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Eisenhower in War and Peace

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Ike ended the Korean quagmire he inherited from Truman, avoided mutually assured destruction with the Soviets, and routinely ignored entreaties from his military advisers to send in troops or, worse, deploy nuclear weapons. As the French fell apart at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, the president responded to suggestions by American strategists to consider air strikes and the atomic bomb with a swift rebuke. “You boys must be crazy,” he said. “We can’t use those awful things against Asians for the second time in less than ten years. My God.”

In similar fashion, he resolved international crises with China and over the Suez Canal by employing a poker face that leveraged the possibility of military engagement just enough to prod adversaries to choose diplomatic means.

•Making crucial appointments in the Supreme Court – most notably former California Gov. Earl Warren as Chief Justice – and lower-level federal courts that established not only the precedent of desegregation but carried it out in ruling after ruling. Also, Eisenhower left no doubt about the intention and integrity of Brown v. Board of Education when he sent in federal troops to break the resistance of Arkansas Gov. Orval Faubus and preside over the safe integration of Central High School for the Little Rock Nine three years later. Smith writes: “Those who would criticize Eisenhower for not moving fast enough on civil rights should remember that it was his judicial nominees who made the revolution possible.”

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