Foreign Policy

(Assicoation for Diplomatic Studies and Training, John Foster Dulles – Master Craftsman, Man of Paradox)

(Assicoation for Diplomatic Studies and Training, John Foster Dulles – Master Craftsman, Man of Paradox)

Contents:


Ike returned to Normandy in 1964, the twentieth anniversary of D-Day, with Walter Cronkite to film a television special.  The special concluded with Ike telling Cronkite what D-Day meant to him and how lucky he and Mamie were to see John grow up while thousands of other families lost their sons in the defense of freedom.  “They never knew the great experiences of going through life like my son can enjoy.  I devoutly hope that we will never again have to see such scenes as these. I hope and pray that humanity has learned more than we had learned up to that time.  But these people gave us a chance; they bought time for us so we can do better.  So every time I come back to these beaches, I say once more, ‘we must find some way to work to an eternal peace for this world.’” (Ike’s 20th Anniversary Return to Normandy)

World Peace

Ike dedicated the rest of his career to world peace after seeing the horror of World War II and the Holocaust.  He told a group of WWII veterans during the 1952 campaign, “I’m running for president for just one reason, that is to ensure that nothing like that war will ever occur again.” (Mieczkowski, Ike’s Sputnik Moment)

Ike knew that, in the nuclear age, a third world war meant human extinction.  His mission was to prevent this nightmare and to build a lasting peace for all people.  World peace became his signature political goal.  (Thomas, Ike’s Bluff)

He memorized the prayer of St Francis of Assisi: “Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.”  (Baier, Three Days in January)

Ike believed that people around the world wanted peace.  It was the arrogance of various governments that caused war. 

Ike identified high levels of military spending as a major cause of war.  Countries like the Roman Empire and Napoleonic France scared their neighbors with their large militaries, leading to an arms race and conflict.  (Eisenhower, Waging Peace)

Ike did not support “peace at any price,” or merely surrender to the Nazis or Soviets.  It had to be a peace that was acceptable to the free world.  Nor did he believe that the way to peace was to forcefully spread democracy around the world, as Woodrow Wilson or George W. Bush believed.  For Ike, contrasting ideologies, like communism and liberal democracy, could live in peace through mutual understanding and disarmament.

He believed that all nations and peoples had the right to choose their own government and that no country was the permanent enemy of humanity. 

He celebrated the Founding Fathers’ anti-colonialism.  He said, “No country should be second class before international law. We cannot - in the world or in our own nation - subscribe to one law for the weak, another for the strong; one law for those opposing us, another for those allied with us. There can be only one law or there will be no peace.”  (Nichols, Eisenhower 1956)

Ike’s vision of world peace was Wilsonian in nature.  American leadership would promote global trade and self-determination.  The major powers, including the United States and Soviet Union, would act in concert to guarantee international peace and prosperity.  An effective United Nations would replace hostile alliances and saber rattling.  The UN would control the world’s nuclear weapons and make peaceful nuclear energy an option for all nations.  Ike knew from Wilson’s failure that this was a utopian vision, but it was one the world should work toward over time.  (Ambrose, Eisenhower: Soldier and President)

World peace meant, “substituting the council table for the battlefield.”  His ultimate goal was for, “the millennium when arbitration and reason will entirely replace force,” as a realistic goal.  (Eisenhower and King)

He predicted that the twentieth century would be remembered for its brutality but as a prelude to a golden age for humanity. 

American Global Leadership

The US returned to isolationism after WWI.  Ike opposed this and supported an internationalist foreign policy in the 1920s.  He blamed American isolationism for WWII.  (Baier, Three Days in January)

Ike, like most Republicans of the era, would have preferred to avoid the costs of global leadership.  But he knew that the US could not be isolationist while the Soviets sought to spread communism around the world.  He wrote, “God knows I’d personally like to get out of Europe and I’d like to see the US able to sit at home and ignore the rest of the world. What a pleasant prospect until you look at ultimate consequences, destruction.” (Ambrose, Eisenhower: Soldier and President)

Ike believed that the US had to be a world leader because the American people were “the most politically mature of any in the world.”  He saw America’s moral stature as a source of power and become obsessed with global opinion. 

He wanted the US to lead the world to peace and prosperity.  He wanted freedom to spread, but did not see the world as one big democracy waiting to be liberated.  Nations had to learn how to be free in their collective memory.  He pointed to Ancient Rome and Weimar Germany as examples of how democracies could disintegrate from within.  (Kreig, Dwight D. Eisenhower: Soldier, President, Statesman)

In the Cold War, Ike used the word “free” to mean countries that were not communist.  He did not necessarily mean “democratic.” Any nation that fell under Soviet influence lost its “freedom.”  (Cook, The Declassified Eisenhower)

Ike opposed the Bricker Amendment, which would weaken the president’s ability to make agreements with foreign countries.  He worked with Senate Majority Lyndon Johnson to block the amendment.  Ike did not care that Bricker, a Republican, had a team of constitutional lawyers supporting his position, saying, “Lawyers have been trained to take either side of any case and make the most intelligent and impassioned defense of their adopted viewpoint.”  He vented to Jim Hagerty, his press secretary, “If it’s true that when you die the things that bothered you the most are engraved on your skull, I’m sure I’ll have there the mud and dirt of France during the invasion and the name of Senator Bricker.”  (Ambrose, Eisenhower: Soldier and President)

Multilateralism and the United Nations

Ike’s role as a coalition leader in WWII led to his strong support for multilateralism, which meant that nations would cooperate toward common goals.

He strongly supported the UN and described it as the world’s “soundest hope for peace.”  He “expected the UN would establish a genuine peacekeeping force, and that the US would send a sizable contingent to it.”  He also favored the UN having a monopoly on the world’s nuclear weapons.  (Ambrose, Eisenhower: Soldier and President)

His support for the UN was at odds with other Republicans.  He opposed their initiative to defund the institution, saying, “Legislation such as this surely would not serve the cause of our leadership of the free forces in the United Nations. Leadership of these free nations is something the Soviet Union can never take away from us. But we can give it away, or lose it if we are careless. And, in my opinion, a hostile, punitive measure such as this would be a priceless gift to those who would see us weak and alone.” (Kreig, Dwight D. Eisenhower: Soldier, President, Statesman)

In 1962, while visiting Europe, he proposed a UN-run school to test democracy and communism to see which was better.  (David Eisenhower, Going Home to Glory)

His multilateralism led to military alliances to oppose communism.  He knew the Soviets sought to divide their enemies.  Ike said this meant that nations needed to surrender a limited amount of national sovereignty.  He called for “a firm agreement [among free nations] that in disputes between nations a central and joint agency, after examination of the facts, shall decide the justice of the case by majority vote and therefore shall have the power to enforce its decision.” (Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe)

He suggested to Republican leaders in 1959 that the English-speaking world of America, Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand create a single huge government.  (Ambrose, Eisenhower: Soldier and President)

Emergence of the Cold War

Ike thought little about the Soviet Union before WWII.  As MacArthur’s protégé he listened to anti-communist rants through the 1930s and accepted these views.

He believed that the United States and Soviet Union were mutually dependent on one another for victory over Nazi Germany.  (Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe)

He strongly supported the Soviet-American alliance during WWII.  But by early 1944, he recognized that the Soviets would become a threat after the war.  He believed the Soviets sought to destroy all representative governments.  (Eisenhower, At Ease)

Ike recommended to FDR that Germany be placed under a joint occupation of the Americans, British, French, and Soviets under a single commander.  This would maintain the Soviet-American alliance after the war and prevent Stalin from acting unilaterally in Eastern Europe.  FDR rejected this idea in favor of dividing Germany into four occupation zones.  (Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe)

Ike hoped that the Allied victory over Nazi Germany would lay the foundation for post-war cooperation and peace.  He and Zhukov agreed that a permanent Soviet-American alliance would end war.  They agreed that democracy and communism could coexist.  (Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe)

Zhukov hosted Ike and John’s tour of the Soviet Union in August 1945.  Ike said no building west of Moscow was standing.  Ike stood with Stalin and Zhukov on Lenin’s tomb as 100,000 Soviet athletes marched by in a patriotic demonstration.  Zhukov escorted Ike to a soccer game and to the Siege of Leningrad’s ruins.  Ike met Stalin, who said the Soviets needed American help recovering from the war.  Ike said he’d convey this information to Truman.  Stalin called Ike “a great man.” (Smith, Eisenhower in War and Peace)

He disliked it when Americans spoke of an inevitable war with the Soviet Union.  He declared in March 1946, “Although Abraham Lincoln said ‘A house divided against itself cannot stand,’ he did not say that two houses constructed differently, of different materials, of different appearance could not stand in peace within the same block… We must learn in this world to accommodate ourselves so that we may live in peace with others whose basic philosophy may be different.”  (Ambrose, Eisenhower: Soldier and President)

Marshall and Eisenhower refused to accept that the wartime alliance was disintegrating in 1946.  Neither man accepted the Cold War as reality until mid-1947.  (Ambrose, Eisenhower: Soldier and President)

Ike thought Truman’s advisors greatly overestimated the Soviet capacity to invade Western Europe in the late 1940s.  He nonetheless supported most of Truman’s foreign policy decisions, including the Marshall Plan, the Truman Doctrine, and NATO. (Ambrose, Eisenhower: Soldier and President)

He made limited effort to understand communism, but his analysis would not have impressed academics.  (The Eisenhower Diaries)

He recognized that communism was attractive to underdeveloped nations and the world’s poor.  It offered economic equality and an alternative to “Western imperialism.”  But he identified communism as a system of totalitarianism and conformity.  It was an enemy of nationalism and all forms of religion, including Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, and Judaism.  The communists thought they knew the best for everyone.

