Dwight Eisenhower on Foreign Policy



OpEd: Organized Bay of Pigs invasion that JFK carried out

In the US, wars are unleashed by politicians but they must be fought by soldiers.

The young and untried Kennedy decreed the blockade [against Cuba] and the Bay of Pigs invasion, organized by Eisenhower and by Nixon who knew less about war than he did. An unexpected twist of fate led him to new and unwise decisions that led to the October Missile Crisis from which he nevertheless emerged gracefully. But he remained traumatized by the prospect of a nuclear war.

Source: Obama and the Empire, by Fidel Castro, p. 54 , Apr 15, 2009

Opposed Israeli settlements in disputed areas

American opposition to settlement activity prevailed during the previous 4 decades, beginning when Dwight Eisenhower was president and extending through the terms of his successors, until 1993, when President Bill Clinton gave almost blanket approval to settlement expansion. President George H.W. Bush had been especially forceful in opposing specific Israeli settlements between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, even threatening to cut off financial assistance to Israel.

Israeli plans to retain far-reaching West Bank settlements will likely spell the death knell for prospects for the "road map for peace," the keystone of President George W. Bush's Middle East policy.

Source: Our Endangered Values, by Jimmy Carter, p.114-115 , Sep 26, 2006

1956: People-to-People program, a step toward world peace

Our Moscow exhibition [at the 1959 World's Fair] served a constructive purpose by bringing thousands and thousands of Soviet men, women, and children face to face with the products of American industry and above all with American citizens. I was particularly impressed with reports of the group of outstanding US college students who served as guides and who day after day stood up and in fluent Russian fielded questions of the greatest diversity about life in the US.

I had long advocated--and still advocate today--this kind of direct people-to-people exchange as one fine, progressive step toward peace in the world. In 1956 I initiated a broad-scale People-to-People program--an effort to stimulate private citizens in many fields (the arts, education, athletics, law, medicine, business) to organize themselves to reach across the seas and national boundaries to their counterparts in other lands.

Source: Waging Peace, by Pres. Dwight Eisenhower, p.410 , Jan 1, 1965

Arm Egypt on promise of never accepting Soviet aid

[After the 1956 Suez Crisis] information indicates that both Israel and Egypt have now fully accepted the terms of the UN cease-fire plan. Simultaneously we must lay before the several governments information and proposals that will establish real peace in the area and, above all, exclude Communist influence from making any headway therein. We must make certain that every weak country understands what can be in store for it once it falls under the domination of the Soviets.

Beyond this, however, are the constructive things that we can do once these nations understand the truth of the immediately preceding paragraph. For example, we can provide Egypt with an agreed-upon amount of arms--sufficient to maintain internal order and a reasonable defense of its borders, in return for an agreement that it will never accept any Soviet offer.

Source: Waging Peace, by Pres. Dwight Eisenhower, p. 96 , Jan 1, 1965

Presidential "prestige" is unimportant; visit every nation

Part of the criticism [was that my] visit to Russia somehow or other will erode the presidential prestige to a ceremonial visit of that kind. I discounted the contention that a foreigner's visit to me or a visit of mine to another nation could hurt the prestige of the Presidency itself, even though I might personally be widely criticized. Observing that my own "prestige" was not particularly important, I emphasized that the search for some break, some avenue of approach, as yet unexplored, through which we might move to a better relationship between East and West, was truly vital. Any President who recoiled from using the last atom of his own prestige or energy in the attempt to find an acceptable approach to the dilemma should be condemned by the American people.

"I get a little bit weary," I observed, "about people who say, 'Well, this would be a terrible blow to presidential prestige,' or any other prestige. We are talking about the human race and what's going to happen to it."

Source: Waging Peace, by Pres. Dwight Eisenhower, p.415 , Jan 1, 1965

US aid for raising living standards & resisting Communism

Inevitably, the level of US aid came up for discussion [on my world tour in 1959]. Indeed, in one guise or other, this question was part of every business conference I held in every nation throughout the entire tour. In general my answer was always the same: We wanted to help those nations who wanted to help themselves in raising their own living standards and combatting Communism.

I said that all should understand, however, that our resources were limited, that other industrialized nations should help shoulder a portion of the costs, and that all of us should cooperate closely to maximize security and progress and to minimize expense. Only in this way could real results be achieved in the long run.

Source: Waging Peace, by Pres. Dwight Eisenhower, p.495 , Jan 1, 1965

Many Arab actions are inspired by hatred of every Jew

The King of Saudi Arabia [visited in 1957]. This visit inevitably brought a flare-up of opposition from part of the Jewish community in the US. The sympathies of many of our Jews were naturally given to their co-religionists in Israel.

