by Geoffrey Grinder, Now The End Begins:
On Jan. 17, 1961, President Dwight Eisenhower gave the nation a dire warning about what he described as a threat to democratic government.
Almost 3 months to the day before I was born, outgoing president Dwight Eisenhower gave his farewell speech that was broadcast on the still-new medium called television. In it, he spoke openly of his time in office and warned future generations about something he called the military-industrial complex. That is to say a permanent armaments industry that would one day be a threat to democracy. Eisenhower also warned that technology, then in its infancy, would combine with the military in creating a nearly unstoppable monster. \
Eisenhower’s speech stunned the audience of his day because he had been one of the main architects of America’s victory in WWII, and here he was now warning that a full-time military presence could only serve to weaken a free society. In 2019, 58 years after this chilling speech, think of the world in which we now live in.
He warned about technology being twisted for evil purposes, today we see Google partnering with the Defense Department to create armies of killer robots. Robotics and AI are transforming our society to a degree only previously imagined in science fiction novels. How is it possible that a search engine company, started by nerds whose slogan used to be ‘Don’t Be Evil‘, become one of the Pentagon’s leading suppliers of military software, applications and technological weaponry?
Welcome to the Military-Industrial-Technological Complex, and it’s bigger and more powerful than anything Eisenhower ever dreamed about.
Ike’s Warning Of Military Expansion, 58 Years Later
FROM NPR: He called it the military-industrial complex, a formidable union of defense contractors and the armed forces. Eisenhower, a retired five-star Army general, the man who led the allies on D-Day, made the remarks in his farewell speech from the White House.
As NPR’s Tom Bowman tells Morning Edition co-host Renee Montagne, Eisenhower used the speech to warn about “the immense military establishment” that had joined with “a large arms industry.”
Here’s an excerpt:
“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.”
Since then, the phrase has become a rallying cry for opponents of military expansion.
Eisenhower gave the address after completing two terms in office; it was just days before the new president, John F. Kennedy, would be sworn in. Eisenhower was worried about the costs of an arms race with the Soviet Union, and the resources it would take from other areas — such as building hospitals and schools.
Bowman says that in the speech, Eisenhower also spoke as someone who had seen the horror and lingering sadness of war, saying that “we must learn how to compose differences not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose.”
Another concern, Bowman says, was the possibility that as the military and the arms industry gained power, they would be a threat to democracy, with civilians losing control of the military-industrial complex.
In his remarks, Eisenhower also explained how the situation had developed:
“UNTIL THE LATEST OF OUR WORLD CONFLICTS, THE UNITED STATES HAD NO ARMAMENTS INDUSTRY. AMERICAN MAKERS OF PLOUGHSHARES COULD, WITH TIME AND AS REQUIRED, MAKE SWORDS AS WELL. BUT WE CAN NO LONGER RISK EMERGENCY IMPROVISATION OF NATIONAL DEFENSE; WE HAVE BEEN COMPELLED TO CREATE A PERMANENT ARMAMENTS INDUSTRY OF VAST PROPORTIONS.”
The difference, Bowman says, is that before the late 1950s, companies such as Ford built everything from jeeps to bombers — then went back to building cars. But that changed after the Korean War.
Bowman says that it’s important to note that during the Cold War, the U.S. military didn’t draw down its troops like it did after World War II.
“It kept a large standing army after the Korean War,” he says.
America’s new reliance on sophisticated weapons technology also helped bring about what Bowman calls “a technology race with the Soviets.” And that meant that weapons manufacturing became more specialized.