I Liked Ike
October 29, 2014Posted by on
Susan Eisenhower, the granddaughter of Dwight D Eisenhower, wrote an article for the Washington Post in 2011 with the title 50 years later, we’re still ignoring Ike’s warning. Her article referred to the ‘Farewell Address to the Nation’ made by her grandfather 50 years earlier, in which he said:
“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 defence with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together”. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s farewell address to the nation, January 17 1961
As Susan Eisenhower wrote: ‘Looking back, it is easy to see the parallels to our era, especially how the complex has expanded since Sept. 11, 2001. In less than 10 years, our military and security expenditures have increased by 119 percent. Even after subtracting the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the budget has grown by 68 percent since 2001. In 2010, the United States is projected to spend at least $700 billion on its defence and security, the most, in real terms, that we’ve spent in any year since World War II. However, at this time of increased concerns over our fiscal deficit and the national debt, Eisenhower’s farewell words and legacy take on added significance’. Adding: ‘While the farewell address may be remembered primarily for the passages about the military-industrial complex, Ike was rising above the issues of the day to appeal to his countrymen to put the nation and its future first.
“As we peer into society’s future, we – you and I, and our government – must 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”. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s farewell address to the nation, January 17 1961
She concluded her article with: ‘Until today, perhaps, we have taken American leadership, dominance and prosperity for granted. In those intervening years, we rarely asked if our policies were sustainable over the long haul. Indeed, it has only been since the catastrophic financial meltdown in 2008 that we’ve begun to think about the generational responsibilities we have for our grandchildren’s prosperity and welfare.
Eisenhower’s words, from the beginning of his presidency to the end, come back to us from the mists of another era. They remind us, sadly, that sometimes we must revisit our past to learn what we have always known’. [Susan Eisenhower]
Steve Chapman – in the Chicago Tribune – suggests that Every president is a war president, writing: ‘When the Cold War with the Soviet Union ended two decades ago, many people expected to bask in the warm sunshine of lasting peace. The optimism was unwarranted. Every president is a wartime president. Military considerations increasingly shape — and warp — our entire system of democracy and law. Despite the absence of any major threat to our safety and independence, we have become a garrison state, permanently mobilized for incessant intervention’. In a later Chicago Tribune article Chapman leads with: The endless quest for credibility – Why we never seem to have enough, writing that figuring out the U.S. government’s future impulses is hard even for Americans. There’s no real rhyme or reason.
John J. Mearsheimer says in Power as the Currency of International Relations: ‘The question is, how are we going to rid ourselves of this imperial impulse, and how are we going to break our addiction to war? If you look at the US today, it’s quite clear that its elites are addicted to war. The US has been at war for two out of every three years since the Cold War ended (pdf). The US has fought six wars since 1989: the 1991 war against Iraq, the war against Serbia over Bosnia in 1995; the war against Serbia over Kosovo in 1999; the Afghanistan war, which started in 2001 and is still going on; the 2003 Iraq war; and then the war against Libya last year (2011). This is remarkable! And we’re now talking about the possibility of using military force against Iran, and maybe even Syria! America’s elites are addicted to using military force. Plus they believe the US has both a right and a responsibility to run the world. This is not a healthy situation and it is imperative that the US figures out a way to break these bad habits’.
Which takes us back to Ike and his granddaughter, as she writes: ‘Throughout his presidency, Eisenhower continually connected the country’s security to its economic strength, underscoring that our fiscal health and our military might are equal pillars of our national defense. This meant that a responsible government would have to make hard choices. The question Eisenhower continued to pose about defense spending was clear and practical:
How much is enough?