Ike believed that Stalin and the Soviets were, in some ways, more dangerous than Hitler and the Nazis.  Nazism had little ideological appeal outside of Germany, while communism appealed to poor people around the world.  Stalin had spies around the world, and had even penetrated the Manhattan Project.  (Ambrose, Ike’s Spies)

As much as Ike did not like communism, he opposed excessive anti-communist rhetoric.  He sought to project calm and ease tensions between the free world and the communist world.

He recognized that the Cold War as a long-term struggle.  He thought the US needed to keep pressure on the Soviet Union until it collapsed.  The Soviets could not keep pace with the free world’s entrepreneurial capitalism.  (Thomas, Ike’s Bluff)

Europe and NATO

Ike became the first governor of the American zone in Germany after the war.  Under his leadership, the American zone arrested and prosecuted more Nazis than the British, French, or Soviet zones.  (Ambrose, Eisenhower: Soldier and President)

He initially outlawed fraternization between the American soldiers and German civilians, but later told Marshall this was too difficult and unnecessary.  (Ambrose, Eisenhower: Soldier and President)

He initially supported Morgenthau’s Plan to turn Germany into an agricultural country.  But he decided European recovery depended on a strong, democratic Germany.  (Ambrose, Eisenhower: Soldier and President)

He wanted to transform Germany from totalitarianism to democracy.  He established a free press and told German reporters to criticize him whenever they felt he deserved it.  He told German labor unions to represent their workers and for German students to think for themselves.  He said that the occupation would be judged a success if Germany remained a democracy fifty years later.  (Ambrose, Eisenhower: Soldier and President)

The early part of the Cold War focused on Europe.  The Truman administration feared a Soviet attack on Western Europe.  Their solution was to create an international organization that would require the Western Democracies to treat an attack on one as an attack on all.  The result was the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.  Truman knew he needed a massive military figure to organize NATO to give the alliance credibility.  He asked Ike to become NATO’s first Supreme Commander in 1950.  Ike agreed.  Ike convinced Western European governments and a reluctant Congress to ratify the NATO treaty.  NATO successfully deterred a Soviet invasion of Western Europe; it remains a cornerstone of American foreign policy, and perhaps most importantly, it stabilized Europe for the first time since the age of Rome.  (Baker, America: The Story of Us)

Ike believed that NATO would defend Western Europe and preserve the peace.  Without it, “all the Russians needed to march to the Channel was shoe leather.”

Republican Senator Robert Taft, an isolationist, sought to withdraw America from NATO if elected in 1952.  Ike ran for president in part to prevent this outcome. 

He pushed for West Germany’s rearmament and entry into NATO despite French and Soviet protests. (Fursenko, Khrushchev’s Cold War)

Ike initially hoped that America and Canada could withdraw from NATO after ten years, but later changed his mind.  He told JFK that it was America’s greatest alliance.

Ike wanted NATO to lead to an all-European army.  This would lead to Europe’s unification into a super-state.  Movement and trade would move freely across the continent.  A United Europe could become a powerful Third Force in the world between the US and USSR.  The different expertise of Germans, Belgians, Dutch, Frenchmen, Danish, Spanish, and others would complement each other and benefit the world.   This implies he would have supported the European Union and the Common Market.  (Ambrose, Eisenhower: Soldier and President)

He supported atomic energy for Europe so the continent was not dependent on Arab oil.

Ike strongly disagreed with FDR and Truman’s decisions at Yalta and Potsdam that he partly blamed for Soviet domination of Eastern Europe.  (Ambrose, Eisenhower: Soldier and President)

He told Dulles that Republican promises to liberate Eastern Europe should include the phrase “through peaceful means.”  He placed reduced tensions with Moscow as a higher priority than liberation of the Soviet client states.

Secretary of Defense Wilson did not want to send weapons to the Soviet client states.  Ike responded, “The last thing you want to do is to force all these peripheral countries, the Baltic States, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and the rest of them to depend on Moscow for the rest of their lives.”  (Korda, Ike: An American Hero)

As president, Ike compared the Eastern Bloc countries to the American colonies before 1776.  He even compared the Hungarian protesters in 1956 to the colonial minutemen and applauded the Hungarians for resisting foreign domination.

He rejected a plan from the CIA to drop weapons into Hungary.  He feared that any intervention behind the Iron Curtain would trigger World War III.  (Smith, Eisenhower in War and Peace)

Though he refused to aid the Hungarian rebels, he resettled 35,000 Hungarian refugees into the US and asked other countries to adopt as many refugees as possible.  (Gellman, The President and the Apprentice)

Pact of Madrid: Ike restored diplomatic relations with Spain, under the leadership of Francisco Franco, a fascist dictator and potential Axis power from WWII.  The move ended Spain’s postwar isolation.  (Gellman, The President and the Apprentice)

He remained popular in East Germany, in spite of the Cold War, as the man who defeated the Nazis.

Ike did not like that West Berlin was a Western island surrounded by communist territory.  He would have neutralized the city if it could be done without appearing that he had surrendered to Soviet pressure. (Ambrose, Eisenhower: Soldier and President)

Khrushchev put an ultimatum on West Berlin in 1958, threatening war if the city was not surrendered.  Congress and the military wanted to put more troops in the city.  Instead, Ike withdrew troops, saying that his only option was to use nuclear weapons.  Khrushchev, his bluff called, allowed the ultimatum’s deadline to expire in spring 1959.  Ike was so stressed during this crisis he threw his golf club at his personal doctor. (Thomas, Ike’s Bluff)

Ike was critical of JFK for failing to stop the rise of the Berlin Wall.  (Ambrose, Eisenhower: Soldier and President)

Inherited Situation

Ike ran for president in 1952 to end the Korean War and to keep America out of any other wars.  The 1950s are remembered as being boring and peaceful, but Ike inherited one of the most dangerous situations of any president upon taking office.

The atomic bomb had ended WWII.  Many Americans saw it as an easy solution to most foreign issues.  Most strategists made no distinction between nuclear weapons and conventional weapons.  There were not yet any international norms regulating their use.  They were a weapon of first resort. (Newton, Eisenhower: The White House Years)

Stalin died six weeks after Ike took office.  He had been the leader of global communism for twenty-five years.  His death paralyzed Moscow until Khrushchev, the most hawkish of Soviet leaders, took power in the mid-50s. Mao, meanwhile, had come to power in China in 1949. He was on the move and sought to spread communism and his influence across Asia. The communist world was never more aggressive than in the 1950s. 

America was at the height of anti-communism and McCarthyism. Most of the US establishment was looking for a fight against communism and wanted to spend as much on defense as possible. This, when combined with the communist aggression and that nuclear weapons were seen as a weapon of first resort, made the 1950s extraordinarily dangerous. 

The European empires, devastated from the World Wars, withdrew from their colonies in the mid-twentieth century.  These newly independent states, such as Egypt, Israel, and Vietnam, became potential proxies for the superpowers. Jockeying for new alliances raised the risk of miscalculation and potential war.

Millions of American soldiers were fighting in the Korean War.  The stalemate in Korea had lasted over two years when Ike was inaugurated. 

The Truman Administration approved a memorandum titled NSC 68.  This document described the Soviet Union as an existential threat and recommended quadrupling the military budget.  Truman authorized this request when the Korean War began.  The result was a wave of militarism that Ike was determined to reverse upon taking office.  (Korb, A Historical Analysis of Defense Budgets)

Twenty years of deficit spending under Roosevelt and Truman as a result of the New Deal, WWII, the Cold War, the Fair Deal, and the Korean War had brought America’s debt to GDP ratio to 127%.  This was not sustainable and resulted in escalating inflation.  (Hartmann, The Tea Party: Not Eisenhower’s GOP)

Senator Joe McCarthy was at the height of his power as he conducted a communist witch-hunt, destroying thousands of reputations and careers.  Ike believed the Senator had his sights on the presidency.  (Nichols, Ike and McCarthy)

In Iran, the Tudeh Party under Mohammad Mossadegh had nationalized the country’s oil industry, forcing a crisis with Britain.  Ike feared Mossadegh was a communist and could become a Soviet proxy, giving Moscow control of the Persian Gulf.  (Takeyh, The Truth about the CIA and Iran)

Nuclear Weapons, the Arms Race, and the New Look

Ike was aware of the race between American and German scientists to build the first atomic bomb during WWII.  Officials from Washington told him about the Manhattan Project and made predictions about the German project.  They told Ike where they thought the Germans were working on the bomb.  Ike ordered air strikes at these locations.  He believed these attacks delayed the German effort.  (Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe)

Allied leaders met in Potsdam, Germany, in July 1945.  Ike was notified of Truman’s decision to use the atomic bomb on Japan to shorten the war.  Ike was the only Allied leader at Potsdam who opposed this decision.  He believed Japan was prepared to surrender and that the bomb was not necessary.  He also feared that using this new weapon would hurt America’s global image.  (Smith, Eisenhower in War and Peace)

