Eisenhower: The White House Years
A new biography on Eisenhower is engaging but airbrushes some of Ike's mistakes and flaws.
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More consequently, Eisenhower was the president to begin the awful practice of employing the CIA to overthrow foreign governments, many of them democratically elected. Whereas Truman had refused to do so, Ike gave the go-ahead to the CIA to mount a coup in Iran in 1953, and in Guatemala in 1954.Skip to next paragraph
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Both were unnecessary to victory in the Cold War, and both were grave human rights abuses that had terrible moral and strategic consequences. But even these incidents, by far Eisenhower’s worse foreign policy blunders, emerge as partial successes in this book. “[S]o, too, could the alternatives have shadowed the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, if the Soviet Union controlled Iran and the Persian Gulf through the heart of the Cold War,” Newton writes. “Instead, Iran lay safely nestled within the American orbit for the balance of Eisenhower’s tenure, indeed, for the rest of his life.”
In fact, however, we now know that the Iranian leader had little intentions of moving into the Soviet sphere, in no small part because Soviet troops had been slow to leave Iran after occupying the country during World War II. The coup in Iran was a catastrophe of American diplomacy, its consequences even worse when one recalls it inspired further illiberal covert operations among American policymakers.
The book proceeds at a brisk enough pace, and Newton is an able storyteller. If a reader is searching for an explanation for Eisenhower’s esteemed reputation among historians and the public at large, "Eisenhower" offers more than enough confirmation. But for readers looking for a balanced, realistic interpretation – one that that shows Ike’s many virtues as well as his very real deficiencies – Stephen Ambrose’s "Eisenhower: Soldier and President" remains far superior.