Dwight D. Eisenhower
|God, guns, and freedom|
|Starting arguments over Thanksgiving dinner|
|Persons of interest|
“”I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its stupidity.
|—Uncle Ike on war.|
“”If the right wing wants a fight, they’re going to get it. If they want to leave the Republican Party and form a third party, that’s their business, but before I end up, either this Republican Party will reflect progressivism or I won’t be with them anymore.
|—Liberal Republicans did exist!|
General Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower (1890–1969) was an American war hero, the 34th President of the United States, and one of the only notable things to come from the US state of Kansas. He was Supreme Allied Commander in Europe and one of the only five-star generals in US history, and his leadership helped engineer the Allied invasion of Italy, D-Day, and the final western offensive against Nazi Germany in France and eastern Germany during 1944 and 1945. Together with the Soviet Union pushing from Eastern Europe, soldiers fighting under Eisenhower helped destroy what was arguably the evilest regime in human history. After the war, Eisenhower served as the US Military Governor of the American Zone in occupied Germany (1945), then Army Chief of Staff (1945–1948), then president of Columbia University (1948–1953), and finaly the first Supreme Commander of NATO (1951–1952). He was a pretty busy guy.
In 1952, he finally allowed himself to be dragged into the clusterfuck that was (and is) US politics. He entered the presidential race as the Republican Party's candidate in order to prevent the nomination from going to Ohio Senator Robert Taft, whose isolationist foreign policy would have endangered the US' position as the leading world power. During his campaign, Eisenhower utilized television advertisements, and famously aired an all-time classic American ad jingle.
Eisenhower won that election in a landslide, and he focused on ending the Korean War, keeping communist China away from Taiwan, and holding the US' position in the Cold War. On the domestic front, he continued the New Deal policies, enforced the Brown v. Board of Education decision's mandatory desegregation of public schools, and undertook the construction of the Interstate Highway System. He won reelection in a landslide and spent much of his second term emphasizing science education in public schools in order to create an economically competitive US workforce. On the negative side, he boosted the political career of Tricky Dick by selecting him as a running mate and keeping him on as Vice President. He also provided aid to France in suppressing separatist rebels in Vietnam and ordered the CIA to overthrow Iran's democratically-elected prime minister.
In most respects, Eisenhower governed as a moderate conservative, and occasionally an outright liberal. His presidency happened during an unprecedented period of US economic expansion, with the Gross National Product (GNP) jumping from $212 billion in 1945 to $504 billion in 1960. Most white Americans enjoyed increased incomes and purchasing power, and white Americans began flocking out of the cities into suburban single-family homes. Unfortunately, African-Americans were excluded from these benefits due to the ongoing Jim Crow laws, a situation Eisenhower did little to directly address. His greatest civil rights legacy would come though the liberal judges he appointed, as Chief Justice Earl Warren and Associate Justice William Brennan pushed the Supreme Court to declare constitutional rights to privacy, remain silent, not be compelled to pray in school, and more.
In President Eisenhower's final days in office, he famously warned against the danger that out-of-control military spending would fuel an expansion of the influence that private military contractors would hold over the government, a phenomenon he called the "military-industrial complex". After his presidency, Eisenhower occasionally offered advice and counsel to his successor, President John F. Kennedy, most notably during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Eisenhower is today considered to be a pretty decent president, and most historians Like Ike.
Ike in the Army
“”War is mankind's most tragic and stupid folly; to seek or advise its deliberate provocation is a black crime against all men.
|—Ike at the 1947 West Point Graduation Ceremony.|
As the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, Eisenhower is rightfully remembered as the man who crossed the Channel, liberated France, and socked ol' Adolf on the jaw. However, his military leadership in the Second World War got off to a rough start, and his leadership style showed serious flaws. To be frank, he wasn't much of a battlefield commander - but hey, then neither was George Washington. It should also be stressed that Ike's lack of prowess as a soldier did not make him a poor fit for the war's demands. What made him a valuable Supreme Commander were his organizational abilities and ability to juggle the various Allied governments' competing demands and requirements. As Jean Edward Smith writes in the biography, Eisenhower in War and Peace,
“” "No other general officer, British or American, could have dealt as effectively with Washington and London, kept headstrong subordinates working in harmony, and [...] amassed the materiel that ensured ultimate victory. Ike [...] absorbed what was coming down from above, shielded his commanders from higher authority, and allowed them to fight the war without excessive second-guessing."
The early days
Eisenhower's rise through the military command became quite steep during the aftermath of Pearl Harbor. He was assigned to the War Plans Division and served under General George Marshall, quickly impressing the man with his organizational skills and his ability to coordinate British and American war efforts. Eisenhower's time with Marshall in Washington also saw him involved with reorganizing the Allied war effort under the newly-established Combined Chiefs of Staff (CCS). He personally drafted the letter of instruction, which would be used to define the powers and responsibilities of the Supreme Commanders of each front.
