In April 1953 United States president Dwight D. Eisenhower addressed a meeting of American newspaper editors in Washington DC. Eisenhower’s ‘Chance for Peace’ speech criticised both Soviet aggression and the resultant build up of armaments – while pleading for a new direction in international relations:
“President Bryan, distinguished guests of this Association and ladies and gentlemen – I am happy to be here… This occasion calls for my first formal address to the American people since assuming the office of the presidency just 12 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 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 eight 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 centre of Europe. They were triumphant comrades in arms. Their peoples shared the joyous prospect of building, in honour 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 power.
This common purpose lasted an instant and perished. The nations of the world divided to follow two distinct roads. 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.
First, no 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 justice.
Second, no nation’s security and well being can be lastingly achieved in isolation but only in effective cooperation with fellow-nations.
Third, every nation’s right to a form of government and an economic system of its own choosing is inalienable.
Fourth, any 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 true peace. 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.
The Soviet 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 neighbour 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 been ironic…
The free 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 eight 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 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 labourers, 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 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 come with this spring of 1953…
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.
We are prepared to reaffirm, with the most concrete evidence, our readiness to help build a world in which all peoples can be productive and prosperous. This 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.
The monuments 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. I know of nothing I can add to make plainer the sincere purposes of the United States. 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?
Whatever the answer is, let it be plainly spoken.”