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.