The Military Industrial Complex at 50

It’s been 50 years since a departing President Eisenhower warned the nation to keep an eye on what he called the Military-Industrial complex.

Next month, Virginia will host a national conference to see whether his predictions were accurate and to explore alternatives to massive spending on war and defense.

As  he prepared to leave office, President Eisenhower surprised the nation with a warning.  Before the Second World War, he said, this country didn’t have a defense industry – but now, the U.S.  was spending more on defense than the net earnings of all American 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 must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes,” he said in 1961.

Today, some observers think Eisenhower was right – among them author and activist David Swanson, who says he’s willing to wager the U.S. may have surpassed the former war hero’s worst nightmare.

“The military has grown drastically – the privatization and the profitability of the military, the ability to funnel money into congressional campaigns, all of these have put the military in charge of what used to be our congress members,” says Swanson.

Swanson’s helped organize a conference on September 16, 17 and 18 in Charlottesville, called the Military Industrial Complex at 50.  Speakers and participants will look at how the defense industry has influenced government and the media, and they’ll explore how resources could be moved from military to social needs.

– by Sandy Hausman

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