"Eisenhower and the American Dream"
by John Keegan
October 28, 1986
by R. F. Kruh
Dean of the Graduate School and Associate Provost of Kansas State University
Good evening! Welcome to the second in the series of biennial Dwight D. Eisenhower Lectures in War and Peace. This series, named in honor of one of our state's most prominent sons, is dedicated to bringing to our campus eminent scholars, renowned for their contributions to the study of military history. And in the person of Mr. John Keegan, we have just such an individual with us tonight.
That Kansas State University's History Department should sponsor such a series is entirely appropriate, for military history has long been a special area of emphasis in our department. This is true both at the undergraduate level, where every semester we offer an unusually wide range of courses dealing with the military history of various periods and places, and at the graduate level, where military history represents the most popular single area of topical emphasis among our students.
This graduate‑level interest in military history is particularly gratifying, because the process of choosing an institution for graduate study is fundamentally different from the approach most students take to selecting an undergraduate college.
Choice of a graduate school turns on the question of where the prospective student can find the best constellation of professors in his chosen area of interest, and the large number of graduate students coming to Kansas State to study military history attests to the reputation of our faculty members and the prominence of our program in this area.
But any program, no matter how strong, can benefit from the infusion of excitement and enthusiasm that a celebrated visiting scholar can bring. And we are here tonight to participate in the central public event of such a visit.
Occasions of this sort do not just happen. They require both financial support and personal effort, and those who provided both deserve acknowledgment. Particular thanks are due to Hallmark Cards and the Hallmark Educational Foundation, and within those organizations to Mr. William P. Harsh of the parent company and Mr. William A. Hall of the Educational Foundation, for the initial endowment, which made it possible even to conceive of such a series. Likewise worthy of mention are the Muchnic Foundation of Atchison and the Friends of History here at Kansas State, who have also provided financial support for the series.
I also want to take this opportunity to thank publicly a group of people, most of whom I see daily, but whose praises I rarely get a chance to sing to such a large (and varied) audience. In particular I want to thank the members of the Eisenhower Lecture Committee, Professors Homer Socolofsky, Donald Mrozek, and Kent Donovan, who were in charge of the planning and arrangements for Mr. Keegan's visit, and Professor Robin Higham, who assisted in situations literally too numerous to mention. These people accepted individual responsibilities, and they aquitted themselves well, but they also represent a larger group ‑ the History faculty as a whole ‑whose enthusiastic cooperation and assistance I am grateful to acknowledge.
One further individual representative of a larger group is a man, who sits with me here on the stage, Mr. Thomas Kirker. Tom is a graduate student in military history and also president of our local chapter of Phi Alpha Theta, the international honor society in history. This active and enthusiastic group of students has assisted in the preparations for this event and for many others that the History Department sponsors in the course of the year, and they deserve the kind of public recognition that this occasion makes possible.
Finally, I would like to thank two people who have contributed to this affair in another way. Maj. Gen. Leonard Wishart, commanding general of Ft. Riley, and Dr. John Wickman, director of the Eisenhower Library in Abilene, have both extended the gracious hospitality of their institutions to Mr. Keegan during his stay in Manhattan. By doing so, they have helped to insure that the visitors as well as the visited will benefit from his journey.
“Eisenhower and The American Dream”
by John Keegan
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We have come here this evening to commemorate the life of a great American, Dwight David Eisenhower, in my view one of the greater Americans who ever lived. Of his worldly greatness we need scarcely more evidence than his record of service provides ‑ Supreme Allied Commander in the Liberation of Western Europe, General of the Army, twice President of the United States.
But it is not of his worldly achievements that I come to speak. There is, indeed, a sort of inevitability about lordly greatness. Its achievement comes to some individuals in every generation. The offices are there, they must be filled. But the filling of a great place is a thing quite separate from greatness of life. We can all think, if we try, of generals and presidents of whom we know nothing except their names. Who, in this hall, tonight could write a character sketch of Leonidas Polk? Who could explain why George McClellan, once known as the 'Young Napoleon', was appointed by Lincoln to succeed Scott as General‑in‑Chief? Their names, as the poet Shelley said of himself with a great deal less justification, are writ in water. To their American contemporaries, they must have seemed human beings quite out of the ordinary. To us they are little more than entries in a chronology of officeholders, to be learnt perhaps for a high‑school history exam and then recalled rarely, if ever at all, again.
