Remembering Ike’s “Chance for Peace” Speech

Early in his presidency, Dwight David Eisenhower, better known as “Ike,” delivered a speech unlike any that had been given by a U.S. president. Known both as the “Chance for Peace” and the “Cross of Iron” speech, in it he lays out plainly the steep costs of war and the encroachment of military spending on domestic priorities. Speaking before the Newspaper Editors’ Association on April 16, 1953, he called on America and the Soviet Union to take a different path, away from the Cold war and its ensuing arms race. Otherwise, the best we could expect was “a life of perpetual fear and tension; a burden of arms draining the wealth and labor of all peoples.” Unfortunately, his warning was not heeded. Spending today on war preparation and war making is at near record levels in the United States, consuming six out of every ten dollars in the discretionary federal budget and crowding out many other areas of human security. Now, 70 years later, fresh ideas for turning the American public away from “the dread road” of militarism, to demand a different political economy – one that is not based on perpetual war – are still desperately needed. Join a conversation with Quincy Institute Senior Research Fellow William Hartung, an expert on the arms industry and the U.S. military budget, and Ike’s granddaughter, Susan Eisenhower, about what motivated Ike to make this speech, why his words went unheeded, how he felt about that missed opportunity, and what we might do today to get on a different path.


Susan Eisenhower

Susan Eisenhower is an expert on national security and related strategic issues. She has brought this work to light in her writing as an essayist, op-ed writer, biographer, and editor. She has authored hundreds of op-eds for newspapers such as The Washington Post, The New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times. Her articles have also appeared in the National Academy of Sciences’ Issues in Science and Technology and the Naval Institute’s Proceedings. Early in her career, she wrote humor for The Saturday Evening Post. Her most recent book has received critical acclaim nationally and internationally: How Ike Led: The Principles Behind Eisenhower’s Biggest Decisions (2020).

William Hartung

William D. Hartung is a senior research fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. His work focuses on the arms industry and the U.S. military budget. He was previously the director of the Arms and Security Program at the Center for International Policy and co-director of the Center’s Sustainable Defense Task Force. He is the author of Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex and co-editor, with Miriam Pemberton of Lessons from Iraq: Avoiding the Next War. His previous books include And Weapons for All, a critique of U.S. arms sales policies from the Nixon through Clinton administrations.