George Kennan, in an interview published by the New York Times Magazine, affirmed the proposition that it is better to be “Red than dead.” Since the end of World War II the United States has been engaged in a successful effort to demonstrate that the choice thus implied is wrong. We have demonstrated, at least to date, that it is not necessary to be either “Red or dead“; it has been possible both to remain free and to avoid a nuclear war. The essential task is to continue so to do.
In the last half of the 1950's, at the time of Sputnik, serious doubts arose as to whether a time would shortly arise when that issue—“Red or dead“—could become serious. It had not been a serious choice during the period when we had a nuclear monopoly, or even when we had an overwhelming and stable nuclear deterrent. But with the Soviet development of ICBMs, the technological practicality of which was first demonstrated by Sputnik, it became possible, perhaps probable, that the “better Red than dead” issue would arise in all seriousness in a few years.