However, as impressive as it was, this post also saw the first significant demonstration of Eisenhower's inexperience as a commander. Under instruction by Marshall, Eisenhower put together a plan for a cross-channel invasion of France (codenamed BOLERO), which was to take place in late 1942. Unfortunately, such an endeavor would have been entirely impossible this early in the war due to the US military's inexperience and the Wehrmacht's largely-intact strength. However, Eisenhower's relationships with his British counterparts, his intricate understanding of Allied command structures, and his organizational skills convinced Marshall to appoint him Supreme Allied Commander in North Africa.
Baptism by TORCH
Operation TORCH, the Allied assault on Northern Africa, was Eisenhower's first real test of his command abilities, and oh boy did it show. Allied planning nearly-catastrophically misread Vichy France's willingness to resist the invasion. Eisenhower's leadership was also deeply flawed, as he stayed hundreds of miles away in Gibraltar during the battle and often gave orders that had no bearing on reality. While the sheer numbers of Allied troops were able to seize Morocco and Algeria, Eisenhower then hesitated and let Axis troops escape to Tunisia. This mistake came under harsh criticism from General Sir Alan Brooke, who said, "Eisenhower seemed unable to grasp the urgency of pushing on to Tunis before the Germans built up their resistance there. [...] I had little confidence in his ability to handle the military situation confronting him, and he caused me great anxiety."
After an admonishment from Marshall, Ike traveled to the Tunisian front. He found that rains had softened the ground, making his planned assault completely impossible. Had he not done so, he would have ordered his troops forward with no knowledge of this complication. This humiliation was quickly followed by another, as during a meeting of the CCS, Eisenhower's proposed plan to take Tunisia (codenamed SATIN) was ripped into by General Brooke and General Marshall, as it would have let the Germans crush the entire Allied front between Libya and Algeria. By this time, Ike was getting jittery. Patton commented that "He thinks his thread is about to be cut."
Luckily, Eisenhower was never in real danger. Brooke, Marshall, and the Allied national leaders all respected his unique ability to handle and prioritize the many, many demands of leading such a massive international coalition. Brooke said that Eisenhower "possessed an exceptional ability to handle Allied forces, to treat them all with strict impartiality, and to get the best out of an inter-Allied force."
In other words, as we would later see with his presidency, Eisenhower was much more a leader than a warrior.
The Patton problem
Eisenhower's subordinate during Operation TORCH and Operation HUSKY, George Patton, ended up being a bit of a problem. Eisenhower's less-than-upfront handling of this problem should be acknowledged.
Patton had a bad habit of physically abusing his soldiers. There were two separate incidents where Patton visited a field hospital and beat a man he didn't think was wounded enough to be there. On the second occasion, Patton drew his sidearm and threatened to execute his subordinate, causing distress among the medical staff. Striking an enlisted man was a court-martial offense under Articles 95 and 96 of the Articles of War.
Eisenhower's first instinct was to cover it up, and he said, "If this thing ever gets out they'll be howling for Patton's scalp, and that will be the end of Georgie's service in the war. I simply cannot let that happen." Eisenhower's immediate response was limited to writing a private reprimand to Patton and demanding an apology be delivered to the soldiers he struck; he did not inform either Marshall or the War Department. When some news reporters flew to Sicily to ask Ike about the incident, he convinced them to suppress the story. Eventually, of course, the media broke the story, and things got much worse after Eisenhower's subordinates admitted that there had been no official reprimand over the incident. However, with the war going on, Eisenhower successfully swept the incident under the rug after new and more pressing news stories distracted the press.
Ike later commented to his driver, Kay Summersby, that "Georgie is one of the best generals I have. But he's just like a time bomb. You never know when he's going to go off. All you can be sure of is that it will probably be in the wrong place at the wrong time."
“”You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.
|—Ike to his troops on the eve of D-Day.|
Eisenhower's most famous moments came after Roosevelt appointed him Supreme Allied Commander in the European Front with Churchill's consent. This placed Ike in command of the massive proposed naval invasion of France (OVERLORD). The invasion planning had a rough start, as British General Bernard Montgomery and Ike both saw major flaws in OVERLORD, not least that the invasion front was far too narrow, and the follow-on failed to recognize the importance of capturing a port. Eisenhower was able to notice these flaws primarily because of his involvement in the naval landings at Salerno in Italy, which had been a disaster that almost cost the USA an entire army. Once again, Eisenhower's planning and negotiation skills allowed him to coordinate with Monty and de Gaulle to develop a finished product.
The landings went as planned in all areas but Omaha beach, where American forces struggled against bad weather conditions and some glaringly bad command decisions. Low-lying clouds prevented close air support, and a veteran German division straight from the front lines in Russia was crewing the fortifications. Rather than order a naval bombardment, Ike's subordinates pressed the attack, even ordering the assault craft to debark further from shore than normal, meaning that soldiers were horribly seasick when they finally stumbled onto the beach. As a result of all these misfortunes, the assault regiments were barely clinging onto a hundred yards of beach by noon of the invasion, as they were pinned down by German forts and under constant bombardment. The success on Omaha beach happened despite command decisions, not due to them. It was a near thing, despite Hitler being caught with his pants down (sorry for that image). Eisenhower bears much of the responsibility for this, as he appointed his inexperienced but close friend Gee Gerow to lead on Omaha beach despite knowing this was likely a bad idea.
