Eisenhower and the Missile Gap.

Author:SCOTT, JAMES M.
Position:Review
 
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PETER J. ROMAN, Eisenhower and the Missile Gap (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1995), 208 + pp. $35.00 cloth (ISBN 0-8014-2797-5).

Making thorough use of recently declassified documents, Peter J. Roman has produced a carefully researched analysis of the strategic nuclear policy making during the missile gap period (1957-60) of the Eisenhower administration. His purpose is to identify the administration's choices and processes and to provide "an evaluation that informs both the general literature on presidential power in foreign policy-making and perspectives on the Eisenhower presidency" (p. 3). Roman does so through a sequential analysis of intelligence assessments of the Soviet missile program (chapter 2), the administration's attempts to formulate a national strategy but still control defense spending (chapter 3), and the impact of these efforts on the nature, size, and manner of defense spending and nuclear force deployments (chapters 4-5).

Substantively, Roman's analysis is rich and detailed, providing numerous insights. For example, after carefully describing the formulation of intelligence estimates and threat assessment, which were consistently exaggerated during the period, the author concludes that "inaccuracies in intelligence estimates can be attributed to a weak data base, erroneous assumptions in analysis, and poor coordination within the intelligence community" (p. 30), not systematic bias within the military and intelligence bureaucracies (although the services produced estimates that reinforced their own preferences in nuclear force acquisition and deployment; see, e.g., pp. 44, 46). Roman also argues that the "worst-case scenarios" generated by the administration (and others) derived from the combination of the "inflated intelligence estimates of Soviet missile deployment, inadequate attack warning systems, and the U.S. strategic force posture" (p. 60). In addition, his examination of the administration's decision to continue its strategy of "massive retaliation," along with the targeting doctrine and nuclear force posture on which it would rest, reveals that the continuation of existing policies masked a substantial and sometimes heated policy debate. This dispute occurred both within the administration (heavily conditioned by organizational interests and interservice rivalries) and between the administration and members of Congress. Roman concludes that Eisenhower opted to retain massive retaliation for both...

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