Date: Mon, 8 Jun 1998 14:32:34 EDT
From: Allan Metcalf
Subject: Man the ships

Looks like we need some clarification here from _America in So Many Words_ by
David K. Barnhart and Allan A. Metcalf, published recently by Houghton
Mifflin. Here's the entry for 1956:

1956 Brinkmanship

How do you fight a war without going to war? After ten years of COLD WAR
(1946) with the Soviet Union, that was a paradox we were still trying to
resolve. But President Eisenhower's secretary of state, John Foster Dulles,
had no doubts about it. "The ability to get to the verge without getting into
the war is the necessary art," Dulles said in an interview early in 1956. "If
you cannot master it, you inevitably get into war. If you try to run away from
it, if you are scared to go to the brink, you are lost."
There was good reason to be scared. Both the United States and the Union of
Soviet Socialist Republics were armed and dangerous. The United States had
tested its first hydrogen bomb in 1952, the U.S.S.R. in 1953. Both sides had
long-range aircraft to deliver the bombs. Neither side was deterred by the
fear of nuclear winter (1983), an idea whose time would not come for thirty
more years. In classrooms, the best we could do for our schoolchildren was to
hold "duck and cover" drills so they could practice shielding themselves from
the flash and blast of a distant atomic bomb.
Not every American favored going to the brink. Former governor Adlai
Stevenson of Illinois, who would again be nominated as the Democratic
candidate to run against Eisenhower, criticized Dulles in a speech in February
1956: "No, we hear the Secretary of State boasting of his brinkmanship--the
art of bringing us to the edge of the nuclear abyss."
That word brinkmanship was modeled on the gamesmanship of Stephen Potter's
1947 book, The Theory and Practice of Gamesmanship or the Art of Winning Games
Without Really Cheating. The sporting and humorous connotations of the suffix
-manship applied to such a serious subject imply that the practitioner of
brinkmanship is playing with catastrophe. Though the cold war is over, high-
risk politics is not, and brinkmanship has remained a vivid word to describe