Grandpa Kewl

Book Review – Eisenhower and Latin America

Eisenhower and Latin America, Stephen Rabe

The Foreign Policy of AntiCommunism

Another addition to the library as it relates to my favorite President

Forget where I found this. Read most of it on Metro but finished it while in the Air going to see pat and Theresa’s wedding. That was a GREAT time.

From the back cover….”In portraying Eisenhower as a virulent anti-communists and cold warrior, Rabe challenges the Eisenhower revisionists who view the president as a model of diplomatic restraint.”

That pretty much sums up the book as the author is no great fan of Ike. The big beef of course is the fact, and this is not to be denied, that Ike was anti-communist in a big way and as a consequence, saw much of world politics thru that lens. The case is reasonably well made that the Eisenhower administration was initially rather neglectful of the southern nations and saw them only as allies of sorts against the Soviets and Chinese. It is only in the last years that much attention is paid the Latin & South American nations in a rel meaningful way. Only after Castro came to power did a real threat emerge and the approach of the administration change. Up to that point, a nation that was led by someone who was anti-communist was just fine….human rights and such were of lesser importance. Not really much to argue about there…..

For those who still believe that Ike was a “hands off” president, this gives ample proof that he was very much involved and a major player. The author however, is not too happy with the policies he followed. No doubt there is a lot of hind-sight involved here but still, the criticism that Ike let his feelings about communism lead him to accept foreign leaders that were anything but good and decent is certainly valid. Having said that, it is also true that he made a quick adjustment when it was needed and changed directions to a less “authoritative” approach posture.

One things is pretty clear tho….he set the Kennedy administration up for the invasion of Cuba. He was bound and determined to get rid of Castro but ran out of time. Kennedy, on the other hand, botched the job badly…….

A few notes:

“the United States never lost a soldier or a foot of ground in my administration. We kept the peace. People ask how it happened–by God it didn’t just happen, I’ll tell you that.”

“the essence of Eisenhower’s strength” was  “in his admirable self-restraint”

Eisenhower agreed that “the New York Times was the most untrustworthy newspaper in the United States.”

he warned his advisers that “if you at any time take the route of violence or support of violence…then you commit yourself to carry it through, and it’s too late to ahve second thoughts, nothaving faced up to the possible consequences, when you’re midway in an operation.”

“in Brazil, the top 1 percent of the population earned 19 percent of the income.”

his Secretary of State Christian Herter observed: “history has shown that attempts to impose democracy upon a country by force from without may easily result in the mere substitution of one form of tyranny for another.”

from Clarance Randall…”you cannot compromise with the basic principles of the system of private initiative and free markets,” for “every dilution takes you further toward socialism.”

And from Ike:  ” When you commit the flag you commit it to win.”

“The Bay of Pigs, Eisenhower acidly remarked, could be titled a ‘Profile of Timidity and Indecision.'”….an obvious reference to Kennedy’s book “Profiles in Courage”.

Overall I learned a lot from the book. While not particularly admiring of the President, it was even-handed and well researched.

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