Dwight Eisenhower delivered one of the most famous farewell addresses a President ever gave just as he left office in 1960. In it he said “we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex.”
Scholars at the National Archives just dug up some new information about the speech as you can see in this video.
The speech was actually quickly forgotten almost immediately after he gave it. There were a few articles in newspapers here and there, but that was about it.
President Kennedy got in office and few thought of Ike anymore. But after Kennedy died and Lyndon Johnson brought America’s full participation in the Vietnam War people began to look back on it.
People began to worry about the military spending required to fight the war in Vietnam and as the war became unpopular many began to ask questions about how the country got involved in it in the first place.
So Ike’s military industrial complex speech became a touchstone for people. They remembered what they forgot and Ike seemed to be a prophet. Now people even wonder if there is a military industrial complex conspiracy sometimes.
Certainly he is a prophet today when the US government spends almost 40% of its budget, when you factor in interest on the debt for past defense expenditures, on defense. The United States military employees over three million people, which makes it the largest employer on the planet. If you look you can find military industrial complex quotes of warning everywhere.
The United States has an empire of bases all over the world and now seems to be engaged in what are endless wars.
President Eisenhower said in his farewell address, “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.”
With the erosion of the Bill of Rights due to the war on terror and NSA spy programs Ike’s warning is a message for us today. The Cold War arms race against the Soviets turned into a war on terror spending orgy for defense contractors today.
The nation is draining away its wealth the benefit of the top one hundred defense contractor companies. They lobby Congress in an iron triangle relationship that makes the most powerful interest group in Washington DC.
To learn more about the military industrial complex get my book the War State.