Coming out of WWII, Ike could have run for God, not just President. A true “anti-partisan”,
his mission was service to country. The Republican Party saw him as just the ticket to purge
bad tastes from FDR/HST days. Few were ready to mess with “I Like Ike” and his presidency
For those old enough, geopolitical tensions during the 1950’s were rife as nations and peoples
around the globe remade themselves. Khrushchev redefined bluster – employing nuclear
threats. Mao was tickling Chiang Kai-shek. Tensions in Laos and Vietnam were bubbling.
Hungary popped. Lebanon burped. Germans were grousing – as Berlin became two. Historic
colonial empires were evaporating, replaced by unstable regimes. And then there was
Sputnik. Our “Flopniks”. Bomb shelters blooming in back yards. This was the placidly
peaceful time Ike inherited.
So, why did semblances of peace reign? It took a leader who knew the idiocy of war to
navigate through the foibles of man to perpetuate calm. For Ike, this was second nature.
Massive egos constantly knocked on his door – trying his patience during and after the war.
His temper was monstrous. But his extraordinary discipline kept it under wraps. As President, “the world’s consummate warrior” kept the peace by tacitly threatening all out war in a strategic bluff. Because of this, he successfully avoided war and thereby virtually saved the world.
As President, disarmament was his secret passion. But underlings had other ideas. Ike was
probably the first to confront the military-industrial-congressional complex – a force that raises
its ugly head even today. Lobbyists floated lies to intelligence influences about burgeoning
Soviet missile strengths. Journalists harped on Ike’s public persona of “softness”. While the
Cold War burned on, Ike could be seen playing round after round of golf – or bridge. He
suffered heart attacks… strokes… he looked old, tired. His administration was seen as “the
bland leading the bland”.
Evan Thomas takes readers through these seemingly benign times in a breezy way. As in each
preceding decade, the 1950’s was a foundation for today. So much has changed. Yet so little
has changed. Or is it all just a “bluff.
Evan Thomas's startling account of how the underrated Dwight Eisenhower saved the world from nuclear holocaust. Upon assuming the presidency in 1953, Dwight Eisenhower set about to make good on his campaign promise to end the Korean War. Yet while Eisenhower was quickly viewed by many as a doddering lightweight, behind the bland smile and simple speech was a master tactician. To end the hostilities, Eisenhower would take a colossal risk by bluffing that he might use nuclear weapons against the Communist Chinese, while at the same time restraining his generals and advisors who favored the strikes. Ike's gamble was of such magnitude that there could be but two outcomes: thousands of lives saved, or millions of lives lost. A tense, vivid and revisionist account of a president who was then, and still is today, underestimated, IKE'S BLUFF is history at its most provocative and thrilling.
About the Author
Evan Thomas is the author of several bestselling works of history including The War Lovers, Robert Kennedy, Sea of Thunder and, with Walter Isaacson, The Wise Men. Currently teaching at Princeton University, he lives in Washington, D.C.
Praise for IKE'S BLUFF:
"With grace, insight, and originality, Evan Thomas has written a brilliant and engaging book about the most important of subjects: how close we came to Armageddon in the seemingly placid 1950s. Thomas's Eisenhower is a canny savior, a president who kept the peace through feint and bluff. No one writes more astutely or more honestly than Evan Thomas. This is the work of a master of storytelling at his best."—Jon Meacham, author of Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power
"Evan Thomas has written an insightful and penetrating study of my father, Dwight D. Eisenhower. Dad was a hard man to know; he played it close to the chest. So despite my extensive exposure to him throughout forty six years, I still found myself learning new aspects, some of which, I must admit, are a bit painful. But the balance that Thomas achieves between Eisenhower the public servant and Eisenhower the man is, in my opinion, as close to the mark as we are likely to see."—John Eisenhower
"Evan Thomas's profoundly important book shows how the card-playing general who did as much as anyone to win World War II became the president most adroit at preserving peace. Behind his open smile, Eisenhower was a secretive and subtle leader with quiet moral courage. By projecting confidence while keeping his intentions concealed, he became the model of a nuclear-age peacekeeper. Thomas has produced a fascinating history that is also a brilliant guide to great leadership."—Walter Isaacson, author of Steve Jobs
"Dwight Eisenhower was a great general and President because he was a great leader, and Ike's Bluff uncracks the code. Evan Thomas's original and fascinating book is an immersion in the Eisenhower School of Leadership, with lessons not only for Presidents and military officers but leaders in other arenas of American life operating in moments of both tranquility and rapid change. Especially in these times, Thomas's book is an essential reminder that strong leadership can be exercised with kindness, morality and respect for opponents."—Michael Beschloss, author of The Conquerors
"[Thomas is] a five-star biographer who blows apart that image [of Ike as a bumbling old man] with devastating detail."—Vanity Fair
"A bustling, anecdotal book with a high-concept premise. [Thomas] approaches the ever more changeable Eisenhower legacy with new and intriguing questions."—Janet Maslin, The New York Times
"Well-researched and highly readable...Thomas' account is sure to appeal to older readers who can recall the mandatory duck-and-cover drills in the classroom and to others with an interest in a fascinating and pivotal period when the nation was in better hands than many at the time probably realized."—The Associated Press
"Thomas has written a book that elucidates Eisenhower's wisdom for general readers."—Richmond Times-Dispatch
"A thoroughly researched, tightly organized and briskly written biography...Thomas is especially skilled at bringing characters of the era to life..."—James Ledbetter, Washington Post
"Highly absorbing."—Tom Alderman, Huffington Post
"An imaginative, approachable volume that may well accelerate Eisenhower's slow but seemingly inexorable movement toward presidential greatness. Evan Thomas is right. The greatest victories of the man who helped win World War II were 'the wars he did not fight."—Boston Globe
"An enjoyable book, fast-moving and packed with anecdotes."—Los Angeles Times
"Engaging and insightful...Thomas' treatment is valuable...for the verve of its telling and convenience of bring disparate and specialized sources together."—National Interest
"Incisive and direct...Evan Thomas brings considerable rhetorical power to his examination of the Eisenhower presidency."—Dallas Morning News