Eisenhower's "Cross of Iron" Speech
President Dwight D. Eisenhower
General Eisenhower as Supreme Allied Commander during World War II
Backstory and Context
Though it was given in front of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the speech was broadcast nationwide using television and radio. Because of the Korean War the United States defense spending accounted for nearly 14% of the gross domestic product. In this speech, Eisenhower stated that "humanity [is] hanging from a cross of iron" if we prioritize building weapons over taking care of people.
He noted that in addition to military dangers, an arms race would place a domestic burden on both countries. Eisenhower talked of future peace and goals to unify Germany, removing occupying forces in Austria and minimizing what both sides would lose when spending so much of their wealth on armaments. He spoke of the consequences of putting so much effort into building weapons when that same effort could be put to better use feeding people. As a former general, he was supportive of a strong national defense, but he also hoped to reduce military spending so there could be an increase in funding for domestic programs.
Despite the optimistic ideas presented in his speech, the Cold War escalated during Eisenhower's time in office. The Soviet Union had developed their atomic programs and appeared to reach military parity with the United States. This led political forces in Washington to call for increased defense spending and a more aggressive approach. Unfortunately, this would result in the prolonging and intensification of the Cold War for decades to come.
"The Cost of Modern War" U.S. News. Accessed December 4, 2014. http://www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/robert-schlesinger/2013/04/16/updating-eisenhowers-chance-for-peace-speech "50 years later, we're still ignoring Ike's warning" The Washington Post. Accessed December 4, 2014. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/14/AR2011011404915.html “The Chance for Peace Address" Eisenhower Archives. Accessed December 4, 2014. http://www.eisenhower.archives.gov/all_about_ike/speeches/chance_for_peace.pdf Bill Buzenberg, "A Half Century Later, Another Warning in Eisenhower Address Rings True", The Center for Public Integrity, January 17, 2011.