Ike and the generals – how Eisenhower stood up to his own military

By Evan Thomas
Fox News, December 16, 2012

General Eisenhower (The Eisenhower National Historic Site)

Dwight Eisenhower loved the army, in which he served for almost all of his adult life. His favorite form of relaxation, after golf, was to sit down for a drink and swap war stories with some old West Point classmates. When he left the White House in 1961, he puzzled his successor, John F. Kennedy, by asking to be returned to his five-star army rank, which meant that in retirement he would be referred to as “General,” not “Mr. President.”

But to know and love the military was not necessarily to trust it, at least when it came to spending money or deciding when to go to war. As president, Eisenhower kept a skeptical eye on “those boys down at the Pentagon,” as he called them. Eisenhower believed in what he called “The Great Equation,” the balance of security and economic needs. Eisenhower knew, from long experience, not the least as Supreme Allied Commander in World War II, that the military was skillful at getting politicians to pay for unnecessary weapons systems by exaggerating the threat.

In 1948, reading an Army G-2 (intelligence) estimate that the Red Army could overrun Western Europe in two weeks, Ike jotted in the margin, “I don’t believe it. My God, we need two months just to overrun Sicily.” Eisenhower is remembered for warning against the “military industrial complex” in his 1961 Farewell Address. Less well understood is that Eisenhower devoted himself to keeping the military industrial complex, as well as the war hawks, under control during his eight-year presidency.