In addition to being Martin Luther King Jr. Day, today also—and quite fittingly—marks the 50th anniversary of Dwight Eisenhower’s famous speech coining the term “military-industrial complex” and warning Americans of its consequences. The speech, which came at the very end of his two term presidency, is made all the more haunting by the fact that Eisenhower was a war hero, a celebrated five-star Army general who led the Allied invasion on D-Day. He knew the military from the inside better than anyone, and he believed in it. Yet, in the Cold War’s escalations, he could see the subtle danger of a society running on a permanent wartime economy—as the United States was then and continues to be today.
There’s an eloquent tribute over at NPR (hat tip to Liz). It suggests that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is a kindred spirit of Eisenhower’s—he has a portrait of the former president in his office—and, indeed, this month he announced the first cut to the military budget since the end of the Cold War. But, as SocialistWorker.org reminds us, this “cut” is actually just a smaller increase. The Washington Post reports, though, that the bipartisan political will seems to be forming in Congress to curtail our wasteful and dangerous military spending:
Gates said the cuts are a result of the “extreme fiscal duress” facing the country. But they are also an acknowledgment of a rapidly shifting political sentiment on Capitol Hill, where senior Democrats and Republicans alike have suggested in recent weeks that defense spending—which accounts for a fifth of the federal budget [or 54%, all told]—is no longer a sacred cow.
This is an opportunity that needs to be taken advantage of. As people at home are hurting financially, they’re going to be less and less willing to pay for disastrous wars abroad and needless new weapons. It’s time for our addiction to the military economy to stop; it’s time to finally hear President Eisenhower out.