Podcast • Opinion
“Broken Doors,” Episode 1
The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

President Eisenhower and the rise of covert action

(Backgrounds by Craig & Karl for The Washington Post; Photo by Amy King/The Washington Post)

In January of 1961, as President Eisenhower was about to leave office, he gave a farewell address from the White House in which he issued a famous warning: Beware the rise of the military-industrial complex.

This speech was so memorable because Dwight Eisenhower had assumed the presidency, in 1953, having risen to fame as a five-star general and a World War II hero. Yet here he was, eight years and two terms as president later, warning about military build-up.

Why was that?

According to Stephen Kinzer, author of "The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War," Eisenhower was making a subtle case in that speech for his use of covert action in international affairs in place of full-on military engagement.

In the newest episode of the Presidential podcast, we explore two manifestations of Eisenhower's preference for covert action: his administration's use of it for foreign intervention, and his personal incorporation of it into his leadership style—working behind the scenes to accomplish his agenda, while maintaining a hands-off public image as president.

Kinzer guest stars on this episode along with Will Hitchcock, a historian and professor at the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia, who is completing a new comprehensive biography of Dwight D. Eisenhower's presidency.

Listen to the episode here or on iTunes:

In previous episodes of the Presidential podcast, we've explored topics like Theodore Roosevelt's heartbreak and the violent life of Andrew Jackson. The podcast is hosted by Lillian Cunningham, editor of The Washington Post's On Leadership section.

As listeners tune in each week, the podcast reveals the ways in which our collective sense of what’s ’presidential’ has evolved over the years and how each president—esteemed, loathed or nearly forgotten—has something to tell us about what it takes to hold the nation’s highest office.

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