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James M. Fenwick

Off Limits

(9 February 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 6, 9 February 1948, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the ETOL.

Eisenhower – Liberal Militarist

The last has not been heard of General Eisenhower.

Unless an irresistible draft-Eisenhower boom takes place – and evidences for its possibility are not lacking – Eisenhower’s declination to run for the presidency postpones the beginning of significant political activity on his part until the next national elections. But barring completely unforeseeable circumstances, his candidacy is possible at that time.

How is his exceptional popularity to be accounted for? And it is exceptional. Poll after poll has indicated that he could win the election with relative ease. He was, among other things, “the only Republican favored over Truman by union members, low-income groups and veterans.”

Part of his popularity is unquestionably due to his role in the war. Far enough up in the military hierarchy to have had little contact with troops, he escaped the odium which, for instance, became attached to the name of Patton. And, unlike the ego-maniac Montgomery, lie was judicious in his public pronouncements. Further, he is obviously an intelligent person. He was picked

for his job during the war not primarily for his strategical or tactical abilities – those problems were resolved in lower and higher echelons – but for his ability to mediate among top allied political and military personnel. These qualifications are more or less known to the general population, where they assume a New Deal caste.

The Unstained

Eisenhower is commonly viewed as being uncorrupted by party intrigue. And certainly this has been a political year requiring strong stomachs. The previous doubts as to which party he belonged to, and the current Platonic character of his relation to the Republicans, has an undoubted attractiveness. There is a feeling that “he’ll get in there and straighten both of them out.” He appears as a non-partisan candidate.

And certainly one of the factors in his popularity to date is that he has not officially committed himself on any number of important issues.. He has had little chance to offend anybody.

It is difficult to know how much is personal in his declining, and how much has been planned – and there is more than a little evidence of very careful planning. His statement, however, is revealing. The following is the relevant portion:

“It is my conviction that the necessary and wise subordination of the military to civil power will be best sustained and our people will have greater confidence that it is so sustained when lifelong professional soldiers, in the absence of some obvious and overriding reasons, abstain from seeking high political office.”

The year 1952 can well provide the “obvious and overriding reasons” which Eisenhower specifies. That is the year which experts, who may or may not know what they are talking about, have set as the one by which Russia will have developed the atomic bomb. In any event it is a year destined to be one of extreme international tension. From the capitalist point of view, Eisenhower is the ideal figure to rally the people of this country into the war with Russia.

Interim Intentions

Were he to serve now (and for the capitalists there would be positive benefits to be derived therefrom) it is possible that by 1952 he would have dissipated a great deal of his attractive force. In the absence of a pressing national crisis there is a great deal of polities currently being played in Congress. The backwoods types Eisenhower would have to contend with could well compromise him. Eisenhower can use the ensuing four years to cultivate the civilian pose and to learn a little about that abnormal world of civilians. His tour of duty at Columbia will serve to remove the military stigma which his letter of declination shows he is uncomfortably aware of. And then ... and then, when the hour strikes, the scholar will reluctantly – but like a good soldier! – heed the nation’s call!

Another possible reason deterring Eisenhower and his backers may be a desire not to precipitate international tensions. England would begin to sweat, for instance, at the pace of events, and Russia could use the Eisenhower election to good propaganda advantage.

In the meantime Eisenhower’s dry run has given his backers a chance to assess his political weight. It is obvious that a certain stratum of the capitalist class has found their man.

With Eisenhower as President, Marshall as Secretary of State and Bradley as Army Chief of Staff, governmental power would be centralized in the hands of three old Army cronies. The militarization of our government, which has been taking place with great deliberation in the last two years, would then be more complete.

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