Saturday, November 23, 2013


Dwight David Eisenhower (1890-1969) was our thirty-fourth president, serving two terms between 1953 and 1961.  The Cliff Notes on his life are here.  The career soldier who becomes the Supreme Allied Commander during a world war must, by definition, be a skilled politician.  I am no Eisenhower expert, but from what I do know, Ike seemed to be a principled and pragmatic, rather than a partisan, politician. Among other things, Ike birthed the Interstate Highway system, designed our nuclear deterrence strategy, confronted the expansion of communism without resorting to war, sent the 101st Airborne to Arkansas to enforce court ordered school desegregation, and, in response to "Sputnik," launched NASA and the space race.  Would I be the only one who misses his quiet leadership?  Here are a few of his quotes:

Humility must always be the portion of any man who receives acclaim earned in blood of his followers and sacrifices of his friends.

 I once said, as a sort of wisecrack, that leadership consists of nothing but taking responsibility for everything that goes wrong and giving your subordinates credit for everything that goes well.

I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its stupidity.

The hand of the aggressor is stayed by strength — and strength alone.

We must be ready to dare all for our country. For history does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid.

 A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both. 

I tell this story to illustrate the truth of the statement I heard long ago in the Army: Plans are worthless, but planning is everything. There is a very great distinction because when you are planning for an emergency you must start with this one thing: the very definition of "emergency" is that it is unexpected, therefore it is not going to happen the way you are planning.

I like to believe that people in the long run are going to do more to promote peace than our governments. Indeed, I think that people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of the way and let them have it.

Now this conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources, and livelihood are all involved. So is the very structure of our society.  In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

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