Why I Still Like Ike

Ike in 1959
Ike in 1959

W.J. Astore

Recent news that the planned Eisenhower Memorial in Washington, D.C. remains in trouble greatly saddens me.  When I was young, I considered myself a moderate Republican/conservative Democrat.  I recall favoring Gerald Ford over Jimmy Carter in the 1976 presidential election.  My idea of a Democrat was someone like Senators Scoop Jackson and Sam Nunn, supporters of a hard line against the Soviet Union.  To me, these men appeared to be pragmatic, tough-minded, and willing to put country before partisan politics — much like Ike himself.

Ike, of course, was a Republican but could have run as a Democrat.  Indeed, today’s Republican Party would probably reject men like Ike and Gerald Ford.  They wouldn’t pass certain litmus tests in the primaries on issues like abortion or gun rights or school prayer and the like.  More’s the pity for our country.

Back in February 2012, I wrote this article (at Huff Post) on “Why I Still Like Ike.”  When you read Ike’s warning below about too much money being spent on weaponry, and his prophecy about the disastrous influence of the Military-Industrial Complex, ask yourself whether any mainstream political candidate today of either party would dare to denounce major weapons makers and America’s propensity for war with such clarity and guts.

Instead, today we have Democrats wetting themselves in their eagerness to appear tough (witness Vice President Biden’s comment about confronting the Islamic State at “the gates of hell”), and Republicans eager to bomb everything in sight.

Ike wasn’t perfect, but we sure could use a person of his courage and gravitas in 2016.  Chris Christie or Hillary Clinton, anyone? Forget about it.

Why I Still Like Ike (2012)

The ongoing controversy over the national memorial to President Dwight D. Eisenhower provides us with an opportunity to recall Ike’s legacy and his deeper meaning to America. Ike was of course a national hero, the supreme allied commander who led the assault at D-Day on June 6, 1944 and who later served as president during the height of the Cold War with the Soviet Union. His legacies are many and profound, from ending the Korean War to the interstate highway system that bears his name to advancing civil rights to creating the space program to the establishment of the department of health, education and welfare.

As important as Ike’s deeds were to our country, in some way his words were (and are) even more important, especially in this time of constant war and bloated budgets for “defense” and our burgeoning trade in deadly weaponry.

Ike was a citizen-soldier first and foremost, not a warrior or warfighter, and like the citizen-soldiers of World War II he came to hate war. This is not to say that Ike was a pacifist. He believed in a strong defense and intervened in countries such as Iran, Guatemala, Lebanon, Formosa, and South Vietnam, in order in his words to prevent “communist efforts to dominate” these countries. And we may certainly question the legality as well as the wisdom of these “wars in the shadows,” especially with respect to Iran and Vietnam.

But let us focus on Ike’s words — his lessons to America. Grossly underestimated by intellectuals who were deceived by his amiable public demeanor and his love of golf (with its country-club associations), Ike was a fine writer and a deep thinker who thoroughly understood the American heartland — and the American heart.

Any memorial to Ike should seek to capture the wisdom of his words and how they struck to the very core of the American (and human) experience. It should confront us with his words and encourage us to contemplate their meaning in a setting conducive to reflection and reconsideration.

First, let’s consider what Ike said about war. In a speech at the Canada Club in Ottawa on Jan. 10, 1946, Ike stated:

“I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.”

Let all Americans pause and reflect on the hard-earned wisdom of that statement before plotting our next military intervention.

Second, let’s consider what Ike said about the true cost of spending on military weaponry. In remarks prepared for the American Society of Newspaper Editors in 1953, Ike declared that:

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.

Third, let’s consider Ike’s final warning upon leaving office in 1961 about the dangers of a growing “military-industrial complex” to democracy and freedom in America. In his words:

The 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.

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.

Ike’s tersely prophetic words are rarely heard in American political discourse today. Indeed, his avowed hatred of war, his condemnation of the deadly weapons trade as contrary to human values, his warning about an emergent military-industrial complex with the power to threaten our liberties, would likely be dismissed in this year’s election season, whether by mainstream Democrats or Republicans, as the ravings of a left-wing, weak-kneed, liberal.

All the more reason why these words need to be enshrined in a national memorial to Eisenhower.

One more lesson Ike can impart to us: the virtue of humility. In spite of his immense accomplishments, Ike remained a humble man. Doubtless this humility stemmed from his upbringing, but so too did it come from his military service. As he himself wrote, “Humility must always be the portion of any man who receives acclaim earned in blood of his followers and sacrifices of his friends.”