Directly after issuing the order for the D-Day Landings, he scribbled a few words down on a piece of paper which he discovered in his tunic pocket a few weeks later, written in case D-Day ended in disaster
“”Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place were based on the best information available. The troops, the air and navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.
Accepting responsibility? What a wimp! No wonder he never made it to a 6-star general!
Alpenfestung: Why Ike went south
What also may be seen as an Allied failure during the war came after the successful landings. Eisenhower's strategy in Europe could have gone in two primary paths: adopt a broad front strategy and push the Germans back everywhere, or just make an overwhelming mad dash for Berlin. Ike controversially took the first option and reoriented his advance into southern Germany and Austria. The people to blame for this decision are the Allied intelligence workers; they had supplied a large amount of intercepted German communications (codenamed ULTRA), which led them to believe that Hitler was planning a last stand in southern Germany. General Eisenhower would write after the war that,
“”"For many weeks we had been receiving reports that the Nazi intention, in extremity, was to withdraw the cream of the SS, Gestapo, and other organizations fanatically devoted to Hitler, into the mountains of southern Bavaria, western Austria, and northern Italy. There they expected to block the tortuous mountain passes and to hold out indefinitely against the Allies.... The evidence was clear that the Nazi[s] intended to make the attempt and I decided to give him no opportunity to carry it out."
This was the myth of the "Alpine Fortress" or the "National Redoubt." The whole thing was a nothing-burger. Himmler proposed the plan, but Hitler never seriously considered it. At any rate, the rumor suckered the Western Allies, and Eisenhower pushed south instead of east to chase a ghost. On the flip side, this may have been a case of making the right decision for the wrong reasons: the Soviets weren't going to just let the Western Allies take Berlin, which they viewed as theirs by right of conquest and just rewards for the enormous blood price they had paid to break the Wehrmacht, and there would have been the real possibility of a disastrous Soviet vs. Anglo-American clash had the latter tried to suddenly rush for Berlin.
Ike in the Elections
Due to Eisenhower's hand in the Allied victory in the Second World War, he became immensely popular with the American people. Many politicians, both Republican and Democratic, attempted to recruit him to run for national office on their side.
Election of 1948
In the run-up to the 1948 election season, President Truman was fairly unpopular, and he was facing internal divisions within his own party. His reelection hopes became vanishingly thin after Strom Thurmond and the Dixiecrats split from the party after Truman embraced civil rights for black Americans. Truman would later go so far as to desegregate the armed forces with an executive order.
Realizing that his political future was in jeopardy (and fearing McArthur's attempt to win the Republican nomination), Truman had a private conversation with Eisenhower where he urged the former general to run for president as a Democrat, with Truman as the vice president. Eisenhower would refuse this offer, and McArthur would fail to receive his party's nomination. Truman's political vulnerability induced the Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) to also approach Eisenhower and offer him their support if he sought the nomination. Eisenhower, however, had no interest in running for the White House, so he declined this offer as well.
Elections of 1952 and '56
“”Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.
|—Ike on the New Deal; seriously, this is what Republicans used to sound like.|
With no Republican having taken the presidency since Hoover, the Republicans were desperate for an excellent candidate. Senator Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. began pestering Ike to run for office as a Republican, although Ike was resistant and wished to focus on his role as leader of NATO forces in Europe. Senator Robert Taft would change his mind. Taft led the old-school conservative wing of the GOP, which called for a withdrawal from foreign affairs and a complete reversal of FDR's social programs, both of which Ike found unacceptable.
After a messy open convention floor fight, Taft accused Eisenhower of, God forbid, "delegate stealing." But both the party and the nation survived anyway. Ike then chose Tricky Dick as his running mate.
Although nominated for the Republican ticket to lead a "crusade" against his "wasteful and corrupt" predecessors, Eisenhower mostly ran as a liberal. No, really. Much of Eisenhower's success in that election came about because of his personal beliefs; he yanked many progressive platforms right out from under his Democratic opponent Adlai Stevenson. Ike was friendly towards the last decade's labor laws and social programs, to the point that Henry Wallace of the very left-wing Progressive Party would later support his reelection.
Ultimately, given the two candidates' similar policies, Eisenhower had to take his best chance and win by proving his anti-communist creds. He did this at least in part by shamefully allowing Joseph McCarthy and his ilk to run wild during the election, even standing by silently when he accused freaking General George Marshall of being a commie sympathizer. Ike would win the election in a landslide. He was the fourth (out of five overall) president to take office without any prior elected experience.
In 1956 Eisenhower wanted to dump Nixon but couldn't get Nixon to go along. Once again, he ran against Adlai Stevenson, and he ran on a similar platform. Interestingly, in 2014, liberals circulated a viral meme about Eisenhower's 1956 election platform, longing for the "good old days."
Ike in the White House
Ike was a pragmatic and forward-thinking president. His domestic policies enacted historic change within the US, and many were far more progressive than we in the 21st century might expect from someone with an "(R)" next to their name. Of course, it all makes more sense when you remember that political parties used to be far more ideologically mixed.
