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.It's not that we don't pay it lip service. Can you even count the number of times you've heard the phrase "military-industrial complex"? But it's lost all force through repetition, and as a nation we've never had the political will to really deal with the threat to peace, stability and freedom that Eisenhower was warning us about. It's been 45 years now, and the problem has only gotten worse. It accounts for much of what is worst in our politics -- including many of the most aggressive policies of the Bush administration and their supporters.
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. -- Dwight D. Eisenhower, Farewell Address, Jan. 17, 1961
A case in point is David Frum's Op-Ed in today's NYT. Frum, as you'll recall was credited for coining the term axis of evil as a speechwriter for President Bush, who used the phrase in his 2002 State of the Union address.
The North Korean nuclear test — if that indeed is what it was — signals the catastrophic collapse of a dozen years of American policy. Over that period, two of the world’s most dangerous regimes, Pakistan and North Korea, have developed nuclear weapons and the missiles to launch them. Iran, arguably the most dangerous of them all, will surely follow, unless some dramatic action is soon taken.Forget about the history -- and the Bush administration blunders -- that got us to this point. Frum goes on to suggest a "new approach" that ignores Pakistan altogether and consists of an aggressive 4-point plan aimed at both North Korea and Iran. (Take that, Axis of Evil!)
• Step up the development and deployment of existing missile defense systems. In other words, spend billions more on the destabilizing and probably perpetually unworkable Star Wars program that has already consumed untold billions.
• End humanitarian aid to North Korea and pressure South Korea to do the same. This is basically a clever ploy to force China to take on the entire burden of feeding the North Korean population and possibly having to deal with a major humanitarian and refugee crisis. Imaginative, isn't it?
• Invite Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore to join NATO — and even invite Taiwan to send observers to NATO meetings. That should sell a few more weapons -- plus the Taiwan thing should drive the Chinese nuts. Again, he's really thinking out of the box, isn't he?
• Encourage Japan to renounce the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and create its own nuclear deterrent. This is a real eye-opener. Clearly, Frum was saving the best for last. He goes on to explain the strategic thinking behind this masterstroke.
Not only would the nuclearization of Japan be a punishment of China and North Korea, but it would go far to meet our goal of dissuading Iran — it would show Tehran that the United States and its friends will aggressively seek to correct any attempt by rogue states to unsettle any regional nuclear balance. The analogue for Iran, of course, would be the threat of American aid to improve Israel’s capacity to hit targets with nuclear weapons."American aid to improve Israel’s capacity to hit targets with nuclear weapons" -- ??!!!?? You can't say he's not thinking boldly. I'm feeling safer already.
The current crisis was created by the Bush administration replacing the Clinton carrot-and-stick approach with one of unyielding threat and intimidation. Who knows? Frum, who's now at the American Enterprise Institute, is probably speaking for most of the neocons in the administration with today's Op-Ed. And unless calmer heads prevail, this approach could easily become the policy of this administration.
Don't get me wrong. It's not as if Democratic presidents and congressional leaders haven't also been strongly influenced by the military-industrial complex. But there's usually been at least some attempt to act responsibly and rein in the maniacs. The unique distinction of the Bush administration has been to give the military-industrial complex total carte blanche and completely militarize U.S. foreign policy in the process.
Sooner or later, this is bound to lead to disaster. In a world containing tens of thousands of individual nuclear weapons, eventually one or more is bound to fall into the wrong hands one day. Every time the U.S. adds to the chaos in the world instead of trying to resolve it, that day is brought one step closer.