Friday, November 15, 2013

Eisenhower's Full Warning

The Left often speaks of the threat from the "military-industrial complex", and it is delighted to proclaim that the term came from none other than President Dwight Eisenhower in his Farewell Address of 17 January 1961. 

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…. 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.
Just so.  Conservatives are admonished to heed the words of one of our own heroes.  The words take on added significance having come from the American victor of the European theatre of World War II, and as the only military general elected president in the 20th century. 
But as for this chimera (Eisenhower was warning of the potential, not the actual danger), the Left is apt to fire and forget and move on to other arguments.  But Eisenhower was speaking of the military-industrial complex as something new.  Read the preceding comments:
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 we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense.  We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions.
But as my father said, "Don't read to the first comma and quit."  Read on, dear Academician and barista, and learn:
Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades.  In this revolution, research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly.  A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of the Federal government.
Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields.  In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research.  Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity.  For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.  The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present – and is gravely to be regarded.
Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.
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.
So shall it be written.  So shall it be done.

(H/T to Gerard van der Leun)

1 comment:

  1. And it all came to pass, especially, of late, the global warming boondoggle.


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