Dwight Eisenhower on War & Peace



Tac nukes to defend Taiwan from China

The immediate issue was the fate of two islands held by the Nationalists, Quemoy and Matsu. The question of how one might defend the islands raised the central issue, and Secretary Dulles, on Eisenhower's orders, declared on March 15 that in the event of war in the Far East, America would probably employ "tactical " atomic weapons: "We have been, as you know, active in producing various types of weapons that feature nuclear fission ever since World War Two. Now, in any combat where these things can be used on strictly military purposes, I see no reason why they shouldn't be used just exactly as you would use a bullet or anything else."

By saying that, Eisenhower did something that he did rarely--he alarmed the nation. Whatever was meant by "tactical" nuclear weapons, the public was not likely to discern much difference between the bomb dropped on Hiroshima and a thermonuclear device capable of obliterating entire cities.

Source: Ike and Dick, by Jeffrey Frank, p.104-105 , Nov 5, 2013

1966: Any action to win in Vietnam, even nukes

Pres. Johnson was eager for Eisenhower's support [on Vietnam]. Ike felt pulled in several directions: aversion to an Asian war, concern over the consequences of a victory by the Communist North, and what he felt was a duty to support his commander-in- chief.

Since leaving office, Ike was still beloved; and when it came to questions of war and peace, no one spoke with more authority. So it was something of a surprise when the former president in 1966 said, "I'd take any action to win" in Vietnam, adding that he would not "automatically preclude anything," including automatic weapons. That was enough to set off multiple alarms.

A few days later he said, "This is silly. How could you use nuclear weapons in Vietnam?" But at the core of Ike's "clarification" was something more interesting than a rejection of nuclear weaponry. What he did say was that the US needed to end the war quickly because otherwise "it will grow in costs, both in money & lives, and the nation's morale will be lowered."

Source: Ike and Dick, by Jeffrey Frank, p.274-275 , Nov 5, 2013

LBJ should formulate a "more sensible" policy on Vietnam

As General Eisenhower approached his 77th birthday, he said the he'd like to visit Southeast Asia. Along with the former Illinois senator Paul Douglas, a Democrat, and his war-time comrade General Omar Bradley, he announced that he was trying to "formulate a more sensible policy on Vietnam," although he didn't say that Lyndon Johnson was pursing an unsensible policy. "Everybody is frustrated when things do not come out right," he said, adding, "All wars are nasty and this one is particularly bad. This is about as different as the one I had a part in as day and night." The one I had a part in. There were times when Ike could say a lot without actually saying it.
Source: Ike and Dick, by Jeffrey Frank, p.282-283 , Nov 5, 2013

1956: Supported Egypt against Israel, UK, and France in Suez

An attack did come, but in the Sinai Desert--not in Jordan, but in Egypt. The Israelis dropped a parachute battalion in the Mitla Mountain passes 40 miles east of Suez. Other Israeli troops driving through the Sinai Desert reinforced them.

We must expect British and French intervention. In fact, they appear to be ready for it and may even have concerted their action with the Israelis.

Under the 1950 agreement the US was pledged to support the victim of an aggression in the Middle East. The only honorable course was to carry out that pledge.

"The prestige of the US and the British is involved in the developments in the Middle East," I said. "I feel it is incumbent upon both of us to redeem our world about supporting any victim of aggression. Last spring, when we declined to give arms to Israel and to Egypt, we said that our word was enough."

Source: Waging Peace, by Pres. Dwight Eisenhower, p. 72-79 , Jan 1, 1965

In WWII, none doubted need for sacrifice; unlike in Cold War

"When our young men were dying in the Argonne in 1918 and on the beaches of Normandy and in the Western Pacific in 1944 and at Pusan in 1950-- and when the battlefields of Europe and Africa and Asia were strewn with billions of dollars worth of American military equipment, representing the toil and the skills of millions of workers-- no one for an instant doubted the need and the rightness of this sacrifice of blood and labor and treasure."

The whole design of the defense against Communism could not be completed with guns alone. For freedom was menaced by the poverty that Communism exploits. We could not fight poverty with guns.

Source: Waging Peace, by Pres. Dwight Eisenhower, p.135 , Jan 1, 1965

Berlin: Why is our only feasible response to start WWIII?

The State Department had just received a note from Moscow that seemed to defer any move on Khrushchev's part for 6 months, during which time negotiations over Berlin should take place. Khrushchev had also proposed that West Berlin become a "free city" under the UN, and that all occupying powers' military forces withdraw from Berlin.

