Only an alert and knowledgeable citizen 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.
– Dwight D. Eisenhower in his famous speech on the dangers of the Military-Industrial Complex
Good Op-Ed yesterday from the New York Times about how dangerous our cultural fascination with war and aggressive foreign policy is for the health of the nation – both economically and spiritually. That said, I do take one major exception with the author’s premise that we have moved beyond a time “when commercial interests influenced military action.” To think this takes a naivety of the highest order, and he clearly does not understand how the global financial system operates and what the petro-dollar is. Nonetheless, some very important points are made. From the NY Times:
In his farewell address, Eisenhower called for a better equilibrium between military and domestic affairs in our economy, politics and culture. He worried that the defense industry’s search for profits would warp foreign policy and, conversely, that too much state control of the private sector would cause economic stagnation. He warned that unending preparations for war were incongruous with the nation’s history. He cautioned that war and warmaking took up too large a proportion of national life, with grave ramifications for our spiritual health.
Like all institutions, the military works to enhance its public image, but this is just one element of militarization. Most of the political discourse on military matters comes from civilians, who are more vocal about “supporting our troops” than the troops themselves. It doesn’t help that there are fewer veterans in Congress today than at any previous point since World War II.
Eisenhower understood the trade-offs between guns and butter. “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed,” he warned in 1953, early in his presidency.
In this strange universe where those without military credentials can’t endorse defense cuts, it took a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Adm. Mike Mullen, to make the obvious point that the nation’s ballooning debt was the biggest threat to national security.
That which is left unexamined eventually becomes invisible, and as a result, few Americans today are giving sufficient consideration to the full range of violent activities the government undertakes in their names.
Watch a brief but powerful clip of Eisenhower’s famous speech below.
Read the entire NY Times Op-Ed here.