Dwight D. Eisenhower Term Paper

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Dwight D. Eisenhower transformed himself from "a good officer, but not a great one" into the Supreme Allied Commander during the Second World War, the first Supreme Commander of NATO, and a two-term President of the United States (Miller Center of Public Affairs). Unassisted by family connections or wealth, Eisenhower is the epitome of a self-made leader and an exemplary role model for personal strength and decisiveness. His leadership style and unique personal qualities emerged at a young age, when David Dwight (as he was born) chose to attend a military academy in spite of his parents' pacifist views. Similarly, Eisenhower's character may be judged simply by the fact that he sacrificed his own education in order to help pay for his brother's college tuition. Working the night shift at a cemetery, he helped his brother Edgar before he was admitted to West Point. Eisenhower retained the strong family values that his parents taught him throughout his marriage with Mamie.

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Most significantly, Eisenhower led the nation through one of its most troubling times: the Second World War and the start of the Cold War. In fact, Eisenhower helped foment the Cold War. Fear of Soviet expansion became one of Eisenhower's most effective propaganda techniques, for better or worse. While some of his individual decisions can be criticized, Eisenhower's overall leadership style cannot be. Eisenhower's presidential term ushered the United States into its unique position as a world superpower and an emblem of economic and military might.

TOPIC: Term Paper on Dwight D. Eisenhower Assignment

As supreme commander, Eisenhower led the Allied forces to a successful invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944. D-day would become the defining moment of his military career, immortalizing Eisenhower as a military hero. While Eisenhower remained decisively strong in the face of military conflict, he nevertheless maintained a level head. Perhaps owing to his pacifist upbringing, Eisenhower vocally opposed Truman's use of the atomic bomb on Japan. He told Truman's Secretary of War that "the bomb was unnecessary, as Japan was on the verge of surrender" but Truman ignored Eisenhower's advice. Interestingly, Truman would later encourage Eisenhower to run for President and in fact asked Eisenhower to run on a joint ticket (Miller Center of Public Affairs).

The bomb sounded the death knell of the War but it also gave rise to intense fear of what modern weapons of mass destruction were capable of. Images of the detonated mushroom clouds remain etched into public consciousness and in large part still fuel the fear of terrorism today. Moreover, Truman's defamation of Japan continued the vilification of Japanese and Japanese-Americans that began with Roosevelt's establishment of the internment camps.

Eisenhower refused Truman's initial offer of running for President with Truman as his running mate (Miller Center of Public Affairs). Yet in the wake of the Korean War Eisenhower finally decided to apply his military know-how to political leadership. Truman's foreign policy became tremendously unpopular after the Korean war, leaving a leadership vacuum in Washington. The Republican party began wooing Eisenhower because of the leadership skills he demonstrated during World War Two and as NATO commander. Eisenhower had proven himself not only as a successful military leader but also as a diplomat who understood the intricacies of foreign relations. After all, Eisenhower worked in Europe after the war to help the Allies rebuild. His diplomacy skills drew the attention of prominent Republicans like Senator Henry Cabot Lodge Jr., who helped organize Eisenhower's political campaign.

Eisenhower did not so much as capitalize on Truman's shortcomings as he did rise to the occasion as a leader. Thus, Eisenhower cannot necessarily be called opportunistic. He did not capitalize on his increased popularity for personal gain. In fact, Eisenhower was at first a reluctant Presidential candidate who had not even voted or joined a political party until his decision to run in the 1952 elections (Miller Center of Public Affairs). Rising to the occasion meant that Eisenhower truly felt himself capable of leading the country during a difficult time. Eisenhower also understood that as a war hero, he was viewed as a leader already. Eisenhower had served his country through a World War and had represented the United States as the first NATO commander in foreign posts. In many ways, Eisenhower was recognized as a leader before he ever declared himself one. Neither ambitious nor self-serving, Eisenhower became an instantly popular candidate for President. He had credentials as a war hero. Eisenhower also had an unassuming attitude that made him an accessible role model. The campaign slogan "I Like Ike" is testimony to his populist appeal. Eisenhower possessed "personal charm" and used "plain talk" in his public addresses (Miller Center of Public Affairs).