“”I believe that the United States as a government, if it is going to be true to its own founding documents, does have the job of working toward that time when there is no discrimination made on such inconsequential reason as race, color, or religion.
|—Ike on civil rights.|
“”President Eisenhower was a fine general and a good, decent man, but if he had fought World War II the way he fought for civil rights we would all be speaking German today.
|—Roy Wilkins, of the NAACP:176|
In the "Good Ike" column, we have the Civil Rights Act of 1957, which was intended to empower federal prosecutors to crack down on voter suppression in the South. Unfortunately, much of its scope was reduced when it was hamstrung by the Dixiecrats in Congress. Even so, it signaled the federal government's changing attitude towards civil rights, and it was the first piece of legislation of its kind since Reconstruction. Also in the good column were Ike's judges; he nominated several liberal judges to the federal courts, and they would help offset the segregationists appointed by Kennedy (he'd been arm twisted by the Dixiecrats). His nomination of Earl Warren as Chief Justice is usually seen as one of the most important in the Supreme Court's history.
However, Eisenhower's most famous encounter with the Civil Rights Movement came when he supported schools' desegregation as mandated by the Supreme Court under the Brown v Board decision. Arkansas' governor Orval Faubus famously used his state's national guard to block nine black children from attending Little Rock Central High School. Ike responded by sending the famous 101st Airborne to escort the children and later nationalized the National Guard. Enforcing desegregation infuriated the Dixiecrats, and at least one would explicitly compare Ike's troops to Hitler's stormtroopers.
The "Bad Ike" column is mainly due to his reluctance to use overt federal power; Ike was no crusader, and he preferred to be as slow and deliberative as possible with his racial reforms. His racial beliefs were far from modern, and he had an unfortunate tendency to attempt to endear himself to the segregationist South with his rhetoric and many of his actions. And with his purge of any and all gay people from Federal civil service during the Lavender scare.
Education, Infrastructure, and Science
“”You know, Jim, this bunch of scientists was one of the few groups that I encountered in Washington who seemed to be there to help the country and not to help themselves.
|—Uncle Ike on his deathbed.|
When you drive on the Interstate Highway System, you can thank Ike for starting that. Shortly after WWI, the US Army sent 81 of its vehicles across the country from Washington DC to San Francisco to evaluate how easy it would be to move an army through the countryside. Eisenhower accompanied this expedition. The interest in roads it instilled with him would only be emphasized once more when he experienced the vastly superior autobahn highways of Germany during the Second World War. As President, Ike would go on to sign the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, which mandated the construction of at least 41,000 miles of the Interstate Highway System and financed it through the newly-established Highway Trust Fund.
He also created NASA, instituted the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, and the expansion of Social Security was one of his signature domestic policies. Eisenhower also established ARPA (now DARPA), which was eventually responsible for inventing and building the Internet.
Eisenhower saw public education as an urgent national security concern, saying,
“”"Our immediate national security aims — to continue to strengthen our armed forces and improve the weapons at their command — can be furthered only by the efforts of individuals whose training is already far advanced. But if we are to maintain our position of leadership, we must see to it that today's young people are prepared to contribute the maximum to our future progress. Because of the growing importance of science and technology, we must necessarily give special — but by no means exclusive — attention to education in science and engineering."
Ike's views on education became even more urgent and popular with the American people after the Soviet Union's launch of Sputnik 1, humanity's first successful artificial satellite. With fears over ballistic missile warfare already high, the event increased public demands for science education and space expenditures.
“”By the way, I heard a definition of an intellectual that I thought was very interesting: a man who takes more words than are necessary to tell more than he knows.
And he later defended a totally unqualified candidate for ambassador to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), who could not even name the prime minister during a confirmation hearing, by saying::11
“”Now, as to the man's ignorance, this is the way he was appointed: he was selected from a group of men that were recommended highly by a number of people I respect. His business career was examined, the F.B.I, reports on him were all good. Of course, we knew he had never been to Ceylon, he wasn't thoroughly familiar with it; but certainly he can learn if he is the kind of character and kind of man we believe him to be.
Ike vs. McCarthy
Eisenhower entered the White House at the height of Joseph McCarthy's power, and the two did not get along. McCarthy quickly began using his Senate seat to interfere with the President's executive appointees, most notably holding up Eisenhower's ambassador to Moscow, which left the seat empty during the aftermath of Stalin's death. Unfortunately, McCarthy also had a sizable number of Senators supporting him; these were Robert Taft's friends, here to take revenge. The 1952 election would too haunt Ike in another way: he had previously stood by silently after McCarthy began accusations against his former commanding officer, George Marshall, losing his chance to establish a record of public confrontation.
McCarthy also managed to force the President to the right. To prove his anti-communist beliefs, Ike would support legislation to expand espionage and surveillance laws and empower the FBI to expand its efforts to root out the "Reds." Eisenhower would receive broad criticism from the media over his "appeasement" of McCarthyism.
Ike hated McCarthy and his anti-communist campaign, seeing that he was treading the line between thorough investigation and overt persecution. Ultimately, though, Eisenhower would restrain himself to only criticizing the man in private; he believed that getting embroiled in a public feud would be a national distraction and would only serve to harm the image of the presidency as a whole. If only he knew...