In this age of American exceptionalism, in which our nation touts its “generation of heroes” and boasts of its unrivaled military power, Ike’s words remind us that humility is far more becoming a man and a nation.

Even the most powerful nation may fall if it loses itself in its own celebratory braggadocio. Ike knew this, and if despite his efforts such a fate had happened on his watch, he doubtless would have taken full responsibility. Consider here the words Ike prepared in case the D-Day attack had failed on June 6, 1944. This was what Ike was prepared to say:

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 was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that Bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.

Fortunately for history, Ike never had to say those words. Left unsaid, they nevertheless live on as an example of Ike’s willingness to bear unselfishly the burden of defeat, even as he humbly bore the laurels of victory.

Whatever final form the national memorial to Ike eventually assumes, I sincerely and fervently hope it enshrines the wisdom, the courage, the humility, the humanity of Ike’s words, so desperately do we need these qualities today.

For Ike knew that America’s true strength resides not in the size of our arsenals but in the generosity of our spirit.

Professor Astore writes regularly for TomDispatch.com and can be reached at wjastore@gmail.com.

23 thoughts on “Why I Still Like Ike

  1. Though, I have found President Eisenhower one of the more “acceptable” presidents of the United States, he like the majority of others has committed international crimes such as the overthrow of the democratically elected president of Iran in 1953.

    As the Supreme Allied Commander during WWII he was nothing more than a “political soldier” keeping the agitated allies working together. This was no small accomplishment given their varied and abrasive personalities (Ie; Montgomery). His one great strategic initiative with Operation Market Garden was a complete disaster as he did not prepare the groundwork properly. His planning for the invasion of Normandy was just as short-sighted since he failed to accommodate for the most dangerous impediment to Allied soldiers on the ground, the French brush areas that were to cost many soldiers their lives. This terrain was already well known to planners from their experiences and knowledge from the WWI.

    After the war he authorized the internment of German POWs in Poland where 1.3 million died from neglect and horrific camp conditions.

    His great speech about the “military industrial complex” was just that, a speech that had good rhetoric. However, to my knowledge, he never did one thing as president to corral the growing size of the military or the expanding intelligence services.

    The United States has actually not had a single president of any worth that ever stood for compassion and honor and actually meant it with maybe the exception of Hoover and JFK (Hoover was unfairly blamed for a depression that Wilson actually caused by allowing the horrendous reparations to be placed on Germany after WWI and before being president he was one of the world’s great Humanitarians.). They were all political animals like their cronies in the Congress who thought more of themselves than that of the general welfare of the country (FDR was only trying to save capitalism not the people). Because of this we have the horrendous political, financial, and military situations that we are facing today as they just didn’t pop up out of thin air.,..

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  2. Reblogged this on Vox Populi and commented:
    If Dwight Eisenhower were alive today, he would be considered a progressive along the lines of Elizabeth Warren. The US has moved so far to the right that any reasonable stand on an issue is labeled “radical” or “socialist”.

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  3. Steve is correct. Eisenhower was a skilled rhetorical speaker and is another version of Obama from an earlier period. What he says may be true but his actions did not coincide with his rhetoric. We have too much of that today.. It helps the argument today that this leading military man foresaw the danger of the “military-industrail complex” but he didn’t do much about it while in office. Let’s not deify just another American politician who by ovethrowing the elected government of Iran helped to destabilize the entire middle east.and the present day chaos. A truly non religious Iran democracy could hav ebeen a bright light in that benighted area.

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    1. Obama is no Ike. Ike not only led America but the Free World. And he kept the worst elements of the U.S. military under wraps. He sought balanced budgets and corralled the national security state. And I think he truly understood America, our strengths and weaknesses. Not given to rhetorical excess or tooting his own horn, Ike was a great president at a difficult time.

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  4. I don’t understand how he “corralled the national security state” when he used the national security apparatus to overthrow the elected government of the only slightly democratic country, Iran, in the middle east and OKed provocative U-2 flights over the sovereign country of the Soviet Union thus increasing their paranoia about our national intentions. Two monumental F..k ups that we are still living with today.

    Ike was a good military commander with enough political ‘chutzpah’ to keep the English from screwing up the war strategy.
    When a person becomes President they must have a different agenda.. The US was still in the afterglow of the social programs of FDR and a healthy economy when he presided and although I appreciate his parting words to our country when he left office it was sort of like John Kennedy who left us with Vietnam. Since FDR I believe we have had a succession of Presidents who do a few good things for he citizenry and many very bad things for our country. Lets demand a higher standard for our leaders.

