Paying Lip Service to Peace: Public Dissent and Foreign Policymaking in the Early Cold War


In 1946, Secretary of Commerce Henry Wallace wrote with concern to President Harry Truman over the direction of postwar US foreign policy. With the continued production of atomic bombs, he wrote, “these actions must make it look to the rest of the world as if we were only paying lip service to peace at the conference table.” Fired for perceived Soviet sympathies expressed in this letter, Wallace was both reviled and lauded for his public criticism of the US position on atomic energy control. The controversy surrounding his dismissal is a crucial example of how the Truman administration reacted to public opposition in the emerging Cold War. This talk will explore the intersection between domestic and foreign policymaking in the atomic age, arguing that Wallace’s dismissal presents one of the earliest examples of hardline anti-Communism that would shape the Cold War for years to come.