When Barack Obama first came to office, the model bandied about by journalists and academics was Abraham Lincoln. The 44th president of the United States, our first African-American commander-in-chief, was the embodied legacy of the man who banished slavery and unified the country. And Obama, like Lincoln, assembled a “team of rivals”—a Cabinet not of “yes” men, but of prominent statesmen and policymakers in their own right, some of whom had a rocky history with the president, including most prominently his onetime rival, Hillary Clinton.
But now, with Obama’s second term just under way, the focus has turned to Dwight D. Eisenhower. Evan Thomas, author of a recent book on Eisenhower, suggested that Obama might look to Ike’s example for how to get out of Afghanistan and “draw down military spending.” The key lesson, wrote Thomas, is “have the confidence to be humble.” “Obama,”argued one Los Angeles Times editorial, “would do well to emulate [Eisenhower's] patient pursuit of a peaceful world and productive economy.” And Clinton even bluntly cited the 34th president as a model in the recent 60 Minutes interview with her and Obama. “I remember some of the speeches of Eisenhower,” Clinton said. “You know you’ve got to be careful, you have to be thoughtful, you can’t rush in.”
That’s the version of Ike held by the Obama Administration: humble, prudent and patient. A five-star general who led the allies to victory over the axis knew how to corral America’s friends and thrash its enemies, but warning against the “military-industrial complex,” he also knew the limits of military force.
It’s easy to see why this version of Eisenhower would appeal to the president and his new Cabinet picks—especially his nominee for secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel, whom Peter Beinart called the “new Eisenhower,” and who called himself an “Eisenhower Republican.” ...
This Eisenhower—defending allies and vanquishing foes in order to advance American interests—squares with neither the outdated and uninformed version of Ike that Hagel promotes, nor with Hagel’s own policy prescriptions. Hagel is against sanctions on Iran and even voted against designating its Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist organization, and wants to engage other terror outfits, like Hamas. If some are satisfied with the prospective secretary of defense’s recent reassurances, it’s worth wondering whether, like Ike, he’s capable of actually learning from his mistakes. Because, by all indications, he has thus far been pushing an account of history more than 50 years out of date.
Whole thing here.