Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Lippmann, Walter (1889–1974)

Title: Walter Lippmann
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Prominent American writer, journalist, columnist, and foreign policy pundit who helped popularize the term "Cold War." Born on 23 September 1889 in New York City, the son of a successful clothing manufacturer, Walter Lippmann graduated from Harvard University in 1909 and began a storied career in journalism and public policy, writing extensively for the New Republic (which he founded), the New York World, and the New York Herald Tribune. He achieved his greatest exposure and influence, however, as a columnist for the Washington Post and Newsweek magazine. His newspaper column "Today and Tomorrow" was syndicated in more than 250 papers around the world, and his sensible, lucid writing style earned him two Pulitzer Prizes, not to mention a devoted audience of readers.

In his 1947 book The Cold War, Lippmann instantly popularized the term used to describe the state of hostility between the United States and the Soviet Union. He proposed that rather than relying on military might alone to contain the Soviet Union, the Cold War should be fought by consolidating and unifying the Atlantic community through economic integration, including programs such as the 1947 Marshall Plan.

Although generally considered to be a foreign policy realist, Lippmann opposed George F. Kennan's doctrine of containment as unrealistic and unsustainable. Lippmann argued that the doctrine compelled the United States to adopt a reactive foreign policy, putting it at a strategic disadvantage. He also questioned the wisdom of extending security commitments to unreliable client states and putative anticommunist movements within states. He criticized the Truman Doctrine as overly militaristic.

By the mid-1960s, Lippmann's warnings proved quite prescient. He opposed American military intervention in support of the Republic of Vietnam (RVN, South Vietnam), which he saw as a manifestation of the inherent flaws of the containment policy. He lamented President Lyndon B. Johnson's decisions that had transposed Vietnam into an American war and predicted that U.S. intervention would ultimately divide America as the number of casualties rose.

Lippmann retired from journalism in 1967, at the height of a public standoff with Johnson, although he continued to contribute to Newsweek and grant interviews. Lippmann died in New York City on 14 December 1974.

Christopher A. Preble


Further Reading
Lippmann, Walter. The Cold War: A Study in U.S. Foreign Policy. New York: Harper and Row, 1972.; Steel, Ronald. Walter Lippmann and the American Century. Boston: Little, Brown, 1980.
 

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