Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower
(October 14, 1890 â€“ March 28, 1969)
was the 34th President of the United States from 1953 until 1961. He had previously been a five-star general in the United States Army during World War II, and served as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe; he had responsibility for planning and supervising the invasion of North Africa in Operation Torch in 1942â€“43 and the successful invasion of France and Germany in 1944â€“45, from the Western Front. In 1951, he became the first supreme commander of NATO.
In 1953 the Republican's Old Guard presented Eisenhower with a dilemma by insisting he disavow the Yalta Agreements as beyond the constitutional authority of the Executive Branch; however, the death of Joseph Stalin in March 1953 made the matter a practical moot point. At this time Eisenhower gave his Chance for Peace speech in which he attempted, unsuccessfully, to forestall the nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union by suggesting multiple opportunities presented by peaceful uses of nuclear materials. Biographer Stephen Ambrose opined that this was the best speech of Eisenhower's presidency. Nevertheless, the Cold War escalated during his presidency. When Russia successfully tested a hydrogen bomb, Eisenhower, against the advice of Dulles, decided to initiate a disarmament proposal to the Russians. In an attempt to make their refusal more difficult, he proposed that both sides agree to dedicate fissionable material away from weapons toward peaceful uses, such as power generation; this approach was labeled "Atoms for Peace".
The U.N. speech was well received but the Russians never acted upon it, due to an overarching concern for the greater stockpiles of nuclear weapons in the U.S. arsenal. Indeed, Eisenhower embarked upon a greater reliance on the use of nuclear weapons, while reducing conventional forces, and with them the overall defense budget. This approach became known as the "New Look", and was initiated with defense cuts in late 1953. In 1955 American nuclear arms policy became one aimed primarily at arms control as opposed to disarmament. The failure of negotiations over arms until 1955 was due mainly to the refusal of the Russians to permit any sort of inspections. In talks located in London that year, they expressed a willingness to discuss inspections; the tables were then turned on Eisenhower, when he responded with an unwillingness on the part of the U.S. to permit inspections. In May of that year the Russians agreed to sign a treaty giving independence to Austria, and paved the way for a Geneva summit with the U.S., U.K. and France. At the Geneva Conference Eisenhower presented a proposal called "Open Skies to facilitate disarmament, which included plans for Russia and the U.S. to provide mutual access to each other's skies for open surveillance of military infrastructure. Russian leader Nikita Khrushchev dismissed the proposal out of hand.
In 1954, Ike articulated the domino theory in his outlook towards communism in Southeast Asia and also in Central America; he believed that if the communists were allowed to prevail in Vietnam, this would cause a succession of countries to fall to communism, from Laos through Malaysia and Indonesia ultimately to India. Likewise, the fall of Guatemala would end with the fall of neighboring Mexico. That year the loss of North Vietnam to the communists and the rejection of his proposed European Defense Community (EDC) were serious defeats, but he remained optimistic in his opposition to the spread of communism, saying "Long faces don't win wars". As he had threatened the French in their rejection of EDC, he afterwards moved to restore Germany, as a full NATO partner.
His foreign policy was also marked by "the brave new world of CIA-led coups and assassinations." With Eisenhower's leadership and Dulles' direction, CIA activities increased, to resist the spread of communism in poorer countries; the CIA in part deposed the leaders of Iran in Operation Ajax, of Guatemala through Operation Pbsuccess, and possibly the newly independent Republic of the Congo (LÃ©opoldville). In 1954 Ike wanted to increase surveillance inside the Soviet Union. With Dulles' recommendation, he authorized the deployment of thirty Lockheed U-2's at a cost of million. The Eisenhower administration also planned the Bay of Pigs Invasion to overthrow Fidel Castro in Cuba, which John F. Kennedy was left to carry out."