Talk:Dwight D. Eisenhower

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It still blows my mind that Ike can still be considered a "moderate conservative" on Wikipedia. While he obviously fucked up on foreign policy, you could actually argue that he was more liberal than bloody FDR. Maybe the last sane Republican. Osaka Sun (talk) 10:47, 25 January 2012 (UTC)

I think that the designation "moderate conservative" was probably pretty accurate - for Ike's day and age. ScepticWombat (talk) 19:24, 25 November 2014 (UTC)

I'm sorry, what evidence is there for him being a poor general? CorruptUser (talk) 00:01, 9 February 2015 (UTC)

Too positive[edit]

While he did do some good things and was probably one of the better generals of World War II (though whoever decided to not head directly for Berlin after D-day deserves a lot of blame for the war taking so long in its waning days), imho he still comes away too positively. The Interstate Highway system was basically a "destroy the railroads" program. How can anybody hope to compete with an extremely subsidized form of transportation? And before the gas tax argument is raised, no the interstate highway fund was never in the black and even Eisenhower did not sell it as a transportation necessity (after all the US already had one of the most advanced transportation systems in the world - the railroads) but rather as a military necessity (after having seen how easy invading Germany is thanks to her jolly old Autobahns). As a matter of fact the debt incurred for the initial construction of the interstate highways was never paid back either through the highway trust fund (which was never intended to cover construction costs anyway) or through the general fund. Furthermore his foreign policy was a series of idiotic defeats. He (with help from Britain) toppled the last democratic regime in Iran, and probably the only secular democrat in the region excluding Israel for decades to come. He plunged Guatemala into decades of misery and his policy with regards to Cuba is at least partially responsible for the rise (and turn to communism) of Castro. In short while he did have positive qualities and more of them than for example Woodrow Wilson, Eisenhower seems to be a "sane" Republican only by comparison with the dickheads that came after him. But in his defense, he was the last Republican with a progressive record on civil rights and he did nominate Earl Warren to the Supreme court, so he is not an outright failure as president even though most of his signature policies are. Avengerofthe BoN (talk) 19:59, 2 August 2015 (UTC)

