Dwight Eisenhower wasn’t such a do-nothing presidential caretaker after all, Evan Thomas concludes in Ike’s Bluff: President Eisenhower’s Secret Battle to Save the World. Focusing on the former general’s foreign policy, the book examines how, at the dawn of the atomic age, one of our greatest wartime leaders kept the peace. As Ike said later, “The United States never lost a Solider or a foot of ground in my administration. . . . People asked how it happened. By God, it didn’t just happen.” The story of how it “didn’t just happen” is more interesting than it might first seem, with Thomas making a cogent argument that it was Ike’s appearance of belligerence that made Russia blink and kept the bombers on the runways and the missiles in their silos through several world crises. Would the D-Day hero have used nuclear weapons in China, Korea, or Eastern Europe? Only Ike knew. But Thomas comes as close as anyone has to finding the answer.
John Wilwol can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com and on Twitter at @johnwilwol.
This article appears in the October 2012 issue of The Washingtonian.