Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
January 17th, 2017 by Joel Watts

Eisenhower’s Cosmological Reality of the Military-Industrial Complex

On 17 January 1961, President Dwight Eisenhower gave his farewell address.

It is one of the most important since George Washington’s, including this line:

Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations…

military-industrial complex

…In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We know it well, the idea of the military-industrial complex (MIC); however, there is more in the lines uttered by the former General.

I have not spent any time researching to see if others have noticed this… so just some raw thoughts. 

What is present in President Eisenhower’s final address is the mythical language of a cosmological war. Note how he sees the influence of the MIC. It reaches not merely into the economic and political realms, but so too into the spiritual reality. He cites this realm two more times in the speech, each time connected to our American concept of political freedom. His uses of “spiritual” is set against the materialistic vision offered by consumerism, and the more so, against military consumerism.

He was a soldier — rather, he was the soldier and still roundly represents what we imagine when we think of a General, of a leader (and for some of us), a president. He was engaged in bloody conflicts, ordering men to their death, ordering the taking of lives, and laying waste to the lands of Europe.  He walked into the holocaust camps at Gotha and other places. He knew what it was to sacrifice men to Mars, drenching the land in blood given to a god whose appetite for destruction could not be quenched. He know what we are able to do — are want to do — to each other. Perhaps the scenes of war and madness played into his mind here, giving him insight into that other realm that destines our affairs.

The MIC is a spiritual issue. In the Isaiah, the people of God were warned about relying in military strength. So too here is the President – one of the greatest American generals of all time — giving the same warning. People, of course, being what people are, have not listened.

I note that not only did the President used this concept, but so too did he draw from Scripture in his verse on swords and plowshares (Isaiah 2.4), his mention of a confederacy (Isaiah 8.12), along with other subtle allusions.

Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Comments

2 Responses to “Eisenhower’s Cosmological Reality of the Military-Industrial Complex”
  1. Tom McCann says

    Very well said Joel. And with the newly-installed military government in traditional civilian offices, this is something we should bring to the forefront every day.

    • My personal opinion – the spiritual aspects are irrelevant. And the fear (expressed by Eisenhower) is two fold – and not related to the military in civilian positions (after all – he was a General); but to the military industrial complex.

      One:

      “Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions.”

      Emphasis: “we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense.”

      The nuclear aspects of war means no more months or years to build up the defense, to build ships, tanks, and aircraft. We have about 30 minutes to respond to an attack.

      Two:

      “The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present
      * and is gravely to be regarded.
      Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific technological elite.”

      Emphasis: “public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific technological elite.”

      So…the bad guys are the “scientific technological elite”, not the military in civilian government positions.

      I personally think his speech is overrated in bashing research. After all,

      “Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.”
      Too late!

      Considering that everyone has a computer in their iPhone, and the internet spreads info/data instantly across the world, Eisenhower (who I greatly respect), comes across as my Grandfather. Afraid of technology, and left way behind the times. Using his speech of 1961 to reflect on today’s issues, is like suggesting we bring back horses for the cavalry.

      “In Isaiah, the people of God were warned about relying on military strength.”

      In Josephus, we actually see what happens when we don’t have military strength – Temple in 70AD didn’t fair too well. And that was the chosen people, the chosen altar, the chosen land. Toast!

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