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A Complex President,
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This review is from: Ike's Bluff: President Eisenhower's Secret Battle to Save the World (Hardcover)
This is a good book on Eisenhower during his presidency. Evan Thomas gives an excellent narrative, and it reads so well that there are times that you resent the call to dinner and are reluctant to put the book down.
A most recent biography Eisenhower in War and Peace by Jean Edward Smith continued my interest in Eisenhower and thus, the purchase of this book. Even after reading the story, it is still hard to define this man. You would think that the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe would have been a hard lined supporter of a strong military, but Ike was everything but that. He knew the high cost of the military, and during his presidency he worried about the smoke and mirrors that the Pentagon and their scores of generals were constantly using to promote more and improved weaponry. Ike had seen it all, and he saw it in terms that the average man could understand, for example in translating the cost of a destroyer versus the social benefits that could be attained with the same money for schools, hospitals, etc., and he was the one who warned of the military industrial complex. He simply mistrusted the people that he knew the best through decades of service to his country.
As his son once said, that in forty six years of knowing him, there were things that he still did not know about hsi father, as he held his cards close to his chest. Eisenhower during his career was careful of his friends and I got the impression that he trusted no one, maybe with the exception of his family.
His greatest challenge during his years in office was the recognition of the new technology that resulted in the capacity to wage atomic (or nuclear) war. For some time, he struggled with the very concept that man had at last developed weaponry that could destroy mankind and he was horrified by it. His maturation continued as advanced concepts arrived to show how artillery could be fitted with nuclear warheads, torpedos, and even a rocket launcher that could be fired from a jeep and whose blast would kill not only the enemy in the area but the very soldiers who launched the demon. And there were times that he felt, especially in Euroope that a nuclear response would be the last ditch effort against overwhelming numbers of Soviets.
Eisenhower from a personal side, was an excellent and brutal bridge player and early in his career with the Army, he had to quit playing poker because he had taken so much money from fellow officers that it went beyond just a game or comradery. Indeed, he held his cards close to his chest and much of this followed with the mannner that he treated his subordinates. John Foster Dulles is an interesting case in point. While many of the intellectuals scorned Dulles (Dull, Duller, Dulles) Ike kept him for years as Secretary of State until he died of cancer. The book tells little about Richard Nixon which is understandable but there was talk of dropping him from the ticket for the second run.
Also of interest is Ike's development of the interstate highway system. We take it for granted today, but Ike felt that it was necessary for people to get out of cities quickly in the event of nuclear attack.
There is interesting information on Krushchev and his insecurites and dealing with Eisenhower. Finally the author shows how when Kennedy failed with the Bay of Pigs, Ike explained to him how the CIA had bungled this operation and that JFK had not gathered all the information and conducted extensive meetings to examine the proposal from a variety of sources.
All in all, a good book. As the previous reviewer stated, there is no new material, but all of it is presented well and in a fast pace and the reader will enjoy this work immensely