Upon assuming the presidency in 1953, Dwight Eisenhower came to be seen by many as a doddering lightweight. Yet behind the bland smile and apparent simplemindedness was a brilliant, intellectual tactician. As Evan Thomas reveals in his provocative examination of Ike's White House years, Eisenhower was a master of calculated duplicity. As with his bridge and poker games he was eventually forced to stop playing after leaving too many fellow army officers insolvent, Ike could be patient and ruthless in the con, and generous and expedient in his partnerships. Facing the Soviet Union, China, and his own generals, some of whom believed a first strike was the only means of survival, Eisenhower would make his boldest and riskiest bet yet, one of such enormity that there could be but two outcomes: the survival of the world, or its end.
This is the story of how he won.
©2012 Evan Thomas (P)2012 Hachette Audio
I am an avid eclectic reader.
This book is primarily about Eisenhower’s foreign policy and how he successfully kept the United States out of a major war during his eight years as president, which was his major goal. I have just finished reading “The Brother” by Stephen Kinzer about John Foster Dulles, Eisenhower’s Secretary of State and Allen Dulles his head of the CIA. The two books complement each other to give me a more complete picture of the Eisenhower era. I lived through this period in history and it does not seem like it was that long ago, on the other hand, so much has happened since the ‘50s it seem like a long time ago. Reading these two book helps understand the problems of today. Eisenhower’s ambiguity is a recurring theme in the book. His style was to avoid telling anyone his definite views on a subject. Eisenhower was a shrewd operator who never let anyone know whether he would use nuclear weapons or not.
The author uses the Hungarian uprising of 1956 as an example of one of Eisenhower’s best and worst moments for his policy of “take a hard line—and bluff”. Though he successfully avoided a major war the Soviet Union over Hungary, choosing containment over confrontation, and his administration’s rhetoric about “rolling back” communism encouraged Hungarians to expect America’s support which did not come. A “CIA backed clandestine radio stations” had been encouraging Hungarians to fight.
Eisenhower let John Foster Dulles carry the rhetoric for his administration. Ike willing let himself appear disengaged, even weak to unbalance his opponents. The author states that Eisenhower skill at concealment, deception and secrecy turned Allen Dulles loose at the CIA. Mostly Thomas portrays Eisenhower in a favorable light.
I found the book interesting and with “The Brothers” gave me a good over view of the 1950’s international politics. Brian Troxell did an excellent job narrating the book.
I grew up in the forties and fifties so the story of Eisenhower was one central to my youth. I found it fascinating to gain a new insight into the man and the times. While ones political sensibilities may color your reception to the book, it was in most ways relatively apolitical, focusing more on international issues.
It works well as an audiobook, although from time to time it seemed to jump around in chronology.
I found the book surprisingly enjoyable.
Lawyer in private practice in Little Rock with advanced degree hours in humanities with emphasi in history and English Reformation era.
This book was intriguing because it laid out in remarkable detail Ike's understated leadership qualities. The picture of Ike accumulating consensus for a very confrontational nuclear strategy was engrossing. This listen was hard to stop once started.
As we finally are moving beyond the world that Ike built, it's fascinating to read about this pivitol character in it's creation. Excellent narrative, important behind the scenes information exposed, told well.
Geopolitics, history, and philosophy junkie. I love smoothly flowing prose that moves me effortlessly from one idea to the next.
A well told story of president Eisenhower during difficult and dangerous times in the new nuclear age. I learned much about Ike I didn't know before, not all of it positive. The only shortcoming in Ike's Bluff was that it lacked some moral objectivity on some of the dirty dealings Ike involved himself and the country in, like Guatemala, etc.
Was Ike right for the age or did we luck out? That's the hard question.
Great book on understanding Eisenhower's presidency. Brought back a lot of 1950's memories. You'll enjoy it. Well narrated.
I think it's a good book that is worth reading/listening to; however, if you've read about Eisenhower's Administration before, you won't find much eyeopening in this book.
"Ike's Bluff" forcefully makes the case for the depth, intelligence, fortitude and courage of President Eisenhower. Often underrated for his relaxed smile and his love of golf, Eisenhower is shown to be a canny cold warrior, ensuring a degree of international peace through the "bluff" that the US was prepared to use nuclear weapons to stop Russian expansion. The portrait is balanced, showing Ike as a supporter of CIA-sponsored coups and assassinations of Communist-leaning foreign leaders but an opponent (or skeptical supporter) of some of the defense establishment's other misguided strategies--especially those that increased the likelihood of nuclear war. The section on the downing of the U-2 spy plane over Russia and Khruschev's response is compelling. There are excellent portraits of many military and CIA leaders, often shown as barely controllable actors, as well as intriguing figures like his wife Mamie, his doctor and his secretary.
Ike was an excellent card player at the table of international diplomacy. His poker skills (he gave up playing as a soldier after repeatedly cleaning out his buddies) and his bridge skills taught him strategic skills, anticipating the plays of others and knowing when to bluff.
The book focuses too on Eisenhower as a vulnerable aging man, worried about his deteriorating health, popping pills to help himself sleep. The author doesn't hold back from reports on Ike's bowel movements, his cuddling in bed with his wife and even his Metrecal for lunch. Overall, the reader gains great respect for Eisenhower, who served the country faithfully and with deep personal sacrifice. And at the end, Ike is praised for identifying the risks of the military-industrial complex, a term he originated to express his dismay at the constant pressures to increase the arms race.
The narration was serviceable and easy to listen to, although some names were mispronounced.
Listening to the audio part 1, I wondered if this author had forgotten how to write history. He opens with an endless prologue, endlessly stitching together vignettes and stories about Ike, in no discernible order, many times repeating stories, all to set up his theme, which is that Ike governed much the way he played poker. FINALLY I skipped to Part 2 and was very pleasantly surprised. We get vivid depictions of Ike facing off against the demons in his cabinet, the CIA, Russia, and his own complex personality. Gripping history and excellent biography. The ending is also too long. Where was this author's editor?! Recommended for listeners who are not afraid to skip forward on their iPod.
Yes, so much History hard to take it in all at once.
This is when I was in grade school and it was nice to have the history of the time reviewed.
Excellent writing and very well read. But an awful lot about Ike's moods, golf and health. A bit more on national and international politics would have made this account more interesting and valuable as history. Still, recommended as an approachable and insightful recounting of this important American president.
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