Nearly 60 years after his presidency ended, Taiwan still likes Ike. Here’s why.
Date: July 29, 2015
By: Shannon Tiezzi
The quest to fund a new memorial for U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower has received a
boost from an unexpected source. Taiwan pledged to donate $1 million toward the memorial, which will be located in the new Eisenhower Square park, to the west of Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Organizers aim to raise $20 million in private funds, which they hope will help encourage Congress to appropriate funds for the memorial.
Though Eisenhower is highly regarded by presidential historians (in a 2014 survey by the Washington Post, he ranked seventh on the list of top-rated presidents), he cuts a far smaller figure in the public imagination. The fact that the Eisenhower Memorial is still struggling to find donations is a case in point. As Ross Douthat put it in a 2012 New York Times op-ed, “It’s not that Americans don’t like Eisenhower or think fondly of his service to their country… But he is not nearly as beloved as many of his mid-century contemporaries.”
So why, then, is Taiwan donating $1 million to the memorial of a president Americans seem underwhelmed by?
The key lies in Eisenhower’s unique role in U.S.-Taiwan relations. When Eisenhower took office in January 1953, the Korean War was drawing to a close. That meant new uncertainty for Taiwan. Originally, then-President Harry Truman had declared a military nonintervention policy for Taiwan, effectively signaling that should the newly-formed People’s Republic of China launch a full-scale invasion, the United States would not interfere. That policy changed with the advent of the Korean War, which brought the U.S. and the PRC into conflict. Truman deployed the U.S. Seventh Fleet to the Taiwan Straits to signal new U.S. opposition to a PRC military strike against the island. [FULL STORY]