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 who are cold and are not clothed.
Quick, which communist leader spoke those words?
Or was it a radical pacifist?
Martin Luther King? Gandhi? Mother Theresa?
That’s right, that was Dwight Eisenhower, the great general, one of the last universally beloved military leaders in America. That was the same Eisenhower who warned America against giving in to the military-Industrial Complex as part of his farewell speech on April 16, 1953.
Let us hear from Eisenhower on the Military-Industrial Complex:
This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. Th
e total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every statehouse, 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. 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.
President Dwight Eisenhower’s Farewell Speech (1953)
We now stand at a point that about half of all Americans stand close to the poverty line, millions are in perilous housing, and our educational system and healthcare system is crumbling. The richest nation in the history of humanity is now in debt, and the very foundations of our social services are bankrupt at the same time that we have become an undeniable military Empire that spends more than the next twelve largest militaries of the world combined.
We would do well to heed the words of Dwight Eisenhower, and recall that it is the Military-Industrial Complex that we must be on guard against. We must become the “alert and knowledgeable citizenry” that Eisenhower called us to become. We do not have the luxury of lazy propaganda and hateful partisanship. The very survival of the American experiment depends on it.
Let’s hope that more Republicans—and Democrats—have the courage of their convictions to recall the message of President Eisenhower.