David Ignatius: Eisenhower 1956 May Tell Us More About Hagel 2013

David Ignatius is published twice weekly by The Daily Star.

Chuck Hagel means it when he describes himself as an "Eisenhower Republican." He kept a bust of President Dwight Eisenhower in his Senate office for a dozen years, and has a portrait of Ike on the wall of his current office at Georgetown University. But the most compelling evidence of Hagel’s fascination is that he purchased three-dozen copies of an Eisenhower biography and gave copies to President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates, according to the book’s author, David Nichols.

The book that so interested Hagel, "Eisenhower 1956," examines one of the most delicate and dangerous moments of Ike’s presidency. Published in 2011, it’s basically the story of how Eisenhower forced Israel, Britain and France to withdraw from their invasion of the Suez Canal – thereby establishing the United States as the dominant, independent power in the Middle East.

It’s impossible to read Nichols’ book without thinking of recent tensions between the United States and Israel over the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program. Just as Egypt’s mercurial leader Gamal Abdel Nasser posed the pre-eminent threat to Israel in the 1950s, so it is today with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s Iran. What’s interesting about Eisenhower is that, while sympathetic to Israel’s defense needs, he was also determined to maintain an independent U.S. policy and avoid a war that might involve the Soviet Union.
"We believe that the power of modern weapons makes war not only perilous – but preposterous," Eisenhower said on Nov. 1, in his final speech before the 1956 election, which coincided with the Suez crisis and the Soviet invasion of Hungary to put down a revolution there. It truly was the moment that tested the old warrior’s belief that there should be no more war.

As the Senate deliberates Hagel’s nomination to be secretary of defense, it should consider the "Eisenhower 1956" narrative carefully... 

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