Excerpt from chapter 6 (“Passing the Tipping Point”) of “The Middle and Working Class Manifesto”
Heeding Eisenhower’s Warning
Though it fields the most expensive and technologically sophisticated military force on the world stage, the U.S. government has not decisively won any major military conflict since 1945. Understanding these developments is necessary if Americans are to effectively address their nation’s economic decline and cultural deterioration. Eisenhower’s credibility can hardly be challenged. As FDR’s choice for the position of Supreme Commander of Allied forces in Europe, he was responsible for planning and supervising the invasion of France and Germany from the west. FDR had such confidence in him that Eisenhower sometimes worked directly with Soviet leader Joseph Stalin to the chagrin of bypassed British leaders. He served as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)’s first supreme commander in 1951. As president (1953-1961), Eisenhower concluded negotiations with China to end the Korean War, maintained pressure on the Soviet Union, and avoided hostilities during two terms in the nation’s highest office, a time of peace. Eisenhower’s election as a Republican ended two decades of New Deal Coalition in the White House, but as president he continued New Deal policies, expanding Social Security and signing into law in 1956 the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act, then the largest public works project in American history. Though he chose not to publicly criticize Sen. Joseph McCarthy, he helped remove the pathologically partisan Republican demagogue from power. Historians typically rank “Ike” among America’s 10 greatest presidents.
“In his farewell address to the American people, broadcast live from the White House on January 17, 1961, Eisenhower focused specifically on and warned against the dangers attendant upon the unprecedented development of a permanent armaments industry and war machine. In part, he said: “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 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 alone more than the net income of all United States corporations….”
“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….”
“Noting that technological developments were, “largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture,” Eisenhower warned against the “prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by “the power of money” and the “danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite,” saying that, “it is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system – ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society….” It was imperative, Eisenhower declared, 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….”
Judging by President Eisenhower’s words, although he aspired elegantly to a better world just as we do, that dream has not yet been realized. We still live in a world of too much “fear and hate” when the mutual goal should be “a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect”. This excerpt from the following Internet posting makes my point for me as it warns against the sinister power of the US military-industrial complex. Fifty years after Dwight D. Eisenhower’s January 17, 1961 speech on the “military-industrial complex”, that threat has morphed into a far more powerful and sinister force than Eisenhower could have imagined. It has become a “Permanent War State”, with the power to keep the United States at war continuously for the indefinite future. But despite their seeming invulnerability, the vested interests behind U.S. militarism have been seriously shaken twice in the past four decades by some combination of public revulsion against a major war, opposition to high military spending, serious concern about the budget deficit and a change in perception of the external threat. Today, the Permanent War State faces the first three of those dangers to its power simultaneously — and in a larger context of the worst economic crisis since the great depression.
The 9/11 attacks were the biggest single boon to the militarist alliance. The Bush administration exploited the climate of fear to railroad the country into a war of aggression against Iraq. The underlying strategy, approved by the military leadership after 9/11, was to use Iraq as a base from which to wage a campaign of regime change in a long list of countries. That fateful decision only spurred recruitment and greater activism by al Qaeda and other jihadist groups, which expanded into Iraq and other countries. Instead of reversing the ill-considered use of military force, however, the same coalition of officials pushed for an even more militarized approach to jihadism. Over the next few years, it too gained unprecedented power over resources and policy at home and further extended its reach abroad. The Special Operations Forces, which operate in almost complete secrecy, obtained extraordinary authority to track down and kill or capture al Qaeda suspects not only in Iraq and Afghanistan, but in many more countries.
The CIA sought and obtained virtually unlimited freedom to carry out drone strikes in secrecy and without any meaningful oversight by Congress. The Pentagon embraced the idea of the “long war”, a twenty-year strategy envisioning deployment of U.S. troops in dozens of countries, and the Army adopted the idea of “the era of persistent warfare” as its rationale for more budgetary resources. The military budget doubled from 1998 to 2008 in the biggest explosion of military spending since the early 1950s and now accounts for 56 percent of discretionary federal spending. The military leadership used its political clout to ensure that U.S. forces would continue to fight in Afghanistan indefinitely, even after the premises of its strategy were shown to have been false. The percentage of Americans who believe the war in Afghanistan is not worth fighting has now reached 65 percent for the first time. And as the crisis over the federal debt reaches its climax, the swollen defense budget should bear the brunt of deep budget cuts.
