Evan Thomas: The Brilliant Prudence of Dwight Eisenhower

Evan Thomas is the author of eight books, including The War Lovers and Sea of Thunder. Editor-at-large of Newsweek until 2010, he was the author of more than 100 cover stories there and won numerous journalism awards, including a National Magazine Award. He teaches writing at Princeton.

Dwight Eisenhower is a president whose reputation has improved over time. When he left office, he was regarded as a genial, grandfatherly figure but also as a caretaker who was a little out of it. At the time, in January 1961, his Farewell Address presciently warning against the "military-industrial complex" was little noticed; far more attention was paid to JFK's soaring (and, in hindsight, overreaching) inaugural speech, promising to "bear any burden."

We know now that Ike was quietly powerful, that he operated with a "hidden hand," as Princeton professor Fred Greenstein once put it. In my new book on how President Eisenhower kept America out of war, I examine his ability to bluff and outmaneuver the Soviets and, when necessary, his own generals. The Eisenhower leadership style sharply contrasts with what we have come to expect in our celebrity culture and tit-for-tat politics. Eisenhower was never showy or impulsive; he disdained partisanship and always played for the long term. He was patient and calm in the face of uncertainty. He needed to be, for he faced an unpredictable and dangerous foe....

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