Many of the Arab actions seemed to be inspired by nothing more than hatred of every Jew, merely because he was a Jew. In negotiations for landing rights in Saudi Arabia for American military personnel, one of the conditions imposed by the Saudi government was that no Jew could be allowed on the field. No Arab government would recognize Israel; the Egyptian government would allow no Israeli ship to go through the Suez Canal. The Arabs found many ways to infuriate citizens of Israel and Jews throughout the world, and as a result, the King of Saudi Arabia was, in Jewish eyes, a symbol of Arab injustice and cruelty.

However, I was convinced of the truth of the adage that in most quarrels of this type neither side is either wholly at fault and neither equally blameless.

Source: Waging Peace, by Pres. Dwight Eisenhower, p.114 , Jan 1, 1965

Replace Latin America non-intervention with ending feudalism

The Organization of American States (Cuba dissenting) adopted the historic Act of Bogota. "Non-intervention" had given way to a new idea--the idea that ALL American nations had an interest in ending feudalism, the vast hereditary gulf between rich and poor, the system that assured to a handful of families opulence without labor and condemned millions to near-starvation without opportunity.

Thus was launched a new program for inter-American cooperation which the succeeding administration enthusiastically carried on, giving it a bright and dramatic new label. In 1961, Pres. Kennedy's Alliance for Progress carries forward the progressive departure from the traditional American doctrine which we began as early as 1957 and carried on intensively upon my return from Latin America. In my judgment the basic concepts and the agreements in the Act of Bogota are right. Whether the noble purposes proclaimed there will be realized, only the Latin American nations themselves can determine.

Source: Waging Peace, by Pres. Dwight Eisenhower, p.539 , Jan 1, 1965

1960: Led UN effort for education in Africa

The new African states had the greatest stake in the UN because of their relative weakness. I therefore proposed a program of 5 major elements:
  1. A pledge by all countries to respect the African peoples' rights to choose their own way of life and to determine for themselves the course they chose to follow.
  2. The UN should be prepared to help the African countries maintain their security without wasteful and dangerous competition in armaments.
  3. We should all support the UN response to emergency needs.
  4. The UN should help newly developed African countries shape their long-term modernization programs.
  5. An all-out UN effort to help African countries to launch such educational activities as they may wish to undertake.
On the morning of this address, 14 new nations were represented in the UN for the 1st time. Khrushchev launched into an intemperate, vituperative attack: "The colonialists tried to bring this about by direct interference, as they always do in such cases."
Source: Waging Peace, by Pres. Dwight Eisenhower, p.579-581 , Jan 1, 1965

The world has shrunk; interests now interdependent worldwide

The world has so shrunk that all free nations are our neighbors. Without cooperative neighbors, the US cannot maintain its own security and welfare, because:
  1. America's vital interests are world-wide, embracing both hemispheres and every continent.
  2. We have community of interest with every nation in the free world.
  3. Interdependence of interests requires a decent respect for the rights and the peace of all peoples.
These principles motivate our actions within the UN. There, before all the world, by our loyalty to them, by our practice of them, let us strive to set a standard to which all who seek justice can rally.

May we at home, in all the cities & farmlands of America, support these principles in a personal effort of dedication. Thereby each of us can help establish a secure world order in which opportunity for freedom and justice will be more widespread, and in which the resources now dissipated on the armaments of war can be released for the life and growth of all humanity.

Source: Pres. Eisenhower's 1957 State of the Union message , Jan 10, 1957

Mutual security means mutual cooperation against Communism

Since the victory of 1945, we anticipated a world of peace and cooperation. The calculated pressures of aggressive communism have forced us, instead, to live in a world of turmoil. This administration has, therefore, begun the definition of a new, positive foreign policy. This policy will be governed by certain fixed ideas. They are these:
  1. Our foreign policy must be clear, consistent, and confident.
  2. The policy we embrace must be a coherent global policy.
  3. Our policy, dedicated to making the free world secure, will envision all peaceful methods and devices--except breaking faith with our friends.
  4. The policy we pursue will recognize the truth that no single country, even one so powerful as ours, can alone defend the liberty of all nations threatened by Communist aggression from without or subversion within. Mutual security means effective mutual cooperation.
  5. Our policy will be designed to foster the advent of practical unity in Western Europe.
Source: Pres. Eisenhower's 1953 State of the Union message , Feb 2, 1953

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Page last updated: Feb 22, 2022