David Ignatius: What Obama Can Learn from Eisenhower





David Ignatius writes a twice-a-week foreign affairs column and contributes to the PostPartisan blog.

It’s telling that one of Chuck Hagel’s favorite gifts to friends recently has been a biography of President Dwight Eisenhower, a war hero whose skepticism toward the military is a model for Hagel’s own.

Thinking about Eisenhower’s presidency helps clarify the challenges and dilemmas of Barack Obama’s second term. Like Ike, Obama wants to pull the nation back from the overextension of global wars of the previous decade. Like Ike, he wants to trim defense spending and reduce the national debt.

This back-to-the-future theme is visible, too, in Obama’s nomination of John Brennan as the new CIA director. A 25-year CIA veteran, Brennan wants to rebalance the agency back toward its traditional intelligence-gathering function and away from the recent emphasis on paramilitary covert action. More trench coats, less body armor, in other words. If Eisenhower is a model for Hagel, perhaps the superspies of the 1950s, Allen Dulles and Richard Helms, will be similar icons for Brennan.

But there’s a darker side to foreign policy in the Eisenhower years, too... 



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