John Schwenkler January 17, 2011 - 9:31pm
Today is (was?) the 50th anniversary of Dwight D. Eisenhower's Presidential farewell address, in which he coined the famous phrase "military-industrial complex" in warning of the "economic, political, even spiritual" consequences of the "total influence" of America's rapidly growing military establishment and arms industry. Frequent Commonweal contributor Andrew Bacevich remembers that speech in this month's Atlantic, and borrows the phrase from which I've taken this post's title. An excerpt:
Thanks to its allies and abettors, the military-industrial-legislative war complex remains stubbornly resistant to changea fact President Barack Obama himself learned during his first year in office. While reviewing his administrations policy in Afghanistan, the president repeatedly asked for a range of policy alternatives. He wanted choices. According to Bob Woodward of TheWashington Post, however, the Pentagon offered Obama a single paththe so-called McChrystal surge of additional troops. As recounted in Woodwards book Obamas Wars, the president complained: So whats my option? Youve given me only one option. The militarys own preferred option was all he was going to get. (Just months before, Woodward himself had helpfully promoted that very option, courtesy of a well-timed leak.)No doubt Dwight Eisenhower would sympathize with President Obama, having himself struggled to exercise the prerogatives ostensibly reserved to the chief executive. Yet Ike would hardly be surprised. He would reserve his surpriseand his disappointmentfor the American people. A half century after he summoned us to shoulder the responsibilities of citizenship, we still refuse to do so. In Washington, military metaphysics remains sacrosanct. No wonder we continue to get our pockets picked.
The famous clip from Ike's speech is embedded below the fold.
About the Author
John Schwenkler is an assistant professor in the Department of Philosophy at Florida State University.