Archive for December, 2009

Ambrose 9 – Crises

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

“The overwhelming first impression of American foreign policy from 1956 to 1961 was one of unrelieved failure”  I have been waiting 10 years for a student to use that damning quote effectively in an essay.  Maybe you will be the first.


So what were the failures?  Well, just above is the image that so captured our friend Ross Dunn when he was in high school.  The revolution in Hungary, as you will read or have read, as far as it has anything to do with America and USFP, was a travesty (some would say).  It laid bare the naked truth that the US would not confront the Soviets directly and the promises of liberation were empty.

Some might counter with the assertion though that possibly in the most dangerous of times Eisenhower succeeded.  If we had confronted the Soviets in Hungary, as we will confront them five years hence in Cuba, would we have unleashed nuclear war?  Maybe Eisenhower and his advisors knew that the cost of that even mere possibility was too great.  It has long been said that no one hates war more than a member of the military.  No one else sees the cost of war so thoroughly.  Eisenhower had seen plenty of war.  Maybe that “first impression” of failure in Hungary, in Cuba, in the Suez Canal crisis gives way to a more complete realization that there was some success.  We avoided war in a time when war had become more dangerous than ever, when decisions made by just a few men (men) could have kept you and I from being here and could have plummeted humamity into some dark Cormac McCarthy book.  Maybe we did succeed after all, if at least for that moment. 

Happy Holidays.

Ambrose 8 – I like Ike!

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

ike wins

Life Magazine, as you will see tomorrow, was like the Internet of the early 1950s.  It was the way, along with “Look” and the “Saturday Evening Post” that people stayed in touch with the world in a visual, visceral sense that along with the radio and the infant television kept people “plugged in”.

This chapter is of course about a man that Ambrose has written volumes about so, maybe more so than in the other chapters, there is a depth and complexity here of a historical subject that he knows intimiately.

One thing to look for are the contradictions.  What does Ike (Eisenhower) say and what does he do?  Why is it different?  If he had any successes in these early years what would they be?  What might some critics say his failures were?