Massive Retaliation

  • Lawrence FreedmanEmail author
  • Jeffrey Michaels


President Harry Truman accepted that the diminishing credibility of a nuclear strategy argued for enhanced conventional forces. His successor, President Dwight Eisenhower, was unconvinced that a military build-up was either affordable or strategically necessary. During 1953, his first year of office, US strategic options were reviewed in a project known as ‘Solarium’. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles reported the results in January 1954 in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations. The new doctrine he reported was described as the ‘New Look’, after the latest trends in women’s fashion, and came to be known as ‘massive retaliation’. It was widely assumed to be founded on an indiscriminate threat to respond to any communist-inspired aggression, however marginal the confrontation. This would take the form of a massive nuclear strike against the centres of the Soviet Union and China.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of War StudiesKing’s College LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.Department of Defence StudiesKing’s College LondonLondonUK

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