Skip to comments.Obama and Eisenhower: Some parallels
Posted on 06/09/2009 5:38:08 AM PDT by SJackson
Historical comparisons have to be drawn with caution. No two events are identical. The pitfalls of historical analogy are as numerous as its benefits. However, comparing events in history can clarify and sharpen our understanding of the phenomenon under discussion.
Obama delivers remarks at Cairo University on Thursday. Photo: AP In this spirit, it's possible to draw a comparison between President Barack Obama's new policy toward Israel and that pursued by president Dwight Eisenhower and his administration from 1953 until 1957, when it also changed the direction of US policy toward Israel.
The similarities are quite striking.
Eisenhower and his secretary of state, John Foster Dulles devised a policy as lukewarm toward Israel as it was friendly toward the Muslim world.
Assuming the presidency in the midst of the Cold War, the new administration sought to build coalitions aimed at thwarting further advances by communism following the fall of Eastern Europe and China and the invasion of South Korea by North Korea.
By the early 1950s, decision-makers in the US and Britain feared the Soviet Union would invade the Middle East, not to mention political infiltration, which they sought to prevent by forging alliances in the region.
Eisenhower and Dulles believed that a closer relationship with Arab and Muslim countries was necessary. To achieve that, a solution of the Arab-Israeli conflict was deemed essential. Reaching a settlement would entail painful concessions by Israel. For Israel to agree to make those concessions, pressure would have to be exerted.
Furthermore, Israel's policy of retaliation against terrorist attacks emanating from Jordan and Egypt was seen as an obstacle to attaining such a settlement. Israel had to be persuaded, indeed pressured, to adopt a policy of restraint.
To be sure, Dulles confided that asking Israel to show restraint was not enough if no alternative was proposed for Israel to feel secure. Israel did not feel secure in the first half of the 1950s. Indeed, it felt very much in danger, cornered diplomatically and under attack militarily. Its neighbors were adamant in their refusal to recognize its existence, let alone negotiate peace with it. The policy pursued by the Eisenhower administration only served to render its sense of isolation more acute.
BY THE END of 1954, a peace plan was devised by the US and Britain. The so-called Alpha Plan called, among other things, for Israel to make territorial concessions in the Negev, agree to a territorial corridor on its sovereign territory to link Jordan with Egypt and accept some Arab refugees.
Israel strongly objected.
Following Israel's victory in the Sinai Campaign of 1956, Eisenhower considered imposing sanctions if it refused to withdraw from the recently captured Sinai Peninsula.
In the eyes of Eisenhower and Dulles, Israel's existence had to be reluctantly tolerated. Dulles said so, albeit in different words. Eisenhower himself stated that he didn't know whether he would have been in favor of the establishment of the state had he been president in 1948. However, now that it was a fact, the US had to deal with it.
The objective of his administration was clear: to elicit the support of the Arab and Muslim countries in order to face the communist threat. To achieve that, the US had to remove any obstacle in the way.
In the context of the Cold War, there was no need to curry favor with Israel. Its backing in any future conflict with the Soviet Union was taken for granted. Israel was not seen as an asset to be strengthened, but as an obstacle to be tempered.
British diplomats in the early 1950s were sometimes astonished at the hostile attitude of US officials toward Israel, even on minor matters that would not have meant much in the context of wider US interests in the Middle East.
Certainly, Israel today is a much stronger country than it was in the 1950s. Circumstances today are, in some respects, quite different than they were then. However, it is hard not to draw some parallels between the new policy adopted by the Obama administration and the new policy pursued back in the 1950s by the Eisenhower administration.
Incidentally, both Eisenhower and Obama followed presidents known for their different approach to the area and to Israel in particular: Harry Truman and George W. Bush. The parallels that can be drawn, then, go deeper than can be seen at first glance.
Especially comparisons between Obama and Eisenhower.
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In his memoirs Nixon cites siding with the Arabs in 1956, on the assumption they'd move toward the west, as the greatest error of the Eisenhower Presidency. Likely a factor in his decisions in the 1973 war. Secondary sources indicate Ike felt the same way.
Obama is no Eisenhower, please!
Come on, First of all, Ike had a golf game. Second, he didn’t have a sycophant congress. Third, Ike knew he wasn’t God. And last, Ike had actually accomplished a few things before he took office.
This list could go on for some time, but above all else, Ike loved his country and wanted it to succeed...
Eisenhower was a career military officer not a community organizer. And while it is true that Eisenhower did minimize relations with Israel, he did not reduce the U.S. commitment to the existence and survival of Israel. He is on record stating support of the Balfour Recommendation of 1917 after WWII. Ike's parental religious practices are a bit fuzzy (mom was a Jehovah Witness I believe) but he was a committed Presbyterian (hardly a bizarre protestant sect). On the other hand, O's pa was a muslim and Hussein was committed to bigoted Rev. Wright's racist views.
The author isn’t comparing Eisenhower and Obama, he’s comparing the basis of their policy toward the Arab, in Obama’s case the Islamic world. That if we’re compliant, that if we take their side against the interests of our allies, in Eisenhower’s case England, France and Israel, that they’ll love us. The Arab world didn’t gravitate to the west, rather Moscow. Ike and Nixon recognized the error. Obama may be making the same error in judgement. I say may be because he may sincerely support the Islamic side.
Perhaps that’s why this is not a good analogy. The only common ground between the two is their personal popularity. The attempt to draw similarities in their international policy falls flat particularly when you consider that Eisenhower was acting to preserve the United States during a cold war and 0bambi is doing this because...
It was a good article.
I possess 3 pictures of former presidents that are in my den, Lincoln, Grant and Ike. I doubt if the “O” guy will ever be on any of my walls. IKE was a president, not a street hustler. IKE was a “proven” true leader. When Ike died I had tears in my eyes, unlike when Kennedy was killed, where I was more concerned about my leave being canceled.
 Eisenhower was a General of the Army. Obozo was a community organizer
 Eisenhower led the largest, most complex military buildup and invasion in history [OVERLORD]. Obozo gave a speech on D-Day.
 Eisenohower wrote “Crusade in Europe”, a war memoir. Obozo wfrote two books about a community organizer
 Eisenhower threatened to use nuclear weapons against our North Korean and Red Chinese enemies to gain an Armistice in the Korean War. Obozo is threatening, by silence and cowardice, to allow the use of nuclear weapons [Iran’s] against our ally, Israel.
 Eisenhower faced, and fought, evil. Obozo wants to talk to it.
 Eisenhower was a patriot...
Presumably to make the Muslim world love us and win the war on man made disaster makers.
I think the analogy is apt though. Ike's clear objective was to bring the Arab world to our side, much as Obama expects to bring the Muslim world over. And Eisenhower's actions were harsh, demanding that Israel, who took the Sinai after 8 years of constant attacks, which of course continued. And demanding that Britain and France withdraw, imo their retaking of the Suez Canal perfectly justified post-nationalization. Harsh, imo improper, demands made on our allies in hopes of winning the Arab world to the west, and it came to naught.
It was during the Eisenhower administration that Tibet and Cuba came under communist control.
While you are at it, Remember the liberals Eisenhower appointed to the SCOTUS. On the other hand, it was during his administration that great advances were made in civil rights (over the objection of the Democrats).
I think he’s one of the worst presidents we’ve ever had. He wasn’t a real Republican — he was a proto-Colin Powell, military rank and all. And I don’t think I should have to choose between “civil rights” and 50 years of a communist tyranny in Tibet & Cuba.
All the Ike fans need to read The Last 100 Days by J. Toland. Ike helped set up the Cold War and empowered Russia.
thanks for the recommendation — I’ll read it.