The Total Influence

Forty five years ago this month, U.S. president Dwight D. Eisenhower gave a speech that seems to have accurately predicted the future:

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.

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

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.

Farewell Address to the Nation, by Dwight D. Eisenhower, January 1961

Eisenhower had been the commander of all Allied forces in Europe during World War II. He later went into politics as a Republican, and when he gave this speech he was the president of the United States. He knew of what he warned, and it would appear by the ongoing lobbying scandals in DC that he warned correctly.

He did propose a solution.

Here it is:

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. 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.

And only a citizenry with liberties will be sufficiently alert and knowledgeable. Liberty is Security.

This is why, in a time when newspapers are laying off reporters by the hundreds,and when TV and radio news is increasingly controlled by a few corporations, it is very important to keep the Internet free. Do we want an Internet that is controlled by a few corporations, so that new applications will be stifled? Do we want every other corporation to have to pay through the nose for bandwidth and applications that we already take for granted? I think not.

I’ll let Eisenhower have the last word:

America is today the strongest, the most influential and most productive nation in the world. Understandably proud of this pre-eminence, we yet realize that America’s leadership and prestige depend, not merely upon our unmatched material progress, riches and military strength, but on how we use our power in the interests of world peace and human betterment.


1 thought on “The Total Influence

  1. John Charles Griffin

    “Turning and turning
    in the widening gyre,
    the Falcon cannot hear
    the Falconer.”
    “The best lack all conviction,
    While the worst are full of
    passionate intensity.”
    — W.B. Yeats
    Quoted from “The Second Coming”

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