EISENHOWER AND THE COLD WAR by Robert A. Divine

EISENHOWER AND THE COLD WAR

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A succinct, selective review of Eisenhower's foreign policy--administratively, and in three key areas--to the point that 1) his combination of firmness and restraint has not received its due, and 2) he, not the hard-line Cold Warrior Dulles, was in charge. But, significantly, Divine (Univ. of Texas, History) takes his cues not from Eisenhower partisans but from more exacting judges--Herbert Parmet, Peter Lyon, even Emmet Hughes. Thus, his view that Eisenhower ""used"" Dulles--to absorb liberal criticism and to reassure the right. Personally, moreover, the self-confident, unflappable general and the insecure, jittery lawyer-diplomat complemented one another. But even before he was elected, Eisenhower dropped Dulles' call for the ""liberation"" of the East-European peoples; and to bring about a Korean settlement, he sidestepped the aggressive actions urged by MacArthur and Dulles to issue a veiled threat. . . which he may or may not have intended to carry out. This is the first instance of the brinkmanship, commonly associated with Dulles, which Divine ascribes, approvingly, to Ike. The second section focuses on US involvement in Asia--where ""both men were blinded by the prevailing belief that monolithic communism lay behind the turmoil. . . rather than a variety of nationalist aspirations."" At issue is Ike's choice of ""massive retaliation,"" using nuclear weapons, over containment, via conventional warfare--as cheaper, as more ""ambiguous""--and where it led: nonintervention at hopeless Dien Bien Phu (with, however, a secret nuclear-attack warning against Chinese involvement) and to the brink-of-war confrontations, in 1955 and 1958, over the Chinese offshore islands. Divine salutes Eisenhower's successful ""bluffing"" (if such it was) and--as dubiously--lauds ""the flexible nature of his massive retaliation policy."" The third section deals with the Middle East and in particular with the disastrous, massively disruptive British-French-Israeli invasion of Suez. Here, Eisenhower is praised for forcing British and French withdrawal by withholding US (and Venezuelan) oil; for securing public and Congressional support for an Israeli pullback and aid to the Arab nations, contra Russia; for generally recognizing--and acting upon--""the strategic value of Persian Gulf oil."" (On Iran proper, and Lebanon, he gets a mixed report.) The last section, ""Eisenhower and the Russians,"" largely concerns the attempts to defuse the nuclear-arms race--from Eisenhower's ""atoms for peace"" proposal through the nuclear test-ban debates (the subject of Divine's 1978 Blowing on the Wind). The technical and tactical issues are for once made plain; but the stress on Eisenhower's sincerity and idealism also makes this the most reverential, least analytical section. Overall, question what one may, Divine's simple, clear, reasoned presentation compels attention.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1981
ISBN: 0195028244
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press