Eisenhower's name is not writ in water. It was fashionable, in the years of his retirement, to say that his election was an act of American self-indulgence, an effort to perpetuate the world triumphs of 1944‑5 and an attempt to institutionalize the warmth of personality and ease of manners which he incarnated. The Eisenhower years were then represented by East Coast intellectuals as a sort of American yearning for simplicities, an era of political infantilism quite out of kilter with the harsh realities that nuclear politics and world leadership had thrust on the United States. Today we see things differently.
The Eisenhower years are of course recalled with nostalgia. But nostalgia is not necessarily a contemptible emotion. If today we say that Eisenhower's America seemed to be a country true to itself, if we see Eisenhower as the epitome of what is best about the people that the United States bears and raises, it is, I think, because that is exactly the case. The United States of the 1950s was a realization of the vision that the Founding Fathers had for their creation, and by no means an unworthy one.
Eisenhower's name will not be writ in water because he was the President whom the American people, in the moment of their emergence into world supremacy, wanted for themselves. He represented his fellow Americans as they wished to be seen by their co‑inhabitants of this troubled globe. He was, if you like, an embodiment of the American dream.
What do we mean by “the American dream.” You, who live here, no doubt have your own understanding, of that rich, ripe and tremulous phrase. Let me tell you what a European understands by it. 'He holds those truths to be self-evident' said the Founding Fathers, 'that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creation with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness'. Well, happiness is easier to pursue than to nail down and take possession of. But life is certainly lived with a fullness in the United States rare elsewhere and liberty, at least in its public, legal and political sense, flourishes with a richness in the Great Republic unknown by any other population in the family of mankind. “Who does he think he is,” the archetypal war cry of an outraged American, is in a sense an epitome of the American Constitution, and a stirring encouragement to the victims of oppression, authoritarianism and mere Jack‑in‑officeship in any one of the world's hundred and sixty sovereign states.
But, to me, the American dream has a dimension of which the United States Constitution does not take note. That dimension has to do with the awesome size of this country, of which the Founding Fathers themselves were perhaps only dimly aware. America, it has been said, is a society defined not by time, as Europe is, but by space. Europeans are locked in their past, and their past is long in a way that Americans find difficult to grasp. Let me try and give you a flavor of it. Let me tell you where I live. I would not want you to think that I live in a style general to English people. On the contrary; the majority inhabit houses built in the last hundred years on ground that was farmland until bricks and mortar covered it. In that respect, English people and Americans have much in common. But, if the English have a dream, it is of living somewhere else, both in a landscape and a house older than those they occupy. I am one who does. I live in the South‑West comer of the county of Wiltshire, and administrative division of the kingdom whose boundaries were fixed by the Norman conquerors nearly a thousand years ago. My house was once an outstation of the Abbey of Glastonbury, to which, legend has it, Joseph of Arimathaea brought a twig of Christ's crown of thorns to plant the thornbush which still flowers there every Christmas day. You may believe that or not, as you choose. What is certainly a fact, and not a myth, is that the hill at which I look while I write ‑ at which I looked while I was writing these words ‑ is crowned by the earthworks of a Celtic Iron Age fort, perhaps a thousand years old in the century when Christ was bom and the Romans came to include Britain in the empire of which he was a subject. If I walk a mile from my house I can see another hilltop on which the Romans raised a shrine to their gods, Jupiter, Venus and Mars, and while as I look at it I shall be standing under a tower, raised by an eighteen‑century landowner, whose fortune was made by lending money to slave‑traders and spice‑ merchants, which marks the spot where Alfred, King of the Anglo‑Saxons, rallied his armies to fight the Danish invaders of England in the ninth century.