Hiroshima and Nagasaki haunted him throughout his presidency.  (Baier, Three Days in January)

He favored the UN having a monopoly on the world’s nuclear weapons.  (Smith, Eisenhower in War and Peace)

Ike opposed the McMahon Act of 1946, which forbade the sharing of atomic information with other countries.  (Cook, The Declassified Eisenhower)

Ike’s NSC feared that the Soviets would obtain Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM) by the end of the decade and would pose an existential threat to the US.  The NSC debated whether the US should launch a nuclear preventive strike to destroy the Soviet Union and prevent this from happening.  Ike rejected the idea on humanitarian grounds.  (Thomas, Ike’s Bluff)

The Great Equation was the core of Ike’s presidency and ideology.  It linked the relationships between world peace, military spending, and the national debt.  Ike wanted to further peace in part because he wanted to cut defense spending and balance the budget.  (Thomas, Ike’s Bluff)

These considerations played into his reevaluation of Cold War strategy in the fall of 1953.  He believed Truman’s strategy of containing communism through limited wars like Korea was too costly to maintain for the long-term.  He ordered Project Solarium, which saw three teams create Cold War strategies to replace Truman’s model.  Team A, led by George Kennan, proposed containing communism through building alliances, primarily in Europe.  Team B proposed threatening to use nuclear weapons to contain communism.  Team C proposed rolling back communism wherever possible.  (Why Like Ike: Project Solarium)

Ike melded all three proposals into the New Look, which became his signature national security strategy.  He expanded America’s nuclear arsenal and threatened a large-scale nuclear response (Massive Retaliation) against the communist world if the communists tried to expand anywhere.  Ike, who led Operation Overlord and defeated Nazi Germany, was uniquely credible in making this threat. (Thomas, Ike’s Bluff)

While Massive Retaliation checked major communist aggression, Ike used the CIA to role back communism where it was vulnerable.  The most notable examples were in Iran and Guatemala.  (Thomas, Ike’s Bluff)

Once Ike effectively thwarted Soviet expansion he wanted to negotiate a reduction of nuclear weapons.  (Thomas, Ike’s Bluff)

Ike used his poker skills to make his nuclear bluff credible.  He wanted to make the Soviet government and American people believe he was serious.  He intentionally sought to appear less than intelligent so others would believe that he did not understand the consequences of using nuclear weapons.  He suggested there was no difference between nuclear weapons and bullets during a press conference.  He pretended to misunderstand his translator when meeting with foreign leaders so they’d think he was dumb.  (Thomas, Ike’s Bluff)

Ike was willing to let Americans fear the increased risk of nuclear war if it let him contain communism while cutting military spending.  He played golf to seem uninterested in his presidential responsibilities.  The purpose was to make the American people believe that the Cold War was not as dangerous as it seemed. Ike calmed the country’s anxieties, but this contributed to his reputation as a do-nothing president.  (Thomas, Ike’s Bluff)

The New Look allowed Ike to cut military spending and balance the budget.  He was able to cut conventional forces, which were more expensive than nuclear weapons.  Reducing conventional forces also removed America’s abilities to fight limited wars like Korea.  By removing the means to fight a limited war, he meant to eliminate the temptation to participate in limited warfare.  Relying on nuclear weapons to contain communism, as opposed to conventional forces, allowed Ike to prevent any communist expansion for eight years without losing any American soldiers.  (Thomas, Ike’s Bluff)

Shifting containment from conventional forces to a nuclear deterrent was much more affordable for the US and allowed the US to contain communism until the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. This means Ike was a major architect of the West’s victory in the Cold War. (Bowie and Immerman, Waging Peace)

It is still unclear whether Ike was bluffing about Massive Retaliation.  He never told his advisors or Mamie.  He was afraid they would leak this critical secret.  He valued government secrecy and hated leaks.  (Thomas, Ike’s Bluff)

Massive Retaliation was an enormous gamble.  Ike needed to convince the world he would use nuclear weapons while, at the same time, doing everything in his power to prevent war.  The communist world was unstable after Stalin’s death, and there were not yet international norms regulating the use of nuclear weapons.  These factors led to a series of crises that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war in the 1950s.  They included Korea in 1953, Diem Bien Phu in 1954, Taiwan in 1955 and 1958, Suez and Hungary in 1956, and Berlin in 1959.  Ike defused each one.  (Thomas, Ike’s Bluff)

Ike became president determined to achieve nuclear disarmament between the superpowers.  This quickly became his main goal.  He made his first major proposal, Atoms for Peace, in December 1953.  The proposal was for the world’s nuclear weapons to be given to the UN, who would dismantle them.  The UN would create an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which would aid nations around the world in achieving peaceful nuclear energy.  Most of the world endorsed Atoms for Peace.  (Ambrose, Eisenhower: Soldier and President)

The Soviets rejected the proposal.  Their government was paralyzed for the first two years after Stalin’s death, and they were not receptive to Ike’s idea.  He had hoped to achieve nuclear disarmament in his first year in office.  Now, the threat of nuclear war and the goal of nuclear disarmament would dominate his entire presidency.  (Ambrose, Eisenhower: Soldier and President)

Ike and his advisors met with a Soviet delegation in Geneva in 1955.  He proposed Open Skies, which would allow the US and USSR to fly spy planes over each other’s countries.  This would build trust between the superpowers and could lead to nuclear disarmament.  Soviet Premier Nikolai Bulganin was interested in the idea, but Nikita Khrushchev, the real power in the Kremlin, rejected it.  Khrushchev said Open Skies was an American ploy to penetrate the Soviet government.  (Thomas, Ike’s Bluff)

Ike was disappointed by Open Skies’ failure and approved the Killian Report in 1955.  The report suggested investments in aerial spying technology.  This led to the U2 program, which saw CIA spy planes fly over the Soviet Union and taking aerial photographs, giving the Eisenhower administration information about the Soviet nuclear arsenal.  Ike knew the flights violated international law, but he felt they were necessary for national security.  He kept them secret from the public until the 1960 U2 Incident.  The Soviets, embarrassed that their anti-aircraft weapons could not reach the U2 planes, also kept the program a secret.  (Thomas, Ike’s Bluff)

Ike also approved of the Corona program.  These spy satellites became operational in the late 1960s and replaced the U2 as America’s primary method of collecting foreign intelligence.  The Corona program remains active today.  (Mieczkowski, Eisenhower’s Sputnik Moment)

Ike believed World War III meant humanity’s extinction.  He predicted that 65% of Americans would be killed or wounded.  He told his advisors that, in the event of nuclear war, “You might as well go out and shoot everyone and then shoot yourself.” (Thomas, Ike’s Bluff)

An economic advisor in the NSC explained what it would take to restore the dollar after a nuclear war.  Ike interrupted him, “Wait a minute, boys. We’re not going to be reconstructing the dollar. We’re going to be grubbing for worms.”  (Thomas, Ike’s Bluff)

Ike wanted to build “clean” nuclear weapons with reduced radioactive fallout.  He was willing to share this technology with the Soviets. (Ambrose, Eisenhower: Soldier and President)

He initially preferred bomber aircraft to missiles, but reversed his opinion in his second term.  He said that advocating for bombers in the missile age was the equivalent of advocating for bow and arrows after the invention of gunpowder.  (Ambrose, Eisenhower: Soldier and President)

He designed the Nuclear Triad to guarantee that America could always deliver a second-strike, even if the Soviets destroyed the continental US.  This increased the country’s nuclear deterrence.  The Triad included bomber aircraft, land-based missiles, and submarine-based ballistic missiles.  It is the most powerful weapon in human history.  (Stadelmann, US Presidents for Dummies)

The Soviet Union launched Sputnik in 1957.  This meant that they had won the first victory of the Space Race and, more importantly, could soon have an ICBM that could launch across the Atlantic.  A panic broke out across the US.  The administration organized a panel of scientists and military experts to assess the situation. The result was the Gaither Report, which reported that the US would not survive the decade unless the government built a series of fall-out shelters across the country and that the rest of the economy was put into military spending.  (Newton, Eisenhower: The White House Years)

Ike thought this was an enormous overreaction. The Gaither Report recommended turning the US into a garrison state, where the military would control the country.  Ike had long sought to avoid this potential outcome of the arms race.  Secretary of State Dulles was the only member of the National Security Council to agree with Ike.  Ike rejected the report’s advice.  Someone leaked the report and Ike was nationally criticized.  It was the only time his approval rating went below 50%. Kennedy and other Democrats said Ike was being irresponsible and that they would have done it. Even his Army friends said he was wrong. This cost him political capital and credibility in foreign policy.  He refused to increase military spending, and instead, convinced Congress to create NASA and invest in education as the nation’s response to Sputnik.  (Newton, Eisenhower: The White House Years)

Khrushchev became the dominant figure in the Kremlin by the mid-1950s following the Suez Crisis and Sputnik.  He built on these victories by placing an ultimatum on West Berlin in late 1958, threatening war if the city was not surrendered.  Congress and the military wanted to put more troops in the city.  Instead, Ike withdrew troops, saying that his only option was to use nuclear weapons.  Khrushchev, his bluff called, allowed the ultimatum’s deadline to expire in spring 1959.  Ike was so stressed during this crisis he threw his golf club at his personal doctor. (Thomas, Ike’s Bluff)

