The power of doing nothing is prescient from Cold Warriors to the present-day conflicts between major powers. In an essay on the virtues of caution in global politics and the reimagined strength of Dwight Eisenhower, Sam Tanenhaus astutely observes that “many decisions remembered today for their farsighted, tactical brilliance were denounced in their day as weak-willed.”
This approach can be seen as a pragmatic form of realism–but not the strategic-style of politics that played out through the 19th and 20th centuries in the West.
Lippmann, a dean of foreign policy realism, argued that policy should be made in the spirit of pragmatism, rather than as a global crusade against Communism that would require the headache, or worse, of “recruiting, subsidizing and supporting a heterogeneous array of satellites, clients, dependents and puppets.”
In fact the costliest maneuvers — chess-piece gambits in Korea and Vietnam — backfired, increasing tensions abroad even as they shook public confidence at home.
Overheated rhetoric often contributed to trouble. In 1952, Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected on a Republican platform that promised to replace the Communist containment strategy of President Harry S. Truman with a more aggressive “liberation” policy that would seize the initiative from the Soviet Union.