Yup Ike ran an extremely hawkish foreign policy with a lot of anti-Communist motivated dickery - but so did every Cold War POTUS Rep. and Dem. alike (even Jimmy Carter who in Brzezinski had his own überhawk) and Ike wasn't markedly worse in that regard. ScepticWombat (talk) 21:22, 2 August 2015 (UTC)
That still does not address the domestic policy screwups the man produced. Plus I very much doubt Carter was a hawk. Just take the year 1979 as an example: He let the French go forward in putting Khomeini into Iran (a bad thing in hindsight), he let Somoza fall (a good thing even without hindsight) and he decided to answer the invasion of Afghanistan by boycotting the 1980 Olympic Games and not by funding extremist fundamentalists... Overall this seems to me to be a rather dovish foreign policy Brzezinski notwithstanding. Plus he neither propped up nor deposed any regime willy-nilly (unlike, say, Nixon, Reagan or Bush sr.). Avengerofthe BoN (talk) 21:58, 2 August 2015 (UTC)
Except that Carter, prompted by Brzezinski, was the one who started the covert aid to the mujahideen in Afghanistan in the fondest hope that it would provide, in Brzezinski's words, "the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam War.". ScepticWombat (talk) 22:03, 2 August 2015 (UTC)
While I don't doubt this assertion, it is the first time I've heard it and I would thus like to see a source for it. Avengerofthe BoN (talk) 23:08, 2 August 2015 (UTC)
Brzezinski is quoted directly in Chalmers Johnson's Blowback (from this 1998 interview) for stating that CIA support for anti-communist Afghanis began even before the Soviet invasion (note that I don't buy Johnson's and Brzezinski's implication that this support occasioned the Soviet invasion) and the beginning of the support for the "muj" under Carter is also mentioned in WP's article on the Soviet-Afghan WarWikipedia's W.svg (specifically this sectionWikipedia's W.svg). These early days of US support for the muj was also mentioned Tim Weiner's Legacy of Ashes ("Carter immediately signed a covert-action order for the CIA to begin arming the Afghan resistance, and the agency began to build a worldwide arms pipeline into Afghanistan. But the Soviet invasion was an accomplished fact."), and though I can't remember if it's in Steve Coll's Ghost Wars too, there is a reference to a footnote in Ghost Wars in the additional sources section of the Brzezinski interview.
It's always dicey to envision "What if...?" counter-factual history scenarios and I doubt that had Carter been re-elected he would have ratcheted up the gun running to the Afghans to quite the extent that Saint Ronnie let William Casey do. However, I also doubt that Carter would have abstained from shipping arms to the muj either as Brzezinski would certainly have pushed hard for it and it would still have been a good way to cosy favour with the Saudis and Pakistanis. Not to mention that the religious element to the Soviet-Afghan War (godless communists oppressing the pious faithful) might well have spoken to Carter's religious sentiments in ways analogous to how they spoke to Bill Casey's. ScepticWombat (talk) 07:34, 9 August 2015 (UTC)
Given what you say, this is at least probable. But there is no way in hell Iran Contra or in fact much covert or overt support for an armed anti-Sandinista movement in Nicaragua would have happened under Carter. Much less against express congressional prohibitions. Hence yet another reason why the US royally screwed itself over in not reelecting Carter in 1980 (which could conceivably have happened, had the hostages been freed shortly before the election or never taken in the first place) Avengerofthe BoN (talk) 07:45, 9 August 2015 (UTC)
Oh, I'd definitely agree that Iran-Contra wouldn't have happened in a second Carter administration - Tim Weiner has an example where Bush Sr. (then CIA director) told the incoming Carter about CIA's many pay-offs to various foreign politicians and other useful persons and the straight-laced Carter was totally turned off by what he saw as simple corruption (in its meaning as both a verb and a substantive). What might have ended up having a greater long-term impact if Carter had been re-elected was that he was the first (and until some rumblings from Obama) only POTUS to seriously consider and address US energy consumption and dependence on oil imports. ScepticWombat (talk) 08:34, 9 August 2015 (UTC)
In Ike's defense though, where would America be without road trips? Surely something of considerable value would've been lost. (talk) 08:08, 9 August 2015 (UTC)
Ike is generally ranked in the top ten presidents these days so it's pretty hard to argue he was a failure. I could cherry pick the screw ups of most presidents to make them look bad but overall he ran a decent, stable economy, stayed out of direct wars, cut the military budget (albeit while also building bombs), warned people about the dangers of the MIC, expanded social security, balanced the budget, kept the GOP from repealing the New Deal (while also discrediting the reactionary Republicans and thus basically ending the biggest threat to the New Deal), showed (if tepid) support for Civil Rights, stayed out of the communist witchhunts while privately working against them, and continued rebuilding Europe after Truman left. Did he have easily avoided screw ups? Certainly, but that doesn't discredit the rest of his presidency. By the standards of the Cold War he wasn't even particularly interventionist, only Carter would be considered less interventionist but remember that many of Ike's Democratic opponents and some of the GOP wanted even more intervention overseas while a good chunk of the GOP wanted to cut off aid to Europe and return to isolationism, and he walked a thin line between the two. ClothCoat (talk) 08:12, 9 August 2015 (UTC)
