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obscure pursuits

a Republican for all of us

I have found Ike to be quotable before now. In the run-up to the 60th anniversary of D-Day, I decided to look up some more information on him.

This quote struck me as germane to the current military adventure (bonus points if you can recall a link between the current White House incumbent and Eisenhower [1]).

Dwight D. Eisenhower – MediaWiki:

“I tell this story to illustrate the truth of the statement I heard long ago in the Army: Plans are worthless, but planning is everything. There is a very great distinction because when you are planning for an emergency you must start with this one thing: the very definition of ’emergency’ is that it is unexpected, therefore it is not going to happen the way you are planning.”
Source: A speech to the National Defense Executive Reserve Conference in Washington, DC on Nov. 14, 1957.

Reading over his achievements — general staff officer to Pershing and Marshall, architect of the D-Day invasion, commander of all Allied forces, desegregation of the armed forces, president of Columbia University, two-term president — he stands pretty tall against anyone we’ve seen lately.

The line on him seems to be that his military success accounts for most of his luster — his terms weren’t noted for any bold domestic initiatives — but it’s hard to say what he missed during his tenure. Knocking him for not taking on McCarthyism or civil rights might be unreasonable, but he did have the stature to tackle either or both of those issues. McCarthy might have been better left to sputter out as he did, though his victims might not agree. And given the reaction to the civil rights legislation that was passed 10 years later, would the nation have been ready in the 50s? Bear in mind, this was a generation that went from the Depression to WW 2, doing more than anyone with less, at least at the start.

The WikiPedia article explains that his main interest was foreign affairs: he was content to let his executive-dominated cabinet run the country’s domestic affairs. Hard to imagine a bold civil rights agenda coming of a room full of 1950s executives . . .

Given his success in dealing with his own generals — Patton, for example — as well as military leaders from all the Allies, as well direct negotiations with Stalin, he may have been less the president than a roving ambassador with no fixed portfolio: he gave great service there. I think a more detailed biography might be in order, to better understand our own Wartime President.

fn1. The grandfather of G W Bush and father of G H W Bush, Senator Prescott Bush, was a strong support of Eisenhower’s agenda and a regular golf partner.