I just finished reading this article, which is an excellent history of the rise of the military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned us so stridently against.
However dire seeming was his warning, I would bet that most people simply don’t know that President Eisenhower was the single most responsible President in this escalation of military and industrial cooperation. Just the single fact that, in 1952, when Ike was elected, that America’s nuclear weapon stockpile numbered some 1,000 warheads; but by the time he passed the reins to John F. Kennedy in 1961, it consisted of more than 24,000 warheads, and it rapidly ascended later that decade to a peak of 31,000. So, as exceptional as these two Presidents were in many areas, it would seem that they were actually the most permissive of this marriage of the military establishment and the industrial sector in their unholy alliance that has decimated this nation.
Perhaps Eisenhower was speaking from a desire for forgiveness when, in his farewell address on January 17, 1961, he so fervently warned America to beware of this very entity.
Most people do not know, though, that President Eisenhower espoused a much different view in his little known presentation to the American Society of Newspaper Editors on April 16, 1953 who’s main theme was hailed by many as a blueprint for the end of the Cold War, but condemned by the Russians as a demand for complete and unconditional surrender.
Largely overlooked by most commentators was a second theme that Eisenhower had woven into his text. The essence of this theme was simplicity itself: spending on arms and armies is inherently undesirable. Even when seemingly necessary, it constitutes a misappropriation of scarce resources. By diverting social capital from productive to destructive purposes, war and the preparation for war deplete, rather than enhance, a nation’s strength. And while assertions of military necessity might camouflage the costs entailed, they can never negate them altogether.
“Every gun that is made,” Eisenhower told his listeners, “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.” Any nation that pours its treasure into the purchase of armaments is spending more than mere money. “It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.” To emphasize the point, Eisenhower offered specifics:
“The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities … We pay for a single fighter with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. ”
These literary bookends to President Eisenhower’s two terms show us that this was a president who went into this august office without the belief in a permanent joining of the military with the industrial sector, but left office as a victim of that very complex. This tells me that this “military industrial complex” existed when he entered office and expanded greatly quite out of his ability to control it.
In support of this theory, I present Smedley Butler, a US Marine who later became an anti-war advocate, and talks a bit about the military-industrial complex.
“I’ve spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class thug for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902–1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents. ”
Based upon this quotation, which has been verified many times, it would be apparent that the military industrial complex has existed in America for a much longer period of time than President Eisenhower or many others believed.
Of course, that begs the question, “When did this unholy alliance begin?”; I theorize that it actually began at the start of the Civil War, at the hands of one President Abraham Lincoln.
There has been a quotation attributed to Abraham Lincoln; many say that he did not write it, and apparently this 1864 letter cannot be found — or has simply been destroyed? Possibly, but it reads like something a repentant Abraham Lincoln would write, so I believe that there is a preponderance of evidence that he did write this letter.
On Nov. 21, 1864 President Abraham Lincoln is said to have written a letter to Colonel William F. Elkins. He said,
“I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned, and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.”
Friends, would any of you be shocked if, at this point, I made the statement that our nation — and by extension, our Liberty — had been stolen from our forefathers by a group of corporations? Chief among them would be the DuPont Corporation, but there are and were many others.
As a result of President Eisenhower’s farewell speech, most people assume that the start of World War II ushered in the beginning of the military industrial complex.
Actually, it was Abraham Lincoln who first began the integration of the full-time military with the civilian arms manufacturing industry. President Eisenhower misspoke when he stated that until the latest of our world conflicts, the U.S. had no arms industry; the arms industry was a thriving business in America.
President Abraham Lincoln brought in scientists from all over the world to develop military technology. Thus, the American Civil War became known as the first modern war.
Probably the best known technological advancement of the Civil War was the USS Monitor. While it was not the first ironclad ship, it was the first to have a revolving turret. Other Union advances included the Gatling gun and improvements to rail and medical technology.
The South, due to it’s more agricultural economy, had little hope of matching the success of the North in developing military technology, but there were some notable exceptions. The CSS Hunley is considered the first modern submarine.
Additionally, the south produced the finest-quality gunpowder in the world at that time. A huge gunpowder manufacturing facility was constructed; it was ultra-modern for the time. To reduce the possibility of explosions, workers were dressed in white suits with rubber boots to eliminate static electricity discharges. Powder storage buildings were designed to contain and deflect explosions should they occur.
After the war, the DuPont Chemical Company demanded the North destroy the southern plant and buy their inferior-quality gunpowder instead.
The South also developed torpedoes and land mines. Other Union advances included electric fuses and hand grenades. Union scientists improved on the telegraph and aerial recon via balloon was developed too.
So, it was, in fact Lincoln who first began the Military/Industrial Complex which has been the largest purveyor of death and destruction for over a century.
And it is that same military industrial complex which has stolen our birthright in order to ensure itself a steady profit and guarantee it’s continued existence..