Eventually, McCarthy overstepped. He began going after this military, and this naturally pissed Ike right off. Throughout the hearings, Eisenhower stealthily worked to sabotage McCarthy. First, he had his aides uncover proof that McCarthy had engaged in his own shady dealings with the Army. He invoked executive privilege when McCarthy demanded to know how Ike got that information. The Senate Subcommittee on Investigations then held its own hearings over the accusations against McCarthy. The whole affair essentially broke down at this point, and the resulting hash of unfounded and often verbally abusive bullshit claims resulted in a successful vote to censure McCarthy for abuse of a Senate committee. This event shattered McCarthy's power, and he died several years later. It is generally accepted that McCarthy's death was a result of alcoholism; he developed an addiction to multiple drugs after his fall from grace.
Unfortunately, the "In God We Trust" national motto, as well as the "under God" addition to the Pledge of Allegiance, occurred under Eisenhower's tenure. Ike saw religion as the crucial factor which defined Anglo-American culture and prevented the evils of the Soviet Union from taking hold in the United States. It wasn't just Christianity that Ike liked. He was persuaded by a lengthy 1954 National Security Council (NSC) memorandum, "The Religious Factor" by Edward P. Lilly, to cultivate Islamist sentiment as an ideological weapon in the Cold War. (How could something like that ever come back to haunt you?)
Eisenhower's religious beliefs also led him into conflict with the Warren Court, as Ike publicly disapproved of the 1963 decision to ban required Bible readings from public schools. According to his son, Ike thought that “Warren Court’s bias against the church undermined its promotion of equal rights because sociology was no substitute for moral teaching.” Sounds a lot like those damn fools today who think Christians suffer persecution, don't it?
After Ike signed the bill that modified the Pledge of Allegiance, he gave the following statement:
“”""From this day forward, the millions of our school children will daily proclaim in every city and town, every village and rural school house, the dedication of our nation and our people to the Almighty. To anyone who truly loves America, nothing could be more inspiring than to contemplate this rededication of our youth, on each school morning, to our country's true meaning. Especially is this meaningful as we regard today's world. Over the globe, mankind has been cruelly torn by violence and brutality and, by the millions, deadened in mind and soul by a materialistic philosophy of life. Man everywhere is appalled by the prospect of atomic war. In this somber setting, this law and its effects today have profound meaning. In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America's heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country's most powerful resource, in peace or in war."
War for the GOP
Although Eisenhower's presidency is often portrayed as benefiting a calm political climate, the reality is pretty different. The GOP, however, was embroiled in a bitter contest to determine the path for its future. McCarthy's wing of the party (also supported by Ike's own VP, Nixon), publicly believed that the GOP's east coast moderates should be viewed with suspicion, that big government was an existential threat, and that America's most significant danger was its own left-wing. These were the people Theodore White discovered while writing his article "Texas: Land of Wealth and Fear," who believed that McCarthy was America's greatest patriot, organized labor would destroy Texas, and that both political parties had traitors in their ranks.
Eisenhower was always a believer in his "middle way" politics, which he saw as meaning calm leadership that de-emphasized America's constant feeling of crisis. Ike governed from the middle, and he earned the permanent hatred of the right-wing of the party, which wanted him to do away with the New Deal and attack the cultural left. The current far-right leadership in much of the GOP is the heir of Ike's opposition, the people who eventually gave America Barry Goldwater. Ike beat McCarthy, but his attempt to push the GOP to the center backfired horrifically.
Ike's foreign policy was
commie appeasement a hybrid of dove and hawk. Ike had run for the Republican nomination against Robert Taft, who ran as a non-interventionist, on the platform of both ending the Korean War and fighting communism. Eisenhower was critical of Truman's handling of Korea, and he popularized the "domino effect" concept of foreign policy, believing that communism would spread like falling dominoes. However, he quickly withdrew from Korea and left a South Korea that could (with some help that continues to today) defend itself from the North.
The 1952 election and Ike's first year in office happened against a backdrop of a dramatically soured public opinion towards the Korean War. About 70% of Americans wanted an armistice, and less than a third viewed the war as worth fighting. Close to the election date, and in response to challenges from Truman and other Democrats to outline a better Korea policy, Eisenhower made a dramatic campaign promise to personally visit the front lines in Korea to evaluate the course of the war. This was likely a significant tipping point in the election in Ike's favor, as voters had every reason to be convinced that the man who defeated the Nazis would know what to do in Korea.
Shortly after his election victory, Eisenhower visited Korea and spent three days touring the front lines, noting the rugged terrain and fortified enemy positions. The whole thing reminded him of Tunisia, where he had his first major military humiliation. He concluded that "small attacks on small hills" would not bring any victory and that "we could not stand forever on a static front and continue to accept casualties without any visible result.”
The visit convinced Ike that the war had to end. To accomplish this aim, he began to threaten the Communists with increasing intensity, insinuating that he might involve the Nationalist Chinese and possibly deploy nuclear weapons. Negotiations began in earnest, and both sides finally reached a settlement on the status of POWs, and eventually armistice terms which granted the South additional territory and mandated a demilitarized zone between the two nations. After the war, Eisenhower focused on training the South Koreans to defend themselves with only minimal assistance. In 1954, he controversially withdrew many American troops from the peninsula, defending himself by saying this show of faith in South Korea's strength would do more to ward off the North than any show of American force.
