RESEARCH DOCUMENT : Eisenhower Concluded Neither U.S. Military Operations Nor Popular Uprisings Were Feasible in Soviet-Controlled Eastern Europe, Despite “Rollback” Rhetoric

President Dwight D. Eisenhower (right) with Secretary of State
John Foster Dulles: architects of a foreign policy identified with rhetorical
calls for anti-Communist “rollback” but characterized more accurately by James
Conant’s famous dictum to “keep the pot simmering.” (Photo credit: unknown)

Eisenhower Concluded Neither U.S.
Military Operations Nor Popular Uprisings Were Feasible in Soviet-Controlled
Eastern Europe, Despite “Rollback” Rhetoric

CIA’s Dulles Agreed: “You Don’t
Revolt in the Face of Tanks, Artillery and Tear Gas; Revolutions Are Now at the

Unpublished DOD Draft History
Explores U.S. Attempts to “Keep the Pot Simmering”

February 28, 2017

Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 581

by Dr. Ronald D. Landa

more information:, 202.994.7000

D.C. February 28, 2017
– President Dwight D. Eisenhower ruled out military
intervention in Eastern Europe early in his administration, despite campaign
rhetoric about rolling back world Communism, according to a U.S. Defense
Department draft history published today by the National Security Archive. Fear
of provoking war with the Soviet Union drove the decision, the study finds,
based on research in a variety of government and public sources.

Short of
direct intervention, U.S. options were frustratingly limited, according to the
document, which focuses on the Eisenhower administration’s internal debates and
the broader military dimensions of U.S. policy toward the region during the
1950s. Even as committed a cold warrior as CIA Director Allen Dulles ruefully
concluded, “You don’t have civil uprisings in a modern totalitarian state
… you don’t revolt in the face of tanks, artillery and tear gas. Revolutions
are now at the top ….”

Just three
years later, the Hungarian revolution briefly caused Dulles and many other U.S.
officials to change their minds – before Soviet tanks finally moved in and
crushed any hopes of lasting change for the next three decades.

Today’s posting covers the period leading up to the Hungarian revolt of 1956.
The author is Dr. Ronald D. Landa, formerly with the State Department’s Office
of the Historian and the Historical Office of the Office of the Secretary of
Defense. This is the second of three studies he prepared for the OSD during
2011 and early 2012. They were declassified over the next few years, albeit
with a number of passages left heavily excised.

The National
Security Archive is grateful to Dr. Landa for making these documents available
so that they could become part of the ongoing scholarly exploration of a
crucial period of the Cold War.


The challenge
in writing this study, which covers an entire region over a period of several
years, was to describe adequately the instances of unrest leading to the
Hungarian Revolution as well as the key U.S. policy papers, but to avoid
focusing too heavily on any single instance or paper.  The subject
obviously deserves treatment in greater depth.

Drawing on
previously unavailable and under-utilized source material, I tried to approach
certain subthemes from a fresh angle.  These include the ambiguity
inherent in overall U.S. policy, the 1952 presidential election campaign, CIA
capabilities in Eastern Europe, the 1953 East German uprising, the decision to
publish Khrushchev’s secret speech, the Poznan disturbances of June 1956, and
the revision that summer and early fall of U.S. policy toward the region.

Ronald D.


Document 1

Successful Recipe: The United States and East European Unrest prior to the 1956
Hungarian Revolution”

Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense

historical study by Dr. Ronald D. Landa of U.S. policy toward Eastern Europe in
the 1950s