The Cold War continued to rage during the years of the Eisenhower administration in the 1950s. Eisenhower's secretary of state, John Foster Dulles, became the nation's dominant figure during this time. He held a stern moral revulsion to communism and once in power suggested the United States pursue an active program of "liberation" to "rollback" communist expansion. Dulles became known for his "massive retaliation" doctrine which he announced in 1954. The "massive retaliation" doctrine stated that the United States will respond to communist threats to its allies not by using conventional forces but by relying on nuclear weapons. Shortly after this announcement of the doctrine, its policy was tested.
The United States faced a difficult situation in Southeast Asia, where France was trying to regain control of its colony Vietnam. Opposing the French were the powerful nationalist forces of Ho Chi Minh, who was both a committed nationalist and a committed communist.
At first, the Eisenhower administration supported the French. However, in 1954, 12,000 French troops were under siege at the city of Dien Bien Phu. Without American intervention, the French were destined to fail in Vietnam. Dulles argued for American involvement and even explored the use of small nuclear weapons. Despite urgings of Dulles, Eisenhower refused to allow American military intervention in Vietnam. The French defense finally collapsed in May 1954 and the French quickly agreed to a settlement of the conflict that summer. This agreement marked the end of French commitment to Vietnam.
American's foreign policy was tested in Egypt in the 1950s. Their leader, Gamal Abdel Nasser, began to develop a trade relationship with the Soviet Union. In 1956, Dulles punished his friendliness toward the communists by withdrawing American offers to assist in building the great Aswan Dam across the Nile. A week later, Nasser...