Tension between the superpowers defused after the 1959 Berlin Crisis.  Khrushchev came to the US, toured the country, met Marylyn Monroe, and through a tantrum when he was not allowed in Disneyland for security reasons.  He met with Ike at Camp David for two days of talks.  Ike was skeptical about the meeting and told Khrushchev that the US would defend Berlin and other Western interests.  He also said that Khrushchev could be remembered as a great peacemaker if he and Ike reached a deal on nuclear disarmament.  The two men announced they would meet again, in Paris, in May 1960 to continue their discussions.  (Smith, Eisenhower in War and Peace)

Ike told de Gaulle he wanted to end his presidency with an agreement between East and West.  He thought that Khrushchev, his main adversary as president, could be his partner in disarmament.  (Thomas, Ike’s Bluff)

The odds were against the summit.  The American press, CIA, JSC, and Defense Department were all opposed to an agreement.  Ike was also insistent on mutual inspections between the US and Soviet governments to make sure both sides abided by the deal.  Not having inspectors meant putting America’s security at risk.  Khrushchev was paranoid about Americans inspectors, so a deal would have been difficult.  (Fursenko, Khrushchev’s Cold War)

Ike had banned U2 flights in 1958 to calm the Soviets.  But he feared the Soviets could have a new weapon system that Khrushchev would use as a bargaining chip in the Paris Summit.  Allen Dulles, head of the CIA, convinced him to send a single U2 over the USSR to photograph the Soviet arsenal. 

The plane was shot down on May 1, 1960.  The CIA told him the pilot was dead.  Ike trusted them and said it was a weather plane that had gotten lost over Russia.  But Khrushchev had captured the pilot, Garry Powers, alive, and got him to admit that he was a spy.  Khrushchev caught Ike in a lie and embarrassed the US. 

Ike went to the Paris Summit hoping to salvage an agreement.  He met with Khrushchev, de Gaulle, and British Prime Minister Macmillan in May 1960.  Khrushchev condemned US actions and demanded an apology.  Ike said he would agree to a statement by the four powers agreeing not to spy on one another.  Khrushchev said this was not good enough.  De Gaulle sided with Ike, and Khrushchev stormed out of the room.  The summit was dead.  (Fursenko, Khrushchev’s Cold War)

Ike, Macmillan, and de Gaulle speculated on why Khrushchev ruined the summit.  He could have easily hidden or downplayed the U2 Incident if he wanted to make a deal.  The leaders decided Khrushchev had wanted to revoke Ike’s invitation to visit the USSR after the summit for fear he would promote anti-communist ideas.  (Eisenhower, Waging Peace)

Ike had failed to stop the arms race.  It was the greatest failure of his career.  However, this failure does not overshadow his achievement.  Ike was president during the most dangerous decade of human history.  He was so effective at keeping the peace that it looks boring in retrospect.  (Thomas, Ike’s Bluff)

Perhaps Ike’s greatest legacy was that his repeated refusal to use nuclear weapons, in spite of crises like Korea, Diem Bien Phu, Taiwan, Suez, and Berlin, raised the threshold on their use.  Most Americans, including Ike’s advisors (like Dulles and Nixon), thought it was logical to use the bomb to address these crises, but Ike refused each time.  Even the limited use of nuclear weapons in the 1950s could have made them a routine tool in foreign policy.  That would have been catastrophic in the long-term.  International norms that regulated their use developed by the end of Ike’s presidency.  Countries now shun any use of nuclear weaponry; international norms turned them from a tool of first resort to a nonconventional weapon that could never be used by the end of Ike’s presidency.  This was his most important achievement.  (Newton, Eisenhower: The White House Years)

Use of Military Force

His overwhelming obsession as president was to avoid war.  (Thomas, Ike’s Bluff)

Ike saw WWI as an opportunity for career advancement, like most young officers.  His began to appreciate the cost of war when he saw the battlefields and cemeteries of the Great War while working under General Pershing in the 1920s. 

WWII completed his transformation.  He smelled the rotting flesh of battlefields and wrote to thousands of grieving mothers and wives.  (Thomas, Ike’s Bluff)

He learned to hate war and dedicated the rest of his career to world peace.  But he did not embrace pacifism and appeasement.  He forged a middle ground between these positions and warmongering. 

Ike would only go to war if a vital national interest was threatened.  Even then, war was the last resort until all other tools were exhausted.  (Waging Peace, 1953: Fighting to End All War)

He had two other conditions for going to war: Congressional approval and an international coalition consisting of core allies and the countries of the region.  (Johnson, Modern Times)

Ike sought a middle ground between the Constitution’s requirement that Congress declare war and Truman’s pragmatic precedent for the president controlling foreign policy on a day-to-day basis. Ike’s solution was for Congress to pass broad frameworks approving of potential military actions in regions that would allow the president to shape national security policy there.  Two key examples are the Formosa Resolution, which allowed Ike to potentially attack China during the First Taiwan Crisis, and the Eisenhower Doctrine, in which the US pledged to assist any Middle Eastern country resisting communism. (Waxman, Remembering Eisenhower’s Formosa AUMF)

He said, “The United States cannot be strong enough to go to every spot in the world, where our enemies may use force or the threat of force, and defend those nations.” (Smith, Eisenhower in War and Peace)

He said that not every summit must result in final solutions.  Heads of state needed to get to know each other better.

He knew not to overreact to foreign crises, because small wars could morph into big wars.  (Thomas, Ike’s Bluff)

He rejected the idea of preventive war.  (Smith, Eisenhower in War and Peace)

He was the least interventionist of any modern president.  (Nichols, Eisenhower 1956)

He sought to reduce conventional military forces so the US could not easily engage in a limited war like Korea.  This angered his friends in the military.  He was upset that JFK restored America’s limited war capacity, which paved the way to Vietnam.  He predicted, “This can make the military machine so big it just has to be used.” (Smith, Eisenhower in War and Peace)

Colonialism

He was a citizen of the world, having lived in Panama, France, and the Philippines.  WWII took him all over Europe and North Africa.  He was uniquely sensitive to the Third World and understood colonialism in a way other presidents did not.  (Susan Eisenhower, Mrs. Ike)

He believed America had a proud tradition of anti-colonialism dating back to 1776.  When Nixon told him that Algeria was not ready for independence from France, Ike replied, “The United States could not possibly maintain that freedom - independence - liberty - were necessary to us, but not to others.”

Ike said he agreed with Nasser on the issue of colonialism.  It was impractical for European colonialism to continue and he wanted America to be on the right side of the issue.  (Kreig, Dwight D. Eisenhower: Soldier, President, Statesman)

He believed that most of the Third World would prefer communism to colonialism, even though colonialism brought a higher standard of living. (Cook, The Declassified Eisenhower)

Ike believed the Third World only cared about colonialism when it was whites oppressing another race, not whites oppressing whites.  That’s why the world cared more about Suez than Hungary.  (Ambrose, Eisenhower: Soldier and President)


Asia: Korea, China, Vietnam, India and Pakistan

Ike entered office with less understanding of the Far East than he had about Europe or the Middle East.  He relied more on Dulles when shaping policy for this region.  (Ambrose, Eisenhower: Soldier and President)

Korea

He saw North Korea’s invasion of South Korea in June 1950 as part of worldwide communist aggression.  He initially supported Truman’s intervention into the Korean War, saying, “We’ll have dozens of Koreas soon if we don’t take a firm stand.”  (McCullough, Truman)

However, Ike believed Truman could have deterred North Korea’s aggression if he had not demobilized the military so quickly after WWII and had not withdrawn all American forces from South Korea in 1948.  (Eisenhower, I Shall Go to Korea Speech)

Ike disagreed with Truman’s decision to allow MacArthur to send UN forces north of the 38th parallel in an attempt to unify the Korean Peninsula.  He believed the UN’s mission in Korea was to repel the North’s aggression, not to reunite the country through force.  (Korda, Ike: An American Hero)

The Korean War became a stalemate when China entered the conflict on the North’s side.  Ike ran for president in large part to end the war.  He pledged he would visit the front lines if elected.  He met with General Mark Clark, the UN commander in Korea, after the election.  Clark and Sigmund Rhee, South Korea’s leader, wanted to launch a new offensive against the communists and attack the Chinese mainland.  Ike disagreed, saying, “I know how you feel militarily, but I have a mandate from the people to stop this fighting.  That’s my decision.”  Ike did not think the war was worth the cost in UN lives and was prepared to codify the stalemate in an armistice.  (Newton, Eisenhower: The White House Years)

Dulles opposed Ike’s decision to seek an armistice in Korea.  He thought an armistice with China made America look weak.  Ike ignored him, saying, “If Mr. Dulles and his sophisticated advisers really mean that they cannot talk peace seriously, then I’m in the wrong pew.”  (Ambrose, Eisenhower: Soldier and President)

Soon after taking office, Ike sent a message to the Chinese government, through India, saying that he was prepared to use nuclear weapons to break the stalemate in Korea.  Mao and Zhou Enlai knew of Ike’s role in WWII and that he had used every tool at his disposal to defeat Hitler’s Germany.  They believed his threat and began negotiating with Dulles, leading to an armistice in July 1953, six months after Ike’s inauguration.  (Thomas, Ike’s Bluff)

