Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Ike and Obama: Is crisis avoidance the dominant foreign policy trait of both?

I was in a discussion the other day of the Obama administration’s foreign policy. The more I listened, the more President Obama began to remind me of President Eisenhower. There is indeed a long list of foreign crises pending right now: getting out of Afghanistan Syria Iran/nukes Af/Pak Pakistan vs. India China vs. Japan slow ...

National Archives/SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
National Archives/SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
National Archives/SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

I was in a discussion the other day of the Obama administration's foreign policy. The more I listened, the more President Obama began to remind me of President Eisenhower.

There is indeed a long list of foreign crises pending right now:

getting out of Afghanistan Syria Iran/nukes Af/Pak Pakistan vs. India China vs. Japan slow collapse of North Korea global warming European economic situation advent of cyber-warfare

I was in a discussion the other day of the Obama administration’s foreign policy. The more I listened, the more President Obama began to remind me of President Eisenhower.

There is indeed a long list of foreign crises pending right now:

  • getting out of Afghanistan
  • Syria
  • Iran/nukes
  • Af/Pak
  • Pakistan vs. India
  • China vs. Japan
  • slow collapse of North Korea
  • global warming
  • European economic situation
  • advent of cyber-warfare

But as I listened to the discussion, I thought of President Eisenhower, who took office and set to getting us out of the Korean War, as Obama did with Iraq. He also worked hard to keep us out of the French war in Vietnam, overriding the Joint Chiefs’ desire to use nukes to help the French. He also rejected pleas of many to intervene in the Hungarian Revolution. And he had the Suez Crisis, with the French and British. Then there were issues of Stalin’s successors in the Soviet Union, which was rapidly building its nuclear arsenal.

I suspect that Obama’s dominant impulse is to keep us out of the problems he sees overseas, just as Ike sought to keep us out of Vietnam and Hungary. Many people disagreed with his decisions. But he was a successful president.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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