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Thomas E. Ricks: Obama like Ike in crisis avoidance

  • Foreign Policy
  • Published Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, at 12 a.m.

I was recently discussing the Obama administration’s foreign policy, and the more I listened the more President Obama began to remind me of President Eisenhower.

There is indeed a long list of foreign crises pending right now:

•  Getting out of Afghanistan.

•  Syria.

•  Iran and nukes.

•  Afghanistan and Pakistan.

•  Pakistan versus India.

•  China versus Japan.

•  Slow collapse of North Korea.

•  Global warming.

•  European economic situation.

•  Advent of cyberwarfare.

As I listened to the discussion I thought of Eisenhower, who took office and set to getting us out of the Korean War, as Obama did with Iraq. He also worked hard to keep us out of the French war in Vietnam, overriding the Joint Chiefs’ desire to use nukes to help the French. He also rejected pleas of many to intervene in the Hungarian Revolution. And he had the Suez Crisis, with the French and British. Then there were issues of Stalin’s successors in the Soviet Union, which was rapidly building its nuclear arsenal.

I suspect that Obama’s dominant impulse is to keep us out of the problems he sees overseas, just as Ike sought to keep us out of Vietnam and Hungary. Many people disagreed with his decisions. But he was a successful president.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.

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