Did that isolationist strand in the GOP also advocate withdrawal from East Asia, or were its adherents only turned off by the prospect of being involved in another massive war in Europe? I'm just curious because of the whole brouhaha at the time about the Democrats having (according to the GOP) "lost China" and the heavy and increasing US involvement in Asia as a consequence of that perception and the experience of the Korean War. ScepticWombat (talk) 09:20, 9 August 2015 (UTC)
While I have no objections to maybe highlighting some of his failures a bit more in the article, yeah, you have to evaluate any political leader in context. The President is neither a god nor a king, despite what a lot of people seem to think, and like any leader they're constrained by circumstances in exercising their power. It really needs to be stressed, especially for people who didn't live through the time, that the far-right (which today controls the Republican Party) was calling Eisenhower a commie traitor for not immediately launching World War III, while the "hawks" in both parties wanted to overthrow every government that did so much as look at the U.S. funny, as long as they could get away with it without triggering Armageddon. They were freaking out over Who lost China?Wikipedia's W.svg, with the underlying assumption that the only reason the commies took over China was because secret Reds in the U.S. government brought it about by sabotaging support for Kai-shek. Meanwhile, the "Old Right" (what we would today call the paleoconservative wing), which was then quite strong and gave Eisenhower a run for his money in the nomination contest, wanted to repeat the post-WWI policy of withdrawing into Fortress America and fighting "creeping socialism" at home in the form of the New Deal. And of course, in the wake of Brown and Eisenhower's support for it, the South started flirting with Civil War II: Segregation Boogaloo. Given all that it's pretty remarkable that Eisenhower was able to chart as moderate a path as he did. Also, in regards to Eisenhower's generalship, the decision to let the Soviets take Berlin wasn't his. Stalin insisted on it. It would have been "fun" trying to argue with the entire Red Army, as Churchill half-seriously wanted to. --Ymir (talk) 09:27, 9 August 2015 (UTC)
Not to mention whether it would even have been feasible, in purely military and logistics terms, to drive immediately on Berlin, considering that there were sizeable German forces in southern France and the logistical difficulties even the "slow" route to the Reich ran into. I really can't see how an aggressive approach like the one suggested was supposed to have ended the war much sooner without risking a war with the USSR (as such an approach would've breached the deals struck between "The Big Three") as Ymir pointed out.
Btw, while I'm in counter-factual history mode, it would've been interesting if MacArthur's insubordination had happened on Ike's, rather than Truman's, watch. I doubt that Ike would've reacted much differently from Truman which is an interesting thought, given the MacArthur hero worship (quite undeserved, I think - except for the Inchon landings and even that is similar to the praise Joffre received for the Marne: Had the commander been diligent in the first place, the "miracle" wouldn't have been necessary) that still exists in some circles. ScepticWombat (talk) 09:42, 9 August 2015 (UTC)
I think you are wrong on several counts as to whether taking Berlin would have been feasible and possible. First of all, Germany took France much the same way, by eliminating the major combat forces (and letting other forces escape to secondary locations) and taking out the high command or forcing it to surrender. By D-day's success, the war was lost for Nazi-Germany. Everybody with any military knowledge knew this. The Wehrmacht had scant resources left and was in disarray and desperately needing to regroup. And once the Brits and Americans get to the Rhine, most German generals knew: This is it (that's why they finally go ahead with July 20 around that time). However, Hitler was determined to fight the war to the very end. It was rather clear that taking out any number of German military assets would accomplish jack shit unless Hitler was removed from power, preferably killed. And as for the Soviets calling dibs on Berlin... Stalin said in so many words "Berlin is a useless symbol with little actual value. It matters not who takes it" - Roosevelt agreed and Stalin said a little later to his top generals: "Roosevelt intends to take Berlin before us. We can't let that happen". You see, if you are a chronic liar, you can't see an honest man when you find him. Anyway, as for Eisenhower's other policies... The Interstate Highways were built for their supposed defense value. Which - I think we can agree is little, especially if there already is a railroad system. Any invading army would bring cars tanks and jeeps with it. Hardly any invading army would bring trains (unless the US are attacked from Mexico or Canada). So a train infrastructure has a defense value if it is in your hands but little military value if it gets into the opponent's hands. The same cannot be said for highways. So on the face of it, the official reason for the Interstate Highway system's construction does not hold water. What it of course did accomplish (in conjunction with similarly subsidized airports) was dealing the death blow to private railroads in the US as money making passenger carrying companies. Had the highways been built through private investment (like the railways have been by and large), the share of passenger rail would be higher, the carbon footprint of US transportation would be lower and trains would be faster than they are today. How do I know that? Well all of those things were true in the 1940s and 1950s. And in countries were driving is less subsidized, like Japan people still drive cars, but private railroads make shitloads of money carrying people. Avengerofthe BoN (talk) 19:24, 9 August 2015 (UTC)
