Thursday, January 17, 2008

Eisenhower's Grandfather Moment

President Dwight D. Eisenhower's parting shot, so to speak, warned of the military-industrial complex and its deleterious effects on American society in 1953, in the waning months of his time in office. Cynics will say it was already long past established, and that Eisenhower not only benefited from said complex, but also perpetuated its development. And yet, it's hard not to read these words and be struck by the force of their absolute moral panic. It's as if, as his public life comes to a close, he's looking back at the whole of his service and is terrified about what he's leaving us, his grandchildren, the world:

Every gun that is made, 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. The world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hope of its children… This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.”
(Speech delivered before the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Washington, D.C. April 16, 1953)

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