|This Week in History
December 6 12, 1953
Eisenhower Presents Atoms for Peace Plan to the United Nations
As he stepped to the podium to address the General Assembly of the United Nations on Dec. 8, 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower knew that the world faced an extremely dangerous situation. Financial elements within the United States and its former allies in World War II, who had originally backed the fascist policies of Hitler and Mussolini, but changed position as Hitler moved west and not eastward, now were reverting to their former ideology. The leadership of the Soviet Union, knowing full well that they had been the fascist utopians' original target, and were so again, were arming to the teeth, especially with nuclear weapons.
President Eisenhower had already gotten a taste of the utopian faction's plans for endless war when he tried to end the Korean conflict. Just as the utopians had used the atomic bomb on Japan when a settlement of the war was already in progress, this time they acted to sabotage the armistice agreement in Korea. Secretary of State John Foster Dulleswhose outlook neatly coincided with the financial backers of the Nazisand President Syngman Rhee of South Korea agreed that the war should continue, and so Rhee freed some 25,000 Korean and Chinese POWs behind the American lines and thus broke the terms of the armistice, to say nothing of endangering the American troops.
Therefore, when he was invited to address the UN General Assembly, Eisenhower took the opportunity to propose a plan that would eliminate the causes of war by using atomic energy for the peaceful purposes of development. The plan was flexible, thus allowing the Russians to gradually join in. Eisenhower opened his speech by reiterating his government's support for the United Nations, and then stated that he would not take "this great opportunity merely to recite, however hopefully, pious platitudes. I therefore decided that this occasion warranted my saying to you some of the things that have been on the minds and hearts of my legislative and executive associates, and on mine, for a great many months; thoughts I had originally planned to say primarily to the American people.
"I know that the American people share my deep belief that if a danger exists in the world, it is a danger shared by all; and equally, that if hope exists in the mind of one nation, that hope should be shared by all. Finally, if there is to be advanced any proposal designed to ease, even by the smallest measure, the tensions of today's world, what more appropriate audience could there be than the members of the General Assembly of the United Nations.
"I feel impelled to speak today in a language that, in a sense, is new, one which I, who have spent so much of my life in the military profession, would have preferred never to use. That new language is the language of atomic warfare....
"On 16 July 1945, the United States set off the world's first atomic explosion. Since that date in 1945, the United States of America has conducted 42 test explosions. Atomic bombs today are more than 25 times as powerful as the weapon with which the atomic age dawned, while the hydrogen weapons are in the ranges of millions of tons of TNT equivalent.
Today, the United States' stockpile of atomic weapons, which, of course, increases daily, exceeds by many times the total [explosive] equivalent of the total of all bombs and all shells that came from every plane, and every gun, in every theater of war, in all of the years of the World War II.
"A single air group, whether afloat or land-based, can now deliver to any reachable target a destructive cargo exceeding in power all the bombs that fell on Britain in all of World War II. In size and variety, the development of atomic weapons has been no less remarkable. The development has been such that atomic weapons have virtually achieved conventional status within our armed services. In the United States, the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and the Marine Corps are all capable of putting this weapon to military use. But the dread secret and engines of atomic might are not ours alone.
"In the first place, the secret is possessed by our friends and allies, Great Britain and Canada, whose scientific genius made a tremendous contribution to our original discoveries and the designs of atomic bombs. The secret is also known by the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union has informed us that, over the recent years, it has devoted extensive resources to atomic weapons. During this period, the Soviet Union has exploded a series of atomic devices, including at least one involving thermonuclear reactions.
"If, at one time, the United States possessed what might have been called a monopoly of atomic power, that monopoly ceased to exist several years ago.
"Therefore, although our earlier start has permitted us to accumulate what is today a great quantitative advantage, the atomic realities of today comprehend two facts of even greater significance. First, the knowledge now possessed by several nations will eventually be shared by others, possibly all others.
"Second, even a vast superiority in numbers of weapons, and a consequent capability of devastating retaliation, is not preventive, of itself, against the fearful material damage and toll of human lives that would be inflicted by surprise aggression....
"Should such an atomic attack be launched against the United States, our reactions would be swift and resolute. But for me to say that the defense capabilities of the United States are such that they could inflict terrible losses upon an aggressor, for me to say that the retaliation capabilities of the United States are so great that such an aggressor's land would be laid waste, all this, while fact, is not the true expression of the purpose and the hope of the United States.
"To pause there would be to confirm the hopeless finality of a belief that two atomic colossi are doomed malevolently to eye each other indefinitely across a trembling world. To stop there would be to accept helplessly the probability of civilization destroyed, the annihilation of the irreplaceable heritage of mankind handed down to us generation from generation, and the condemnation of mankind to begin all over again the age-old struggle upward from savagery towards decency, and right, and justice. Surely no sane member of the human race could discovery victory in such desolation.
"Could anyone wish his name to be coupled by history with such human degradation and destruction? Occasional pages of history do record the faces of the 'great destroyers,' but the whole book of history reveals mankind's never-ending quest for peace and mankind's God-given capacity to build.
"It is with the book of history, and not with isolated pages, that the United States will ever wish to be identified. My country wants to be constructive, not destructive. It wants agreements, not wars, among nations. It wants itself to live in freedom and in the confidence that the people of every other nation enjoy equally the right of choosing their own way of life....
"In this quest, I know that we must not lack patience. I know that in a world divided, such as ours today, salvation cannot be attained by one dramatic act. I know that many steps will have to be taken over many months before the world can look at itself one day and truly realize that a new climate of mutually peaceful confidence is abroad in the world. But I know, above all else, that we must start to take these stepsnow....
"The United States would seek more than the mere reduction or elimination of atomic materials for military purposes. It is not enough to take this weapon out of the hands of the soldiers. It must be put into the hands of those who will know how to strip its military casing and adapt it to the arts of peace....
"To hasten the day when fear of the atom will begin to disappear from the minds of people and the governments of the East and West, there are certain steps that can be taken now. I therefore make the following proposal.
"The governments principally involved, to the extent permitted by elementary prudence, begin now and continue to make joint contributions from their stockpiles of normal uranium and fissionable materials to an international atomic energy agency. We would expect that such an agency would be set up under the aegis of the United Nations....
"The United States is prepared to undertake these explorations in good faith. Any partner of the United States acting in the same good faith will find the United States a not unreasonable or ungenerous associate. Undoubtedly, initial and early contributions to this plan would be small in quantity. However, the proposal has the great virtue that it can be undertaken without the irritations and mutual suspicions incident to any attempt to set up a completely acceptable system of world-wide inspection and control.
"The atomic energy agency could be made responsible for the impounding, storage and protection of the contributed fissionable and other materials....
"The more important responsibility of this atomic energy agency would be to devise methods whereby this fissionable material would be allocated to serve the peaceful pursuits of mankind. Experts would be mobilized to apply atomic energy to the needs of agriculture, medicine and other peaceful activities. A special purpose would be to provide abundant electrical energy in the power-starved areas of the world....
"Against the dark background of the atomic bomb, the United States does not wish merely to present strength, but also the desire and the hope for peace. The coming months will be fraught with fateful decisions. In this Assembly, in the capitals and military headquarters of the world, in the hearts of men everywhere, be they governed or governors, may they be the decisions which will lead this world out of fear and into peace.
"To the making of these fateful decisions, the United States pledges before you, and therefore before the world, its determination to help solve the fearful atomic dilemmato devote its entire heart and mind to find the way by which the miraculous inventiveness of man shall not be dedicated to his death, but consecrated to his life.
"I again thank the delegates for the great honor they have done me in inviting me to appear before them and in listening to me so courteously."