x 10.5", Washington, August 6, 1956. Addressed to Norman Cousins and marked "PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL" at top and bottom of each page. Eisenhower writes to thank Cousins for sending him a copy of his editorial in the Saturday Review about the dangers of the nuclear arms race, and writes in great detail about his own thoughts on the topic. In part:

    ... I see that you have expressed in powerful and persuasive terms some of the great dangers facing the individual - which means civilization - and the need for that same individual to do something about it. I started thinking along these lines when I learned that the first atomic bomb had been successfully tested in 1945 and that the United States planned to use it against a Japanese city. Never has the matter ceased troubling me...

    ...It seems to be an historical fact that when a people become strong, prosperous, and on the whole contended with their lot, it becomes very difficult to reach them with an idea that requires them to think of unpleasant possibilities or to undertake the work and effort required to eliminate such possibilities.

    There is, moreover, one other disturbing fact that you do not mention, even though you are possibly aware of it. This fact is that there is no presently known method by which could be uncovered, and counted, even sizeable numbers of hydrogen and other bombs already manufactured and deliberately concealed. It is possible, with the consent of the manufacturing country for rigid inspection, to keep rather close track of new fissionable material produced, as well as its use. Here you find the reason why certain of my disarmament proposals have talked about uses of fissionable material produced in the future rather than about that already manufactured into bombs. I am sure you would agree that a disarmament agreement with the Soviets, with which we would strictly comply and which they could easily evade, would be worse than none at all. This would be true of either a bilateral or a collective treaty...

    Dwight Eisenhower

    Eisenhower had hoped to make a deal with the Russians that would cease the manufacture of nuclear weapons and instead promote the use of fissionable materials for non-violent purposes (such as power generation). Unfortunately, suspicions on both sides led to fail negotiations, with neither side wishing to allow inspections. Once Russia successfully tested the hydrogen bomb in 1955, they had less motivation to negotiate; which conversely increased reliance on nuclear weapons in the U.S.

    Although President Eisenhower agreed with Cousins and saw the clear benefits of nuclear test bans and disarmament agreements, his army background made him aware of the potential dangers of falling behind the Soviet Union in military strength. Ex. Norman Cousins Estate.

    Condition: Toned along bottom edge, usual mail folds are present. Small area of soiling at top of first page, else fine. Signature is bold and clear.


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    October, 2017
    19th Thursday
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