Book Discussion: The Truth Is Our Weapon: The Rhetorical Diplomacy of Dwight D. Eisenhower And John Foster Dulles

November 15, 2006 // 3:00pm4:30pm
Event Co-sponsors: 
History and Public Policy Program

5th Floor Conference Room
Woodrow Wilson Center
1300 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20004

From the Publisher:
President Dwight D. Eisenhower and his secretary of state, John Foster Dulles, deployed a tactic Chris Tudda calls "rhetorical diplomacy"—sounding a belligerent note of anti-Communism in speeches, addresses, press conferences, and private meetings with allies and with Moscow. Yet all the while, Tudda discloses, the two were confidentially committed to a contradictory course—the establishment of a strong system of collective security in Western Europe, peaceful accommodation of the Soviet Union, and the maintenance of a new, albeit divided Germany.

Tudda explores the Eisenhower administration's pursuit of these two mutually exclusive diplomatic strategies and reveals how failure to reconcile them endangered the fragile peace of the 1950s. He builds his argument through three case studies: the administration's badgering the French and their allies to ratify the European Defense Community, its threat to liberate Eastern Europe from Moscow's rule, and its forcing the issue of German reunification. By emphasizing the threat from the Soviet Union, Eisenhower and Dulles were trying to promote an activist as opposed to isolationist foreign policy. But their rhetorical diplomacy intensified Cold War tensions with European allies as well as with Moscow and effectively overwhelmed the administration's true diplomatic aims.

Based on American, British, Eastern European, and Soviet primary sources—many only recently unearthed—The Truth Is Our Weapon is a major contribution to the historiography of Eisenhower's diplomacy and an important statement about the implications of public and private policymaking.

Chris Tudda is a Historian in the Declassification and Publishing Division in the Office of the Historian, Department of State, where he coordinates the declassification of manuscripts for the Foreign Relations of the United States series. He is also responsible for producing the Office's internet-only publications and has been a member of the Organizing Committee for the Offices two scholarly conferences on the 1967 Arab-Israeli War (2004) and the 1971 South Asia Crisis (2005). He chaired a panel at the Office's September 2006 conference, "Transforming the Cold War: The U. S. and China, 1969-1980." He earned a B.A. from the University of Vermont in 1987 and the Ph.D. from American University in 2002. He is the author of The Truth is our Weapon: The Rhetorical Diplomacy of Dwight D. Eisenhower and John Foster Dulles, which was published by Louisiana State University in April 2006. In June 2006 he was named to the Advisory Board of the Voices of Democracy Project, a web-based teaching program for American undergraduates that promotes the study of great speeches and debates, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities. His article "Re-enacting the Story of Tantalus: Eisenhower, Dulles, and the Failure of the Rhetoric of Liberation" was published in the fall 2005 edition of the Journal of Cold War Studies. Another article, "A Messiah that will Never Come: British Reconciliation Efforts, American Independence, and Revolutionary War Diplomacy" is under consideration at Diplomatic History. He is currently working on a reassessment of American Revolutionary Diplomacy and a history of Nixon's Opening to China.

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  • Christian F. Ostermann // Director, History and Public Policy Program; Global Europe; Cold War International History Project; North Korea Documentation Project; Nuclear Proliferation International History Project
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