Forging the Shield: Eisenhower and National Security for the 21st Century

By Houchin, Roy F., II | Air & Space Power Journal, Fall 2007 | Go to article overview

Forging the Shield: Eisenhower and National Security for the 21st Century


Houchin, Roy F., II, Air & Space Power Journal


Forging the Shield: Eisenhower and National Security for the 21st Century edited by Dennis E. Showalter. Imprint Publications (http://www .imprint-chicago.com), 207 E. Ohio Street, no. 377, Chicago, Illinois 60611, 2005, 256 pages, $24.95 (softcover).

From 26 through 28 January 2005, the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces at the National Defense University conducted a symposium entitled "Eisenhower and National Security for the 21st Century" at Fort McNair, Washington, DC. That symposium produced Forging the Shield, a collection of essays written by a broad-based and internationally recognized group of individuals and edited by Dennis E. Showalter, professor of history at Colorado College, Colorado Springs, Colorado. According to Showalter, the authors capture the unique nature of the Eisenhower presidency by revealing the fingertip sophistication of Eisenhower as commander in chief as well as his ability to comprehend the complex relationship between national security and the vulnerable infrastructures of modern societies. As a consequence, their efforts enhance our overall understanding of Elsenhower's presidency by highlighting his shortcomings as well as his successes. Ultimately, in Showalter's estimation, this assessment demonstrates that in the 1950s, Eisenhower "was as president the right man in the right spot" (p. 5).

Alex Roland, professor of history at Duke University, focuses on Eisenhower as policy maker in a general discussion about the president's approach to lobbying efforts by scientists, congressmen, businessmen, and officers of the military services or, as the president referred to them, the "militaryindustrial complex." Roland's essay, "The Grim Paraphernalia: Eisenhower and the Garrison State," sets the stage for three chapters on the administration's efforts to deal with this phenomenon. "Clandestine Victory: Eisenhower and Overhead Reconnaissance in the Cold War" by R. Cargill Hall, chief historian emeritus of the National Reconnaissance Office; "Eisenhower and the NSA: An Introductory Survey" by David A. Hatch, National Security Agency historian; and "The Invisible Hand of the New Look: Eisenhower and the CIA" by Clayton D. Laurie, historian of the Center for the Study of Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency, provide insightful "must-reading" for Airmen. Hall describes two of the administration's greatest achievements-high-altitude aerial and space reconnaissance of the Soviet Union-and the ways that these twin technologies contributed to the end of the Cold War. Hatch reveals Elsenhower's behind-the-scenes, proactive involvement with communications intelligence and its enhancement of the agency's ability to deliver concise, clear evidence with definitive conclusions. Laurie analyzes the administration's expanded use of paramilitary operations, espionage, and political action as a substitute for larger conventional military forces whose use anywhere risked superpower confrontation and a third, potentially atomic, world war. In offering how similar achievements in the future may contribute to our national security in the twenty-first century, each of these authors combines a solid foundation of Elsenhower's past presidential achievements with a peek at what might be needed in the future. These are essential elements for today's Airmen if they wish to understand their past while they shape technological and interagency contributions for tomorrow's world.

Roger D. Launius, chair of the Division of Space History at the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum, and Capt John W. Yaeger, USN, retired, director of institutional research at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, discuss aspects of Elsenhower's long-term vision. In "Eisenhower and Space: Politics and Ideology in the Construction of the U.S. Civil Space Program," Launius suggests that, more than perhaps any president in the Cold War era, Eisenhower had a formal strategy for defeating the Soviet Union. …

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