• Valentina Koumoulou

Profile – Dwight D. Eisenhower Major Influencers of Europe


Henry Griffin/AP Photo

Over the centuries, most people who have greatly influenced Europe have originated from the Old Continent itself. Nevertheless, there have been a few out of its borders who have contributed to its current state. Global issues, World Wars and significant events, such as conventions, mainly have had European countries as protagonists. However, the United States of America have also assisting Europe in times of need. This relationship could be characterized as co-dependent given the USA’s desire to have a voice in European politics in order to prevent more world wars in the future.

Many US presidents, such as Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy, have been involved in how European states have shaped the image they hold today. The United States’ 34th President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, pursued a military career, and later became the first Supreme Commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)[1]. His career will be detailed throughout this article in order to evaluate his overall influence in Europe and its state of affairs.


Army Career


Eisenhower served in France for a short period of time after World War I, before catching the attention of George C. Marshall who was amazed by his war planning abilities[2]. Marshall later used these skills to plan the Allied invasion of Continental Europe during World War II. After several major successes, Eisenhower ultimately became the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe[3].

Amongst his most significant achievements were Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of French North Africa, Operation Neptune, most commonly known as the Normandy Landings, as well as being the first non-British to command Gibraltar in 200 years[4]. Moreover, at the Potsdam conference in 1945, he was amongst those who opposed the use of the atomic bombs against the Japanese major cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki[5]. Even though he was a great commander and general, his stance on waging war was more neutral.


NATO’s First Supreme Commander


“In all history, this is the first time that an allied headquarters has been set up in peace, to preserve the peace and not to wage war”

Dwight D. Eisenhower[6]

When US President Harry S. Truman asked Eisenhower to become the Supreme Commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, he was not aware of the impact the alliance would have in the future. Eisenhower was a key personage to convince European leaders to start thinking internationally and work together towards preventing aggression, at a time where insecurity was dominating the global stage.

He was the one to speak passionately about “collective security” and the need of spreading this ideal to the peoples of the allies[7]. Eisenhower’s strategic thinking as well as his views on maintaining the peace rather than being aggressive, were necessary to defend the alliance without adopting a bellicose attitude towards non member-states.


President of the United States of America


In 1952, Eisenhower became the 34th President of the United States. There is controversy among scholars over the achievements of his presidential career both in domestic and foreign affairs. However, some truly changed American society. More specifically, the desegregation of Central High School, where Eisenhower did not hesitate to send the 101st Airborne Soldiers to escort the Little Rock Nine to school in 1957[8]. Moreover, during his presidency the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare was established[9].

As far as foreign affairs are concerned, he made a deal to negotiate a truce to the Korean, he refused to get involved in Vietnam, and tried to ease tensions between the US and the Soviet Union[10]. A great example of that effort would be the “Atoms for Peace” project started in 1953[11]. Apart from the significance of the program itself, it was the first time transparency was the way a US president decided to go for, which means that he did not hide the dangers of atomic energy from the world. During his United Nations General Assembly speech[12], he spoke passionately about the need to prevent atomic warfare and suggested that he was a step closer to a mutual agreement with the Soviet Union about the regulation of nuclear energy. Atoms for Peace[13] would be a project that would provide scientists worldwide the knowledge and equipment to control this new and delicate energy source, thus allowing its democratization. Even though today this project has attracted much criticism, especially due to the emerging concern with regards to Iran’s nuclear program, at the time it seemed a stabilizing and boundaries-setting deal.

Last but not least, he was determined to strengthen the newly created international organisation of which he was the first Supreme Commander, NATO, and he also oversaw the creation of a NATO equivalent in the South-East Asia after the Korean War, the Southeast Asia Treaty Organisation[14].


Influencer


Dwight D. Eisenhower could be characterized as a significant influencer (not the millennial type), firstly for the USA, secondly for Europe, where he tried to maintain balance between great powers, and thirdly for the entire world, as throughout his career he tried to avoid major international conflicts and direct confrontation with the Eastern Bloc. However, this does not mean that the US government was not trying to intervene in other countries’ domestic affairs, the most striking example being the CIA overthrowing the Iranian government’s Prime Minister, Mohammed Mossadegh, in order to ensure Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi’s hold on power[15].

Nevertheless, his most influential accomplishment could be considered the legacy he left for future generations when he became the first Supreme Commander of NATO, leading the Europeans towards a path of peace after a devastating war. He trusted his allies with the role of peace keepers when uncertainty was a major factor. The winners needed a leader to guide them. Eisenhower was the one who managed to convince France that Germany’s rearmament was a necessary step for securing the peace in Europe in the long run. After two world wars though, trust was scarce between the two countries. Therefore, what Eisenhower managed would mean a lot for the future state of affairs in Europe. In the end, he succeeded in maintaining security in a most unstable world.

