Trump answers questions from reporters about impeachment and Iran at the White House, January 2020
Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

Shortly after taking office, U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower gathered senior advisers in the White House solarium to discuss policy toward the Soviet Union. In attendance was his hawkish secretary of state, John Foster Dulles, who had been a vocal critic of Harry Truman’s policy of containment and instead advocated an offensive policy whereby the United States would seek to “roll back” Soviet influence across Europe and Asia.

Afternoon light from the southern exposure would have contrasted with the darkening mood inside the White House. Diplomacy to end the Korean War was deadlocked. The United States was entering a nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union. Joseph Stalin was dead, but Eisenhower’s calls for dialogue with Moscow had gone unanswered. Defense spending seemed unsustainable. 

“The Reds today have the better position,” Dulles argued. Containment was proving “fatal” for the West. (Dulles had recently fired career diplomat George

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  • BRETT H. McGURK served in senior national security positions under Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump. He is now the Frank E. and Arthur W. Payne Distinguished Lecturer at Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute and a Non-Resident Senior Fellow at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
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