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In his farewell address Jan. 17, 1961, President Dwight D. Eisenhower
spoke some prophetic words which have never before been so meaningful:
“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 now we can no longer risk
emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to
create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to
this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the
defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than
the net income of all United States corporations.
“This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large
arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence —
economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every
state house, 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
I doubt that Eisenhower, a military hero, could have envisioned the
day when a draft dodger would become president and authorize the selling
of national security secrets to the nation representing the most
serious, long-term threat to the United States. The fact that today’s
news would be so unthinkable to Ike makes his warning even more
What did he have in mind? Perhaps he wasn’t even certain of the
dangers that lurked ahead. But he realized that power — a power never
envisioned by the Founding Fathers — had developed in America.
Eisenhower made his statement in the context of a global threat
facing America. He understood there was no way America could turn back
the clock, unilaterally disarm and hope to have enough time to rearm
after an initial attack.
The Cold War may be over, but the foreign threat the United States
faces today is not much different from the one Eisenhower knew. Here’s
the way he described it: “We face a hostile ideology — global in scope,
atheistic in character, ruthless in purpose and insidious in method.”
That about says it — whether one is describing the old Soviet Evil
Empire or the new Evil Empire headquartered in Beijing.
Every president after Eisenhower basically saw the world in the same
terms — until Bill Clinton. He represents a radical departure from the
past. Here is a man who sees nothing hostile about Communist China. He
wouldn’t object to its atheistic nature and, if anything, he would
probably admire the Chinese for their ruthlessness and insidiousness.
While Clinton’s predecessors may have been, on occasion, captive to
the allures and pressures of the military-industrial complex to one
extent or another, none before ever became its errand boy. That’s what
Clinton appears to have done in the matter of U.S. vs. Loral Space &
Eisenhower also warned that only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry
could prevent the kind of disaster he saw as possible from this volatile
new power on the national landscape. Well, the American people twice
disregarded the well-publicized character flaws evident in candidate
Clinton. They sent him to the White House where he would have his finger
on the nuclear button, where he could deploy American soldiers in
faraway lands and dangerous settings he himself had avoided at all costs
as a youth, where he could bring that old-fashioned Arkansas political
and financial corruption into the major leagues.
Will the American public be alert and knowledgeable enough, finally,
to demand accountability for his high crimes, his hypocrisies and his
God help us if they are not.