Declaring himself a member of the Republican party, Eisenhower launched a stunningly successful campaign and defeated Taft in a landslide. Joining the Republican party must have been an enormous personal step for a man who had purposely avoided politics throughout his life to the point of never voting. His party membership proved that Eisenhower could be a team player in a political environment as well as in a military one. Joining the GOP introduced Ike to a new circle of compatriots who would help him lead the country for eight years.

Like any solid leader Eisenhower would prove his character most during times of crisis. As a political figure Eisenhower's leadership skills were put to the test even before he started his first term as President. During his political campaign in 1952 his running mate Richard M. Nixon endured charges of embezzling campaign money. Eisenhower stuck by Nixon, showing decisiveness and commitment. Helping resolve conflicts in post-war Europe obviously empowered Eisenhower during his own moment of personal crisis.

The first major assault on Eisenhower's otherwise untarnished character arose soon thereafter, though. Eisenhower was expected to stick up for General George C. Marshall, who Joseph McCarthy accused of being a Communist during the witch hunts. Eisenhower served as Marshall's Assistant Chief of Staff in charge of the Operations Division during World War Two. Marshall was in essence one of Eisenhower's mentors and perhaps one of the reasons why Eisenhower was able to become a war hero in the first place (Miller Center of Public Affairs).

Turning his back on Marshall at a crucial moment, Eisenhower exhibited the first sign of weakness and political opportunism. Fellow Republicans accused Eisenhower of turning his back on Marshall and of compromising his principles "for political advantage," (Miller Center of Public Affairs). Furthermore, Eisenhower soured what had once been an amicable relationship between him and former President Truman at about the same time. Truman, had once admired Eisenhower enough to ask him to share the executive office with him. Instead of honoring the friendship, Eisenhower waged a smear campaign against Truman during the 1952 elections, slandered him in public, and used Truman's failures in Korea as a chance to appear once again a war hero. Eisenhower ran on a platform of decisively ending the war in Korea, a strategy that worked at the polls and which also proved that Eisenhower was a shrewder politician than he might have believed himself.

In spite of his shortcomings, Eisenhower became a role model for transformational leadership. Even his questionable 1952 campaign tactics illustrate that Eisenhower knew how to develop a vision, a mission, and a goal. He used his image as a war hero to bolster his credibility regarding the Korean War and promised the American public for a swift end to the Southeast Asian conflict. His assault of Truman was a political maneuver that earned him accolades in the Republican Party. The smear strategy also demonstrated one of Eisenhower's prevailing personal leadership qualities: decisiveness. Instead of trying to please everyone, Eisenhower identified his base and worked hard to please them. He would remain committed to the goals he established during the campaign of 1952, including his subtle alignment with the tenets of McCarthyism. Although Eisenhower is known to have critiqued McCarthy's methods he only "played a modest role" in ousting McCarthy and ending the witch hunts (Miller Center of Public Affairs). The McCarthy issue was one of the only areas in which Eisenhower sat on the fence.

A staunchly anti-communist agenda characterized the Eisenhower administration. His first-hand experience with Cold War politics led Eisenhower to use anti-communist propaganda throughout both his presidential terms. With a watchful eye on Southeast Asia as Communist forces spread through Vietnam, Eisenhower watched what would evolve later into U.S. involvement there.

The Eisenhower years are remembered as a quintessential period of American peace and prosperity: the 1950s. Consumerism and car culture combined with patriotism and post-war spoils. The United States boomed economically during the Eisenhower years and he naturally earned himself a second term in office in 1956. Again, Nixon was his running mate.

Just before the start of Eisenhower's second term, the President encountered a major foreign relations crisis. Fellow NATO members France and Great Britain attacked Egypt without notifying the United States. Especially as Eisenhower served as NATO's first supreme commander, the affront irked Ike. His diplomatic,… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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