"The most significant threat to our national security is our debt," Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, August 27,2010


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Military Industrial Complex

This reference term that we use to title our essay today was made famous as a consequence of a speech given by retiring 34th US president, Dwight David Eisenhower in 1961. There was a lot more to this brief speech than a warning about the military industrial complex. First we present highlight phrases from his speech:

• “…there is a recurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties. But each proposal must be weighed in the light of a broader consideration… balance between actions of the moment and the national welfare of the future. Good judgment seeks balance and progress…” Eisenhower is explaining the fundamental of setting priorities and making choices.

• “…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. “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.” Eisenhower warns about a bureaucratic monster that will run its creators; not the other way around.

• “…we -- you and I, and our government -- must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.” These comments are self explanatory and immensely prescient about our fiscally promiscuous ways.

Here are three full excerpts from Five Star General Eisenhower’s talk:

Excerpt #1 (This excerpt deals with self discipline needed to maintain our freedoms)

“Crises there will continue to be. In meeting them, whether foreign or domestic, great or small, there is a recurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties. A huge increase in newer elements of our defense; development of unrealistic programs to cure every ill in agriculture; a dramatic expansion in basic and applied research -- these and many other possibilities, each possibly promising in itself, may be suggested as the only way to the road we wish to travel.

But each proposal must be weighed in the light of a broader consideration: the need to maintain balance in and among national programs -- balance between the private and the public economy, balance between cost and hoped for advantage -- balance between the clearly necessary and the comfortably desirable; balance between our essential requirements as a nation and the duties imposed by the nation upon the individual; balance between actions of the moment and the national welfare of the future. Good judgment seeks balance and progress; lack of it eventually finds imbalance and frustration.”

Excerpt #2 (This excerpt deals with creating a Frankenstein monster that rules its creators)

“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 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.

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.”

Excerpt #3 (This excerpt deals with fiscal responsibility and not burdening America’s youth)

“Another factor in maintaining balance involves the element of time. As we peer into society's future, we -- you and I, and our government -- must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.”

TheFundamentals highly recommends that you read the entire brief speech at: http://www.h-net.org/~hst306/documents/indust.html

We post these speech excerpts and reference because it is a profound reminder of a time when America was able to find and elect real leaders to its high positions of power. We had lots of problems back then also.  But the leaders didn't just blame each other.  They made choices that included doing without.  We must return to TheFundamental values, beliefs and standards of these men and women if we are to provide future generations’ opportunities similar to those provided past generations. We must stop this culture and the political posturing that demands “to live only for today.” We must stop grasping for the “…recurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties.”

These words were spoken just 50 years ago. General Eisenhower grasped, embraced, lived and reminded us Americans of fundamental values.

It is time for us to heed this advice. It is time for us to be responsible Americans.  When Americans embrace responsibility, they will also find responsible leaders.

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