Ike! Where Are You When We Really Need You?
At that time Eisenhower was, indeed, surprisingly naive. Though he had great military expertise he was almost totally ignorant of economics and politics. He had never had any money of his own and relied entirely on Mamie to manage the family finances; and his incognizance of the national economy was even more profound. As to politics: until World War II it was an article of faith among Americans that the Army should take no part in civilian government—career soldiers could not even vote until after World War I. The Military Academy inculcated this tenet into its graduates and Cadet Eisenhower accepted it so completely that he never voted until after his retirement as Chief of Staff in 1948.
Not only that, but virtually nothing was taught at West Point about foreign policy, which was to be left to the wisdom of civilian statesmen—their’s but to do and die, as ordered. This is the reason American generals, including Ike, had little conception of the political implications of their strategic decisions. They felt that their job was to win the war as efficiently and expeditiously as possible without regard for the after consequences.
That was why they could not understand Winston Churchill’s farsighted effort to channel the Allied drive through Eastern Europe to prevent a Russian take-over, and his anxiety to have the Allies take Berlin. And that is why they frequently gave the President of the United States such bad advice.
Later Eisenhower was to become much more sophisticated in such matters, for unlike many military men, he had an open mind and the capacity to keep on learning. The Eisenhower of the 1950s would not have made the same decisions as the Supreme Commander of the forties.
Though Eisenhower was admittedly not as brilliant as some, he was probably the only general in either the American or British military establishments who could have united the vast conglomerate armies and successfully exercised Supreme Command in the European Theater. One shudders to think of the shambles that the brilliant but temperamental MacArthur, the dashing and equally tempestuous George S. Patton or even comparatively phlegmatic Bradley would have made of British-American relations.