Sigmund Rhee, South Korea’s leader, did not want an armistice.  He wanted to reunify the peninsula under his control.  Ike said he did not, “understand the mental processes of the Oriental… we don’t know how they will react.”  Ike threatened to cut off aid to South Korea, forcing Rhee to accept the armistice.  (Ambrose, Eisenhower: Soldier and President)

Ending the Korean War was Ike’s biggest achievement in his first year as president.  He spoke to the American people the night the armistice was signed.  He said, “We have won an armistice on a single battleground--not peace in the world.”  He finished his speech by quoting Lincoln’s Second Inaugural, “‘With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in . . . to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.’  This is our resolve and our dedication.” (Eisenhower, Television Address to the American People on the Signing of the Korean Armistice)

Rhee wrote Ike in early 1954 saying that he wanted to invade North Korea.  Ike said he would not assist the invasion and Rhee’s army would probably be destroyed.  Furthermore, Ike said he would veto a bilateral mutual defense treaty the Senate had passed.  This would deny South Korea funds meant for economic rehabilitation, not for a new military offensive.  Rhee abandoned his idea.  Ike promised he would use nuclear weapons if China or North Korea attacked the South again.  (Gellman, The President and the Apprentice)

China

Truman sent George Marshall to China in 1946 to broker a peace agreement between Mao Zedong’s communists and Chiang Kai Shek’s Nationalists to end the Chinese Civil War.  Marshall failed in his mission and Mao won the war in 1949, creating the People’s Republic of China.  Chiang established a regime in Taiwan.  Ike privately blamed Marshall, his mentor, for Mao’s victory.  He said, “The reason we lost China was because Marshall had insisted upon Chiang taking communists into his government, against Chiang’s judgment.” (The Eisenhower Diaries)

Ike’s first showdown with Mao was in ending the Korean War.  Soon after taking office, Ike sent a message to the Chinese government, through India, saying that he was prepared to use nuclear weapons to break the stalemate in Korea.  Mao and Zhou Enlai knew of Ike’s role in WWII and that he had used every tool at his disposal to defeat Hitler’s Germany.  They believed his threat and began negotiating with Dulles, leading to an armistice in July 1953.  (Thomas, Ike’s Bluff)

Mao’s forces began an artillery barrage against Quemoy and Matsu, islands off the coast of Taiwan (Formosa) in September 1954.  Mao wanted to invade and annex Taiwan, toppling Chiang’s regime.  Ike did not care much for Quemoy and Matsu but knew he would have to intervene to save Taiwan.  The French had recently withdrawn from Indochina, and the West could not lose another ally in Asia.  (Ambrose, Eisenhower: Soldier and President)

The Joint Chiefs of Staff urged Ike to launch air strikes, including nuclear weapons, against China to break up Mao’s forces.  Ike refused.  He said, “We’re not talking about a brushfire war. We’re talking about going to the threshold of World War III. If we attack China, we’re not going to impose limits on our military actions, as in Korea. And if we get involved in a general war, the logical enemy is Russia, not China, so we’ll have to strike there.” (Smith, Eisenhower in War and Peace)

Ike was determined to save Taiwan while avoiding World War III.  He considered asking Chiang to abandon the islands while fortifying Taiwan.  Ike convinced Congress to pass the Formosa Resolution, which pledged American support to Taiwan while keeping the fate of Quemoy and Matsu ambiguous.  Mao was left unsure what would provoke an American response.  (Smith, Eisenhower in War and Peace)

The crisis continued into March 1955.  Ike was scheduled to deliver a press conference.  Press Secretary Jim Hagerty warned Ike he would be asked a question about the Taiwan Crisis.  Ike replied, “Don’t worry, Jim.  If that question comes up, I’ll just confuse them.”  One of the first questions was whether the US would use nuclear weapons to defend Quemoy and Matsu.  Ike’s answer was deliberately confusing, “The only thing I know about war are two things: the most changeable factor in war is human nature in its day-by-day manifestation; but the only unchanging factor in war is human nature… So I think you have to wait, and that is the kind of prayerful decision that may some day face a president.”  After the conference Ike told Hagerty he must have “given fits to the Russian and Chinese translators trying to explain to their bosses what he meant.”  (Thomas, Ike’s Bluff)

The Chinese government was unsure whether Ike would use nuclear weapons.  They ceased their aggression, ending the crisis.  Ike had stood up to Mao without triggering WWIII; it was a tour de force of crisis management.  (Smith, Eisenhower in War and Peace)

A Second Taiwan Crisis occurred in 1958.  Chiang had reinforced Quemoy and Matsu in order to provoke Mao into attacking Taiwan.  Chiang hoped this would lead to an American-Taiwanese invasion of China to return him to power.  Mao, for his part, wanted to test Ike’s resolve and began shelling the islands.  Ike had none of it.  He refused to let Chiang escalate the crisis and reached out to Mao, through Poland, to find a diplomatic solution.  Khrushchev threatened WWIII if the US attacked China with nuclear weapons.  Ike ignored the Soviet dictator and defused the conflict between Mao and Chiang.  Mao began only bombing the islands on odd-numbered days, reducing the crisis into a farce.  The violence ended by the end of the year.  (Newton, Eisenhower: The White House Years)

Ike had come to the brink of using nuclear weapons against China on three separate occasions.  However, he foresaw the possibility of a Sino-American rapprochement that could divide China and the USSR.  Ike had fought Hitler during WWII but was now allied with Chancellor Adenauer of West Germany; he knew enemies did not have to be enemies forever.  He said, “Communist China is not yet a member of the UN. But it would be foolish to completely tie our hands on this matter for the future. Remember 1945 when Germany was our deadly enemy. Who would have thought that a few years later Germany would be our friend?”  The 1950s was the height of the Cold War; a Sino-American rapprochement was impossible.  This diplomatic breakthrough was left to Richard Nixon, Ike’s protégé, who went to China in 1972.  (Kreig, Dwight D. Eisenhower: Soldier, President, Statesman)

Vietnam

The French spent the early 1950s fighting to maintain a colony in Indochina, which contains Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.  Ike predicted they would fail.  He said the French could not convince the Vietnamese that they, white Europeans, were fighting for their freedom while the Vietnamese communists, led by Ho Chi Mihn, sought to enslave them.  (Ambrose, Eisenhower: Soldier and President)

Ike sent the French weapons to fight Ho Chi Mihn but was determined to keep America out of Indochina.  He was critical of the French’s decision to make a last stand at Diem Bien Phu.  (Smith, Eisenhower in War and Peace)

The Vietnamese communists overwhelmed the French at Diem Bien Phu.  Ike was determined to save Indochina from communism, saying, “the collapse of Indochina would produce a chain reaction which would result in the fall of all of Southeast Asia to the Communists.”  But he also resisted intervention.  He wanted to preserve America’s anti-colonial reputation, which was to be more guarded than Indochina.  (Ambrose, Eisenhower: Soldier and President)

The Joint Chiefs and NSC were less concerned with accusations of colonialism.  They insisted on using nuclear weapons to destroy Ho Chi Mihn’s army and rescue the French.  Ike immediately dismissed this idea and said, “You boys must be crazy.  We can’t use those awful things against Asians for the second time in less than ten years.  My God.”  (Smith, Eisenhower in War and Peace)

Ho Chi Mihn defeated the French, who withdrew from Indochina in March 1954.  The British and Chinese divided Vietnam between North and South.  Dulles, Zhou Enlai, and other statesmen met in Geneva to discuss Indochina.  The Conference decided that an election would be held in North and South Vietnam in 1956.  Most predicted Ho Chi Mihn would win and would unify the country.  Ike was content to let this happen because he did not think Vietnam affected vital US interests.  But Ho announced his intention to then annex Cambodia and Laos.  Ike termed this threat of communist expansion the “Domino Theory.”  He looked the other way when Ngo Dinh Diem, the leader of South Vietnam, cancelled the election.  Conflict broke out between North and South Vietnam.  Ike sent South Vietnam 600 military and economic advisers.  (Johnson, Modern Times)

US presence in Vietnam remained minimal until Ike left office.  He and JFK discussed Indochina during the transition between their administrations.  JFK asked whether to intervene in Vietnam or to form a coalition government between North and South.  Ike said neither option was acceptable.  Intervention would look like colonialism.  A coalition government would lead to communist domination.  JFK asked for an alternative.  Ike recommended bluffing with nuclear weapons, as he did, to keep China out the region.  JFK and his team later claimed Ike advised him to send in troops, but this is wrong.  (Thomas, Ike’s Bluff)

Ike did not believe the US should assassinate foreign leaders and was shocked by rumors that JFK and the CIA killed President Diem, an ally, in November 1963.  He did not believe that JFK would kill a fellow Catholic.  (Korda, Ike: An America Hero)

Ike said the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution gave LBJ the legal right to defend American bases in South Vietnam.  (Ambrose, Eisenhower: Soldier and President)

Ike disagreed with LBJ’s decision to escalate the Vietnam War, but he said now that LBJ had committed US credibility to South Vietnam’s survival he could not afford to fail.  The US needed credibility to operate on the world stage, negotiate with major powers, and make military bluffs.  (David Eisenhower, Going Home to Glory)

Ike opposed LBJ’s gradual escalation in Vietnam. LBJ couldn’t attack North Vietnam’s center of gravity if he refused to invade the north.  He said that LBJ should use overwhelming military force, which Ike had used against Germany in WWII.  It was irresponsible to leave American troops in harm’s way when a more aggressive strategy to go into North Vietnam and capture Hanoi would end the war faster and reduce casualties.  (Ambrose, Eisenhower: Soldier and President)

Victory took precedence over any other consideration.  Ike advised sending forces into Laos and Cambodia, if necessary.  He said placing mines within North Vietnamese harbors was good strategy but questionable under international law. 

