Following the war, Eisenhower served in a variety of assignments and attended both the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth and the Army War College. In 1930 he was assigned to the War Department in Washington, D.C. In 1936 he accompanied General Douglas MacArthur to the Philippines to train the new commonwealth's army.
In 1939, Eisenhower became chief of staff to the new Third Army. Transferred to the War Department in Washington following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, he held increasingly responsible staff jobs, working in the War Plans Division, where he helped to plan the Europe First strategy before his summer 1942 transfer to London as commander of American and Allied forces in Britain. In November 1942 he organized the North African campaign and in late 1943 launched the invasion of Italy. In December 1943 he was named to command the Allied forces scheduled to invade Western Europe in 1944, and in spring 1945 he was promoted to general of the army.
From 1945 to 1948 Eisenhower served as chief of staff of the army. He was president of Columbia University from 1948 to 1952. During this time he was actively involved with the Council on Foreign Relations and spent time in Washington, informally chairing the Joint Chiefs of Staff during Admiral of the Fleet William D. Leahy's illness. Eisenhower strongly endorsed President Harry S. Truman's developing Cold War policies, including intervention in Korea. Eisenhower's focus, however, remained the European situation and Soviet-American rivalry. In January 1951 he took leave from Columbia to serve as supreme commander of the armed forces of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
In 1952 the Republican Party, desperate to choose a candidate who would be assured of victory, turned to Eisenhower. As a candidate, he promised to end the Korean War but otherwise continued Truman's Cold War policies. Eisenhower won the November elections, defeating Democrat Adlai Stevenson.
Some early scholars of the Eisenhower presidency suggested that Eisenhower ceded responsibility for foreign policy to Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, but as more archival material became available, it became apparent that Eisenhower was in fact quite actively engaged in foreign policy decisions. Under Eisenhower, U.S. defense commitments around the world solidified into a network of bilateral and multilateral alliances. While maintaining its existing commitments to NATO, the Rio Pact, Japan, and the ANZUS South Pacific alliance, the United States established the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) in 1954, associated itself with the Middle Eastern Baghdad Pact in 1959, and signed bilateral security treaties with South Korea and the Republic of China on Taiwan.
A fiscal conservative uncomfortable with high defense budgets, Eisenhower introduced the New Look strategy of relying heavily on nuclear weapons rather than on conventional forces. Critics of the New Look defense strategy complained that it left the United States unprepared to fight limited wars.
In March 1953 Soviet dictator Josef Stalin died, to be replaced first by a triumvirate of Soviet officials headed by Georgy Malenkov and then in 1955 by Nikita Khrushchev. Stalin's death may well have facilitated efforts to end the Korean War, although Soviet proposals in 1953 to neutralize and reunite all Germany proved fruitless. As president, Eisenhower fulfilled his campaign pledge to end the Korean War, seemingly threatening to employ nuclear weapons unless an armistice agreement was concluded.
Alarmed by the increasing destructiveness of nuclear armaments, Eisenhower was the first president to attempt, albeit rather unsuccessfully, to reach arms control agreements with the Soviet Union. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, in office when Eisenhower first became president, strongly urged him to reach such understandings. Eisenhower's efforts began with his "Atoms for Peace" speech of December 1953, developed into his Open Skies Proposal at the 1955 Geneva Conference, and evolved into lengthy negotiations for a treaty to restrict atmospheric nuclear testing, which by the time the 1959 Geneva Conference was held seemed likely to be successful.
In February 1956, Khrushchev repudiated much of Stalin's legacy, including his personality cult and his use of terror against political opponents, a move suggesting that the potential existed for a Soviet-American rapprochement. Soon afterward, Khrushchev expressed his faith that it might be possible for the East and West to attain a state of peaceful coexistence with each other. Progress toward this end was patchy, however. From 1958 until 1961, Khrushchev made repeated attempts to coerce and intimidate the Western powers into abandoning control of West Berlin.
In September 1959, after a protracted Geneva conference on disarmament, Khrushchev visited the United States, a trip that included an address to the United Nations, an apparently fruitful meeting at Camp David, a stay on Eisenhower's Maryland farm, and a presidential tour of the nearby Gettysburg battlefield. The much-vaunted Spirit of Camp David, however, soon evaporated. In May 1960, a long-planned summit meeting between Eisenhower and Khrushchev ended in fiasco after Russian artillery shot down an American U-2 spy plane over Soviet territory on 5 May, shortly before the meeting began. Eisenhower took full responsibility for this event but refused to yield to Khrushchev's demands that the United States apologize and cease all such overflights. In response, Khrushchev angrily canceled the summit.
