Archive for March, 2013

Eisenhower in War and Peace : Jean Edward Smith

March 2, 2013

This book was mentioned as the best biography of 2012. So I decided to read, initially put off by the size but once started couldn’t keep it down and completed the 800 pages in few weeks.

This is a wonderfully written book. I would compare this to the other biography I read on Ramanujan by Robert Kanigel. This shows the amount of work, the extensive research on the life in the 19th century in Europe, the States, the war, the post war politics, the cold war and the political genius in Eisenhower.  All through the book, Smith lays in no uncertain terms the politician in Eisenhower all through his life at every moment from his military career to the President.

Smith maintained the tempo through the book and skillfully takes you from one incident to the other without losing continuity. There are so many books on Eisenhower and this being the recent one, Smith has beautifully maneuvered various aspects and humanized Eisenhower without bringing his stature down in the eyes of the public. Though he lays out in no uncertain terms his indecisive nature early in the war in Africa, his insecurity on Gen.Bradley stealing the show in World War II and its cost, his relationship with Kay, his no qualms in asking for favor to advance his career, about to be court martial-led for improper compensation,  but Smith followed a Teflon approach that none of this sticks to Eisenhower when you done reading the book. All these incidents in Eisenhower’s career makes you think he is just like one of us and how true is Gen. Patton on calling him “DD – Divine Destiny”. Repeatedly smith states that Eisenhower happened to be at the right  time at the right place. I think this approach really humanized Eisenhower more than anything.

In addition to Eisenhower, the book is a good source of information on the the political formations during World War II, its immediate aftermath, cold war and  how Britain and France wanted to continue on the path of colonialism even after the WWII. The book paints a clear picture of how Eisenhower understood and was able to put a stop to France on its colonial ambitions but failed to do the same with the British and how it costs US dearly even now. The British imperialist leadership along with US incited violence through CIA/ MI6 against the  European educated Mosagaddegh in Iran and used that as a pretext to topple the government to install an autocratic leadership to benefit the British Pertoleum company. Iranian people still not able to forgive the western powers for this incident and serves as a sore spot even today on the nuclear front. US followed a similar approach in Gautemala in the pretext of saving from communism while the actual intent is the underlying business interests.

I would seriously recommend this book for anyone who is interested in history, politics and leadership.