He criticized LBJ for enacting Great Society social programs during wartime.  He predicted this would lead to inflation, which happened in the 1970s.  He advised LBJ to place the economy on a wartime basis and ask Congress for a declaration of war on North Vietnam.  (David Eisenhower, Going Home to Glory)

Ike publically supported LBJ, even though he criticized him in private.  He thought ex-presidents should support the incumbent’s foreign policy.  He was impatient with uninformed criticism of LBJ, even if the opinions reflected his own.  He strongly disapproved of the anti-war movement.  (David Eisenhower, Going Home to Glory)

India and Pakistan

Ike said Nehru was wrong to say that Western imperialism and Soviet communism were equivalent.  Ike told Nehru that passive resistance had worked against the British because “the British had a conscience.”  But passively resisting the communists would give Nehru and India, “a rude awakening.” (Gellman, The President and the Apprentice)

Ike said Nehru, along with most of India and Pakistan, allowed, “emotion rather than reason to dictate policy.”  (Kreig, Dwight D. Eisenhower: Soldier, President, Statesman)

Treasury Secretary Humphrey wanted to cut aid to India because he thought the country was becoming socialist.  Ike replied, “George, you don’t understand the Indian problem. Their situation isn’t like our situation. We can operate a free-enterprise economy, but it depends on a whole lot of underpinnings that the Indians simply don’t have. If I were the Prime Minister of India, I would have to resort to many measures which you would call socialistic. So it’s quite mistaken idea that we should judge the Indian situation or the Indian needs or the Indian policies by criteria which may be relevant to us.”  (Kreig, Dwight D. Eisenhower: Soldier, President, Statesman)

Ike believed than an alliance with India would be more beneficial, in the long-term, than an alliance with Pakistan. (Markey, No Exit from Pakistan)


Middle East and North Africa

Ike thought the Middle East might be the most strategically important region in the world.  He and Dulles sought regional peace and stability to keep oil flowing to the West and to contain Soviet influence.  (Nichols, Eisenhower 1956)

View of Arabs

Ike’s view of Arabs and the Middle East was shaped by his time in North Africa during WWII.  He described them as rooted in violence, emotion, ignorance, and a prejudice against white people.  (Said, Orientalism)

Ike believed Arabs were inherently anti-democratic, saying, “If you go and live with these Arabs, you will find that they simply don’t understand our ideas of freedom or human dignity. They have lived so long under dictatorships of one form or another, how can we expect them to run successfully a free government?”

Ike believed that the Western World needed Arabs and access to Middle Eastern oil more than Arabs needed the West.  (Nichols, Eisenhower 1956)

Iran

Mohammad Mossadegh and the communist Tudeh Party had already nationalized the Anglo-Persian Oil Company and triggered a crisis with Britain by the time Ike was in office.  The situation became worse.  Mossadegh dissolved Parliament and ruled by decree.  The Tudeh started riots across Tehran.  The Soviets gave Mossadegh financial aid to keep the Iranian government functional.  Ike feared Iran was moving to a communist government and could become a Soviet client state.  (Takeyh, What Really Happened in Iran)

Allen Dulles, head of the CIA, warned Ike that drastic action was needed to save the Shah and prevent Iran from going communist.  Dulles said, “If Iran falls to communists, there is little doubt that in short order the other areas of the Middle East, with sixty percent of the world’s oil supply, would fall into communist orbit.”  (Lust, The Middle East)

The CIA proposed a plan called Operation Ajax to have the Shah to dismiss Mossadegh.   Ike initially opposed this idea, thinking a loan could pull Iran away from the Kremlin.  This did not work, and Ike approved Ajax.  Ike often spoke of equality of nations.  Backing this coup attempt was hypocritical.  (Ambrose, Eisenhower: Soldier and President)

Mossadegh ignored the Shah’s dismissal and forced the Shah out of the country.  This marked the end of CIA and MI6 involvement.  But the Shah’s dismissal angered his supporters, who protested.  Iran’s clerics took advantage of this and funded additional protests to oust Mossadegh.  The Shah returned to power and Iran became an ally of the West until the 1979 Revolution.  After 1979, Iran’s clerics put full blame for the coup on America and Britain.  (Takeyh, What Really Happened in Iran)

Ike was dissatisfied with the Shah.  He said that US aid to Iran, “Merely perpetuates the ruling class and intensifies the enormous differences between the rich and the poor.  How could we continue to support any governments which does not carry out land reform and which would not lay out any constructive program for the betterment of the situation?”  Nonetheless, Ike and subsequent American presidents remained allied with the Shah for practical reasons.  (Lust, The Middle East)

Saudi Arabia

Ike strengthened America’s relationship with Saudi Arabia, which was established under FDR.  He hoped to turn the country into Egypt’s rival, isolating Nasser and forcing Nasser to abandon Arab nationalism and join the quest for regional peace. (The Eisenhower Diaries)

Ike described Saudi King Saud as “strictly medieval.  When he says ‘my people’ he means just that.”  (The Eisenhower Diaries)

Ike knew that the alliance with Saudi Arabia was critical for America’s presence in the Middle East.  He showed extreme deference to King Saud by meeting him at the airport, breaking American precedent.  Ike also promised King Saud that no American Jew would work in the American air force base in Saudi Arabia.  (Lust, The Middle East)

Israel, Egypt, and the Suez Crisis

Ike did not know any Jews growing up. He told a friend that as boy that he did not think there were any Jews on Earth, and that they were “all in heaven as angels.” (Runkle, Tablet Magazine)

Ike’s military forces were key to defeating Nazi Germany and ending the Holocaust.  He became the governor of the American-occupation zone in Germany after the war.  Ike met David Ben-Gurion, leader of the Zionist movement, at this time.  At Ben-Gurion’s urging, Ike redistributed German farms to train Jews in agriculture.  (Alteras, Eisenhower and Israel)

Ike gave humanitarian aid to the Holocaust survivors, but this did not translate into support for a Jewish state in Palestine.  He feared that supporting a Jewish state would turn Arabs away from the US and toward the USSR.  He said of Israel, “But now it was done.  We’ll have to live with it,” suggesting his dedication to Israeli security.  (Alteras, Eisenhower and Israel)

Most Israelis were disappointed by Ike’s 1952 election victory.  Truman had supported Israel and had endorsed Stevenson.  Israelis feared Ike, a military man, would treat the Middle East as a realist through cold calculations instead of moral considerations.  (Alteras, Eisenhower and Israel)

Gamal Abdel Nasser came to power in Egypt in 1952.  He preached Arab nationalism and spoke of uniting all Arabs into a single state.  He denounced Israel.  Ike feared Nasser’s pan-Arabism and the possibility that Nasser could unite the Arabs and ally with the USSR.  He compared Nasser’s bid for Middle Eastern hegemony to Rommel.  (Nichols, Eisenhower 1956)

Ike analyzed the Arab-Israeli conflict in his diary, writing, “The oil of the Arab world has grown increasingly important to all of Europe. The economy of European countries would collapse if those oil supplies were cut off. If the economy of Europe would collapse, the US would be in a situation of which the difficulty can scarcely be exaggerated. On the other hand, Israel, a tiny country surrounded by enemies, is nonetheless one we had recognized, and top of this, that has a very strong position in the heart and emotions of the Western world because of the tragic suffering of the Jew throughout twenty-five hundred years of history.”  (The Eisenhower Diaries)

NSC 5428 was issued in 1954.  It said that peace between Arab states and the Israelis was America’s ultimate objective.  Ike offered foreign aid to any Middle Eastern country that would make peace with Israel. (Nichols, Eisenhower 1956)

Ike said the Palestinian refugees should be integrated into Arab countries if their reintegration into Israel proved impossible.  (Alteras, Eisenhower and Israel)

Ike opposed Israeli settlements into disputed territories.  (Nichols, Eisenhower 1956)

He sought to treat the Arabs and Israelis equally and did not want to be seen as Israel’s protector.  He refused to sell Israel weapons even after the Soviets sold weapons to Egypt because he wanted to prevent a Middle Eastern arms race.  (Nichols, Eisenhower 1956)

Nasser sought to play the US and USSR off of one another.  Ike played Nasser’s game and pledged financial support to help Nasser build the Aswan Dam in 1955 as long as Egypt worked toward peace with Israel.  (Nichols, Eisenhower 1956)

Ike had a heart attack in September 1955.  Nasser officially recognized Mao’s People’s Republic of China while Ike was in the hospital.  Dulles, who was running US foreign policy, retaliated by severing aid to the Dam.  This led to Nasser nationalizing the Suez Canal in July 1956.  (Nichols, Eisenhower 1956)

Ike believed Nasser was within his rights to nationalize the Canal, since it was located in Egypt.  Ike knew that Americans would not want the Panama Canal placed under international control; Egyptians felt similarly about Suez.  (Nichols, Eisenhower 1956)