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    1. Without Ike, and in the context of the hysteria surrounding McCarthyism and the Cold War in the 1950s, the national security state would have been even more invasive. Consider the events after 9/11, and consider if Ike had been president instead of George W. Bush. With Ike, I just don’t see the botched invasion/occupation of Iraq and the vast expansion of our spy agencies and security apparatus. Ike didn’t have to pose as being tough; inherently he was cautious and levelheaded, two qualities that Bush/Cheney never had. The latter wanted to prove their toughness (especially after they allowed America to be attacked on 9/11); Ike had nothing to prove.

      Again, Ike wasn’t perfect. But considering the tensions of the 1950s and the ever-present threat of the Cold War turning hot, Ike did a good job preventing World War III. He had a maturity of vision that is lacking in today’s politicians.

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  5. Whose invention was the “cold war”? Churchill’s, the old anti communist. Let’s look at history from an objective view rather than a “western” view. Stalin saw how England’s ruling class in 1938 caved in to Hitler and gave him first, the Sudetan, then Austria, then Czechoslovakia.. Why? because the ruling class was more afraid of Socialism than fascist capitalism and hoped Hitler would go after the Soviets for them.
    .
    Churchill, during the WWII and immediately after the war was constantly pushing anti Soviet strategies in eastern and Mediterranean Europe.(Greece, Italy,etc.). Post war Soviet expansionism was, in large part, an attempt to build a buffer against Western (British and American anti Soviet moves) With his provocative U2 invasion of Soviet sovereign air space Ike was carrying out a very aggressive and dangerous expansionist game, just as we are doing in Ukraine today.

    I tend to agree that Ike believed more in our constitution than either Dubya or Obama, but neither of us really knows if his political instincts would have also sold the constitution out for political gain* as those two have..

    * remember the execution of Pvt. Sloviik in WW II

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  6. My, my, Col. Astore, I wasn’t expecting this hot lead flying back and forth over this post when I logged on to make my own comments! I was four years old when Ike was elected to his first term, so I am a product of the full Cold War Experience–“Duck and Cover” drills to “prepare” for all-out nuclear war and such-like. I could nit-pick many of the assertions in the original article, but instead will confess a certain nostalgic warmth toward the Eisenhower years, especially when contrasted with what we’ve suffered occupying the White House more recently.

    I haven’t followed the story of the proposed memorial encountering headwinds, but I can guarantee it will NOT enshrine the warning about the Military-Industrial Complex–not in today’s political atmosphere!! Or perhaps those lobbying for it actually want to do something like that, and THAT’S why things have bogged down? We have now entered the New Cold War, with The Big Bad Russian Bear once again portrayed as the enemy (this will be more than a mere sideshow to the fight against “radical Islam,” mark my words). I am gritting my teeth as I await the day Obama comes on TV and declares: “I have found my true calling: I’M A WAR PRESIDENT.” By the way, I think this is the first time I’ve seen the part of Ike’s speech about our civil liberties being threatened by the addiction to war-making. Thank you, Colonel, for your original post.

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  7. My understanding of Eisenhower isn’t firm enough to feel able to join this discussion, but in reading these posts thus far, the following questions occurred to me towards which I hope one or more of you will pose some thought: What did Ike do during the Truman years? How did it shape his decision to take on the Presidency?

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    1. I have not studied Eisenhower, read no biographies of him. I think during Truman’s administrations he may have been appointed president of some university, perhaps? Or he may have been administrator of the US War College. (I know, I could go to Wikipedia in an instant and check this stuff, but I’m a stubborn old geezer!) Truman, in keeping with the requirements of the Cold War, oversaw the division of Korea into north and south and made the 38th Parallel a red line “to stop Communist aggression/expansionism.” Kim Il-Sung, who led the guerilla resistance against the Japanese occupiers during WW II, was not to be permitted to control the whole nation. Only five years after the great war’s end, the US launched a war undeclared by Congress (sound familiar?), draped with the flag of the UN (it was called “a police action”!) This war ground on, devastating the countryside (north of the artificial divide–now called the Demilitarized Zone, or DMZ–it is said hardly any building was left intact after the saturation bombings). The People’s Republic of China, feeling its own borders threatened, sent thousands of troops to assist Kim’s forces and the US/UN operation bogged right down. It was during this period that Gen. Douglas MacArthur let his views “leak” out that he wanted to use nuclear weapons against China. He was sacked and the world was spared that particular madness.