I think you're living in a dreamworld if you think that you could just "reverse engineer" the Fall of France. First of all, Berlin is actually extremely far to the east and the Western Allies would still have had to slug it out through Benelux (think of Operation Market Garden) to get there, not to mention that there is nothing to suggest that the major German forces in southern France would just have sat there and looked on or that a rush to Berlin would've prevented such juggling of forces as was actually seen in the Ardennes counter attack. I think you simply underestimate the amount of ground to be covered, the resilience of the remaining German forces, and the logistical problems which, even with the actual route taken, were a constant worry. The need to secure Channel ports especially to get a reliable fuel line to the armoured spearheads was one reason for the slower approach. Risking a massive invasion of the Reich without having a rock solid logistics chain would've been unnecessarily risky as the Western Allies might've run into the same kind of problems that caused the Wehrmacht's final counter offensives in the Ardennes and Hungary to fizzle: Fuel shortages.
Also, Stalin did "call dibs" on Berlin at Yalta and there's nothing to suggest that he wouldn't have done so even earlier if the Western Allies had tried to beat him to it. As for your Uncle Joe quotes is supposed to demonstrate, I'm not sure. Yes, Stalin was paranoid, but he had pretty good reasons to be, given both his personal background in the ruthless underworld of clandestine revolutionary activities in Russia and the willingness of the Western powers to come to terms with Hitler prior to WWII. Given those experiences, it's hardly a surprise that he preferred boots on the ground to promises and good wishes, especially with Churchill at the other side of the table (Sir Winston was hardly a man less skilled in the art of deception and ruthless wheeler-dealing than Stalin and made no bones about his staunch anti-communism having only been put on standby during the actual fighting).
Finally, the Japanese Shinkansen wsn't built as a private venture either - indeed given the nature of the Japanese post-WWII economic system the distinction between public and private initiatives is blurry to say the least. Would a US railroad investment have been better for the environment? Of course, but that's 20/20 hindsight talking, not to mention that the extreme highspeed trains projects would only get rolling in Japan at the very end of the Eisenhower era. The very reason for building the Shinkansen in Japan wasn't because daring private venture capitalists saw an opportunity, but because the leaders of the quasi-corporatist leadership in post-war Japan realised that building an infrastructure based on cars was a huge problem for a country which, unlike the US at the time, had to import all its oil. Oh, and the US railroads might've been built by private companies, but that construction was also hugely subsidised through the accompanying land grants. In short, the simplistic notion that Japanese trains are a private enterprise success while the US highways are a public sector failure is a caricature. ScepticWombat (talk) 04:41, 10 August 2015 (UTC)
Upon being privatized in the 1980s, the JRs were indeed absolved of part of their debt. This was the debt incurred by one or two previous decades of operating losses. However, the remaining construction debt still had to be paid back. And yes, the railroads in the US were subsidized as well (though more indirectly and more modestly than the highways). And you did not in fact address my point about the official reason for the highways being nonsensical. They have scant defense value if transportation is already being taken care of through other means (namely railroads) and their value in case of an invasion is actually negative as enemy troops and vehicles can use highways while they cannot use railways (or at least not as easily). Furthermore, the technical possibility of railway speeds in excess of 100 mph and indeed speeds up to 200 km/h was demonstrated as early as 1903 in trial runs and the main thing keeping railroads from running faster then 79 mph was a lack of investment in signalling, already in the 1950s. Of course if carrying people is a money-losing business and freight is not carried at speeds in excess of 79 mph anyway, any investment in better signalling is a waste of money. But if you know you can earn more money by running faster trains (as all railways that do so know), there is a very good incentive indeed to run the numbers and take out loans if need be. Furthermore, I do think you can "reverse engineer" the fall of France. It happened twice. When the Germans took France and than again when the allies took it back. They mostly concentrated their thrust on Paris and did not concern themselves with minor forces in outlying areas. This is pretty much the definition of Blitzkrieg as a military tactic. One of the things that is absolutely necessary for a successful Blitzkrieg is air superiority or at least sufficient air support. By 1944 there was hardly a place where the Western Allies did not have air superiority. Part of the reason the American high command decided not to take out Berlin first was the fact that they believed in an ever elusive "Alp-fortress" which in the wildest speculations might even serve as a sort of rump-Reich