It is a landscape which has no American counterpart. Not even in the oldest part of New England are there human habitations that have documented associations with the past as rich or extensive as those that circumscribe mine. But my house is not, for all its antiquity, a thing wholly apart from the American experience. One of its walls borders the village churchyard, and on the gravestones within are names that are also to be found on village graveyards in Connecticut and Massachusetts. Lapham is one. It is not a common name, but it happens to be born by the present editor of Harper's Magazine. The links are missing, but I have no doubt that, two or three hundred years ago, an ancestor of Louis Lapham's tired of a laborer's life in my comer of Wiltshire, made his way to Bristol and took ship to the New World.
It was not a bad decision. What, after all, lay behind? Years of obedience to squire and parson in an economy where no amount of hard work could make him anything but a respected village elder. What lay ahead? Two months of perilous ocean voyage and then, if he had the courage to journey to the edge of settlement, as much land as hard work would turn into a free man's productive holding. I cannot guess through how many generations the Laphams of my Wiltshire village had to pass before a descendant became editor of one of the New World's great journals of opinion. But I question, whatever the intervening doubts or difficulties, whether any of them would have thought the risk of the trans‑Atlantic crossing not worth taking.
What justified the risk was that in America there was land for all. In Europe, land was measured in inches and neighbors would cherish a lifelong feud over a moved boundary‑stone. In America there were few boundaries. West of the Appalachians there were no boundaries at all. Can I communicate to you, who live in this limitless landscape, what that means to a European? I come, as I have told you from a countryside criss‑crossed and pitted by the hedges, walls and earthworks of four thousand years of cultivation. It is a countryside made tiny by ownership, in a country anyhow very small indeed. The whole of English life, the source of the world's Englishspeaking culture, is lived in a space no larger than that which separates Boston from Washington or Kansas City from Tulsa, Oklahoma. Try then, and imagine what it is like for a European, even today, to see the Great Plains unrolling under his aeroplane as he stages his way westward. Literally nothing in his European experience prepared him for the vastness of this continent. Speaking for myself, I can only say that the journey, every time I make it, fills me with an extraordinary exhilaration. Americans, in their journeys to England, are often possessed by romance of its antiquity, by the texture of its human history, by the sense of peoples piled one upon another ‑Celts, Romans, Anglo‑Saxons, Vikings, Danes, Normans ‑ like strata in a geological sample. I am seized by a contrary sense of romance when I come here; by the knowledge that this land was taken under settlement by one people in a single, extraordinary act of migration. For me all the romance of that bold adventure is symbolized by a unique historical imprint ‑ the great scar on the western bluff of the Missouri ‑under the walls of Fort Leavenworth where the pioneers dragged their wagons up from the ferry to begin their trek into the free land of the Great Plains.
Eisenhower's people came that way in the years immediately after the Civil War. The railroad had been pushed to the Mississippi by that date, and it was the railroad that brought Dwight's grandfather from Pennsylvania to start his new life in the West. But, once beyond the railroad, he and his fellow River Brethren settled to turning the soil and raising barns and houses exactly like the earlier settlers who had come by covered wagon. There was this difference, however: Jacob Eisenhower was a man from a family to whom America had already been good. He bought his 160 acres and, in time, drew from it enough income to buy each of his children another 160 acre farm and fund each with $2000 in cash.
That made him, if not a rich man, a comfortable man in late nineteenth century America. But then came the catch. The American dream is not a daydream. It promises life and liberty in the great and still largely empty spaces of this continent. But it does not promise freedom from the consequences of sloth and fecklessness. It offers opportunity. But the opportunity must be taken and cherished. David, Dwight's father, did not cherish the opportunity Jacob's thrift and hard work had given him. His fault was not an odious one. He simply failed to pay the attention to his business that good sense required he should. From the store he had bought by mortgaging his birthright he gave long credit against poor security. When his debtors could not pay, his business collapsed and overnight the Eisenhowers, who had been prosperous, were poor.
David Eisenhower was never to prosper again. But that did not mean, as it might have done in Europe, that his family was sunk with him. For the United States ‑ and this is a fourth element of the American dream ‑ offers second chances. And it does so particularly by the clean slate it gives to the children of families which have missed their chance or never had it. America is generous to the immigrant. It is equally generous to its native‑born young. Because America still does not have a class‑system in any sense known to Europeans, new Americans start out in life with, as the army says, 'nothing known against them'. Diligence, cheerfulness, enthusiasm and a will to succeed win a young American the reputation it might take Europeans generations to achieve. Dwight Eisenhower had those qualities; bless their hearts, his economically stricken parents understood the American dream well enough to see that if they made a home in which those qualities were encouraged, the chance that they had lost could be enjoyed a second time around by their brood of young sons.