      I doubt that Eisenhower ever sought the presidency out of personal, megalomaniacal ambition. He was probably the last US presidential candidate who genuinely felt “the nation” was calling him for leadership when the GOP drafted him. It was expected that his military experience would enable a decisive victory over Evil Communism on the Korean peninsula. Oops! I do respect that he assessed the situation, saw a no-win quagmire and agreed to a ceasefire rather than continuing to send young Americans (and their allies) into the meatgrinder. (Of course, a ceasefire is all we still have. No peace treaty was ever agreed, and for 70 years as of next year US troops have remained stationed in the south of Korea.) On the whole, of course, Ike could have been nothing but a dedicated, “God-fearing” Cold Warrior, surrounded by creatures like Alan and John Foster Dulles. He was a product of his times, not to any degree an iconoclast. The US does not elect iconoclasts.

      Two video recommendations: “Patton,” with screenplay by Francis Ford Coppola and George C. Scott’s immortal performance in the title role. Ike is a character in the movie. Secondly, Oliver Stone’s series done for HBO, “The Untold History of the United States,” goes into great detail about the early years of the Cold War, including the Truman to Eisenhower transition.

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    2. It appears that I am the only one of voting age during the Ike years so from my failing memory I will try to answer. I believe that Ike was the president of some university. In the run up to the election there was much interest in him and whether he would run as a Democrat or Republican. My recollection was that all of the “New Deal” social programs of the Democrats were still in place still thus putting a protective foundation under any economic problems. I personally do not remember in the Midwest any difficulty finding jobs at that time as I was in my late 20’s. I do remember that many people were very concerned about a military “General” being elected President. They felt it was a step backward for our country.
      My recollection is that his presidency was rater colorless except for the U2 shoot down. We were not aware of the role Ike played in having the CIA engineer the .overthrow of Mossedegh , the Iranian elected President ,because he nationalized the British owned oil extraction industry. James Roosevelt led the charge on that we were told that Mossedegh was a dangerous “Socialist”..We replace him with “King” , the Shah of Iran, who brutalized the people with his secret police the Savak. How different the world would be today if democracy had been allowed to flourish in Iran.

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      1. As I pointed out previously, Ike was a product of his times. After 1917, the capitalist world (pretty well all the world, though there were still regions on the globe that could be said to be living under feudalism in early 20th Century) was all aflutter over The Red Menace. What even Mike Murry neglected to mention, and I just recalled, was that Eisenhower helped lead active-duty troops to break up the Bonus March by World War I veterans on the streets of the nation’s capital in 1932. Doubtless the demonstrators were tarred with the Commie Agitators brush. Mossedegh in Iran was painted with the Leftist/Socialist brush as well, and added to the Hit List. Of course the real tragedy of the Iranian events of 1979 is that the Shah was overthrown thanks to the sacrifices of the leftist youth, who were in short order drowned in their own blood by the Islamic fundamentalists. The capitalist ruling class and Islamic fundamentalism are very firmly united in their hatred of socialists!

        Speaking of “socialists,” what about FDR? I guess there is no specific presidential monument to him in D.C.? And guess what? There won’t be anytime soon!! The rise of the influence of “Libertarianism” within the GOP has produced terabytes of ranting accusations against the man who saved capitalism from the (potential) wrath of the working class. To read this stuff–and yes, I have read some of it–you would think FDR was a Bolshevik agent and is responsible for every societal ill under the sun plaguing this nation. And these guys pass for the “big minds,” the “intellectuals” within the Republican ranks. God save us from these “intellects”!

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  8. Like Greg Laxer, I spent my elementary and junior-high school years with President Eisenhower in office. My dad died in May of 1952, shortly before Eisenhower’s election, and the country went into a stagnant economic slump for eight years such that my widowed, working-class mother found it very difficult to find employment to support us. I remember us picking strawberries in Oregon for small change, with Mom telling my little brother and me to eat as many strawberries as we could so that we could use the money we made for milk and not food for dinner. Mom finally moved us to California in 1956 so we could live near my grandmother and where she hopefully could find decent paying work. I remember the Eisenhower re-election campaign of 1956 and its slogan “I like Ike.” My mother didn’t. She told me and my little brother: “A vote for a Republican is a vote against yourself.” I felt like Forrest Gump: “Mamma always had a way of explaining things to me so that I could understand them.” Most of us kids thought and spoke the way our parents did, and the kids with Republican parents mostly spewed personal invective at Adlai Stevenson and the Democratic Party, with Eisenhower’s pet pit bull, his scurrilous Vice President Richard “Tricky Dick” Nixon providing most of their vicious material. A very ugly political time in America for working-class Democrats like us.

