Chuck Hagel likes Ike. That much has been apparent for some time. But thanks to David Ignatius’s Jan. 27 op-ed column, “Reviving Eisenhower’s doctrine,” we now know what he likes best: Eisenhower’s management of the Suez crisis. For Hagel, it is more than a shining example of past American leadership. It is a guide for future presidential behavior.
Dwight D. Eisenhower is certainly worthy of emulation, but Hagel has unfortunately learned precisely the wrong lessons. In 1956, Britain, France and Israel launched coordinated invasions of Egypt. To say that Eisenhower disapproved would be an understatement. He directed at his allies a level of hostility typically reserved for worst enemies. After demanding that the attacking forces evacuate Egypt immediately, he imposed crippling economic sanctions on France and Britain. Against Israel, he threatened sanctions while engaging in bare-knuckle diplomacy.
All three powers buckled under the pressure, which was particularly damaging to Britain. Although Prime Minister Anthony Eden was America’s closest ally, Eisenhower brought his economy to the verge of collapse. The pressure destroyed Eden’s career and drove the final nail in the coffin of the British empire.