Acheson's attempts to dissociate the United States from the Nationalist Chinese regime in Taiwan drew relentless attacks from congressmen of his own party as well as Republicans; his support of U.S. military commitments to South Korea also aroused much criticism. Moreover, his unwillingness to condemn Alger Hiss brought personal abuse as well as attacks on his handling of loyalty and security policy at the Dept. of State. Returning to private practice in 1953, Acheson remained a Democratic spokesman on foreign policy and exerted considerable influence on the Kennedy administration. He wrote A Democrat Looks at His Party (1955), A Citizen Looks at Congress (1957), Power and Diplomacy (1958), Fragments of My Fleece (1971), and three autobiographical works, Morning and Noon (1965), Present at the Creation (1969), and Grapes from Thorns (1972).
See biographies by G. Smith (1972), D. S. McLellan (1976), D. Brinkley (1992), J. Chace (1998), and R. L. Beisner (2006).
The other school included men like Secretary of State James Byrnes, who felt that the US monopoly on atomic weapons had been honestly gained, and should not be surrendered. In their view, the USSR understood only power, and could only be met with nuclear weapons.
U.S. president Harry S. Truman was divided between the two positions. He was distrustful of the Soviet Union, but still did not want to lead the world down a path to destruction. He continued to solicit views from both sides. Stimson resigned in September 1945, and thereafter the task of promoting his approach fell primarily on Undersecretary, and later Secretary of State, Dean Acheson.
A proposal to pass the responsibility for the control of atomic energy to a United Nations Atomic Energy Commission was endorsed by both the USA and the Soviets in 1945. They had the forum, but the United States had not yet articulated a policy that it wished the new commission to adopt. To resolve the problem, Acheson was appointed to head a committee to set forth United States policy on atomic energy.
The other members of the committee were scientists James Conant and Vannevar Bush, the director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development, which controlled the Manhattan Project, and John McCloy, and General Leslie R. Groves, who had been the military officer in charge of the Manhattan Project. Acheson decided that the committee needed technical advice, so he appointed a board of consultants with David Lilienthal, the well-regarded chairman of the Tennessee Valley Authority, as chairman. He also appointed J. Robert Oppenheimer, scientific leader of the Manhattan Project, who provided influential advice. Oppenheimer’s contribution lay in an idea to police the production of atomic weapons from monitoring source mines for uranium.
In the first years of the atomic era, it was generally believed that the great obstacle facing a would-be developer of an atomic bomb was the acquisition of sufficient fissile material. In response, the Acheson-Lilienthal Report proposed that the complete path from the uranium and thorium mines to post production be under international ownership.
In addition, the report proposed that the United States abandon its monopoly on atomic weapons, revealing what it knew to the Soviet Union, in exchange for a mutual agreement against the development of additional atomic bombs. This was to prove too controversial. Although Truman accepted the report in general, his appointment of financier Bernard Baruch to carry the proposal forward in the United Nations led to demands for punishment for violations, and that those penalties could not be vetoed by the United Nations Security Council, as well as unrestricted inspections within the USSR, whilst still insisting that the USSR should agree not to develop the bomb. These were modifications that neither Acheson nor Lilienthal accepted. This, combined with U.S. continued insistence on retaining the bomb until they were satisfied with the effectiveness of international control, ultimately led to the plan's rejection by the Soviet Union, to the surprise of no one.
The failure of the Acheson-Lilienthal Report has often been seen as a key turning point in the Cold War, as a failure to secure international control of nuclear weapons virtually guaranteed the nuclear arms race that followed. At the time of the report, the Soviet Union was developing their first nuclear bomb, though they would not complete it until 1949.