Dwight Eisenhower and American Foreign Policy During the 1960s: An American Lion in Winter. By Richard M. Filipink, Jr. New York: Lexington Books, 2014. 133 pp.
Richard M. Filipink, Jr. pierces through the mythology that still surrounds Dwight D. Eisenhower and portrays him as an extremely conservative ideologue and a Machiavellian politician shaping American foreign policy in the 1960s. The author makes a persuasive case that Eisenhower used his immense personal popularity to influence the foreign policy of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. Clearly, he consistently advocated a militaristic response to the many challenges these Democratic presidents faced in the Cold War.
Unquestionably, Eisenhower was devious, intellectually disingenuous, and politically partisan. The author states, "Once he was no longer in office, Eisenhower was clearly much more willing to support the use of force to obtain foreign policy goals" (111). In fact, he was the same old Eisenhower. As president, he had, behind the scenes, habitually supported threatening or using force in Korea, Indochina, China, Iran, Guatemala, Lebanon, and Cuba. He carefully hid this militant belligerency from both the public and the press. President Eisenhower, a man of the "middle path" and a moderate Republican, is essentially mythological. Filipink shatters many of these falsehoods by showing him as extremely quarrelsome and taking contradictory stands on many issues before eventually taking a negotiated public position, while often holding the exact opposite point of view in private.
Virtually all of the crises in foreign affairs that Kennedy and Johnson confronted have their origins in the Eisenhower administration. Eisenhower carefully maintained his reputation of being nonpartisan in foreign affairs, while, in reality, being highly partisan and extremely critical of the Democrats. Kennedy and Johnson reasonably feared the possibility that he would attack their foreign policy. Appeasing Eisenhower became an important theme for them. Kennedy, however, as Filipink properly points out, had a healthy disdain for Ike's foreign policy advice.
Kennedy wisely rejected his counsel on sending U.S. troops to Laos. Eisenhower gave Kennedy a scathing critique of the Bay of Pigs, but then promised not to publicly embarrass or humiliate the new president. Kennedy then calmly took no military action with the construction of the Berlin Wall. All of these actions made him appear weak to Eisenhower. Yet, with...