I don’t often curse at the car radio (excepting when I make the mistake of listening to conservative talk-radio, of course), but I hurled a few involuntary expletives in response to a segment on today’s Diane Rehm show on NPR. Rehm was interviewing former Congressman Lee Hamilton, by any estimation someone who would be considered a “senior statesman.” At 7:45 into the interview, Rehm asked Hamilton: “A long time ago, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us about the strength of the military-industrial complex. Do you share these concerns today?” Hamilton responded: “I’m not enough of an historian to know what Eisenhower had in mind…” (It’s at this point I began cursing…). He proceeded to interpret the question to be about the strength and appropriate use of the military and its role in foreign affairs. In other words, he couldn’t even acknowledge there was such a thing as a “military-industrial complex”; he heard only “military” – not “industrial” – and seemed to accept the existence of current arrangements to be as natural and inevitable as the changing of the seasons.

How far we have come from a time when a former General and outgoing President could warn of the impending loss of American liberty to a vast, ungoverned machinery of human dominion to a time when one of our “senior statesman” – admitting an ignorance of history – can’t even discern the existence of such a “complex,” much less acknowledge it to be a beast of such voraciousness that it is busily consuming what remains of democracy in American.

7 COMMENTS

  1. Did diane rehm ask about eisenhower’s warning about the development of a government-academic-scientific complex? Mind you, I’m not sure he made such a warning. I first read about it in some blog a few days ago. But whether or not he made such a warning, he should have done so. The rise to power of that complex is one of the unfortunate byproducts of his cold war mongering.

  2. I’m assigning Clark Kerr’s “The Uses of the University” in a seminar on education this week. The book is based on a set of lectures he gave in 1963 calling for close ties between the university, industry and the military. It’s quite clear that there was a growing consensus in elite circles – of which Kerr was a spokesman – for the need for just this sort of “military-academic-industrial” complex. Even Allan Bloom admitted to admiring the Berkeley-based 60’s student protest movement in its earliest stages because it was at least in part inspired by opposition to Kerr’s arguments.

    Ordinary statements by today’s college Presidents are often merely echoes of Kerr, stirring little if any discontent. Today’s students couldn’t be more oblivious – indeed, more often than not they’ve been taught to crave to work for the Complex.

  3. I wrote my comment from my smartphone while catching lunch on a bike ride today. Now I’ve had a chance to look up where I heard about about Eisenhower’s warning. It was not in a blog; it was in Hal Lewis’s October 6 letter of resignation from the American Physical Society. He doesn’t quote Eisenhower directly. One of these days I’d like to find out just what words of Eisenhower he has in mind.

    …When I first joined the American Physical Society sixty-seven years ago it was much smaller, much gentler, and as yet uncorrupted by the money flood (a threat against which Dwight Eisenhower warned a half-century ago)….his scheming at APS HQ is so bizarre that there cannot be a simple explanation for it. Some have held that the physicists of today are not as smart as they used to be, but I don’t think that is an issue. I think it is the money, exactly what Eisenhower warned about a half-century ago. There are indeed trillions of dollars involved, to say nothing of the fame and glory (and frequent trips to exotic islands) that go with being a member of the club. Your own Physics Department (of which you are chairman) would lose millions a year if the global warming bubble burst. …

  4. Lee Hamilton was a prime member of the so-called “Iraq Study Group”. He is a contributing member of the claque of acolytes who continue to believe that the primary agenda of the Government of the United States is everywhere but the ground upon which the United States are , to be indelicate, imposed. Nothing much came out of the Iraq Study Group aside from a general whitewashed muddling through of the type most declining empires are prone too. This, one of the more remarkably inept and ill-conceived larks since the Greeks limped back from a sober trouncing by the Sicilians…but this Iraq Endeavor will come to be perceived as exhibit one in the dystopic distemper of the American Hegemon. That hegemon which believed itself the exemplar of the Capitalist Experiment and set about attempting to defy reality through deficit spending.

    Nobody, not even the preternaturally optimistic should be upset by Mr. Hamilton’s steadfast resistance to the notion of Military over-reach because Mr. Hamilton is one of the illustrious, the elders, the esteemed Factotums of American Empire. Said esteemed partisans will, of course, be substantially immune from the sorry effects of their cheering. The elite of this era is beginning to make the elite of Louis’ France look like mere pikers.

  5. I’m no friend of the military industrial complex, but I don’t see how it is a serious threat to democracy or liberty. At least, the threat is not obvious.

    Mainly, the MIC is a drain on resources.As for democracy, the MIC is a powerful lobbying group, but no more so than many other industries.Do you think that its influence increases the chance that the US will go to war? If so, why? Does military strength invite military adventurism? Does their lobbying produce a culture of paranoia in Washington? Does it lead to arms exports, and getting dragged in to foreign conflicts? Is it because of the secrecy surrounding the arms industry — making a large part of American society “off limits” to the people and inviting foreign espionage?

    As you can see, I can come up with plenty of possible problems, but to my knowledge they are all speculative. Why would the MIC be a threat to democracy or liberty. I’d be more scared of the special interest groups associated with prisons (IIRC, the CA prison guard’s union has lobbied in favor of mandatory sentencing guidelines, seeing it as a guarantee of their job security)

  6. What Military Industrial Complex? The M-I Complex that Eisenhower once feared would come never arrived.
    Unfortunately, the Social-Spending-Entititlement Complex did.

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