McCarthyism and Eisenhower's State Department, 1953-1961
The public anti-communist campaign of Senator Joseph McCarthy had a lasting impact on the conduct of U.S. foreign relations, particularly among professional diplomatic institutions like the State Department and its Foreign Service personnel, and McCarthyism did not disappear with the senator's censure in 1954. The "ism" in a broad sense was a set of ideas not only about internal subversion but also about the outside world, including a simplistic, isolationist anti-communism and a deep suspicion about social reform movements abroad. It stood in open opposition to a more complex, even accommodating, view of communism.Instead of ending the hunt for subversives begun under Truman, Eisenhower made the search systematic, universal, and more broadly defined. McCarthyist Scott McLeod took over security and personnel functions of the State Department and became one of the most famous and despised men in the executive branch. McLeod brought McCarthyist methods and assumptions to bear in ridding the department of what he defined as security risks. Oral history sources provide key evidence for the destructive atmosphere within the department in these years, and they shed valuable light on McLeod's impact on the foreign affairs bureaucracy.In the short term, the Foreign Service declined in morale, prestige, and influence. By 1954, professionally trained diplomacy, with nuanced, internationalist views lost ground to more simplistic, strictly anticommunist views. During Eisenhower's second term, the Foreign Service and the more moderate approach experienced a resurgence but still faced opposition from hard- liners who survived the McCarthy years.The Latin American branch of the department embodied the changes in professional diplomacy towards one region of the world. Within the division were the institutionalized tensions of the Eisenhower administration, between career diplomats and political appointees, conservative and moderate anti-communists, and trained diplomats and other specialists. The U.S. embassy in Cuba showed this internal conflict in a microcosm, as the administration's response to Latin American revolution evolved after 1954. McCarthyism accompanied Eisenhower into office, and its effects continued into his last foreign policy crisis and beyond.
- History