Britain and France, which had controlled the Suez Canal before Nasser nationalized it, were outraged.  They wanted it back.  Ike warned them against rash action and decided not to work in lock step with the Europeans on this issue.  (Nichols, Eisenhower 1956)

Britain’s Anthony Eden and France’s Rene Coty knew that Ike faced reelection in November 1956.  They timed their scheme for the election so Ike would be unable to react.  They convinced Israel to invade the Sinai in October 1956, beginning the most dangerous crisis of Ike’s presidency.  (Nichols, Eisenhower 1956)

Ike was campaigning when he learned of the Israeli invasion.  He immediately returned to the White House and shouted at Dulles, “Foster, you tell ‘em, God-damit, that we’re going to apply sanctions, we’re going to the UN, we’re going to do everything that there is so we can stop this thing.”  (Smith, Eisenhower in War and Peace)

Israel’s aggression led Ike to believe that Ben-Gurion, Israel’s Prime Minister, was an extremist who cared more about conquering more land than about peace.  He angrily referred to Ben-Gurion as an “Albert Einstein-looking midget” during the crisis.  (Ambrose, Eisenhower: Soldier and President)

Ike was determined to stop Israel, and even contemplated using force.  That would cost him reelection, but Ike was determined to restore the peace, no matter the political cost.  (Nichols, Eisenhower 1956)

Britain and France gave an ultimatum to Israel and Egypt, with one condition being that London and Paris got control of the Suez Canal.  Ike denounced the ultimatum and called it “Victorian.”  Israel accepted the ultimatum (Ben-Gurion knew of the proposal in advance) but Nasser rejected it.  Britain and France dropped paratroopers into Egypt to retake the Canal and topple Nasser.  (Ambrose, Eisenhower: Soldier and President)

Britain’s Parliament gave Eden permission to continue the war with a 270-217 vote.  Ike muttered, “I could not dream of committing this nation to war on such a vote.”  (Ambrose, Eisenhower: Soldier and President)

Soviet leaders Bulganin and Khrushchev, who were simultaneously crushing the Hungarian Revolution, escalated the Suez Crisis by sending messages to Eden, Coty, and Ben-Gurion that said the Soviets wanted to restore peace to the Middle East and suggested they would use force to do so.  They even said they would use nuclear weapons against the Allies.  Bulganin and Khrushchev also sent a letter to Ike saying the US and USSR should ally together to fight Britain, France, and Israel.  (Smith, Eisenhower in War and Peace)

Ike immediately rejected the Soviet proposal.  He believed Bulganin and Khrushchev were exploiting the Suez crisis to “extend the Iron Curtain to the Middle East.”  Ike said, “If these fellows [the Soviets] start something, we may have to hit them with everything in the bucket.”  He put America’s navy and nuclear forces on alert.  The Soviets knew this was a warning that any intervention into the Middle East or against Britain and France meant World War III.  They decided against further escalation.  (Nichols, Eisenhower 1956)

Ike sanctioned Israel and pressured the British pound.  Britain was forced to liquidate much of its gold and dollar reserves.  Treasury Secretary Humphrey offered the British government a $1.5 billion loan if they withdrew from Egypt.  Eden asked the IMF to make available the dollar funds Britain had on deposit.  Humphrey blocked the move.  Britain capitulated to Ike’s demands and withdrew on November 6.  France and Israel soon followed. (Smith, Eisenhower in War and Peace)

A UN peacekeeping force moved in to secure the canal before it was returned to Egyptian control.  Ike insisted that none of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council should be among the peacekeeping force.  (Nichols, Eisenhower 1956)

Ike later compared his management of the Suez Crisis to his role in WWII.  He had simultaneously dealt with the Hungarian Revolution and won a landslide reelection.  (Nichols, Eisenhower 1956)

Ike proposed the Eisenhower Doctrine in January 1957.  The Doctrine proposed sending aid and weapons to Middle Eastern countries in case of Soviet attack.  Israel endorsed the Doctrine while Nasser opposed it.  This was a turning point for Ike.  He saw Israel as dedicated to the West and viewed Nasser as a Soviet puppet.  (Alteras, Eisenhower and Israel)

Ben-Gurion visited Ike in 1960.  Ike told his guest that Israel would never be destroyed.  They left respecting one another.  (Alteras, Eisenhower and Israel)

The US, through the IAEA, gave Israel nuclear material.  France helped the Israelis construct nuclear weapons under ground.  American U2 planes discovered this in December 1960, leading to a debate within Ike’s NSC.  Ike was indifferent but suggested sending inspectors.  The administration decided that no solution was possible until JFK took office in January 1961.  (Cohen, How Israel Hid its Secret Nuclear Weapons Program)

Lebanon

Ike feared the Suez Crisis marked the end of Britain and France’s control of the Middle East and would allow the Soviets to fill the vacuum.  His response was the Eisenhower Doctrine, which said the US would send weapons and aid to Middle Eastern countries if the Soviets attacked them.  (Ambrose, Eisenhower: Soldier and President)

Lebanon’s pro-Western Christian President Chamoun did not sever relations with Britain and France during the Suez Crisis.  This angered Lebanon’s Muslims, bringing the country to the brink of civil war.  The UN ignored Chamoun’s calls for help.  Chamoun turned to the US.  (Lust, The Middle East)

Ike and his administration wanted to bolster Chamoun against Egypt and Syria.  The NSC debated the issue until Ike interrupted Dulles, “Foster, I’ve already made up my mind.  We’re going in.”  Ike said access to the Persian Gulf oil, a vital interest, was at stake.  He wanted a British commander to lead the operation, but Dulles said there was still resentment among Muslims toward Britain because of Suez.  Ike agreed and said he’d appoint an American commander, but still wanted British support.  The US acted unilaterally.  (Ambrose, Eisenhower: Soldier and President)

14,000 American troops entered Lebanon in July 1958 as part of Operation Blue Bat.  The American presence stabilized the situation.  They saw no fighting.  Ike sent Robert Murphy as his personal representative.  Murphy brokered a compromise, allowing the Americans to withdraw in October.  (Gellman, The President and the Apprentice)

British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, who replaced Eden, recommended expanding the operation into Iraq and Syria.  Ike said this would be opening Pandora’s Box.  (Ambrose, Eisenhower: Soldier and President)

Khrushchev and Arab leaders denounced America’s intervention in Lebanon.  Ike thought this was unfair.  (Gellman, The President and the Apprentice)

Blue Bat showed that the US could quickly react to small crises.  It was the first application of the Eisenhower Doctrine.  The Doctrine marked the beginning of large-scale US involvement in the Middle East. (Ambrose, Eisenhower: Soldier and President)

Africa

Ike led the UN’s effort to aid education in Africa.  He wanted wealthy nations to help developing countries and wanted to aid the underdeveloped areas of Africa.  (The Eisenhower Diaries)

Belgium withdrew from the Congo in 1960. Black Congolese attacked white Congolese, leading to Belgium sending soldiers back into the country.  Patrice Lumumba, the new country’s first Prime Minister, went to the US for help.  Ike and his team thought Lumumba “odd” and “ill equipped to lead a modern country.”  They also feared he was a Khrushchev protégé. Ike spend several months following the Congo Crisis, determined not to let the Soviets enter the situation.  They did not, but Ike remained frustrated with Lumumba’s ineffective leadership.  Ike darkly muttered he wished Lumumba would “fall into a river of crocodiles.”  Lumumba was pushed from power in September 1960.  (Newton, Eisenhower: The White House Years)


Latin America

Ike was interested in the region since his youth.  Before going to West Point he considered a business venture in Argentina.  He served in Panama under Fox Conner in the early 1920s.  He appreciated the Canal’s importance and thought it should be returned to Panama’s control.  (Kreig, Dwight D. Eisenhower: Soldier, President, Statesman)

Ike expanded aid to Latin American countries.  This led to protests throughout the region, who thought the US wanted to maintain a status quo they saw as oppressive.  Ike acknowledged this was self-defeating.  He changed the programs, leading to the 1960 Act of Bogota and the Charter of Punta del Este.  These compacts said aid would only be given to countries whose governments conducted reforms for economic and political democracy.  Ike believed aid had to discriminate against regressive countries to be effective.  (Eisenhower, Waging Peace)

He was willing to support social and economic reforms in Latin America as long as they did not bring a communist regime to power.  (Kreig, Dwight D. Eisenhower: Soldier, President, Statesman)

Ike accepted a leftist revolution in Bolivia as that county reformed the Big Tin companies.  Ike sent them food aid to prevent starvation.  This moderated the revolution and forged good will between Bolivia and the US.  Bolivia’s leader, Víctor Paz Estenssoro, said that Ike proved that strong countries don’t always exploit weak ones, which communists claimed.  Ike also showed that it was only communism he opposed, not all revolutions.  (Kreig, Dwight D. Eisenhower: Soldier, President, Statesman)

A left wing government took power in Venezuela in 1958 and began land reform.  Ike supported their efforts and helped defend the country from Castro’s subversion.  (Kreig, Dwight D. Eisenhower: Soldier, President, Statesman)

Ike knew most Mexicans revered their 1910 Revolution, even though it had only partially succeeded.  “Nevertheless,” Ike concluded, “it is better than what they had.”  (Kreig, Dwight D. Eisenhower: Soldier, President, Statesman)

He said the problem with Latin America is illiteracy and poverty.  (Kreig, Dwight D. Eisenhower: Soldier, President, Statesman)

