Eisenhower Speaks His Mind

An interview with a member of the staff of U.S.News & World Report.

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This story originally appeared in the November 11, 1966, issue of U.S.News & World Report.

Vietnam...nuclear weapons...the draft...welfare...crime..."Black power"...How does former President Dwight D. Eisenhower feel about the issues now dominating the U.S., and much of the world? Does he think America is on the right track?

In the exclusive interview on these pages General Eisenhower speaks his mind about the whole range of matters of public concern.

The ex-President was interviewed at the Eisenhower farm in Pennsylvania by Paul Martin of the staff of U.S. News & World Report.

GETTYSBURG, Pa.

1. The war in Vietnam "worries Americans more than anything else"; it has been "going on too long"; the time has come to employ the military strength necessary to bring this war to an "honorable conclusion."

2. There is a "dangerous trend" toward "monopoly political power" in the U. S. with a disintegration of the "two-party system" and increasing "worship" of a "strong man" concept of Government by an all-powerful Chief Executive.

3. Federal courts are embarked on a "serious trend" toward rewriting the Constitution by a series of judicial decisions; too many "lifetime" judges have been "sitting on the bench too long."

4. Government welfare programs of the "Great Society" are building up vast and inefficient bureaucracies, using taxpayers' money out of the Federal Treasury to "encourage and reward laziness and malingering" on the part of some people "who just want an easier living."

5. The draft should be reformed, with one year of "tough military training" for every 18-year-old youth, without exemptions or deferments, or escape into civilian programs such as the Peace Corps; training should include basic education for illiterates, and physical fitness for those with defects.

6. The growth of racial disorders and juvenile delinquency is a threat to the nation; "education and self-discipline are what we need."

7. Crime is a "real problem" and is "getting worse"; criminals who are repeaters commit most of the "serious crimes"; judges must give "proper sentences."

8. Military security is necessary, but there's no need to "waste money" supporting a "large standing army" that would be "useless in a major war."

9. NATO is still a good concept, and should be strengthened; the Russians have not abandoned the goal of world Communist domination; eventually, Red China may become our most serious problem.

The interview with General Eisenhower also covered a wide range of other subjects. What follows are the views of the former president in detail.

1. VIETNAM

On the U. S. role in Vietnam, General Eisenhower says "No one could hope more than I that the President will have a real success in winning the military war, so that we can give these people in Southeast Asia a better opportunity, better education, a better way of life."

However, General Eisenhower feels deeply that the idea has been allowed to develop in this country that we can fight the war in Vietnam as a sort of sideline activity of the Government, without interfering with any of our domestic comforts of "business as usual" at home.

This is where the General differs with policy planners advising the President. The disagreement is not over purpose, but the pace of military operations in Vietnam—the way the war has been conducted, not by fighting men in the field, buy by Government overseers in Washington.

Looking back over five years of growing U. S. military involvement in Southeast Asia, General Eisenhower notes that former President Kennedy made the decision to send in the first 15,000 combat troops in 1961-1962.

The war strategy has been one of "escalation" of American military forces, gradually raising the premium the Communists must pay for continuing their subversive warfare against the people and Government of South Vietnam.

"I do not believe in 'gradualism' in fighting a war," General Eisenhower declared. "I believe in putting in the kind of military strength we need to win and getting over with as soon as possible."