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…
…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.