Education, of course, was the key. America venerates education. It is fashionable today to say that American education is in crisis, that its schools do not teach and its pupils will not learn. To a European, one of the most immediately striking features of this country is the wealth of educational opportunity it offers and the respect for learning which Americans still show. Eighty years ago, when Dwight was in Abilene High School, the opportunities were fewer but the respect even more marked. David, Dwight's father, may have been a bad businessman but he was an educated man. Indeed, he was more than educated man, he was that awesome thing, a self‑educated man. Somehow or other he had badgered his father into sending him to a River Brethren College in Lecompton, Kansas, a place, now defunct, that called itself Lane University. Exactly what it taught, we may today speculate about. What we know is that David emerged from it able to read Greek, and read the Bible in Greek every night for the rest of his life. What we also know is that Dwight's mother, Ida, used her own tiny birthright to enroll at Lane, where David fell in love with and married her. Ida never learnt Greek. But her Biblical knowledge, the inculcation of which we may guess was Lane's real function, was out of the ordinary. She once won a prize for memorizing 1325 Biblical verses and prided herself ever after on never having to look up a Bible reference.
It is easy today to smile at the auto‑didacticism of David and Ida. They were certainly simple people. But intellectual training of the rigor to which they had subjected themselves has an absolute value rarely inculcated by modem educational method. That they were God‑fearing, honest, upright and decent goes without saying. What needs also to be said is that their appreciation of exact knowledge for its own sake brought an extra dimension to the life of the family they managed. It explains a great deal about the worldly success of their sons ‑ for, let us remember, to set besides Dwight's eminence, that Edgar became a distinguished lawyer and Milton president of Kansas State and Johns Hopkins. Exact knowledge of the sort taught by drill in a dead language and textual memorization is, of course, the regime by which Orthodox Jewish parents raise their children, and there is no doubt in my mind that the correlation between the quality of Jewish family life and the phenomenon of Jewish worldly success is direct and immediate. I Today even the Jewish intellectual tradition is under attack by the insidious influences of the pocket calculator, the multiple‑choice question, the creative writing approach to literature, conversational instead of grammatical practice in foreign languages and the empathetic rather than analytical understanding of history. Let us remember that a hundred years ago, in the American Bible belt, just as two hundred years ago in Presbyterian Scotland or three hundred years ago in Calvinist Switzerland, poor and simple parents raised their children in Jewish Orthodox style. They were not interested in passing grades. They liked the sound of a hundred per cent.
David and Ida Eisenhower liked the sound of a hundred per cent and, I am afraid to say, David took his belt off and strapped his sons brutally if they failed to meet his standards. Let me, therefore, leave the Eisenhowers for a minute and talk to you about another poor boy from this part of the world, the son of a self‑educated father, who also rose to a great place. His name was Omar Bradley who was, of course, to join Dwight Eisenhower at West Point in the Class of 1915. Bradley was born in Missouri, the son of a rural schoolteacher of the most backwoods sort. The family, by Bradley's own account, was 'desperately poor'. His father a 'sodbuster', Bradley's word again ‑ did not go to school himself until he was nineteen. Twenty years of grindingly hard work when he got out, in which he often walked six miles to work every day and never made more than $40 a month, culminated in his death from pneumonia at the age of 41. It was the result of long journeys on foot in winter weather and an endless search for odd jobs ‑ sometimes 'hiring out' to farmers or even sharecroppers in the school vacation ‑ which left him no rest but Sundays. The girl he left a widow was the daughter of a 40‑acre Missouri farmer, raised in a three room log cabin, whom he had married straight out of the classroom in which he had taught her. His children included two cousins whom Bradley's poverty‑stricken parents had taken in as orphans and raised as their own daughters.
