Friday, July 6, 2007

On Ike

Jef Hall makes an interesting observation at the Fourth of July parades this week where he saw the Winnebago Co. GOP's celebrate the presidency of Dwight Eisenhower, a man who's farewell speech to the nation was clearly lost on the current administration's neocon foreign policy whiz kids.

One of the more interesting parts of that speech:
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...

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.
(Emphases added)

Eisenhower was keenly aware of something that I don't think very many people in positions of authority have understood -- or at least have demonstrated publicly that they understand -- namely, that we as a nation have not addressed what the larger meaning of the development of the military-industrial complex is on our place in the world. Obviously a robust defense apparatus is useful -- and downright necessary for a country of the stature of the U.S. -- but Eisenhower was warning his country of the profound changes that could occur to a nation's character when this occurred. No president since Eisenhower has addressed this question, but Bush has so intertwined military objectives with good old-fashioned economic gain that whoever inherits the Oval Office next will have no choice but to put the U.S. through a national reckoning that asks some tough questions that most people have dodged for almost 50 years now.

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