Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Military Industrial Complex

(This one isn't about me)

On the Daily Show tonight, Jon Stewart interviewed Eugene Jarecki who has made a film called "Why We Fight". The film is an examination of why we go to war. In the film he quotes a speech made by Dwight D. Eisenhower that was made three days before he finished his second term as President of the US. For those of you who don't know much about Eisenhower, he was the mastermind behind the D-Day landings and was the supreme commander of the allied forces in their attempt to defeat Hitler. So a man with a lot of background in the armed forces, and one who had been initmately involved with them for fifty years.

In the speech, made in 1960 he makes the following extraordinary warning about the Military Industrial Complex (indeed, I think he coined the phrase):

"Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.

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."

The next bit is particularly astonishing for a man in his position to declare:

"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial 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."

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