Bradley adored his father. And it is easy to see why: in the man's utter self‑reliance, decency, dignity and scarcely articulated love for his family, he personified a type of vintage American, a sort of moneyless, unlettered Mr. Deeds whom Hollywood idealised in the 1930s. Mother was no slouch either. The world of food stamps, Social Security and community programmes lay lightyears ahead of her Missouri experience and a world away from her cast of thinking. Left a widow with three children to raise, resourceless and encumbered by a mortgage ‑ of $450 ‑ she took in boarders and advertised as a seamstress. The son was no slouch either. Bradley, as soon as he got out of school, went to work for the Wabash Railroad, earning 17 cents an hour to help out.
The American system rescued Bradley as it was to rescue Dwight Eisenhower ‑ and in exactly the same way. Both discovered that, for a clever and hard‑working boy, there was a free education to be had in one of the country's most respected colleges for those who could pass the entrance exam. The school was West Point and the exam it set tested exactly those skills in which the Eisenhower and Bradley homes had encouraged their children ‑ grammar, arithmetic, algebra, spelling and geography. Dwight sat his Senator's exam at Topeka in October 1910 and achieved grades in those subjects of 99, 96, 94, 90 and 90 respectively. It was not quite a hundred per cent but it was close enough. To his surprise, though perhaps not to ours, the only subjects in which he did not excel were American and general history.
It is at this point that I ought to enter a note of caution. It is important not to over‑romanticise David and Ida Eisenhower or the Abilene of the turn of the century. Ida was an attractive person in several senses, physical and spiritual. Her genes transmitted to Ike the famous smile, which appears in every youthful photograph I have seen of her. She was lively, energetic, full of ftin and deeply good. But, like David, who was equally hard‑working though certainly not full of fun, her outlook was, as Ike's biographer Stephen Ambrose bluntly puts it, 'narrow, her vision limited. The Eisenhower parents' lived unquestioning lives and they taught their sons to do the same. They emphasised accomplishment, rather than intellectual contemplation or a wondering about why things were done the way they were and what would be done differently.' The Abilene in which they raised their family thought and acted in the same way. It was a community dedicated to 'hard work, on getting things done. Little or no time was wasted on reflection or introspection. Everyone in Abilene worked, most of them at hard physical labour'. The town was 'courteous and conservative in its social outlook, religion and politics. There was a strong sense of community, a feeling that the world was divided into “us” (meaning the residents of Abilene, Dickenson County and to some extent the state of Kansas) and “them” meaning the rest of the world'.
Little wonder, therefore, that though Little Ike, as he was called, thought history was his best subject, the examiners thought otherwise. Neither Abilene nor the Eisenhower family home conduced to the cast of mind which made for historical fluency. History is, ultimately, a cultural subject, in which the ability to shed a 'me' or 4us' way of thinking and enter into the mind of 'them' is a precondition of expertise. At the age of twenty, Ike simply did not possess that gift, and could not have been given it by anything in his background. The gift would come later ‑ it was part of Ike's greatness that, despite the narrow and limited vision of the world in which he had been raised, he would be able to acquire it ‑but in 1910 it was not yet his.
It was enough, nonetheless, that the education he had been given and had won for himself sufficed to get him ‑ and Omar Bradley also ‑ into West Point. For it is safe to say that, at that point of time, no European boy of equivalent background could have dreamt of entering one of the great military academies of the old world ‑Sandhurst in Britain, St. Cyr in France, Lichtenfeldt in Germany or the Maria‑Theresa in Austria‑Hungary. Indeed, one can go further: had either Ike or Brad been Europeans and determined on a military career, neither would have hoped to have ended as anything more than a retired, if respected, sergeant‑major. Poor boys from the sticks simply did not apply to enter the great military academies because, for one thing, they would not have secured admission and, for another, even if admitted, could not have hoped to rise to any superior rank.
In Britain, for example, it was only forty years in 1910 since the practice of purchasing commissions in the infantry and cavalry had been abolished, a practice which absolutely and purposely closed the officer ranks in the arms of prestige to all but the officer classes. The system of competitive examination substituted for it, though theoretically broadening the intake, in fact did no such thing. It required proof of competence in subjects not taught in the sort of schools to which poor boys went; indeed, because compulsory education in Britain, for example, ended at fourteen and originally at twelve, but the entrance examination was sat by eighteen year olds, chronology itself ensured that only those privileged by private education arrived at the starting post.