As early as 2005, a Pew Research Center survey found that, when respondents were given the opportunity to express a preference for budget cuts by major accounts, they opted to reduce military spending by 31 percent. In another survey by the Pew Center a year ago, 76 percent of respondents, frustrated by the continued failure of the U.S. economy, wanted the United States to put top priority in its domestic problems. The only thing missing from this picture is a grassroots political movement organized specifically to demand an end to the Permanent War State. Such a movement could establish firm legal restraints on the institutions that threaten American Democratic institutions through a massive educational and lobbying effort. This is the right historical moment to harness the latent anti-militarist sentiment in the country to a conscious strategy for political change.
Tragically, the strategy for “political change” has not made itself known. What we have is more of the same – the same wars, the same unemployment, the same hunger, the same crime problems, the same homelessness, the same crushing load of debt, and we are all getting really tired of it all. We want out of the rat race, off of the treadmill, and away from the maze that has us all locked in and enslaved to the richest top 1% US money earners. We want our independence back with freedom to choose whatever profession one desires to undertake, and to make that education free and equal for everyone. To prevent hunger, homelessness and crime simply give every citizen the freedom to go back to school at any time, and it should all be free. We can have the best educated society in one generation if we choose this path. What we have instead is continuous war. Allow me to share with you a few facts regarding our troops activities overseas.
SOME QUICK FACTS ON WARS AND DEFENSE SPENDING
- The National Security Advisor says there are less than 1000 ISIS operatives in Syria and Iraq and we have over 30,000 troops and probably as many mercenaries chasing them.
- Maintaining one American soldier in Afghanistan for one year (yep, we’re still there too) costs one million dollars. This expenditure could be for twenty jobs at home with a salary of $50,000 each. Like, say, police officers and teachers,
- There are now over 90,000 battlefield casualties from the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. Over 500,000 veterans patients from these two wars have flooded into VA hospitals and clinics. That’s one new war casualty walking into a VA medical facility every five minutes of every day—about 9,000 new patients every month with no end in sight.
- The Iraqis still don’t have a government and Christians are being ethnically cleansed.
- The combined cost of the Iraq war alone is likely to be more than three trillion dollars. (Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel winning economist)
- 190,000 AK-47s handed out by the US Army to Iraqi security force recruits vanished and wound up in the hands of militants.
- Afghanistan soldiers were shooting our troops at the peak of the US occupation. This was rarely if ever reported by the Lame Stream Media.
- The total DOD budget for the current fiscal year is over $700 billion. It is an amount just under what the entire rest of the world spends for defense and most of them are allies. America’s defense budget is about three times the combined budgets of China, Russia, Cuba, North Korea, and Iran.
- The Defense Department spends in a few hours more than al Qaeda spends in an entire year. For this post-World War II high in spending, we get the smallest Army, Navy, and Air Force we have had since 1946. And, our tanks, ships, and aircraft are, on average, older than they have ever been before.$57,077.60. That’s what we’re paying per minute for the American Empire’s military activities in the Middle East and North Africa alone. Keep that in mind — just for a minute or so. It takes an estimated $1 million to send each of them surging into ‘wherever’ for one year. So a 30,000-person surge will be at least $30 billion, which brings us to that $57,077.60. That’s how much it will cost you, the taxpayer, for one minute of that surge. By the way, add up the yearly salary of a Marine from Camp Lejeune with four years of service, throw in his or her housing allowance, additional pay for dependents, and bonus pay for hazardous duty, imminent danger, and family separation, and you’ll still be many thousands of dollars short of that single minute’s sum. But perhaps this isn’t a time to quibble. After all, a job is a job, especially in the United States, which has lost seven million jobs since December 2007…..
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