Eisenhower's Atoms for Peace
Presidential Studies - Rhetoric
5.5 x 8.5, 184 pp.
1 b&w photo. Frontis.
Pub Date: 09/23/2002
Library of Presidential Rhetoric
Price:        $14.95

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Published by Texas A&M University Press

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Eisenhower's Atoms for Peace

By Ira Chernus

In his “Atoms for Peace” speech of 1953, President Dwight David Eisenhower captured the tensions—and the ironies—of the atomic age. While nuclear devastation threatened all nations, Eisenhower believed only nuclear preparedness offered protection; while nuclear weapons loomed as the ultimate war cloud, nuclear power offered progress and hope.

In this thought-provoking consideration of Eisenhower’s speech and others leading up to it, Ira Chernus views the “Atoms for Peace” speech, presented to the General Assembly of the United Nations, not merely as a legitimation of American foreign policy but as itself an act of policy. Indeed, he frames the policy in a new interpretation of Eisenhower’s broad discursive goal, which he calls “apocalypse management,” a plan to allow the United States to manage threats and crises around the world.

Chernus sheds new light on the internal consistency of Eisenhower’s thought, which many observers have found inconsistent, as well as on the ways in which the president’s rhetoric backed him into a policy corner he had not intended to occupy. Chernus also reviews the domestic impact of the speech through a detailed examination of media interpretations in the United States.

This tightly reasoned, clearly written study offers a new understanding of the evolution of cold war nuclear policy, the power of presidential rhetoric, and the political understanding of America’s “man of peace,” Dwight David Eisenhower. The full text of Eisenhower's speech is presented in the text. Those interested in American foreign policy will find it compelling reading; scholars and students will find it challenging and rewarding analysis.

IRA CHERNUS is a professor of religious studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Trained in philosophy and religious studies, with a Ph.D. from Temple University, he has focused on the rhetoric and symbolic import of nuclear weapons and U.S. foreign policy. He is co-director of the Peace and Conflict Studies Program at the University of Colorado and a frequent columnist for the History News Service.

What Readers Are Saying:

“...this book is a refreshing and interesting effort to examine the motives behind Eisenhower’s ‘Atoms for Peace’ speech . . . Chernus’s thorough analysis of Eisenhower’s discursive construction of peace and war enhances our understanding of the philosophical and religious ideas behind Eisenhower’s ‘Atoms for Peace.’” --Journal of Cold War Studies

“Eisenhower scholars and others interested in the evolution of U.S. nuclear disarmament policy will look forward to the completion of his study.” --The Historian

“Chernus’s book offers much of value, especially his fascinating discussion of the Eisenhower administration’s efforts to manage public fear. On the whole, Eisenhower’s Atoms for Peace provides an insightful addition to the literature on nuclear strategy during the 1950s.” --Technology and Culture

“. . . Chernus’s historical review of the speechwriting process is insightful. . . . useful to scholars interested in issues of war and peace specifically and in ideological discourse in general.” --Quarterly Journal of Speech


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