    Personally, I think that Elvis Presley had a more profound effect on America in the 1950s than President Eisenhower, who mostly spent his presidency playing golf with wealthy friends while high unemployment kept wages low — an economic policy pretty much pursued by both Republicans and Democrats today. In this respect, I find President Obama very much like President Eisenhower: an insecure politician consumed by petty details like “budget deficits” while ignoring the economic pain these cause ordinary working Americans. Wall Street, of course, loved the Republican Eisenhower and said so, just as they love the Democrate Obama but will never say so. As the Big Money likes to say: “Buy a Republican and Rent a Democrat.” The Democrats, formerly the party of the working American man and woman, have become the political equivalent of the Wal-Mart temp “associate,” not even deserving the status of employee.

    To his credit, Eisenhower ran as a peace candidate promising to end the immensely unpopular Korean War. The country wanted it over. Now. Ike understood this and did manage to negotiate a cease fire, although he left tens of thousands of American troops there where they remain marooned today, eating up more of the working American’s tax dollars. President Eisenhower also intervened abroad when Britain, France, and the Apartheid Zionist Entity tried to steal the Suez Canal from Egypt. Possibly his finest moment. But then he swore that he didn’t have any high-altitude aircraft spying on the Soviet Union until the Soviets produced a U-2 pilot named Francis Gary Powers whose appearance pretty much made a humiliated fool and liar out of President Eisenhower. And, like others have said, Eisenhower’s using the CIA to overthrow the elected government of Iran for some oil companies and imposing a brutal dictator on that country resulted in a justifiable Iranian hatred of America that has lasted until the present day. And, of course, President Eisenhower fell asleep on the golf course while the Soviet Union began the Space Age without us.

    Upon leaving office, President Eisenhower did make a good speech warning about the “Military Industrial Complex,” but then, as others have said, he did nothing during his own eight years as president to prevent the growth and institutionalizing of the MIC — and neither has any of his successors to date. So, a de-facto military coup of sorts did begin during the Eisenhower presidency so that today no American President or political faction of the Monolithic Property Party can propose Peace as a policy with any hope of winning election. Nobody in power in America today gives a damn what President Eisenhower said upon leaving office because they can see only too well how timidly he behaved with his own political interests at stake.

    And no working-class American should ever forgive Eisenhower for Richard Milhous Nixon, the red-baiting lowbrow opportunist who did Eisenhower’s political dirty work while also running for President in 1968 as a peace candidate — and who sent me to Vietnam two years later in the summer of 1970. As we used to sardonically joke at the Defense Language Institute: “How can Nixon withdraw you from Vietnam unless he sends you there first?”

    A mediocre Republican President like Dwight Eisenhower deserves a few credits and several criticisms. This does not by any means make him one of America’s worst presidents, but he hardly deserves a monument for his mediocrity. Giants like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Delano Roosevelt deserve those.

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  9. I posted a somewhat lengthy comment in response to this article, but it has somehow disappeared. Rather than try to post the whole thing again, I’ll just say about President Eisenhower: “No thanks for Richard Milhous Nixon.” Personally, I think that Elvis Presley had a more profound effect on America in the 1950s than Dwight David Eisenhower.

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  10. Your thought-provoking replies are all appreciated. As for Eisenhower, I suspect he was of decent character, and likely had regrets. Not nearly as shameless as Obama. But yes, mediocre. I think his CIA pulled the same crap in Guatemala for the sake of cronies vested with United Fruit. I am curious to know what he knew of (and thought of) A. Dulles & Nixon, two of the
    bleepingest s.o.bees of the era. I seem to recall reading somewhere that he wanted to drop Nixon in ’56, but reconsidered for some reason.

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  11. Really glad my article stimulated so many comments. I’d add that Ike got us out of Korea, kept us out of Vietnam (or I should say French Indochina) in 1953-54, and as Mike Murry mentioned did the right thing in 1956 in regards to the Suez Canal crisis.

