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The Confederate Lawyer
June 30, 2010

The Cold War
Part II: The Lost Opportunities of Eisenhower

by Charles G. Mills
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GLEN COVE, NY — Eisenhower was not the first or second choice of anti-communists. Senator Robert Taft and General Douglas MacArthur were. Eisenhower may not have even been the third choice; Senator Richard Russell may have been that. Eisenhower was, however, a five-star general and a midwesterner. How bad could he be?

The Soviets, initially frightened by the election of Eisenhower, were quite happy within a few weeks of his inauguration. Eisenhower’s solution to the Korean War was to threaten terrible things if the communists did not make peace but to offer generous terms if they agreed to a truce. The result for the people of North Korea was continued oppression and for the world was the survival of one of history’s worst tyrannies.

During the Eisenhower administration, communist propaganda, especially in countries with a significant communist party presence, promoted the idea that the advance of communism was inexorable and irreversible. Even some anti-communists accepted the inevitability of such a victory.

Eisenhower’s first surrender to the communists was his failure to support France in Indochina, a failure that resulted in tyranny for half of Viet Nam, and eventually war in the other half.

Two of the greatest lost opportunities and defeats of the Eisenhower years came simultaneously. Egypt was ruled by Nasser, a socialist and enemy of the West. He stole the Suez Canal. Great Britain, France, and Israel were successful in their campaign to regain it. Eisenhower insisted on surrendering what had been won. His only motive seems to have been anger at being outsmarted by the British and French; he brought down Anthony Eden’s government. The result was that one of the world’s most vital canals passed from Western to socialist hands.

While preoccupied with destroying Eden, Eisenhower missed the greatest opportunity of his administration. For years, American-sponsored Radio Free Europe had urged the captive nations of Central Europe to rise up against their communist oppressors. In November 1956, during the Suez “crisis,” the Hungarian people rose up to overthrew their communist government. The Soviets responded by a massive invasion of Hungary and mass murders of freedom-loving Hungarians. In addition to the human toll, the credibility of Radio Free Europe was destroyed.

Some argue that the United States could do nothing to help the Hungarian people because we would have to fly over Austria, a neutral county, and Yugoslavia or Czechoslovakia, both communist countries. This argument, however, is false. Even Truman was willing to fly over East Germany to relieve West Berlin.

Eisenhower was too busy seeking revenge on Eden to bother with Hungary. In all likelihood, a threat to send American troops to Hungary would have resulted in agreement by the Soviets to some form of neutral Hungary with considerably more freedom and self-determination.

The greatest disgraceful lost opportunity of the Eisenhower administration was Cuba. Fidel Castro was a communist. The New York Times, however, portrayed him as a sophisticated, liberal democrat. The Eisenhower administration accepted this view and paved the way for a Castro victory. A few days after his victory, the mass executions in Cuba and the end of free enterprise began. Eisenhower left us a truly vicious Soviet satellite off the coast of Florida and an emboldened communist movement in Latin America.

Eisenhower’s two Cold War accomplishments were bringing Spain into the Western alliance and keeping Iran from becoming communist.

The Soviet Union had one final humiliation for Eisenhower in the last year of his administration. Eisenhower went to Paris to meet with Soviet dictator Nikita Khrushchev. Khrushchev delivered a rambling anti-American diatribe on television during prime time in the United States and then returned to Moscow without meeting Eisenhower.

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The Confederate Lawyer column is copyright © 2010 by Charles G. Mills and the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation, www.fgfBooks.com. All rights reserved.

Charles G. Mills is the Judge Advocate or general counsel for the New York State American Legion. He has forty years of experience in many trial and appellate courts and has published several articles about the law.

See his biographical sketch and additional columns here.

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