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The greatness of Eisenhower

June 25, 2012

On a plane somewhere, I read a review of two new books on President Dwight Eisenhower (1953 – 1961). The books are Eisenhower: The White House Years by Jim Newton and Eisenhower in War and Peace by Jean Edward Smith.

I had long held the view that this two-term Republican and WWII general was an underrated president. He kept the peace, he controlled his military, he produced balanced budgets, he built the national highway system, and he sent the 101st Airborne Division into Little Rock to enforce desegregation ordered by the Supreme Court.

In the review, Thomas Powers argues that: “…American presidents since Eisenhower seem to share an abiding temptation – they can’t let peace alone. They wish to look bold; defiance makes them pugnacious; and the military leaders promise quick victories with little pain.”

He writes:

We may imagine Eisenhower’s response, if he had been sitting in the room when Kennedy’s advisers told him they planned to overthrow Fidel Castro’s government by invading Cuba with a thousand men, or when they told him later to send a few thousand American soldiers to stave off defeat in Vietnam – but not too many, and as “advisers” only. Would Eisenhower have told Lyndon Johnson, oh yes, certainly, send hundreds of thousands of soldiers to do what Kennedy’s few could not? Would he have encouraged Johnson to help the Air Force pick bombing targets in North Vietnam? Would he have advised George W. Bush that seizure of Kabul and dispersion of the Taliban into the mountains were victory enough in Afghanistan? Would he have backed the urging of Cheney and Rumsfeld to send an army to invade Iraq, but not too big an army? What would Eisenhower say now about Iran?

Food for thought, that’s all I’m saying, food for thought.

One Comment
  1. sydwalker permalink
    June 25, 2012 12:08 pm

    Eisenhower would be appalled by the ultimate failure of his efforts (and those of his immediate successor) to prevent Israel from developing nuclear weapons. He would be especially appalled to learn how that failure occurred. As the last (but one) US President to wear the trousers in the US-Israeli relationship, to the point of threatening an opportunistic land-grabbing Israel in 1956 with military attack if it didn’t withdraw promptly, Eisenhower would probably view current Zionist dominance of US politics and policy with something bordering on despair.

    It’s important to remember that Eisenhower was the preferred Republican candidate of the Military Industrial Complex in 1952, who feared a Taft Govt would roll back the USA from the interventionism of World War Two. Taft wasn’t keen on NATO. Had he, not Eisenhower, prevailed, in ’52, would NATO have lasted more than a few years? We shall never know.

    Many abuses of US power occurred on Eisenhower’s watch, from Tehran to Latin America. Anti-imperialists cannot look back on his Presidency with nostalgia. Nevertheless, Eisenhower’s willingness to stand up to the Zionist Lobby puts him way outside the spectrum of what the mainstream media casts as “acceptable” opinion in the present US Congress – let alone contemporary US Administrations. It’s an indication of the intergeneration shift of power with the USA (mirrored in the UK and Australia) towards the empowerment and now overlord-status of a Lobby whose first loyalty is to another State.

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