During the next few days I had ample occasion to reflect at length on Berlin. I had lived with this problem intermittently for the past 13 years. Inevitably, despite intimate acquaintance with it, the question kept coming back to me: "How, or rather why did the Free World get into this mess? How did we every accept a situation in which our only feasible response to an attack on a 13,000-man garrison surrounded by numerous Communist divisions would likely mean the initiation of WWIII?

Source: Waging Peace, by Pres. Dwight Eisenhower, p.333-334 , Jan 1, 1965

Wars occur because of government arrogance & ambition

War is stupid, and costly. Yet wars have persisted. In the past, when military machines grew to such a size or awesomeness as to create arrogance in the powers possessing them, these powers by domineering acts sometimes drove other nations, in despair or utter hopelessness, to resort to force. Ancient Rome and Napoleon's France provide but 2 examples. In other instances--Japan in 1941--the ambitions for military power became so expensive that the nation's economy could no longer bear the cost.

With the desire for peace to universally and deeply felt, the obvious question is "Why do wars occur?" The answer is not to be found in peoples themselves (save where they have been deliberately misled), but in the blind arrogance and conflicting ambitions of governments, especially those whose philosophy is essentially hostile to others and whose objective is nakedly imperialistic.

Source: Waging Peace, by Pres. Dwight Eisenhower, p.466 , Jan 1, 1965

Initiated economic sanctions against Communist Cuba

Castro himself was becoming more and more of a problem. Che Guevara, now the economic power in Cuba, announced the State would own and operate all industry. If the Soviet Union had the temerity to make a mutual security treaty with Cuba, we would have a situation that the US could not tolerate.

But in the meantime, there were moves we could make. It was silly, for example, to continue to give Cuba favored treatment regarding its sugar exports. A proclamation was issued cutting the 1960 quota by 700,000 short tons. (Later I set the quota for the first three months of 1961 at zero). "This action," I remarked on the day I signed, "amounts to economic sanctions against Cuba. Now we must look ahead to other moves--economic, diplomatic, strategic."

Source: Waging Peace, by Pres. Dwight Eisenhower, p.534-535 , Jan 1, 1965

Soviets are waging total Cold War; build even more missiles

What makes the Soviet threat unique in history is its all-inclusiveness. Every human activity is pressed into service as a weapon of expansion. Trade, economic development, military power, arts, science, education, the whole world of ideas--all are harnessed to this same chariot of expansion. The Soviets are, in short, waging total cold war.

The only answer to a regime that wages total cold war is to wage total peace. This means bringing to bear every asset of our personal and national lives upon the task of building the conditions in which security and peace can grow.

Only a brief time back, we were spending at the rate of only about $1 million dollars a year on long range ballistic missiles. In 1957 we spent more than $1 billion on the Arias, Titan, Thor, Jupiter, and Polaris programs alone. But gratifying though this rate of progress is, we must still do more! Our real problem, then, is not our strength today; it is rather the vital necessity of action today to ensure our strength tomorrow.

Source: Pres. Eisenhower's 1958 State of the Union message , Jan 9, 1958

Sought authority for US military against Vietnam Communism

[At a legislative leaders' meeting with Eisenhower on April 2, 1954, the President asked for discretionary authority to use U.S. air and sea power against Communist aggression in Southeast Asia. LBJ balked, arguing that the French must first grant independence to Vietnam and that the allies of the U.S. must join in the effort. LBJ discusses Vietnam with John Knight, the chair of the Miami Herald: ]

LBJ: What do you think we ought to do in Vietnam?

KNIGHT: I never thought we belonged there. I think President Kennedy thought at one time that we were overcommitted in that area.

LBJ: Well, I opposed it in '54. But we're there now, and there's one of three things you can do. You can run, or you can fight, as we are doing, or you can sit down and agree to neutralize all of it. But nobody is going to neutralize North Vietnam, so that's totally impractical. And so it really boils down to one of two decisions: getting in or getting out.

Source: Taking Charge, by Michael Beschloss, p. 95&213-4 , Apr 2, 1954

War in Korea part of worldwide Communist aggression

The war in Korea is, for Americans, the most painful phase of Communist aggression throughout the world. It is clearly a part of the same calculated assault that the aggressor is simultaneously pressing in Indochina and in Malaya, and of the strategic situation that manifestly embraces the island of Formosa and the Chinese Nationalist forces there. The working out of any military solution to the Korean War will inevitably affect all these areas.

The administration is giving immediate increased attention to the development of additional Republic of Korea forces. The citizens of that country have proved their capacity as fighting men and their eagerness to take a greater share in the defense of their homeland. Organization, equipment, and training will allow them to do so. Increased assistance to Korea for this purpose conforms fully to our global policies.

Source: Pres. Eisenhower's 1953 State of the Union message , Feb 2, 1953

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