THE DECLASSIFIED EISENHOWER: A Divided Legacy of Peace and Political Warfare by Blanche Wiesen Cook

THE DECLASSIFIED EISENHOWER: A Divided Legacy of Peace and Political Warfare

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The title refers to the use of much hitherto classified material--chiefly, to demonstrate the thesis of the subtitle: that Eisenhower pursued global peace and meanwhile institutionalized political, psychological, and economic warfare. (Hyperbolically, ""America's most popular hero was America's most covert President."") In rejecting the image of Ike as an inert, inept president, the book accords with other recent Eisenhower reappraisals; but as regards the Eisenhower administration proper, it does not materially alter the view presented in Peter Lyon's more coherent and comprehensive 1974 Eisenhower: Portrait of a Hero. Cook, a researcher into radicalism and world peace, was first impressed with Eisenhower's pacifist utterances, then appalled by the counterinsurgency measures he condoned--hardly, singly or jointly, matters for surprise. But in attempting to show how this honest, prudent soldier turned into a secretive Cold Warrior, she has produced a work that, for its first hundred, pre-inauguration pages, holds considerable interest. Eisenhower initially embraced political warfare in North Africa, she points out, because he sincerely if naively equated American democracy with winning popular support. In North Africa, too, he was a tacit participant in American economic penetration--preparation for his recognition, later, of the economic roots of US foreign policy. But he steadfastly insisted on the possibility of postwar friendship with Russia; almost alone opposed dropping the Bomb; and fought to implement Allied denazification measures--until, with Churchill's Iron Curtain speech and adoption of the Truman Doctrine, he found himself disconcertingly ""out of step."" The chronicle then focuses on Etsenhower's adoption by internationally-minded big-businessmen--who secured him the presidency of Columbia, became his golf and bridge partners, tutored him ""in the realities of American power,"" and propelled him into the Presidency, Cook, moreover, leaves little doubt that he wanted it. But at this point the book totters: a long catchall chapter on Eisenhower-administration anticommunism is followed by two long chapters on the US-mounted overthrow, of the Arbenz government in Nicaragua (as a precedent)--which, for all their citation of primary sources, add nothing significantly new, especially on Eisenhower's role. The final section roughs in worldwide US-business penetration under his aegis. Cook is not a fluent or meticulous writer, and crucial evidence is still lacking. But the portrayal of Eisenhower's transformation gives pause regardless.

Pub Date: June 26th, 1981
Publisher: Doubleday