Cold War tensions
Eisenhower made multiple attempts to deescalate tensions during the Cold War. He famously gave the Chance for Peace speech, where he spoke against increased military spending, along with the famous quote,
“”"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway. We pay for a single fighter with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. This, I repeat, is the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron."
In 1955, he also presented his "Open Skies" plan, which proposed that the Soviet Union and the United States could allow each other's surveillance planes to monitor their missile sites to reduce fears of a surprise attack. Khrushchev rejected it out of hand as an "espionage plot."
To decrease federal spending, Eisenhower adopted the "New Look" policy toward military spending. This called for reducing ground forces in favor of air force strategic arms, hoping to deter any attacks through Mutually Assured Destruction. This policy would be replaced with "Flexible Response" by President Kennedy, which called for a focus on Special Forces.
Trouble in the Suez
One of the most severe crises of the Eisenhower administration was the Suez affair. Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, infuriated by British military presence in his nation, American refusal to fulfill its obligations in funding the Aswan River Dam, and Western support for Israel, ordered the nationalization of the Suez canal. The primary motivating factor was the Aswan Dam, however, which impelled Nasser to seek another source of funding: taxes on shipping through the Suez. The nationalization greatly surprised and angered the British and French governments, as the canal was theoretically theirs.
Eisenhower's immediate response was to warn his allies away from military action and to do so publicly. His primary interest was in proving America's credibility as an anti-imperialist power (to show newly-liberated nations that they didn't need to stand with the Soviets to stand against colonialism). His State Department attempted to mediate the situation, but none of the proposals attracted full support, and the French and British were increasingly eager to invade Egypt.
British Prime Minister Anthony Eden was perfectly aware that he was on an uncertain legal ground for an invasion, and his solution was Israel. The Israelis viewed Nasser as a threat, and the British and French approached them with the following plan:
- Israel would "preemptively" invade Egypt and (appear to) attempt to take the canal.
- The British and French would demand a cease-fire, which Israel would refuse.
- The British and French would respond by deploying a "peacekeeping" force to "temporarily protect" the Suez canal, "guarantee free shipping," and "separate the Israelis and Egyptians."
Israel, the UK, and France proceeded to carry out the plan in full, and Israel invaded through the Sinai, and Britain and France landed at Port Said. Eisenhower, who had not been informed of this plan, was furious and proceeded to join the Soviets in voting for UN resolutions condemning the invasion.
While a military success, the invasion was a political disaster for the British. Antiwar protests broke out, junior ministers resigned, and many who stayed on expressed deep reservations over the whole thing. Matters became much worse when the Soviets threatened nuclear war to protect Egypt. The final straw, came, however, when Eisenhower threatened sanctions against Israel, withheld loans from the UK, and suggested he might destroy the value of the pound by selling off British bonds.
The Suez crisis ended British and French superpower status, and the Anglo-American "special relationship" became characterized by American dominance. The Soviets and Americans both came to view the Middle East as a new front in the Cold War, which had some horrific consequences as detailed below. And this would also mark the first and final time an American president would make a serious and dangerous threat against Israel.
On the downside, he started the trend of allowing the CIA to dick around in foreign countries to support dictatorships. Ike caught the "commies under every bed" bug for a few brief moments in his presidency. The first time was in 1953 when Winston Churchill convinced him that Mohammad Mossadegh, the democratically elected prime minister of Iran, was turning Red. This was actually bullshit as Mosaddegh himself was anti-communist, albeit his chicanery while in office also wouldn't lead one to confuse him with a great guy either — Churchill was just pissed because he nationalized Iran's oil industry. The Brits and Americans took out Mosaddegh and replaced him with the Shah. This came back to bite the US in the ass in 1979. Ike also sent contingents of "military advisors" to Vietnam, and although it was really barely anything at that point, it paved the way for JFK, LBJ, and Nixon to completely fuck it up.
He also let the CIA take out Jacobo Arbenz of Guatemala, another democratically elected leader. At the time, Guatemala had been completely fucked over by the US railroad and fruit monopolies. Arbenz enacted land reform to allow farmers to use the fallow land owned by the United Fruit Company (UFC, later Chiquita). The CIA then cooked up some bogus connections between Arbenz and the Soviet Union to intervene on behalf of the UFC. Ike signed off on it, and professional propagandist Edward Bernays then spread this bullshit conspiracy through one of the first big PR campaigns in history. The fact that the Arbenz thing "worked" so well convinced the CIA that they could easily topple unwanted governments if they so chose and inspired their confidence to go forward with a plan that would become known as the Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba under JFK.
Ike's farewell speech in 1961 is arguably the most famous in US history behind George Washington's farewell speech. Andrew J. Bacevich in Washington Rules says Eisenhower "offered the American people a glimpse of the powerful forces that lay behind and beyond presidential control." Eisenhower warned the American people of the growing influence of a "military-industrial complex."
This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence – economic, political, even spiritual – is felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
Too bad no one listened to him and let lobbies fuck up his restructuring of the armed forces in the pursuit of profits over deterrence of war.
