The Other Eisenhowers
Kauffman, Bill, The American Conservative
Ike's anti-militarist roots
DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER'S MOTHER was a pacifist, abreed common in the Middle America of yore, before war became the national religion. Her son left Kansas to climb the martial ladder of the Department of War, whose motto, suggested Declaration of Independence signatory Benjamin Rush, should have been "A Widow and Orphan making office." It was also the greatest deracinating force in American history; Dwight, unlike Dorothy and Toto, never returned to the Sunflower State.
Old men grow sentimentally pensive, and one wonders if President Eisenhower's sober and remarkable Farewell Address counseling vigilance against the "miütary-industrial complex" - delivered 50 years ago over the televisions that even then were addling America - echoes, however faintly, Ida Eisenhower's Mennonite convictions. It surely is redolent of his older brother and frequent correspondent Edgar, the Tacoma attorney who in most Eisenhower biographies gets a walk-on as the crusty reactionary pestering the moderate Ike to repeal the New Deal and support the Bricker Amendment, that last gasp of the Old Right.
The president's son John, in his memoir Strictly Personal, writes affectionately that Uncle Ed "considered President Roosevelt a work of the devil." No jingo chickenhawk of the sort whose squawk dominates today's Right, Ed tried to talk John out of a career in the military: "he declared that I should forego any ideas of becoming a 'professional killer' and go to law school at his expense, later to join his law office."
This language - "professional killer" - marked Edgar Eisenhower as an anachronism among the placeless technocrats who were busy engineering the Empire of Euphemism. Organization men like Robert McNamara and McGeorge Bundy could no more understand Edgar Eisenhower than they could dig Jack Kerouac or Paul Goodman.
In his new study of Ike's valediction, Unwarranted Influence, James Ledbetter places the Farewell Address within a thematic range that stretches from North Dakota Senator Gerald Nye's 1930s investigation of the "merchants of death" to the power-elite analysis of C. Wright Mills and his idealistic admirers in Students for a Democratic Society. Speechwriters Malcolm Moos and Capt. Ralph Williams - perhaps younger brother Milton Eisenhower, too - crafted much of the address, but its concerns were those of the president, who later wrote in Waging Peace: "During the years of my Presidency, and especially the latter years, I began to feel more and more uneasiness about the effect on the nation of tremendous peacetime military expenditures." (How many Republican members …
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Publication information: Article title: The Other Eisenhowers. Contributors: Kauffman, Bill - Author. Magazine title: The American Conservative. Volume: 10. Issue: 2 Publication date: February 2011. Page number: 13. © 2009 The American Conservative LLC. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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