“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”.
Dwight D. Eisenhower (General of the Army, Ret, 34th President of the United States, 1953 – 1961) was paradoxical as a man, as a soldier and as a president. Not especially popular in military circles, he was respected by Congressional leaders (courted by both parties in 1948, recruited by the Republicans in 1952) and beloved as a war hero by a country on the mend.
Though not regarded as an intellectual, he was both well-read and insightful and left a lasting legacy on our infrastructure and our culture. As Supreme Commander of the European Theater of Operatons, he was instrumental in planning D-Day, but never served in combat. As a soldier, he understood all too well the seductive power of war and the allure of the military war machine.
The quote above from Eisenhower’s farewell speech in 1961 is noteworty for its prescience and its humanity. You will find no previous usage of the term, “militaryindustrial complex”. He recognized the danger and he coined the phrase. If Ike were alive today, he would be shocked at how much worse it is than he ever imagined.
As America was disengaging from Vietnam in 1970, General Craighton Abrams (no relation, but the one they named the tank after) changed the structure of the Army to make it more difficult for a president to go to war without public support. This was called Total Force Policy or The Abrams Doctrine .
Congress passed the War Powers Act in 1973 in another attempt to limit the president’s ability to take our country to war. Both of these efforts were in direct response to the way Lyndon Johnson pursued the war in Vietnam, single-handedly and without consent from Congress.
As president, Ronald Reagan (1981-1989) started us down a slippery slope by circumventing limits to his war-making ability culminating with the CIA selling guns to Iran to fund the rebellion of the Contras against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua.
What’s the point of all this? We’re now fighting wars with private contractors and a minimum of public involvement or Congressional oversight. That’s not patriotic, it’s costly and it’s stupid.
For more, please read:
The Whistleblower: Sex Trafficing, Military Contractors and One Woman’s Fight for Justice by Kathryn Bolkovac.
Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry by P.W. Singer
Other quotes from Dwight D. Eisenhower: http://www.quotationspage.com/quotes/Dwight_D._Eisenhower