It's a good think Ike is dead… else he would realize his nightmare survived. Chuck
Newsday January 13, 2011 Pg. 34
The Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex
Eisenhower warned against the influence of arms production, but did we listen?
By Bob Keeler
EXTRACT: Now, the deficit has caused some unexpected voices to say, ever so softly, that everything is on the table – including defense cuts. Last week, Gates talked about plans to slow the defense budget's growth by $78 billion over five years. That dainty nibble is a start, but we need big bites. A group called the Sustainable Defense Task Force has laid out ways to cut $1 trillion in 10 years. That's better.
Full story below the line…
Obama Ignores Eisenhower at Country's, World's Peril (Melvin Goodman)
Military-Industrial Complex, Fifty Years On (Leslie Gelb, Council on Foreign Relations)
It's a good thing Ike is dead.
If Dwight D. Eisenhower, five-star general, World War II supreme commander of allied forces in Europe, and 34th president of the United States, were still alive, he'd be mighty miffed – but probably not so surprised – at how little we've heeded his final advice.
This moment, with its battles over deficits and spending cuts, demands that we listen to him.
It's been 50 years since Eisenhower's televised farewell address on January 17, 1961, three days before the inauguration of John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
“Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry,” Eisenhower said. “American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well.” By 1960, though, arms-making was a permanent part of our economy. “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”
Fast forward to 2009, and the struggle to stop buying more F-22 fighters. As defense secretary under presidents George W. Bush, then Barack Obama, Robert Gates believed we didn't need a costly plane that was great for old-time high-altitude battles, but not for low-altitude combat. In fact, as he pointed out, the plane had never flown a combat mission in Iraq or Afghanistan. Ultimately, Gates and Obama together won the 2009 fight to cap production of F-22s.
In the F-22 controversy, even Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), not exactly a softy on defense, said it was a turning point in the battle against what he called, updating Eisenhower's phrase, the “military-industrial-congressional complex.”
McCain was right. Arms companies build weapons we don't need, but senators and representatives vote to pay for them.
Now, let's not accuse our lawmakers of venal motives – such as gratitude for generous campaign contributions from the industry – for buying unneeded weapons. Let's say their sole goal is worthy: jobs for their home states or districts. That's why contractors do “political engineering,” spreading the manufacture of their weapons to as many states as possible.
Again, take the F-22. In a new book, “Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex,” William Hartung says Lockheed Martin claimed work on the F-22 was under way in 44 states. That's 88 senators. He cited their widespread ad to save the F-22: “300 MILLION PROTECTED, 95,000 EMPLOYED.”
But arms manufacture is not the best way to create jobs. A 2007 study by the University of Massachusetts at Amherst's Political Economy Research Institute found that $1 billion invested in the military creates 8,500 jobs, but $1 billion in education or mass transit would create more than twice as many.
That won't stop political engineering, which is just one of the industry's tactics. Another is selling high-tech weapons abroad, then urging that we build new weapons here to counter them. “I call it the boomerang effect,” Hartung said.
Now, the deficit has caused some unexpected voices to say, ever so softly, that everything is on the table – including defense cuts. Last week, Gates talked about plans to slow the defense budget's growth by $78 billion over five years. That dainty nibble is a start, but we need big bites. A group called the Sustainable Defense Task Force has laid out ways to cut $1 trillion in 10 years. That's better.
Any weapons cuts will likely face opposition from a behemoth like Lockheed Martin, plus a phalanx of smaller, but equally tenacious contractors, and their congressional defenders. That's just the sort of alliance that Eisenhower presciently identified. If we are to right-size our defense budget, ignoring him is no longer an option.
Bob Keeler is a member of Newsday's editorial board.