Massive Retaliation

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An Aggressive, Offensive Strategy within Massive Retaliation
During the Truman administration, the United States’ strategy towards the Soviet Union and its communist sphere of influence focused on “containment” through conventional military build up that illustrated a defensive outlook. President Eisenhower called for a comprehensive reevaluation of this existing American policy due to cost pressures from the public about peacetime military spending and a growing desire among his National Security advisors for a more proactive approach. This resulted in Secretary of State John Foster Dulles’s “massive retaliation” speech in January of 1954 that adopted a global offensive strategy towards the Soviet Union and the spread of communism, marking a revolutionary transformation in the manner in which the United States had managed its national defense during peacetime. In response to the reactive nature of the current foreign policy outlined in NSC-68 that allowed communism to spread into Asia, the cost-effective solution of massive retaliation enabled the United States to rationalize and downsize its commitments to the Atlantic alliance while still retaining its military strength and without alerting the Soviet Union to its new aggressive and offensive foreign policy.

The United States transformed its peacetime defense policy into an aggressive strategy in recognition of the need for a more proactive approach to drive back the Soviet Union’s sphere of influence after many communist triumphs in the Asia region. Dulles’s “massive retaliation” provided an intensely aggressive foreign policy aimed at intimidating the Soviet Union to its roots and deterring the future spread of communism. With the doctrine of NSC-68, the United States believed that through means of conventional military buildup the Soviet Union and its sphere of influence could be contained within its existing boundaries. NSC-68 called for rearmament, remobilization, and remilitarization of the...
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