    Of course, some of his decisions were wrong. But arguably more important than specific decisions was a sense of maturity and solidity (even stolidity) that Ike projected. He had none of the snarl of Dick Cheney. He was not seeking to prove himself like JFK. He stood for what’s right without becoming a creature of the Right.

    I don’t think, with respect to the Soviet Union, that Ike inspired fear. Rather, he earned respect. And that was essential when the U.S. was ahead in the nuclear arms race and the Soviets, going through their own period of transition after the death of Stalin, saw themselves to be in precarious times. I can’t say this with certainty, but the Soviets may have been bolder, perhaps even reckless, if Adlai Stevenson had been president. Alternatively, if Nixon had been president instead of VP, some of the incidents of the 1950s may have rivaled the Cuban Missile Crisis, and perhaps surpassed it, in hair-trigger nuclear horror.

    We tend to forget how military advisers in the early 1960s tried to drive JFK to bomb Cuba and even to attack the USSR. Ike had reined in men like this. I recall Ike saying something to the effect that he worried that future presidents, lacking his experience of the military and his gravitas, would be unable to restrain the national security state. And he was right. Its expansion has gone almost unhalted in spite of Ike’s warning in 1961.

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    1. From The Best and the Brightest, by David Halberstam:

      “… Even before [John F.] Kennedy took office he had met with President Eisenhower, whose proudest boast for his term of office would bet that no shooting war had started during his two-term presidency; and that man of peace had shocked Kennedy by saying that it looked like we might have to to war over Laos. … The great crisis, Eisenhower said, was in Southeast Asia, Laos was the key to it. If we let Laos fall, we have to write off the whole area. We must not, Eisenhower said with considerable emotion, permit a Communist takeover. … Kennedy left the meeting profoundly shaken; the old President, who had come to symbolize peace, was now offering his young successor a war in Southeast Asia over Laos, and was of course offering his support from the farm in Gettysburg. …”

      The outgoing President Eisenhower did not just do his best to successfully trap his Democratic party successor into a dreadful debacle in Southeast Asia, but he also left to Kennedy a CIA seething with long-laid plans to invade Cuba with a gaggle of right-wing Cuban expatriates, despised remnants of the ruthless Batista regime. Kennedy, unfortunately, listened to Ike’s advice to give the go-ahead to those yahoos, as well. Kennedy listened and got the Bay of Pigs. The U.S. military establishment almost got the “splendid little war” with Cuba — and a nuclear exchange with Russia — that they so much desired for career ticket-punching reasons. Kennedy never forgave Ike and the joint chiefs for their duplicitous, self-serving “advice.”

      So much for listening to what President Eisenhower advised someone else to do once safely out of office himself. One really has to separate the genial public-relations image projected by Eisenhower with the intensely partisan, Nixon/McCarthy practices of his administration. He even stood by while McCarthy savaged General George C. Marshall, the man who mentored Ike and did so much to further his career. When it really counted for the nation, political expediency and partisan advantage trumped everything else for Ike. He pretty much bumbled and fumbled his way through eight years of near national narcolepsy, but with a nation intensely disinclined to allow him any further military adventurism — such as the kind he advised Kennedy to indulge — circumstances demanded nothing more from him than his oft quoted motto: “Don’t just do something. Stand there.” That he could do, and so should President Obama. American presidents who “do stuff” in the realm of foreign affairs more often than not only make bad situations worse by orders of magnitude. If only Ike had said that loud and clear to the world as he left office.

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      1. And the current occupant of the White House supposedly has the motto “Don’t do anything stupid.” It will be most interesting to see the results down the road from his decisions to 1.) re-escalate war in Iraq and expand it to Syria; and 2.) launch the New Cold War (or shall we call it Cold War II?) against Russia. Of course, these are collective decisions by the ruling class’s “best and brightest,” Obama’s handlers, but anything that goes down on a particular president’s watch will always be pinned on that individual. For instance, the fact that the US economy is still in dying cockroach position (excepting conditions for the upper 1%, that is) will likely give GOP control of both houses of Congress come November, despite the hideousness of that party’s ideology. “Vote with your pocketbook,” even though “the other guys” are still more hostile to the working class. And so, the great hustle continues…

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  12. greglaxer, the “vote with your pocketbook” ideology line immediately brought to mind the image of a stumping Bush in the waning days of his reelection campaign snidely pulling his wallet above his head & in his best trademark sneer imploring the crowd to beware of Clinton “coming for this”,
    Always nice how Old Money can be relied upon to example grace.

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