Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Ike's 'garrison state'

James Ledbetter had a good op-ed in yesterday's New York Times on the 50th anniversary of Pres. Dwight Eisenhower's famous warning against the undue influence of the military-industrial complex.

Even at the early stage in the Cold War, Gen. Eisenhower had noted with dismay the development of "a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions."

The World War II hero was concerned about the military-industrial complex not because he was a pacifist but because he worried about the armed forces' relationship with the larger society and the potentially corrosive influence on public policy.

It is not a stretch to believe that this armaments industry — which profits not only from domestic sales but also from tens of billions of dollars in annual exports — manipulates public policy to perpetuate itself.

But Eisenhower was concerned about more than just the military’s size; he also worried about its relationship to the American economy and society, and that the economy risked becoming a subsidiary of the military.

And that

Eisenhower warned that the influence of the military-industrial complex was “economic, political, even spiritual” and that it was “felt in every city, every statehouse, every office of the federal government.”


On this score, Eisenhower may well have seen today’s America as losing the battle against the darker aspects of the military-industrial complex. He was no pacifist, but he was a lifelong opponent of what he called a “garrison state,” in which policy and rights are defined by the shadowy needs of an all-powerful military elite.

Ike's warning is just as relevant today, if not more so, than it was in 1960.

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