OP-ED: The Military-Industrial Complex and America

By Joseph J. Honick

Joseph J. Honick

Joseph J. Honick
Editor’s note: This commentary first ran on Oct. 28, 2008 and is more relevant than ever as the war in Afghanistan enters its 11th year — America’s longest war. This year marked the 50th anniversary of Ike’s Farewell Address.

Nearly 50 years ago, give or take a year or so, the Commander in Chief who led the allied armies to victory in WWII and then became our President said recited the following prophetic warning:

“……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 must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or
or democratic processes…..Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can
compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of
defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may
prosper together.” –
Dwight D. Eisenhower, Farewell Address, January 17, 1961

For those too young to remember the President Americans fondly referred to as “Ike”, he was a lifelong military person before retiring and successfully running for the White House. In other words, few could speak from such an informed platform as Eisenhower about the perils of these two powerful elements colluding to control the nation, our economy and our lives. He seemed also to reflect the wisdom of one of our Founders, Benjamin Franklin, who asserted:

“Those willing to give up freedoms for security ultimately will wind up with neither.”

I may have bent a word or two of Ben’s comments but was faithful to his point.

So why raise all this now when the economy is going in all senseless directions, money the government does not have is being doled out in ways we would accuse people of the crime of “check kiting” and millions of Americans wonder about their jobs, their homes, their kids and their futures? The reason is that an apathetic American public and a lazy representative government failed utterly to keep Ike’s words of warning in their collective minds in order to avoid what actually has occurred: an unofficial but effective alliance of powerful military interests and industry and the vast and incalculable taxpayer money that has gone to the former to spend with the profitable latter. That’s a complicated sentence that deserves to be read twice simply because the results of what has occurred are so startling and incredible.

And, yet, with all this incredible amount of money, yours and mine, having been spent, the nation is in one of the worst economic fixes since 1929. There was a time when Republicans claimed that President Frankling Delano Roosevelt’s economic policies only survived because of World War II that put so many people to work in industry and in the military. So how come such economic success has not been repeated with a war that has lasted longer that WWII and shows no reason to conclude any time soon and despite a silly and unsupportable Presidential declaration several years ago of “Mission accomplished!”

Among other things, the president left the American people behind even though he declared the conflict involved a “nation at war.” He did not permit the people to help finance this war with bonds as was the case in both World Wars, so citizens could not only have the pride of investing in our effort but collect some interest, however modest, for their participation. He did not call for rationing of precious metals and other things to help reduce costs, nor did he call for any kind of draft to help relieve the hundreds of thousands of troops sent to Iraq, not once, not twice but sometimes for even three tours of duty.

(Full disclosure: every eligible male in my family happily and willingly enlisted when we had a conflict without being drafted, beginning with my late father in WW I and continuing with me for nearly 14 year combined service and one of my sons as an Air Force physician.) My support of the military forces and their welfare has always been stronger than what appears to be the case from the government. Our family, like millions of other families, knows the rigors, risks, costs and values of serving the nation. Unlike some of our highest ranking leaders, we sought no deferments. Unlike some of the loudest media character assassins on radio and television, we were accepted in spite of some of the factors that seemingly classified those folks as unacceptable. Funny how that works. An additional reality: many so called illegals have served in Iraq as have many ex-felons recruited because we had been exhausting our available manpower, badly reduced because of the All Volunteer Armed Forces Act signed into law by President Richard Nixon in 1972.

But it is the legal collusion of the military industrial elements that started all of this because too few of our citizens have taken the time to demand answers from our politicians of both major parties and because the propaganda mills of government felt no pressure to divvy out the details.

Now that the nation has been led to edge of the abyss, will you be part of the army of lemmings merely following policies that got us here or will you turn around and become an interested party in your own life as an American by continuously asking your representatives what is going on and why?
* * *

Joseph J. Honick is an international consultant to business and government and writes for many publications, includinghuntingtonnews.net

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