Still Liking Ike.

Author:Matray, James I.
Position:Books - Book review

Abolishing the Taboo: Dwight D. Eisenhower and American Nuclear Doctrine, 1945-1961. By Brian Madison Jones. Solihul, UK: Helion, 2011. 172 pp.

Brothers, Rivals, Victors: Eisenhower, Patton, Bradley and the Partnership That Drove the Allied Conquest in Europe. By Jonathan W. Jordan. New York: NAL Caliber, 2012. 654 pp.

Eisenhower and the Cold War Economy. By William M. McClenahan, Jr., and William H. Becker. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011. 304 pp.

Eisenhower's Sputnik Moment: The Race for Space and World Prestige. By Yanek Mieczkowski. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2013- 358 pp.

Eisenhower: The White House Years. By Jim Newton. New York: Doubleday, 2011. 451 pp.

Eisenhower in War and Peace. By Jean Edward Smith. New York: Random House, 2012. 950 pp.

Ike's Bluff: President Eisenhower's Secret Battle to Save the World. By Evan Thomas. New York: Little, Brown, 2012. 484 pp.

There once was a time when so many scholars were publishing studies examining Dwight D. Eisenhower and his presidency that it nearly constituted a cottage industry. Writers rushed to find issues that they could interpret as examples of Eisenhower's brilliance not only as a military strategist, but more importantly his wisdom as a policy maker and skill as a politician. Fred I. Greenstein famously led the applause, explaining why Ike deserved robust praise for his clever performance as the "hidden-hand" president {The Hidden-Hand Presidency: Eisenhower as Leader [Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994}). Challenging earlier negative assessments, these Eisenhower revisionists insisted that their hero improved the lives of Americans at home, while advancing and protecting the nation's interests abroad. For example, regarding the latter, Robert A. Divine has credited Eisenhower with ending the Korean War by using a veiled threat of a U.S. atomic attack on China (Eisenhower and the Cold War [New York: Oxford University

Press, 1981]), while Robert R. Bowie and Richard H. Immerman have lauded Ike for devising an enduring national security policy destined to achieve U.S. victory in the Cold War (Waging Peace: How Eisenhower Shaped an Enduring Cold War Strategy [New York: Oxford University Press, 1997]). But Robert J. McMahon soon entered an emphatic dissent, describing how Eisenhower's failure to understand revolutionary nationalism contributed to various disasters in the third world (The Cold War in the Third World [New York: Oxford University Press, 2013]). This review examines seven recent works on Eisenhower, assessing first the biographies and then, the topical studies that indicate how consensus on Ike's career in war and peace remains elusive.

Jean Edward Smith's talent as a biographer is on full display in Eisenhower in War and Peace, the only work in this review that describes Ike's entire life. Although he covers the well-known history of Eisenhower's childhood and familiar events in his military and political career, his account adds an enormous amount of new details. As important, Smith challenges key points of conventional wisdom and offers insightful new interpretations. He also corrects the historical record, initiating this practice quickly when he exposes as myth the Eisenhower ancestral legend that a dishonest business partner bankrupted his father's store in Hope, Kansas, and forced him to move the family to Denison, Texas. A main thesis emerges in his development of how "from the beginning, fortune smiled on Ike" (p. 27), providing examples of influential people, such as Generals Fox Conner and George C. Marshall, interceding to advance his career. Smith's penchant for using lengthy footnotes and unrelated information disrupts the flow of the narrative. Coverage of Eisenhower's marriage is unsentimental and revealing, as Smith depicts Mamie Doud as a pampered and narcissistic woman who "loathed outdoor activity and had little patience for abstract discussion" (p. 56). A lack of creature comforts overseas at Eisenhower's early postings caused Mamie often to stay with her parents, bringing the two near divorce in 1937, when Ike was serving under General Douglas MacArthur in the Philippines.

Smith's thoughtful and incisive assessment of Eisenhower's military career raises serious doubts about his performance. He attributes his rapid rise in rank to his skill in manipulating the press and "ability to think like his superiors" (p. 190). As commander of the North African campaign after U.S. entry into World War II...

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