Monday, October 01, 2007

Ike and Sputnik

Yanek Mieczkowski has an article on HNN this week that discusses and praises Dwight Eisenhower's response to the launch of the Russian satettle, Sputnik. Mieczkowski reports that the launch had "both political parties demanded dramatic government action and greater security, while the White House scrambled to provide leadership on an issue that exploded into the public consciousness on that autumn day."

Yet amid this choas, Eisenhower choose a more moderate and long term approach:
Eisenhower began a space program that eventually took the U.S. to heights the Russians have yet to reach. Just as important, his insistence that America stay in the black to prevail in a long struggle showed a wisdom lacking today. While politicians urged boosting America’s international prestige with a no-holds-barred space program, Eisenhower’s formula for earning world respect involved economic health and a sense of balance.

Ike always had long term vision, even here at what was the beginning of the space race and the Cold War:
Eisenhower often mentioned the "long pull." He predicted a half-century-long Cold War that America's economic strength would enable it to win. Husbanding resources and balancing the budget would be crucial because the nation "cannot continue to prove to the world that we cannot and will not pay our debts as we go along…."

He criticized JFK's later goal to put men on the moon within a decade. Eisenhower's vision was more on economics:
There lay Eisenhower’s prescription for the future. The nation’s place in the world—and space—depended on its economy, which needed restraint. Avoid overstepping, he advised Americans, since they could not beat the Soviets in everything. Instead, he recommended selecting areas where they could compete and win. Above all, one competition Eisenhower shunned was war. He called it "the ultimate failure of everything you've tried to do as a country." Intimately familiar with war's extreme cost in lives and resources, he preferred international trade, factories and farms, and grocery stores stocked with food, to military battle.

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