Foreign Policy in Political Campaigns

February 2, 1956

Report Outline
Campaign Maneuvering on Foreign Policy
Foreign Affairs Debates in Peace and War
Partisanship and Bipartisanship, 1952 and 1956

Campaign Maneuvering on Foreign Policy

American foreign policy—a controversial political issue in 1952—has again moved into the forefront of partisan debate as the country gets into gear for another presidential contest. Despite talk of a truce on discussion of foreign affairs during the 1956 campaign, political controversy has been rising over the manner in which the nation should discharge its responsibilities as leader of the free world.

By linking peace abroad to prosperity at home, and citing maintenance of the two as a major reason for returning Republicans to power, the party in control of the Executive Branch has made the policies to which it attributes peace inevitably a subject of campaign discussion. Recently, moreover, a Cabinet official had a hand in putting foreign policy squarely into politics. A magazine article based on interviews with Secretary of State Dulles apparently was calculated to add luster to the Eisenhower administration's record in foreign affairs. However, some of the statements attributed to Dulles backfired. Leading Democrats fanned the political flames by assailing the Secretary for what they considered reckless readiness to take the nation to “the brink of war.”

Another controversy was stirred up about the same time by Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway, former Army chief of staff. He asserted, also in a magazine article, that reductions in expenditures decreed in the “new-look” defense budget a year after President Eisenhower took office were based on “advantages to be gained in the field of domestic politics.” Both the Dulles and the Ridgway controversies raised questions about the soundness of the administration's foreign and defense policies and about the propriety of subjecting such matters to the rough and tumble of campaign exchanges.

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