As the Bandung Non-Aligned Movement gained strength around the developing world, especially in decolonizing Asia, Africa, and the Middle East where nationalist sentiments frequently ran high, Eisenhower sought to entice third world nations into the U.S. camp. In July 1956 the United States rescinded an earlier offer to grant Gamal Abdel Nasser, Egypt's new and fiercely nationalist president, a loan for the Aswan Dam project, leading Nasser to seize the Suez Canal from France and Great Britain. Eisenhower nonetheless refused to endorse the invasion of Egypt by those two nations, in conjunction with Israel, in late October 1956 and instead put heavy pressure on them to pull their forces back, which soon proved effective.
Shortly afterward, the Soviet Union issued a statement threatening to intervene should there be any further Western threats to Middle Eastern countries. The United States, suspicious of any Soviet initiative that might jeopardize Western control of Middle Eastern oil, responded promptly in January 1957 with the Eisenhower Doctrine, pledging American military and economic assistance to any Middle Eastern country that sought to resist communism. Except for Lebanon and Iraq, few nations welcomed this doctrine, since most countries in the region believed that they had more to fear from Western imperialism than from Soviet expansionism. In 1958 Egypt and Syria encouraged Pan-Arab sentiment by their brief union in the United Arab Republic. Civil war broke out in Lebanon as Muslims sought to replace the predominantly Christian government with an Arab state. Eisenhower responded by landing U.S. Marines on Beirut's beaches to restore order.
As president, Eisenhower was generally cautious in risking American troops in overseas interventions. He boasted proudly that during his presidency no American soldier lost his life in combat duty. Despite Republican claims during the 1952 presidential campaign that they would roll back communism across Eastern Europe, when workers rose against Soviet rule in East Berlin in June 1953 and again when Hungarians attempted to expel Soviet troops in the autumn of 1956, Eisenhower refused to intervene. Although he would not recognize the People's Republic of China (PRC), he reacted cautiously in the successive Taiwan Straits crises of 1954–1955 and 1958, leaving ambiguous the likely U.S. reaction to a Chinese attack on the Guomindang-held offshore Jinmen (Quemoy) and Mazu islands.
In 1954, Eisenhower declined to commit American forces in Indochina after French troops were defeated at Dien Bien Phu. When the 1954 Geneva Accords ending the First Indochinese War and temporarily partitioning Vietnam until countrywide elections could be held were announced, Eisenhower refused to recognize them. His administration encouraged the government of the southern Republic of Vietnam (ROV, South Vietnam) in its refusal to hold the elections mandated for 1956 and provided military and economic assistance to bolster its independence. Eisenhower justified these actions by citing the domino theory—that if the United States permitted one noncommunist area to become communist, the infection would inevitably spread to its neighbors.
Eisenhower also relied heavily on covert activities, authorizing the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to back coups in both Iran and Guatemala in 1953 and 1954 and encouraging it to undertake numerous other secret operations. These included plans for an ill-fated coup attempt against Cuba's communist leader, Fidel Castro.
Rather ironically, in his Farewell Address of January 1961 Eisenhower warned that Cold War policies tended to undercut the democratic values that the United States claimed to defend. He also expressed his concern that high levels of defense spending had created a military-industrial complex with a vested interest in the continuation of international tensions. Nevertheless, Eisenhower himself contributed to its development by engaging the United States in the Space Race and mounting a major educational and industrial drive to enable the United States to surpass Soviet scientific achievements.
After leaving office in 1961, Eisenhower backed American intervention in Vietnam, an area that he specifically warned his successor John F. Kennedy not to abandon. In retirement Eisenhower wrote two volumes of presidential memoirs. He died in Washington, D.C., on 28 March 1969.
Ambrose, Stephen E., and Richard H. Immerman. Ike's Spies: Eisenhower and the Espionage Establishment. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1981.; Bowie, Robert R., and Richard H. Immerman. Waging Peace: How Eisenhower Shaped an Enduring Cold War Strategy. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.; Brands, H. W., Jr. Cold Warriors: Eisenhower's Generation and American Foreign Policy. New York: Columbia University Press, 1988.; Chandler, Alfred D., Jr., and Louis Galambos, eds. The Papers of Dwight D. Eisenhower. 21 vols. to date. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1970–.; Clarfield, Gerard H. Dwight D. Eisenhower and the Shaping of the American Military Establishment. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1999.; Craig, Campbell. Destroying the Village: Eisenhower and Thermonuclear War. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998.; Dockrill, Saki. Eisenhower's New Look: National Security Policy, 1953–1961. New York: St. Martin's, 1996.; Perret, Geoffrey. Eisenhower. New York: Random House, 1999.