Is terrorism the new communism? Hmm.
As the first president to make an official farewell speech, Eisenhower had a unique opportunity to speak and be heard by the American people. A two term elected president with the military stature he possessed, the guidance and concern he expressed on his way out held an important positive ethical force that was accepted by the majority of the American public, as we’ve seen in how influential this text was and is, even up to the present day. Quickly, I’ll point out that Eisenhower created the term “military industrial complex” in this very speech.
This is very much a speech about the United States and the dangers of a military industrial complex. In this speech, Eisenhower states, “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.” We must ask, why would he do such a thing? Was there something the American people could do to prevent such a problem? Were there alternatives that Eisenhower was suggesting here? Perhaps this was a political move that uncovered a complex machinery at work in the United States. When he speaks of “misplaced power” (while sitting in the oval office), we see the incredible force this warning has. We see that this isn’t a warning that Americans should take lightly. Additionally, given that a farewell address usually takes a commemorative tone (directing attention to past accomplishment and future promises), here, we can identify how large the stakes were to Eisenhower. But what were the stakes? Who was threatened? How so? And what affect, ultimately, did his words have on the military industrial complex itself, in addition to the minds of the American people?
Eisenhower was concerned about the structure of American society and wanted everyone else to see how large American armaments could be detrimental. Structuring an economy around war, he knew, would force, what he seemingly considered evil upon the social and political structures of a traditionally “peace searching” country, the U.S. And by evil I mean that non-traditional focus of military spending that definitely leads to wars.
Being a former 4 star general, he could see how the armament industry could become the strongest link in a prosperous American economy. And while prosperous is central to American ethos, the dangers would rip the fabric of American ideals to shreds. This speech is an obvious attempt, I think, of him warning us of how the dogs would behave upon his leaving the house of the presidency. Ripping the furniture apart, tearing the carpet up, and dining on anything that resembled military engagement was what he feared.
Basically, the U.S. government spent so much money on weapons and the militarization of a nation (during WWII), that, any reversal of this acquisition of economic prosperity would quickly turn our society into something no one wanted; a peace loving poor nation. Or at least this is what some saw as the only result of a disarmament. Through this speech we can see the presidents concern. He saw how conflict operated on the ground, in combat, and in the economy of the United States. He was genuinely repulsed.
We see the reverberations of this speech in today’s world. Look at the “global war on terror”. Do you see that coming to an end anytime soon? Of course, we can’t foresee how the military will behave, but we can be sure that their actions are driven by the compass Eisenhower has given us, and warned against. Is terrorism the new communism?