He did not believe in dollar diplomacy and new American intervention into Central America and the Caribbean had damaged the country’s image in the region. (Kreig, Dwight D. Eisenhower: Soldier, President, Statesman)

Ike supported the Organization of American States.  He met with Milton, his brother and an expert on Latin America, to discuss the region every weekend.  Milton’s efforts led to the Alliance for Progress, although JFK got the credit.  (Gellman, The President and the Apprentice)

Guatemala

Juan Jose Arevalo was elected president of Guatemala in 1944.  A leftist, he survived twenty-five military coup attempts in his six-year reign.  His protégé, Jacobo Arbenz, succeeded him in 1951.  Arbenz was a nationalist and Marxist-sympathizer.  He was critical of US policy toward Latin America and believed American corporations stole Guatemalan resources.  He set out to redistribute land owned by corporations to his nation’s poor.  Some of the land belonged to United Fruit, a US-based banana company.  (Chasteen, Born in Blood and Fire)

Ike met with Ann Whitman, his private secretary, and her husband, Edmund, in early 1953.  Edmund was the director of public relations for United Fruit.  Ike asked about the situation in Guatemala, where communists were penetrating labor unions, agriculture, and the press.  Edmund said Arbenz was a communist who would not compromise with United Fruit.  He also said that the majority of Guatemalans opposed communism.  (Eisenhower, Mandate for Change)

John Foster Dulles and Allen Dulles had also done legal work for United Fruit.  However, Foster Dulles said the threat of communism in Guatemala was a bigger problem that what happened to United Fruit.  Ike added that placing a corporation’s interest over an entire country was shortsighted and Victorian. 

Fear grew that Arbenz was a communist.  The CIA labeled him a “Soviet pawn.”  Milton, Ike’s brother, and Beetle Smith, Ike’s chief of staff during WWII and Undersecretary of State as president, convinced Ike that Arbenz was communist.  Ike believed communism in Guatemala could lead to the fall of Mexico, Panama, and Cuba.  He believed Arbenz was a threat to Guatemalans, the region, and the US.  (Thomas, Ike’s Bluff)

Arbenz knew he had made an enemy of the Eisenhower Administration and his own military.  He tried to protect himself by building his own militia and bought weapons from the Eastern Bloc.  This set off a red flag for the US.  Ike ordered a blockade of Guatemala to block further Soviet weapon imports, even though it was peacetime.  (Eisenhower, Mandate for Change)

The CIA organized an anti-Arbenz unit of Guatemalan rebels under Colonel Costello Armas in Honduras.  Armas launched his campaign in June 1954.  The CIA also flew planes over Guatemala City to make Armas appear more power and projected radio broadcasts across Guatemala that said the rebels were winning.  (Eisenhower, Mandate for Change)

Armas’ force was weak, but his entry into Guatemala triggered the military’s uprising against Arbenz.  Arbenz was isolated and lacked public support.  He resigned from power.  (Eisenhower, Mandate for Change)

Guatemala’s neighbors, Nicaragua, Honduras, Venezuela, and the Dominican Republic all endorsed the coup.  A US Senate resolution endorsed the coup with one dissenting vote.  Vice President Nixon strongly supported it, saying Arbenz would be remembered for terror and hatred.  (Gellman, The President and the Apprentice)

Ike met with CIA chiefs after the operation and proudly told them, “You’ve averted a Soviet beachhead in this hemisphere.”  This was one perspective.  A murderous military dictatorship was established.  Guatemala was racked with political strife for the rest of the century.  (Chasteen, Born in Blood and Fire)

Ike often spoke of equality of nations.  Backing this coup was hypocritical.

Cuba

Fulgencio Batista seized control of Cuba in a 1952 coup.  A young revolutionary named Fidel Castro led the July 26 Movement in opposition.  Batista’s military resisted the movement.  Ike disapproved of Batista’s harsh methods and severed aid to his regime, helping Castro take power in January 1959.  Ike refused to allow Batista and his wife to enter the US, saying, “We can’t become a haven for displaced dictators who have robbed their countries.” (Sweig, Cuba: What Everyone Needs to Know)

Ike’s administration was initially positive toward Castro.  They hoped Castro would establish free elections.  But he massacred Batista’s loyalists and told Nixon that the Cuban people did not trust elections.  Instead, he would run the country.  Ike was horrified by Castro’s mass executions and called the Cuban “a little Hitler.”  (Baier, Three Days in January)

Ike knew Castro was viewed as a hero across Latin America.  He wrote, “They saw him as a champion of the downtrodden and the enemy of the privileged who, in most of their countries, controlled both wealth and governments. His crimes and wrongdoings that so repelled the more informed peoples of the continent had little effect on the young, the peons, the underprivileged, and all others who wanted to see the example of revolution followed in their own nations.”  (The Eisenhower Diaries)

Ike gave Castro a year to prove he was not a communist.  Castro failed that test and expelled American diplomats.  Ike placed an embargo on Cuba in October 1960 and severed relations in January 1961.  3,000 Americans remained on the island, but Ike was not worried about them.  He thought that anyone who wanted to leave would have done so.  (Gellman, The President and the Apprentice)

Ike did not want to have to transfer the Cuba issue to the incoming Kennedy Administration.  He thought he could attack Cuba before leaving office if Castro gave him, “a really good excuse.”  If that did not happen, Ike speculated the US could “stage an attack” against its own interests that would justify an American invasion.  This did not happen.  (Gellman, The President and the Apprentice)

Ike and JFK discussed Cuba during the transition.  JFK asked if he should topple Castro.  Ike replied, “Yes, we cannot let the present government there go on.”  Ike explained that he had the CIA training an army of anti-Castro Cuban exiles in Guatemala that could be used against Castro.  But Ike said JFK could disband this force if he did not want to use them and that he had not yet devised a satisfactory plan.  He said there had to be a Cuban leader and government in exile who could replace Castro after the operation.  No such leader had emerged.  Unfortunately, JFK and his advisors misinterpreted what Ike was saying and thought he had endorsed what would become the Bay of Pigs.  (Gellman, The President and the Apprentice)

JFK launched the Bay of Pigs in April 1961.  Castro’s forces thwarted the invasion, embarrassing JFK and the US.  Ike said the invasion failed because the rebels landed in a swampy region, the invaders lacked aggression, and the surprise appearance of Cuban jets.  Ike said the Bay of Pigs was a bigger embarrassment than the U2 Incident, writing, “Considering all the information we got out of the many, many U2 flights, what happened at Paris fades into significance. But here we gained nothing, and it made us look childish and ridiculous.”  (Eisenhower, Waging Peace)

JFK met Ike at Camp David following the Bay of Pigs to discuss what went wrong.  Ike gave JFK the Abilene version of “I told you so.”  Kennedy explained that he had spoken to his advisors individually.  Ike replied that the president should have all his advisors debate the issue together.  The right answer would reveal itself.  Kennedy also said he did not deploy the Air Force because he wanted to keep America’s role a secret.  Ike dismissed this, saying that success was more important than secrecy.  He also warned JFK that the Soviets would try something in Cuba unusually bold after the Bay of Pigs. (Baier, Three Days in January)

JFK put missiles in Turkey in June 1961 to boost his anti-communist image after the Bay of Pigs failed.  Ike had considered this move in 1959 but had decided it was too provocative, saying it was the equivalent of the Soviets putting missiles in Mexico or Cuba.  (Ambrose, Eisenhower: Soldier and President)

Khrushchev decided that American missiles in Turkey was unacceptable and placed missiles in Cuba to force a trade.  JFK was determined to remove the Soviet missiles and debated options with his advisors.  Air strikes and quarantining the island became the two main options.

The Cuban Missile Crisis took place during the 1962-midterm elections.  JFK campaigned for the Democrats and attacked Ike’s record.  Ike campaigned for the Republicans.  Relations between the two men as its nadir.  But CIA chief John McCone met with Ike and explained the developing situation in Cuba.  Ike feared JFK was using the crisis to help the Democrats in the midterms.  (David Eisenhower, Going Home to Glory)

JFK called Ike several times during the crisis.  Ike recommended using diplomacy and the quarantine to remove the missiles.  If that failed, JFK should use air strikes because, “leaving these things on your flank is unacceptable.”  JFK asked if Khrushchev would respond by attacking West Berlin.  Ike said he did not think the Soviets saw Cuba and Berlin as interrelated, and that they only saw cold-blooded possibilities for expanding their influence.  He added he did not think the Soviets would use nuclear weapons, saying, “Something may make these people [the Soviets] shoot them off. I just don’t believe this will.”  (Conversation between Eisenhower and Kennedy, October 22, 1962)

JFK quarantined the island, escalating the crisis.  Khrushchev sent Kennedy a message saying he wanted to swap Soviet missiles in Cuba for American missiles in Turkey.  JFK accepted the deal over his advisors’ protests and called Ike to inform him.  Ike insisted that JFK get Khrushchev and Castro to agree to US inspections in Cuba to guarantee that the missiles were removed.  The inspections never happened but the missiles were dismantled.  (Baier, Three Days in January)

The press hailed JFK’s handling of the Missile Crisis, but Ike disagreed. Kennedy had pledged not to invade Cuba without inspections, leading Ike to conclude that Khrushchev got the better deal.  (Ambrose, Nixon: The Triumph of a Politician)