Despite his CIA screw-jobs, religious apologizing and failure to publicly fight McCarthyism (though he hated Joseph McCarthy in private and worked to undermine him in secret), Ike is remembered as one of the more practical and competent, if not outstanding, presidents of the 20th century. However, today's Republicans seem to have forgotten he even existed. Probably because, as the John Birch Society claimed at the time, he was a total
war hero RINO pinko commie ("a dedicated, conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy" — Robert H. Welch, Jr.).
Ike was a fiscal conservative. Still, he continued the 90% top tax rate to maintain a balanced budget (and was the last Republican to do so, and ironically, it was then cut by a Democrat). This is, of course,
social liberalism social democracy socialism. Never mind that he oversaw the post-war economic boom, which would later be called "The Golden Age of Capitalism." Ike also totally trashed those calling for a repeal of New Deal programs, saying:
“”Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H.L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or businessman from other areas. Their number is negligible, and they are stupid.
He also said some other pretty socialist things, such as:
“”No people on earth can be held, as a people, to be an enemy, for all humanity shares the common hunger for peace and fellowship and justice... No nation's security and well-being can be lastingly achieved in isolation but only in effective cooperation with fellow-nations.
“”Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children... This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.
“”A preventive war, to my mind, is an impossibility today. How could you have one if one of its features would be several cities lying in ruins, several cities where many, many thousands of people would be dead and injured and mangled, the transportation systems destroyed, sanitation implements and systems all gone? That isn't preventive war; that is war. I don't believe there is such a thing; and, frankly, I wouldn't even listen to anyone seriously that came in and talked about such a thing... It seems to me that when, by definition, a term is just ridiculous in itself, there is no use in going any further.
- Waging Peace interview, if you ever wanted to see the man having a casual conversation.
- Remember this while you pick up the remote... or Netflix.
- Rand Paul and the Eisenhower Dream
- Ike for President
- Domestic Politics under Eisenhower. PBS.
- Suburbanization in the United States after 1945. Becky Nicolaides and Andrew Wies. Oxford Research Encyclopedias.
- Presidential Historians Survey 2017: Dwight D. Eisenhower. C-SPAN.
- Quotes Eisenhower Library.
- Washington even had the advantage of not having those insubordinate egomaniacs Montgomery and Patton under his command.
- A Military Profile of General Dwight D. Eisenhower
- Smith, Jean Edward. Eisenhower in War and Peace, 2012 Random House Publishing. "With Marshall in Washington".
- Operation Torch: Allied Invasion of North Africa
- Smith, Jean Edward. Eisenhower in War and Peace, 2012 Random House Publishing. "Baptism by Fire".
- Bryant, Turn of the Tide. p430
- Blumenson. Patton Papers. 154-5
- Sherwood, Roosevelt and Hopkins. 667
- WWII made George Patton a hero, but the ‘Great War’ made him a commander Washington Post.
- Smith, Jean Edward. Eisenhower in War and Peace, 2012 Random House Publishing. "Sicily".
- Ambrose, Supreme Commander 229.
- Axelrod, Alan (2006), Patton: A Biography, London, United Kingdom: Palgrave Macmillan, ISBN 978-1-4039-7139-5
- Kay Summersby Morgan, Past Forgetting 145.
- D-Day Message to the Troops
- Smith, Jean Edward. Eisenhower in War and Peace, 2012 Random House Publishing. "D-Day".
- Smith, Jean Edward. Eisenhower in War and Peace, 2012 Random House Publishing. "The Liberation of France".
- Keegan, John (1992). Five Armies in Normandy. Pimlico. p. 66. ISBN 0-7126-5579-4.
- D-Day In case of failure letter, Business Insider
- ULTRA AND THE MYTH OF THE GERMAN "NATIONAL REDOUBT" Meek, Marvin L. All World Wars.
- The German National Redoubt That Wasn’t Ottens, Nick. Atlantic Sentinel. 3.JUN.16
- Historian Max Hasting raised this troubling possibility in "Armageddon: The Battle for Germany, 1944-1945"
- Strom Thurmond Britannica
- Text of Executive Order 9981
- Truman Wrote of '48 Offer to EisenhowerNew York Times. JULY 11, 2003
- HARRY S. TRUMAN: CAMPAIGNS AND ELECTIONS Alonzo L. Hamby. Miller Center
- Michael Gardner. Harry Truman and Civil Rights (SIU Press, 2002), 92.
- President Eisenhower on Social Security Snopes
- DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER: CAMPAIGNS AND ELECTIONS Alonzo L. Hamby. Miller Center
- What The 1952 Republican Primary Teaches Us About Today’s Primary Kori Schake. Hoover Institution. SEP.2.15
- The First Republican Contested Convention, Face the Nation, CBS News.
- United States presidential election, 1952 § Republican Convention
- Eisenhower Nominated on the First Ballot; Senator Nixon Chosen as His Running Mate; General Pledges 'Total Victory' Crusade W.H. Lawrence. New York Times Archive. July 12, 1952
- Full Text of Eisenhower's Address Accepting the Presidential Nomination at the Republican National Convention in Chicago
- Vincent P. DeSantis, “Eisenhower Revisionism.” The Review of Politics 38, no. 02 (1976): 191. JSTOR (1405936), http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/1405936.pdf.