and offer continued resistance from a fortified position. We of course now know how preposterous this assumption really was, but it did draw the Western Allies away from the real focus of attention: Taking out the German high command, who - by that point in the war at least - were the last ones still believing in victory. Even the Americans acknowledged as much in their propaganda after the battle of the bulge was won when they said in so many words "Hitler lied, the war is lost, save yourselves". Another interesting aspect of the battle of the bulge imho is that it only happened during a brief bad weather spell that partially negated allied air superiority. And that the fall of Berlin would have been the deciding blow can be seen by the way the war wound down once Hitler was dead - more and more cities surrendered to at least save some things, more and more Nazis (even high ranking ones) deserted and the post Hitler Nazi-government (which for some reason relocated to Flensburg) was totally inefficient at even getting a semblance of a chain of command established. Avengerofthe BoN (talk) 14:56, 10 August 2015 (UTC)
"Ike is generally ranked in the top ten presidents these days so it's pretty hard to argue he was a failure." Wikipedia has an article on specific "Historical rankings of Presidents of the United States" since 1948, typically surveying historians. Eisenhower's ranking has actually improved a lot with passing time.
        • A 1962 survey ranked him 22nd. He was outranked by (in order) Lincoln, Washington, Franklin Roosevelt, Wilson, Jefferson, Jackson, Theodore Roosevelt. Polk, Truman, John Adams, Cleveland, Madison, John Quincy Adams, Hayes, McKinley, Taft, Van Buren, Monroe, Hoover, Benjamin Harrison, and Arthur. He only outranked (in order) Andrew Johnson, Taylor, Tyler, Fillmore, Coolidge, Pierce, Buchanan, Grant, and Harding.
        • A 1982 survey ranked him 11th. He was outranked by Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Washington, Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, Wilson, Jackson, Truman, John Adams, and Lyndon Johnson.
        • Another 1982 survey ranked him 9th. He was outranked by Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, Jefferson, Jackson, Wilson, and Truman.
        • A third 1982 survey ranked him 11th. He was outranked by Franklin Roosevelt, Jefferson, Lincoln, Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, Wilson, Truman, Kennedy, Madison, and John Adams.
        • A 1990 survey ranked him 12th. He was outranked by Franklin Roosevelt, Lincoln, Jefferson, Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, Wilson, Truman, Madison, Jackson, Kennedy, and Monroe.
        • A 1994 survey ranked him 8th. He was outranked by Franklin Roosevelt, Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Washington, Jefferson, Wilson, and Truman.
        • A 1996 survey ranked him 9th. He was outranked by Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Washington, Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, Wilson, Truman, and Jackson.
        • Another 1996 survey ranked him 10th. He was outranked by Lincoln, Washington, Franklin Roosevelt, Jefferson, Jackson, Theodore Roosevelt, Wilson, Truman, and Polk.
        • A 1999 survey ranked him 9th. He was outranked by Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, Truman, Wilson, Jefferson, and Kennedy.
        • A 2000 survey ranked him 9th. He was outranked by Washington, Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, Jackson, Truman, and Reagan.
        • A 2002 survey ranked him 10th. He was outranked by Franklin Roosevelt, Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Washington, Jefferson, Wilson, Truman, Monroe, and Madison.
        • A 2005 survey ranked him 8th. He was outranked by Washington, Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, Reagan, and Truman.
        • A 2008 survey ranked him 6th. He was outranked by Lincoln, Washington, Franklin Roosevelt, Jefferson, and Theodore Roosevelt.
        • A 2009 survey ranked him 8th. He was outranked by Lincoln, Washington, Franklin Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, and Jefferson.
        • A 2010 survey ranked him 10th. He was outranked by Franklin Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, Lincoln, Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Wilson, and Truman.
        • A 2011 survey ranked him 10th. He was outranked by Franklin Roosevelt, Lincoln, Washington, Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, Wilson, Truman, Reagan, and Jackson.
        • A 2015 survey ranked him 7th. He was outranked by Lincoln, Washington, Franklin Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, Jefferson, and Truman. Dimadick (talk) 11:41, 11 August 2015 (UTC)
Which just goes to show that rankings of presidents while they are in office or recently out of it have scant predictive value for later rankings. In some cases a president will only truly be appreciated more than a century later. Such as Grant who was vilified for his Civil Rights record and for corruption he was simply unaware of (and which was all too common in that era) who is now partly exonerated from his erstwhile abysmal ratings. Other presidents (Jackson for one) are still continuously overrated. Avengerofthe BoN (talk) 16:20, 11 August 2015 (UTC)

So? What are we to do now?[edit]

Anything? nothing? I fear the discussion seems to have died down mostly... Avengerofthe BoN (talk) 21:17, 12 August 2015 (UTC)

Go ahead and edit the article. If people don't like your edits they'll revise them or argue here. We're not English Wikipedia; you don't need to file a Request for Change in triplicate and read fifty policy pages first. --Ymir (talk) 21:54, 12 August 2015 (UTC)