Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Left-Wing Narratives: The Military Industrial Complex

Was Eisenhower a peacenik, darkly hinting that Pentagon insiders and defense contractors would secretly lead America to war every chance they got?

Probably not. Though his Presidential farewell is often quoted, it is done so for the one line - not the realism, pragmatism, internationalism, context and optimism it beautifully displays. Section IV of the address is where you will find the quote, along with these:

A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction.
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.
The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present--and is gravely to be regarded.

Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.

So, I guess if you could simplify the context in which Ike utters the phrase "military-industrial complex," you could simplify the context of his "captive of a scientific-technological elite" quote to undermine both Global Warming and Federal participation in university research.

Those aren't good roads to take for the left-liberal-progressive side of the political aisle. The Slate examination goes further:

As Ledbetter's book shows, Eisenhower had estimable motives too. He feared America might become a "garrison state," as the lingo of the day had it, limiting civil freedoms in the name of one military crisis after another. He resented the skill with which Defense Department brass finagled congressional leaders. Even his obsession with balancing the books, though a product of a pre-Keynesian worldview, had the virtue of keeping him alert to Pentagon bloat. And his warnings about military overreach were couched, it's usually forgotten, in passages insisting on the need for a military of unprecedented size, which Eisenhower called "a vital element in keeping the peace."

Narratives. No matter which side uses them, they dull the wits and focus only on those parts that support a "side" in an argument made today.



Maitri said...

Listening to an interview with Ledbetter recently, it's a striking remark he made in there that is also echoed in interviews within articles and documentaries such as Top Secret America: Eisenhower didn't like the military-industrial complex because he as supreme commander and president got to the point where he could neither control nor get his arms around it.

It's not so much the desire for peace as it is to do away with the invariable unwieldiness of complex systems before it gets to what we have now: No one person up there can tell you what all is going on. The result is the underwear bomber boarding a plane to the US and our woefully-inadequate, reactive-not-proactive transportation safety/security administration.

That reminds me to write a post on going through the backscatter xray scanning bullshit at the airport the other day. What a racket of crap.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

Exactly. Eisenhower warned us of just the type of insecure security theatre that we would see today - complete with the infringement on civil liberties. He demanded a "knowledgeable and alert" citizenry, not one plagued by misinformation.

"Security and liberty may prosper together."

Having read the farewell address again, I was reminded how realistic Eisenhower was. It is a shame that his words would be taken so out of context.

Especially by liberals and progressives - for whom his actual words and actual context should be far more important.

Maitri said...

"knowledgeable and alert" citizenry

You should watch the Frontline documentary on Top Secret America if you haven't already. I don't agree with all of the assessments of Dana Priest & Co., but look at who thwarted the last two attacks (underwear bomber and Times Square bomber) - knowledgeable and alert citizenry!

Sometimes I wonder what all these state fusion centers do besides get into territory disputes with local law enforcement.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

Knowledgeable and alert citizenry is the safest safeguard we have. I wonder how many books, reports and documentaries our society needs to tell us the same thing againa and again. From Ben Franklin to Ike to Jane Jacobs' "eyes on the street" theories - we know what works.

The problem is the politics of the situation, or the "there oughta be a law" kneejerk reaction in some areas of society. We have to face that there is an ample portion of our citizenry that wishes to be neither informed nor alert, nor participate in community vigilance and wants someone else to take care of every problem or inconvenience they face.

There is also the matter of liability - who is at fault when something bad happens? You can't sue the "knowledgeable and informed citizenry" if the madman gets through. But you can sue the airlines, which have lobbyists, who can make the Big, Bad Government take responsibility for airline safety.