President Obama’s unscheduled visit to Iraq suggests a president determined to see a war zone first hand and draw his own conclusions. So too did Lincoln tour the South during the Civil War. Yet Jean Edward Smith of the NYTIMES, notes that, "the most pertinent example may be Dwight D. Eisenhower, who toured the battlefront in Korea shortly before his inauguration. Ike had pledged to go to Korea if elected, and most voters assumed that the supreme commander — who had so effectively defeated the German Wehrmacht — would quickly dispatch the North Koreans and their Chinese allies."
Eisenhower may have thought he could do it at first as well. Republican campaign rhetoric envisaged a unified Korea brought together by force, if necessary, to insure “the future stability of the continent of Asia.” South Korean president Syngman Rhee also shared that view, as did many in the nation’s foreign policy establishment.
Still, after touring the country, Eisenhower drew a different conclusion, recognizing that, "we could not stand forever on a static front and continue to accept casualties without any visible result." He continued to conclude, "Now either we cut out all this fooling around and make a serious bid for peace — or we forget the whole thing".
Then, in what historians regard as the most important foreign policy address of his presidency, Ike called out those who envisioned winning the cold war militarily. “Every gun that is fired, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed….” He finished with, “The war is over,” he told press secretary James Hagerty. “I hope my son is going to come home soon.”
Jean Edward Smith correctly identifies, "Like President Obama, Eisenhower was an incrementalist who preferred to move gradually, often invisibly, within an existing policy framework. But on the question of war and peace, his views were categorical. He rejected the concept of limited war, and believed that American troops should never be sent into battle unless national survival was at stake."
Ike was able to recognize a losing hand when he saw it, and he knew when to toss in the cards. I'm not sure how good of a card player President Obama is, but I hope that he knows the difference between when to raise the ante and when to fold the hand.
It is my genuine hope that all of our sons will come home soon.