Lukacs on Eisenhower and Churchill

Eisenhower cops a drubbing from John Lukacs in “Churchill: Visionary. Statesman. Historian.”

The disagreements between Churchill and Eisenhower at the end of the Second World War are fairly well known. Not so their later ones during the most intense stage of the Cold War.

This is regrettable, for there is a drastic symmetry between these two periods. In 1944-1945 Eisenhower opposed Churchill’s strategic advocacies, which he regarded as controversial and dangerously anti-Russian. Eight years later Eisenhower’s view of the world had become the very opposite: he regarded Churchill’s proposals as controversial and dangerously pro-Russian.

In both cases, Lukacs puts this down to an intensely political streak in Eisenhower.

But there was much more than military prudence in Eisenhower’s calculations. In 1945 he was in complete conformity with what he saw as the prevalent climate of opinion in Washington – as he would be, in 1952 and after, in complete conformity with a different climate of opinion in Washington then.

Lukacs has read (many times, I imagine) the entire Churchill-Eisenhower correspondence before reaching these conclusions. That doesn’t mean there isn’t room to disagree, but taken together with his encyclopaedic knowledge of Churchill and the Second World War, his views aren’t to be lightly dismissed.

He is scathing on the Dulles brothers, one, John Foster, the Secretary of State, the other, Allen, head of the CIA. “Telling are those [scattered phrases of contempt] recorded by Churchill’s personal physician Lord Moran the night of 7 December 1953, after another conference with Eisenhower in Bermuda:”

“It seems that everything is left to Dulles [John Foster in this case]. It appears that the President is no more than a ventriloquist’s doll.”

He said no more for a time then he said:

“This fellow preachers like a Methodist Minister, and his bloody text is always the same: that nothing but evil can come out meeting with Malenkov.”

It was a long pause.

“Dulles is a terrible handicap.” His voice rose. “Ten years ago I could have dealt with him. Even as it is I have not been defeated by this bastard. I have been humiliated by my own decay [he was then 79]. Ah, no, Charles, you have done all that could be done to slow things down.”

When I turned around he was in tears.

For all his faults, which even Lukacs somewhat reluctantly acknowledges, Churchill was “a statesman, not an ideologue. Oddly enough, it was Eisenhower who was the ideologue of the two [. . .] ” Churchill had larger considerations in mind at most times than mere politics or vanity. Not that he was immune to either, but to Lukacs his mind and character naturally encompassed a larger frame.

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