Tuesday, March 9, 2010

No More Mr. Nice Dale!

Alright, brats. Dale has set his well-heeled vegetarian foot down and demands precis from each of us! I am doing my first precis on Eisenhower's Farewell Address Speech because as I've mentioned in class, the audio version put me to sleep faster than 10mg of Ambien and I wonder how one of the top 100 American rhetorical speeches could be so monotonous at first glance? I am basing my reading on the text version, rather than audio, because I choose to stay awake. Here we go:

Eisenhower first off thanks the media for reporting messages to the nation. Undoubtedly, as we've seen in "The Road to Serfdom", media is crucial in the attempt to keep the masses in agreement, and Eisenhower was the first president to have televised press conferences. He wishes his successor [a Presbyterian] Godspeed, along with strong desires for a peaceful and prosperous nation. He acknowledges the cooperation of a non-partisan Congress, and then goes straight for the war-talk! As he praises the United States for our "material progress, riches, military strength…. [and] free government", he shifts from our charted goal "toward permanent peace and human development" into the emphasis on a strong military establishment to "keeping the peace". He states, "Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor ay be tempted to risk his own destruction." He famously introduces the concept of the "military industrial complex" which is defined as cooperative relationships between government, armed forces, and the industries that support them. He goes on to say that the "very structure of our society" is dependent on the development of national defense. He recognizes the potential for the abuse of power and also raises the fact that the technological revolution has made significant contributions to the Federal government. He also warns against public policy being in the mercy of a "scientific-technologcal elite".

An explicit thesis did not pop out immediately during my reading of the text, although the introduction/justification/warning of the term "U.S. military-industrial complex: was read/heard loud and clear. The audience is initially addressed to his fellow American citizens but he ends his farewell address with a prayer to the citizens of the world that "all people [of all faiths[ will come to live together in a peace guaranteed by the binding force of mutual respect and love." There is an obvious tension in his farewell speech between his intentions for a peaceful nation, and the acknowledgement of a potential monster to be kept in check when he describes the military-industrial complex as something that, "[Americans] 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." For Eisenhower to warn citizens about the military-industrial complex during his farewell speech, for me, is justified because of rapid technological advancement and his successor's American-Soviet relations surrounding the Cold War. My interpretation of the argument was to forewarn citizens of the dangers and powers of the powers of government, armed forces, and the industries that support it. This strikes a familiar chord with Hayek's The Road to Serfdom, as both texts acknowledge the destructive potential of a government with exclusive control of its citizens for the sake of maintaining a paradoxical peace during warfare. - Andrea Bella

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