The Eisenhower administration explored but rejected a plan "to end the Cold War by winning it" which would have included creating "the maximum disruption and popular resistance throughout the Soviet bloc," newly declassified documents reveal.
The United States would move with new boldness with "a policy of dynamic political warfare," according to the rejected plan.
The plan was revealed in documents from the early 1950s released yesterday by the State Department, which also revealed that President Dwight D. Eisenhower was not a passive participant in shaping foreign policy, as he often is pictured.
"The president's dominant and activist role in the policy process is evident," a State Department historian said.
There were indications that Eisenhower ordered the option studied for an ulterior motive -- to force the government to take a serious look at the dangers of such a plan and allow for more moderate policies despite the hard-line political climate of the times. That climate was fostered partly by his 1952 election campaign charging the retiring Democratic president, Harry S Truman, with "cowardly" behavior toward the Soviets.
The aggressive anti-Soviet option, studied in secret, was acknowledged to be "a departure from our traditional concepts of war and peace." The option also "would strain our system of alliances . . . ," the documents said.
The plan would "prosecute relentlessly a forward and aggressive political strategy in all fields and by all means: military, economic, diplomatic, covert and propaganda."
By taking this course, its advocates said, the Eisenhower administration could achieve what "are considered the true objectives of the United States: ending Soviet domination outside traditional borders, destroying the communist apparatus in the free world, curtailing Soviet power for aggressive war, ending the Iron Curtain, and cutting down the strength of any Bolshevik elements left in Soviet Russia."
Eisenhower, however, turned away from the "rollback" and "liberation" expectations raised in the election campaign, notably by John Foster Dulles, who became his secretary of state.
The new documents show that, while more moderate policies took root in the administration, the "liberation" expectations did live on in Eastern Europe, where they encouraged the illusion in Hungary in 1956 that the United States might intervene to prevent the Soviet Union from crushing that nation's revolution.
Early in his term, Eisenhower created a series of task forces to chart basic U.S. strategy in a project labeled "Operation Solarium," named for the White House sun room.
The strategies they were assigned to develop amounted to (1) intensification of the containment policy "to give it new confidence, boldness" and greater flexibility, (2) a trip-wire strategy, to invoke the risk of general war against any Soviet attempt, even by local aggression, to advance beyond "a continuous line around the Soviet bloc," and (3) a rollback strategy "to create the maximum disruption and popular resistance throughout the Soviet bloc" and strengthen "the free world to enable it to assume the greater risks involved."
Among other objectives, the rejected rollback plan aimed at achieving a united Germany, "pro-western and rearmed." Some tactics: "concentrate on evils of Soviet system," "hamper consolidation of Soviet control over satellites," and maintain "unrelenting pressure on Soviet leaders on each political issue that arises."
The strategy that finally evolved drew from the more moderate components of the three courses, emerging as a more rhetorically bristling form of "containment."
One of the growing constraints on the administration's options was the expanding capability of the Soviet Union to strike the United States with nuclear weapons.
President Eisenhower is quoted as saying in 1953 that "the only thing worse than losing a global war was winning one; that there would be no individual freedom after the next global war." He asked, "What would we do with Russia, if we should win a global war?"
The new insight on the Eisenhower years was made public by the State Department in the latest of its historical records, "Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952-1954, Volume II, National Security Affairs."