The result was that the Royal Military College Sandhurst in 1910 was supplied with sixty per cent of its intake from very exclusive schools indeed, with Eton, the grandest school of all, figuring prominently in the list; and, of the forty per cent who did not come from 'public', i.e. private schools, a high proportion would have been educated privately, at special cramming institutions and at ancient grammar schools effectively open only to the sons of comparatively comfortably‑off middle‑class parents. An examination of the sons of the Royal Military Academy for 1911, the year in which Ike and Brad entered West Point, would have shown that the largest proportion of entrants were themselves the sons of officers, with the sons of private gentlemen, so self‑described, next, seniorcivil servants and other professional people after them and businessmen last of all. Sons of artisans and small farmers simply did not figure.
It is true that 'rankers', as the British called officers promoted from enlisted men, were not unknown. One at least, William Robertson, rose to be a field‑marshal. But because of the low esteem in which the private soldier was held, poor boys of ability simply did not consider entering the army. Indeed, to have a son in the army was held by respectable working‑class families, General Archibald Wavell wrote as late as 1933, as 'a badge of shame'. William Robertson's mother, whose husband was a village postmaster, felt such outrage when he left his secure position as a footman in a nobleman's house in the 1880s to join the 3rd Dragoon Guards as a trooper, that she wrote 'I would rather see you buried than in a red coat'.
The same exclusivities held good for the other European armies of the period. In Germany, officer candidates were required not merely to pay for an expensive military boarding school education but, on graduation, to live with the regiment of their choice for a probationary period while their manners and social acceptability were assessed by the regimental officer corps as a whole. Acceptance or rejection was then decided by vote and so absolute was the power of these regimental electoral boards that not even the Kaiser himself could intervene to overrule an unfavourable decision. Indeed, in a famous case, when Bismarck used his influence to wish the son of the Jewish financier, Bleichroder, on the Gardes du Corps in the 1880s, in gratitude for Bleichroder's arrangement of the loans which had financed the Franco‑Prussian war, the officer corps of the Gardes du Corps made the young Bleichroder's life so intolerable that he resigned his commission and returned to civilian life.
The openness, by comparison, of the American system of officer selection conferred advantages on this country of value greater than those summed up in the phrase 'a career open to talents'. Of course that system, by sparing the American William Robertsons the misery of inching their way upward through the enlisted ranks, endowed the officer corps with a generous and representative supply of human ability. But it was good not only for the army. It was also good for the republic. For America has, as a direct result of open recruitment to its military academy, never known anything equivalent to an officer corps, that is to say a professional military body whose interests are identified with thoseof any section, social, political, economic, or regimental. American officers have never been regarded by their fellow citizens as constituting a threat to the nation's civil liberties or an impediment to the country's pursuit of its best interests in international affairs. That can certainly not be said of their European equivalents. The German officer corps, by contrast, constituted throughout the nineteenth and part of the twentieth century, a sort of permanent blocking minority in internal affairs, using its power to perpetuate its own privileges in society ‑ particularly the privilege to perpetuate itself and, by its monopolization of the office of Minister of War, to oppose all policies it judged hostile to the interests of the army and even, as it judged them, the interests of the state. Hitler, of course, eventually broke the power of the officer corps but it is evidence of how great was that power that his people's acquiescence in a leadership so diabolical was necessary to achieve it.
The French officer corps, too, has even in our own time, imposed its wishes on the French people in a fashion quite at variance with the political ideals to which the French nation is dedicated. For it was the officers of the French colonial army who, in 1958, determined in the teeth of the elected French government's will that the war in Algeria should be continued and who, by their insistence ‑ miscalculated as it turned out ‑ on that government transferring its constitutional authority to General de Gaulle brought down the Fourth Republic and ushered in the Fifth.
The behaviour of the German and French officer corps has no parallel in American history. During none of the great politico‑military crises through which the United States has passed, not even during the Vietnam war, have American officers indicated by as much as a flicker of dissent that they would contemplate opposing the authority of President or Congress. American officers demonstrate by the most convincing of all means, their positive behaviour, that they see themselves as citizens first and military professionals only and always second.
