2005/03/16

Of Plowshares and Swords

Many people recall President Dwight D. Eisenhower's prescient warning concerning the "Military Industrial Complex," but few remember the content nor the context of that speech. In it, he warns that for the first time in US history, arms manufacture has leapt to the forefront and become a force unto itself:

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.


Ike's warning, it seems, has come to pass in this day as our military budget truly is "a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed." That a man who once oversaw the largest military venture in the history of mankind, warns against the very forces he directed says something. And that he is already proving to be right is just downright terrifying to me.

Meanwhile, paralleling the development of this alliance, an ideology has developed that sees no threat in this rise of military-corporate power and indeed believes that it can be exploited by those in power, along with the fears of the people who the powerful are supposed to serve, to return the West to some sort of mythical golden age "moral correctness." A "golden age" before the travesties of liberalism eroded the moral foundations of society, that is. I'm talking about the neo-conservatives and other followers of a little-known professor at the University of Chicago named Leo Strauss. Of Strauss, I can say much, but I prefer instead that you consider the transcript of the BBC Programme "The Power of Nightmares" for some truly chilling bedtime reading. I highly recommend you pick up the videos, and for those who are interested, I may be convinced to make more copies of the versions that I have.

The melding of these Defense Contractors, sympathetic law-makers and a small, ideologically motivated group of extremists with the will to deceive is what has brought us to this point today. I cannot find a better example of this than this excellent flash movie entitled "What Barry Says."

8 Comments:

THANK YOU! I was emailing and asking months ago if I could find a way to get The Power of Nightmares. I see it has a bittorrent now too. Thank you! 

Posted by Sarah
3/16/2005 08:31:00 pm  
Lars Erik Nelson in his book "Military Industrial Man" reported that Eisenhower originally intended to say "military-industrial-congressional complex" but was warned it might be bad for his historic image so he modified the speech to what we're familiar with today. 

Posted by Peter of Lone Tree
3/17/2005 05:21:00 am  
A footnote to Eisenhower's speech is provided by Lars Erik Nelson in his book "Military Industrial Man". Eisenhower originally intended to say, "military-industrial-congressional" complex but was warned off using the complete phrase by someone probably concerned with his historical image.  

Posted by Peter of Lone Tree
3/17/2005 05:25:00 am  
Sorry for the double post. It took so long I thought it had cancelled itself.
3/17/2005 05:32:00 am  
"Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry... "

Therein lies the crux of today's problem. People outside the US know more about what is happening around the world and within the US than most citizens of the US. Is this due to the media or educational system or something else?  

Posted by Dianne
3/17/2005 10:21:00 am  
The "military-industrial complex" was the bogeyman of the 60s, and Ike's warning seems much more in tune with what happened in the final decades of the Cold War, with the U.S. and U.S.S.R. devoting enormous percentages of their economies to the construction of nuclear missiles.

The result was the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the U.S.S.R.

We've had and will continue to have companies who compete for fat government contracts. It's definitely not a situation isolated to the United States. 

Posted by brogonzo
3/17/2005 03:41:00 pm  
"The result was the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the U.S.S.R."

Then again the result was almost global nuclear war, too. Don't you think there just might be something to be a bit concerned about?
 

Posted by deviant1
3/17/2005 05:13:00 pm  
"The "military-industrial complex" was the bogeyman of the 60s"

It appears to me that it is also the bogeyman of the new millenium too. Wag the dog anyone? 

Posted by deviant1
3/17/2005 05:21:00 pm  

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