- Who Was Henry A. Wallace?
- Eisenhower’s Campaign and the Election of 1952 Winston Du. Vanderbilt Historical Review.
- Viral meme says 1956 Republican platform was pretty liberal Nai Issa, Louis Jacobson. Politifact. OCT.28.14
- "The Southern Strategy" by Kevin M. Kruse. In: Myth America: Historians Take On the Biggest Legends and Lies About Our Past, edited by Kevin M. Kruse & Julian E. Zelizer (2022) Basic Books. ISBN 1541601394. Pages 169-196.
- Why don’t we remember Ike as a civil rights hero?, MSNBC
- Civil Rights Act of 1957 Civil Rights Digital Library
- Eisenhower was key desegregation figure Kasey S. Pipes. Politico. 09/18/2007
- Sympathy for the South: Eisenhower Resists Desegregation
- Hansen on Pres. Eisenhower and his scientists, ThinkProgress
- Ike's Interstates at 50 David A. Pfeiffer National Archives "Prologue Magazine". Summer 2006, Vol. 38, No. 2
- Eisenhower on Encyclopedia Astronautica
- A Quick Look at the Early History of the Internet, Elon University
- Eisenhower Sputnik Conference Memo: Background
- Anti-intellectualism in American Life by Richard Hofstadter (1964) Alfred A. Knopf.
- Who Stopped McCarthy? The Atlantic
- Eisenhower and McCarthy PBS "The American Experience."
- Eisenhower criticizes McCarthy History Channel "On this Day in History"
- The Censure Case of Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin (1954) United States Senate.
- On this day: The Senate censures Joseph McCarthy National Constitution Center
- Oshinsky, David M. (2005) . A Conspiracy So Immense: The World of Joe McCarthy. New York: Free Press. pp. 503–504. ISBN 0-19-515424-X.
- Though he could probably be excused for this as it's nearly fucking impossible to get rid of even today. Seriously, 396 to 9?
- Ian Johnson, 2011. A Mosque in Munich. New York: Mariner Books. Pp. 69-75. ISBN 978-0-547-42317-3.
- Eisenhower’s Religion MARK TOOLEY, American Spectator.
- God in the White House PBS. "Eisenhower."
- Who Stopped McCarthy? The Atlantic.
- [http://www.unz.com/print/Reporter-1954jun08-00030/ Text of "Texas: Land of Wealth and Fear"
- Eisenhower's 'Middle Way' is lesson for our times
- [https://newrepublic.com/article/101442/dwight-eisenhower-memorial-controversy Why Won’t the GOP Stick Up For Dwight Eisenhower?]
- Public opinion on the Korean War, 1953. Memorandum on recent polls, June 2, 1953. Eisenhower Presidential Library.
- Presidential candidate Dwight D. Eisenhower makes 1952 campaign pledge, “I shall go to Korea.” Speech, October 24, 1952 Papers of Dwight D. Eisenhower, Speech Series, Box 2, Oct 23, 1952, to Nov 3, 1952, and Dec 1952 (1); NAID #12012607
- How to End a War, Eisenhower’s Way Smith, Jean Edward. New York Times. 4.11.09
- Eisenhower goes to Korea History Channel
- Armistice ends the Korean WarHistory Channel
- President Eisenhower on his administration's post-Armistice policy toward Korea. Staff note, January 5, 1954. Records of the White House Staff Secretary, L. Arthur Minnich Series, Box 1, Miscellaneous - K
- Eisenhower presents his “Open Skies” plan History Channel
- New Look Britannica
- President Kennedy: Berlin, Laos, and “Flexible Response” The History Reader. 5.4.12
- https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/united-states-withdraws-offer-of-aid-for-aswan-dam History Channel
- Eayrs, James (1964). The Commonwealth and Suez: A Documentary Survey. Oxford University Press.
- An affair to remember The Economist 7.26.06
- The Suez Crisis, 1956Department of State Office of the Historian.
- 1956: Suez and the end of empire Brown, Derek. The Guardian.
- In 1956, Russia Almost Launched a Nuclear War against Britain, France and Israel The National Interest
- [http://www.mariapalasinska.com/sanpietro/eng/anno1/n5/problemi/dunneeng5.pdf The Suez Crisis and the Politics of the Anglo-American Special Relationship]
- Including the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company - in 1954, renamed British Petroleum (BP).
- Bavevich, Andrew J., 2010. Washington Rules - America's Path to Permanent War. New York: Metropolitan Books. P. 32. ISBN 978-0-8050-9141-0
- Eisenhower's "Military-Industrial Complex" Speech: Origins and Significance, National Archives
- Forgotten in Republican campaign, Eisenhower rises in stature, Reuters
- Long before QAnon, Ronald Reagan and the GOP purged John Birch extremists from the party by Erick Trickey (January 15, 2021).
- Ike says they're stupid
- American Presidential Address on "The Chance for Peace", Sherbrooke University
- Dwight David “Ike” Eisenhower, Wagner College
- This wasn't the first or last time he attacked the concept.