Too bad Bush is no Eisenhower


Well-Known Member
Apr 25, 2007
Coyote died for your sheep
Or we might have gotten stuck in Iraq....

Give interventions the Ike test

Timothy J. McKeown

CHAPEL HILL - Once again, the United States finds itself in a war that it cannot win without paying astronomical costs in gold and blood.
That there will be other Iraqs in our future is likely, given the history of U.S. military involvement since 1945. Are we doomed to repeat the same errors we made there and in Vietnam?

Fortunately, history offers hope that similar foreign policy failures might be avoided. Unlike Lyndon B. Johnson and Vietnam, or George W. Bush and Iraq, when Dwight D. Eisenhower faced in 1954 the prospect of a French defeat in Indochina and calls for the United States to intervene, he chose not to.

Documents show President Eisenhower pondering intervention while working with a checklist of conditions to be met before ordering U.S. forces into battle. Because important boxes on his list were never checked, he chose not to send troops and to live with the consequences of his decision -- the defeat of the French and a communist government in North Vietnam.

Eisenhower's experience as the supreme allied commander in Europe during World War II and then as military chief of NATO are reason enough to look closely at this decision. The fact that he was a Republican should also make his views more palatable to the current administration and its supporters.

• • •

The first item on Ike's checklist was this: Would the local population support U.S. intervention? To him this was one of the two most critical issues.

Eisenhower knew that most Vietnamese were deeply opposed to the French colonial government: "the French would win in six months if the people were with them." When told that supply convoys were losing so many trucks that some troops could only be supplied by air, he remarked that this was "sufficient indication that the population of Vietnam did not wish to be free from Communist domination." He was not interested in "saving" people who did not desire the American version of salvation.

The second critical factor was whether the French could be persuaded not only to fight hard, but to offer independence to Vietnam. Only in this way would non-communist nationalists abandon the communists. Eisenhower also wanted any intervention to involve not merely the United States but also Britain and U.S. allies in Asia. The French failure to grant independence, along with the refusal of Britain and regional allies to join a U.S.-led coalition, were nails in the coffin of intervention.

Eisenhower also decided that he was not going to intervene if he could not secure prior congressional assent from leaders of both parties. In an attempt to secure that assent he consulted early with leaders in Congress. A political pragmatist, Eisenhower had a good working relationship with Democrats. He also avoided overselling the use of force, and did not exaggerate the threat being faced.

In turn, Democrats sometimes offered more support for Eisenhower's foreign policy than did many congressional Republicans. The refusal of both parties to approve unilateral U.S. intervention further weakened the case for using force. Congressional leaders agreed with Eisenhower on the critical importance of offering independence to the Vietnamese. They also wanted the burden of rescuing the French to be shared by all nations who benefited from it, not just the U.S.

Eisenhower's decision-making procedures were as important as his checklist. His military career had given him a wealth of experience with high-level policy-making and led him to prefer highly systematic procedures. He understood better than some recent presidents the value of developing several options to create a genuine range of choice, and of encouraging debate. Confident of his own abilities and authority, he viewed the expression of dissenting views as a sign of a healthy decision-making process.

If Eisenhower's approach had been used in 1965 and 2003, the odds that we would have avoided the Vietnam and Iraq quagmires would have greatly improved. But doing so would also have required a president to admit that some desirable foreign policy outcomes are simply unattainable. Acknowledging that there are limits on what American power can accomplish is never popular or easy, and the speaker always runs the risk of being labeled weak, even cowardly.

But the absence in 1954 of public arguments over "who lost North Vietnam" suggests that the silent majority is considerably less enthusiastic about the use of force than is sometimes believed.

(Timothy J. McKeown is a professor of political science at UNC-Chapel Hill. He is finishing a book on U.S. foreign policy-making in the Cold War. Material on Eisenhower's 1954 decision-making process is in "How presidents test reality: decisions on Vietnam, 1954 and 1965," by John P. Burke et al.)
Hey Folks

I look at Bush as most like Truman. After all, that's what Neoconservatism is. Its not new at all. Its simply the pre-existing philosophy of the old-age democratic party. Thought the philosophy was inferior then and I still do now.
I will try to correct all who insist in calling this action a war. We declared victory years ago with misson accomplished. This is an occupation for profit and to call it anything else is a misrepresentation of the facts.
Yeah, and it's too bad Jimmy Carter was no Washington. We're losing sight of the point here.

I agree fully with the "Ike Test," as Coyote put it. Anyone else care to talk about it?