Military-Industrial Complex Complex
Yesterday on the radio I happened to catch a re-playing of Eisenhower's Farewell Address. I picked it up in the middle, I'm afraid. But, still, I was shocked by what I heard. The famous warning about the "military-industrial complex" was there, but it was surrounded by the strongest possible language about the existential threat of the Cold War and the absolute need for a large, strong, modern military! His point was that such a large military, though necessary, was new to our United States and needed to be handled carefully. (Ike also discusses other subjects that remain of vital importance to us today. And, unlike today's ghastly lectures, his speech was fairly short. You may read the entire text here, which I heartily recommend.)
Let us see, then, what President Eisenhower said. Read this isolated quote, the one that you may often hear:
... 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.
A troubling passage, no doubt. Now, compare that to the very same quote in its true context (emphases added):
Progress toward these noble goals is persistently threatened by the conflict now engulfing the world. It (The Cold War - ed.) commands our whole attention, absorbs our very beings. We face a hostile ideology global in scope, atheistic in character, ruthless in purpose, and insidious in method. ...Then yesterday evening on NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams said Eisenhower's farewell address was, "a warning about the future, when the outgoing president uttered his most famous quote about the dangers of the military-industrial complex. Eisenhower warned that money for weapons takes away from things like hospitals and schools." ... Go ahead: read it again. I went to NBC's on-line archives to be sure I got the quote right.
A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction. Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime, or, indeed, by the fighting men of World War II or Korea.
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 alone more than the net income of all United States corporations.
Now 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 Statehouse, 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 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.
I'm simply at a loss for words. Is it dishonesty or ignorance? In either case, following a misrepresentation of that magnitude, I call upon NBC Nightly News to discipline or fire the staff member who wrote that absurd line of leftist fantasy.
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