For that it has to thank what, for shorthand purposes, we may call the West Point system that took and trained poor boys like Ike and Brad, made them officers but left them withthe values they had brought from their childhoods in rural Kansas and Missouri intact. But, of course, we cannot explain Eisenhower simply by reference to his membership of the Long Grey Line. 'Eisenhower' Stephen Ambrose opens his biography by saying 'was a great and good man'. I would echo both those sentiments. To trace the root of those qualities, I would come back here, to the Kansas in which he was raised at the turn of the century and which I certainly hope and choose to believe has not since greatly changed.
Ike was a great man because he was an outstanding strategist and a supreme manager of his fellow human beings. God‑given talents underlay both accomplishments. But the environment in which he first learned to deploy them is a necessary condition to understanding how. Let me return to that ingredient of the American dream I invoked earlier, the quality of space. I do not believe that a hitherto junior officer of limited military experience could, in the winter of 1941 have been pitched headlong into the business of managing a global war and mastered it had he not from infancy been accustomed to think of the world on the largest scale. It was because he was raised here, it seems to me, in a vast landscape over which he was free to roam as he did, without thought of limits or concern for boundaries that he was able to take armies to Africa, Italy and North‑West Europe and manoeuvre them with a master's touch. In the same way, it was because he had been raised in a society where social difference counted for very little that he possessed the sublime self‑confidence to treat with all manner, condition and nationality of men uninhibited by self‑doubt. The influence of his parents, as we have seen, had been a narrowing one. The influence of Abilene, in which there was no squire, no gentry, precious little differentiation between the better and less well off, a great deal of approval for a man's objective worth, were magnificently broadening. Abilene's favourite son, which Ike probably was, went out into the wide world never doubting that he could be its favourite son also and, in 1945, he was close to being that thing.
Ike was also, to remember Stephen Ambrose's second point, a good man. Indeed, he seems to me good almost in the way that Abraham Lincoln was good. Possessing great power, he resisted absolutely the temptation to misuse power or even to use it for its own sake. Let us recall briefly the achievements of his Presidency. He was deeply skeptical of the efficacy of force and highly suspicious of the arguments that security is a function of large defense budgets. He ended the Korean War. He squashed the Anglo‑French efforts to bring Egyptian nationalism to heel by military means. He opposed single‑handed his own military establishment's inclination to settle the first Indo‑China war by the threat, perhaps even by the use of nuclear weapons. And he bowed out of his presidency with a warning about the dangers of the growing military‑industrial complex which would have fitted better into the speeches of Gladstone than into the public proclamation of a politician whom self‑proclaimed liberal opinion‑makers characterized as the golf playing companion of the common man's enemies.
Eisenhower was indeed a great and good man, because power did not deflect him from the values that his happy, free and open small town upbringing and his humble, high‑minded and God‑fearing parents had given him here on the edge of the Great Plains in the years of America's innocence. He thereby incarnated the American dream because, to deal with the world while remaining true to values which are not of this world is that dream's essence.
Those who continue to trust, as I do, in the United States' unique capacity to do good in the world do so because they believe that, out here in the vast American heartland, there are still David and Ida Eisenhower’s rearing their broods on hope in the future, and respect for the Word.4
John Keegan was born in 1934 in the West of England and spent the formative years of his life in the midst of the preparations for D‑Day. It was then strongly impressed upon him that man was very inhumane to his fellows. His Catholic Somerset boyhood was punctuated with visions of Americans led by General Eisenhower thundering through his native streets in their vehicles and he became very attached to these heroes. Eventually he went to Balliol College, Oxford, and from there to be a political analyst for the U.S. Embassy in London, and from there to a teaching post at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, Britain's West Point. He left there in 1986 to become the Defence Correspondent for the major London paper The Daily Telegraph. He is best known for two books, The Face of Battle (1976) and Six Armies in Normandy (1982) as well as for Soldiers (1986) and The Mask of Command (1987). In addition, he is the author of the standard reference World Armies (1979, revised 1983).