Thursday, December 03, 2009

From Eisenhower's military industrial complex to our military industrial state

Michael Moore was on the Larry King show after Obama's Afghanistan speech Tuesday night. It was a curious King segment, because at one point King read back to Moore from Bob Herbert of the NYT starting his column on Afganistan last Monday by quoting President Eisenhower.
“I hate war,” said Dwight Eisenhower, “as only a soldier who has lived it can, as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.”

He also said, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those are cold and not clothed.”
In another speech, his 1961 Farewell Address, Eisenhower coined a phrase and issued a warning that's nearly fifty years old, for all the good it's done us.
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.
Before Obama's speech, Moore published a similar warning about misplaced power, An Open Letter To President Obama On Afghanistan urging him to reconsider and not escalate. He faulted Obama for giving in to what he saw as military pressure.
It is not your job to do what the generals tell you to do. We are a civilian-run government. WE tell the Joint Chiefs what to do, not the other way around. That's the way General Washington insisted it must be. That's what President Truman told General MacArthur when MacArthur wanted to invade China. "You're fired!," said Truman, and that was that. And you should have fired Gen. McChrystal when he went to the press to preempt you, telling the press what YOU had to do. Let me be blunt: We love our kids in the armed services, but we f*#&in' hate these generals, from Westmoreland in Vietnam to, yes, even Colin Powell for lying to the UN with his made-up drawings of WMD (he has since sought redemption).
Two warnings, separated by nearly half a century. The difference seems to be that in 1961, when Eisenhower warned about the military industrial complex, it was seen as a future threat to the existing civilian control of the military that was thought to exist then. Today, we're way beyond that. The military industrial complex is so yesterday. Today we live in a military industrial state, and when Moore says "we are a civilian-run government," it almost sounds like wishful thinking.

1 comment:

Nataraj Hauser said...

Amen, brother! Keep saying it.