While I was looking into the kinds of things that I want to teach about the Cold War, I found a great quote, something that I think tells us a lot about what it meant to be in a Cold War. In April of 1953, while the Korean War was still raging, President Eisenhower plainly stated what the hidden costs of the Cold War were going to be.
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 are simply stated.
The worst is Atomic War
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, and 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 8,000 people. This is, I repeat, the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking.
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. These plain and cruel truths define the peril and point the hope that comes with this spring of 1953.
Along those same lines, here’s video of Eisenhower’s Farewell Address. This is a similar excerpt from the one we discuss in class on Thursday and Friday.