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…
-President Dwight D. Eisenhower, January 17, 1961
In his farewell address to the nation, delivered 53 years ago today, President Dwight D. Eisenhower famously warned his fellow Americans about the evolving danger of a “military industrial complex” swallowing the rights, liberties, and privileges that define this nation. His speech explored an entanglement of policy and monetary strands that link legislators, the armed forces, and the heavy industrial sector of the economy. The relationships are funded by political contributions, congressional appropriations, big-business lobbying, slanted legislation, and generous oversight.
In 2014, America struggles under the weight of a national security infrastructure that has doubled in cost since Eisenhower’s final year in office, yet enjoys near-bottomless impunity when it comes to more spending. Justification for this spending lacks the specter of Soviet Empire—rather, validation is prompted on prospects of “forever war” against a stateless, non-uniformed adversary.
Fair enough. Real threats face the American people. However—recalling Ike—can we agree to more carefully scrutinize the influence of interested parties who derive enormous benefits from the maintenance of a permanent arms industry?