Oliver Stone’s Untold History of The United States, Episode V: The 50s – Eisenhower, the Bomb, and the Third World:***1/2
The history books have been kind to Dwight Eisenhower. Ike is the least polarizing and least hated President of the Post-War Era. He is remembered as America’s benign grandfather figure during a time of relative peace and prosperity.
Oliver Stone has an explosive new take on President Eisenhower. Stone’s Eisenhower wasn’t responsible or level-headed – he was a globalist general leading our country into a buzzsaw of perpetual hostility.
Ike drove up to a huge fork in the road in his first year in office; and he took the wrong turn. Stalin had just died and the new Soviet leader sent a letter to Eisenhower. Khrushchev invited the President to end the Cold War and move on to a new era of friendly competition.
Eisenhower didn’t even respond to the letter personally. Secretary of state John Foster Dulles rebuked the offer, accusing the Politburo of planning communist world domination. Instead of peace, we got 65 years of mutual suspicion and nuclear brinksmanship with Russia (and counting).
While Sec. Dulles was poisoning our relationship with the Soviets via traditional diplomacy, CIA director Allen Dulles was poisoning it in sinister new ways. Boo, Dulles brothers.
In one of our government’s all time most self-defeating blunders, the CIA overthrew the democratically elected president of Iran and replaced him with a sellout Persian puppet. This got us easy oil for 25 years and an Islamist enemy for 40. And it ticked off the Soviets even further since we installed an America-alligned kingdom right on their southern border.
Oliver Stone says that Eisenhower was an old-fashioned Republican deficit hawk. He was troubled by the fact that America’s peacetime military was gobbling up half of the federal budget (vs 15% today).
Ike’s plan was to trim conventional forces and bulk up our nuclear forces dramatically. He embraced the notion that there was a dangerous Missile Gap even though he knew that we were far outpacing the Soviets.
As is always the case in Washington, expanding government is easy and cutting spending is impossible. By 1960, our conscription military was as bloated as ever, only now it included 1000s of nukes that could be delivered by missile, bomber, or submarine.
This would have been an irresponsible foreign policy if there were thousands of Atomic bombs. But these were Hydrogen bombs – hundreds of times more powerful than the ones we dropped on Japan.
Oliver Stone paints President Eisenhower as brazenly indifferent to the unfathomable devastation that a nuclear war would unleash. He just thought of nukes as another tool in our military arsenal, as opposed to the potential end of all mammalian life on earth forever.
As always, Oliver Stone paints a complex and compelling picture of history. And I agree with him most of the time. However, it is worth mentioning that Eisenhower did not, in fact, blow up planet earth. That’s a pretty important side note.
And no one wants peace with Russia more than me. I don’t go as far as Stone, though, in absolving the USSR of its imperialist crimes. Stone glosses over the Soviet crackdown on Hungarian protesters in 1956. To me, it was pure brutal colonialism; Budapest is a solid 1000 miles away from Moscow.
In the end, though, Oliver Stone’s conclusion is elegant and inescapably true: President Eisenhower was a failure by his own standards. The man most famous for warning America about the dangerous influence of the Military Industrial Complex was the one most responsible for solidifying its power.