If we could travel to 1961, we could listen to outgoing President Dwight Eisenhower warning of the military-industrial complex. [Actually, the penultimate draft of his speech was more accurate—he called it the military-industrial-Congressional complex.] His farewell address included more than this general warning, however. Here’s a more complete excerpt:
‘…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….
‘Now 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 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….’
‘[It is imperative] that we—you and I, and our government—avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering for our own ease and convenience the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.
‘During the long lane of the history yet to be written, America knows that this world of ours, ever growing smaller, must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect. Such a confederation must be one of equals. The weakest must come to the conference table with the same confidence as do we, protected as we are by our moral, economic, and military strength. That table, though scarred by many past frustrations, cannot be abandoned for the certain agony of the battlefield. Disarmament, with mutual honor and confidence, is a continuing imperative. Together we must learn how to compose differences, not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose.’
The farewell speech was not just a political parting shot for Eisenhower. As early as 1953, the year he was inaugurated, he had warned that, ‘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. The world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.’
We are now in the future, and most of Eisenhower’s fears have already come true. The powerful military-corporate-Congressional complex has sapped the strength of democracy and turned the U.S. from an inspiring leader to a playground bully, at home and around the world. With active support from their military and government co-conspirators, trans-national corporations are exhausting the world’s resources & causing unprecedented climate change—even as they foster more consumer demand—and they are poisoning the ecosystem of which we are part.
Since we don’t have Doc Brown’s DeLorean time-travel vehicle, we’re going to have to figure out how to stop this before it’s too late. Let’s hear your ideas of how to create the change we need!