The military-industrial complex was and is a time-bomb.
In hindsight, it seems President Eisenhower was delivering more of a prediction, than a warning, when he spoke of a “military-industrial complex” in his short (15:44) farewell address, on January 17, 1961.
Ike, soft-spoken and modest, was not the kind of person who would have pretended to know what the future holds. But it seems evident now, after 50 years of serving his country – from West Point in 1911 through his second term as President ending in January 1961 – that Eisenhower may have known more than he realized.
Having witnessed the Nazi war machine, the use of nuclear weapons (a decision he opposed) to bring an end to the war with Japan, and the rise of the Soviet Union, Eisenhower recognized that we had entered an era unlike any before. “American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well,” he said. “But we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense. We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions.”
Calling for “good judgment” and “balance” (a word used 9 times in his address), Eisenhower counseled that we “must not fail to comprehend” the “grave implications” of imbalance, and special interests. “We must learn,” he said, “how to compose differences not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose.“
If Eisenhower’s words were understood, they most definitely were not heeded.
The military-industrial complex was and is a time-bomb. Its explosive body is made up of thousands of defense contractors itching to rake in profits for themselves, and their shareholders. Its fuse is the weak and inferior minded politician, he who speaks of “peace and freedom” but who is forever angling for historical recognition which, in the American tradition, means finding a war.