I like Ike

I’ve been wondering about this. When was the turning point, where the U.S. decided pursuing war for empire was our path? That military might was preferable to actually improving the lives of our citizens? Why don’t the people who live here get any say in making these decisions? This piece from the Atlantic is enlightening, go read it all:

DURING EISENHOWER’S PRESIDENCY, few credited him with being a great orator. Yet, as befit a Kansan and a military professional, Ike could speak plainly when he chose to do so. The April 16 speech early in his presidency was such a moment. Delivered in the wake of Joseph Stalin’s death, the speech offered the new Soviet leadership a five-point plan for ending the Cold War. Endorsing the speech as “one of the most notable policy statements of U.S. history,” Time reported with satisfaction that Eisenhower had articulated a broad vision for peace and “left it at the door of the Kremlin for all the world to see.” The likelihood that Stalin’s successors would embrace this vision was nil. An editorial in The New Republic made the essential point: as seen from Russia’s perspective, Eisenhower was “demanding unconditional surrender.” The president’s peace plan quickly vanished without a trace.

Largely overlooked by most commentators was a second theme that Eisenhower had woven into his text. The essence of this theme was simplicity itself: spending on arms and armies is inherently undesirable. Even when seemingly necessary, it constitutes a misappropriation of scarce resources. By diverting social capital from productive to destructive purposes, war and the preparation for war deplete, rather than enhance, a nation’s strength. And while assertions of military necessity might camouflage the costs entailed, they can never negate them altogether.

“Every gun that is made,” Eisenhower told his listeners, “every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” Any nation that pours its treasure into the purchase of armaments is spending more than mere money. “It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.” To emphasize the point, Eisenhower offered specifics:

The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities … We pay for a single fighter with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.

Yet in Cold War Washington, Eisenhower’s was a voice crying in the wilderness. As much as they liked Ike, Americans had no intention of choosing between guns and butter: they wanted both. Military Keynesianism—the belief that the production of guns could underwrite an endless supply of butter—was enjoying its heyday.

7 thoughts on “I like Ike

  1. And yet, it was the Department of Defense that developed DARPA during rather cold war, without which I wouldn’t be leaving irritating little messages on your blog. Come to think of it, you wouldn’t have a blog. You’d still be on some crappy dial up service owned by AOL, battling it out with some political idiots in a chat room.
    So, there’s that.
    I suspect thar much technology has been the products of war throughout the millennia we have been having conflicts. We may have finally evolved enough to not use the war R&D model but we can’t quite discount it yet.
    Getting around the drones, microwaves and sound cannons may spark the next wave of ingenuity.

  2. Manifest Destiny has been around since 1845. It was an amalgam of the earlier theories of American exceptionalism, Romantic nationalism and Jacksonian democracy. But Major General US Marine Corp. (Ret) Smedley Butler is the guy who knows the inside story concerning the building of the American empire. Said he, “War is a racket. Out of war nations acquire additional territory…..they just take it.” Read what this guy has to say, it’s very enlightening.

  3. Oh c’mon Imhotep, we must concede that the whole notion of “Manifest Destiny” HAD to be prevalent amongst the European invaders during Columbus’ time. How else do we explain the overwhelming development of white supremacy thought and the genocidal desecration of Native Americans and forceful movement of Africans and other southern Europeans of color. Let us not be naive.

  4. Eisenhower’s legacy in this regard is decidedly mixed. Despite his speeches, his administration, via his first Sec. of Defense, Charles Wilson, helped set the military-industrial complex in concrete. In his early drafts of his famous 1961 exit speech, he tried to blame Congress, but was persuaded to leave “congressional” out of his early formulation, “military-industrial-congressional complex,” but, it was through Wilson’s efforts that the bonds between the military and defense contractors were forged.

    Moreover, the management of the Pentagon was, by the time he left office, firmly in the hands of his junior and senior staff during WWII, and Eisenhower exerted little control over them (part of the reason why Kennedy came into office presiding over a rat’s nest of right-wing crazies and John Birchers in the Pentagon–the situation was so serious that Kennedy had to enlist Eisenhower himself to go on television and lecture the top brass on civilian control of the military).

    Some of the problem was structural. The National Security Act of 1947 created both the Department of Defense and the Air Force, and set off a budget war between the services that made previous Army-Navy skirmishes seem petty. The Air Force, in particular, as the new kid on the block, was egregious in its behavior since its leadership was determined to become the preeminent–and best-funded–service in the Cold War.

    Add in religious nuts/rank imperialists such as John Foster Dulles and his diabolical brother, Allen, and Eisenhower also set the standard for using the CIA in the same way as previous Presidents had used the Marines, particularly in South America and Asia. Many of the great calamities of the `60s and `70s–including the Vietnam war–had their roots in the Eisenhower administration. (One particularly needs to read the minutes of the NSC regarding the decision to overthrow Guatemala’s President Arbenz to get the flavor of the way things worked inside Eisenhower’s administration, a decision that set off three decades of military dictatorship and genocide in that country.)

    Eisenhower talked a good game, and was probably sincere in his remarks, but the fact remains–the military-industrial complex and the imperial ambitions of the country’s elite became solidified during his term of office.

  5. I recall Eisenhower’s entire speeches being printed in the newspaper – you won’t catch them wasting ink now! His speeches were said to be rambling. However, he was right on, baby! (as we said in the later 60’s and early 70’s)
    Amazing: Republicans did not used to be warmongers! They used to call any foreign war an “adventure.”

  6. I recall Eisenhower’s entire speeches being printed in the newspaper – you won’t catch them wasting ink now! His speeches were said to be rambling. However, he was right on, baby! (as we said in the later 60’s and early 70’s)
    Amazing: Republicans did not used to be warmongers! They used to call any foreign war an “adventure.” (before 1941)

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