Today, he is not only remembered for his many military and political accomplishments, but also for his organizational skills. The infamous “Eisenhower Box or Matrix” is a method that divides the urgent from the important tasks and helps to define which task would be preferable to do next. He used to say “What is important is seldom urgent, and what is urgent is seldom important”[16], a view that allowed him to choose the order of the problems he would try to solve.

To conclude, it is truly challenging to find an objective version of the truth because everyone sees the truth in their own perspective. Eisenhower was a personality difficult to decipher. Nevertheless, he was a bright military man, an inspiring NATO Supreme Commander, and a fine President of the United States. Even though he did not manage to end the Cold War, he found ways, such as the Atoms for Peace project, to deter aggressiveness and assure security in Europe.

Notes:

[1] Reeves, Thomas. 2020. "Dwight D. Eisenhower | Cold War, Presidency, & Facts". Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Dwight-D-Eisenhower.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Reeves, Thomas. 2020. "Dwight D. Eisenhower | Cold War, Presidency, & Facts". Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Dwight-D-Eisenhower.

[5] "Dwight D. Eisenhower". 2009. History.Com. https://www.history.com/topics/us-presidents/dwight-d-eisenhower.

[6] Reeves, Thomas. 2020. "Dwight D. Eisenhower | Cold War, Presidency, & Facts". Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Dwight-D-Eisenhower.

[7] "General Eisenhower, 1950 - 1952". 2016. NATO. https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/declassified_137961.htm.

[8] Pipes, Kasey. 2007. "Eisenhower Was Key Desegregation Figure". POLITICO. https://www.politico.com/story/2007/09/eisenhower-was-key-desegregation-figure-005885.

[9] "The Eisenhower Era (Article) | 1950S America | Khan Academy". 2020. Khan Academy. https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/us-history/postwarera/1950s-america/a/the-eisenhower-era.

[10] Reeves, Thomas. 2020. "Dwight D. Eisenhower | Cold War, Presidency, & Facts". Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Dwight-D-Eisenhower.

[11] Hicks, Jesse. 2014. "Atoms For Peace: The Mixed Legacy Of Eisenhower’S Nuclear Gambit". Science History Institute. https://www.sciencehistory.org/distillations/atoms-for-peace-the-mixed-legacy-of-eisenhowers-nuclear-gambit.

[12] "Atoms For Peace Speech | IAEA". 1953. Iaea.Org. https://www.iaea.org/about/history/atoms-for-peace-speech.

[13] Hicks, Jesse. 2014. "Atoms For Peace: The Mixed Legacy Of Eisenhower’S Nuclear Gambit". Science History Institute. https://www.sciencehistory.org/distillations/atoms-for-peace-the-mixed-legacy-of-eisenhowers-nuclear-gambit.

[14] "Dwight D. Eisenhower". 2009. History.Com. https://www.history.com/topics/us-presidents/dwight-d-eisenhower.

[15] "Dwight D. Eisenhower - Key Events | Miller Center". 2020. Miller Center. https://millercenter.org/president/dwight-d-eisenhower/key-events.

[16] Baer, Drake. 2014. "Dwight Eisenhower Nailed A Major Insight About Productivity". Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.com/dwight-eisenhower-nailed-a-major-insight-about-productivity-2014-4.

Bibliography

"Atoms For Peace Speech | IAEA". 1953. Iaea.Org. https://www.iaea.org/about/history/atoms-for-peace-speech.

Baer, Drake. 2014. "Dwight Eisenhower Nailed A Major Insight About Productivity". Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.com/dwight-eisenhower-nailed-a-major-insight-about-productivity-2014-4.

"Dwight D. Eisenhower". 2009. History.Com. https://www.history.com/topics/us-presidents/dwight-d-eisenhower.

"Dwight D. Eisenhower | The White House". 2020. The White House. https://www.whitehouse.gov/about-the-white-house/presidents/dwight-d-eisenhower/.

"General Eisenhower, 1950 - 1952". 2016. NATO. https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/declassified_137961.htm.

Hicks, Jesse. 2014. "Atoms For Peace: The Mixed Legacy Of Eisenhower’S Nuclear Gambit". Science History Institute. https://www.sciencehistory.org/distillations/atoms-for-peace-the-mixed-legacy-of-eisenhowers-nuclear-gambit.

Pipes, Kasey. 2007. "Eisenhower Was Key Desegregation Figure". POLITICO. https://www.politico.com/story/2007/09/eisenhower-was-key-desegregation-figure-005885.

Reeves, Thomas. 2020. "Dwight D. Eisenhower | Cold War, Presidency, & Facts". Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Dwight-D-Eisenhower.

"The Eisenhower Era (Article) | 1950S America | Khan Academy". 2020. Khan Academy. https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/us-history/postwarera/1950s-america/a/the-eisenhower-era.

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