BEWARE THE MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX: DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER AND THE POSTMODERN FULFILLMENT OF AN OFT-QUOTED PROPHETIC ONE-LINER.
I was just sitting at home alone after inhaling a massive omelette in the wake of yet another scholarship application. I needed to assuage the spirit sickness which was bedevilling me this evening due to having had to compose with yet another day of unemployment, of volunteering my time for worthy causes such as the Church, and struggling valiantly with such technocratic turgidity as is articulated by my current institution of publicly-funded higher learning, with whom I am currently locking horns over the fact that as a government-funded service provider, they are as we speak compelling me to pay twice to procure a service (i.e. a required English Report Writing course I need for my program) for which I am only purchasing the service once!
Don’t ask! It only goes to show you that in my humble estimation, there is the right way of doing things, the wrong way of doing things, then there is the GOVERNMENT’S way of doing things! Speaking of government that got me thinking about the nature of elites. In particular the Military Industrial Complex in America. In my analysis of elites over the years, what I’ve found is that elites all have one major tragic structural flaw to them, which is common to all of them regardless of whether we are talking about the military, the Church, corporate elites, government and so on: They all are pathologically obsessed and preoccupied with self-perpetuation that often times they lose sight of their stated mission which in the first place is to defend and promote the interests of their constituents.
So for example, the Military-Industrial Complex which General and later President Eisenhower referred to in the quote in the title of this piece, has emerged as a very entrenched elite within American and by extension, global society. General Eisenhower must have seen the evolution of how intricately involved the private corporations were with respect to their relationship with the government, as well as the dominant hegemonic socio-cultural and socio-economic as well as socio-political and even socio-religious discourse in his country.
As he grew from being the General who led the US-led Allies to such a glorious victory in WWII, to being his country’s president in the emerging Cold War Jet Age of rockets, space ships, the Space Race, Long Range Bombers and ICBMs, he must’ve seen just how pervasive and insidiously pernicious was becoming the web of influence of the Military Industrial Complex in America and how it was causing his country and its economy and cultural mindset to become increasingly pathologically militarized and militaristic.
During Eisenhower’s day, the culture of the military and of militarism took a distinctly strident turn upwards, to the point that certain people in Hollywood felt compelled to shoot such films as ‘Doctor Strangelove’, which portrayed America’s obsession with armed supremacy in long range bombers to be able to strike the Soviets in the case of an all-out war, as being almost of a farcically dangerous and pathological nature, with Peter Sellers playing multiple roles, including the title role of Dr. Strangelove, a sort of Werner Von Braun type of rocket engine designer poached away from the Nazis after the War, who still harbours Fascist sympathies and cannot stop himself from brandishing his right arm in a Nazi salute in moments of euphoric verbosity, before self-consciously practicing self-censorship and bringing his right limb down with his left, albeit despite himself.
The film itself was very controversial in its day and elicited no shortage of criticism as well as kudos from all quarters because of the thesis put forth by the film that such an eschatological outcome which is portrayed by the filmmakers in the closing sequence, with Slim Pickens, the valiant B-52 crewman, riding the nuclear warhead to Armageddon like some Broncin’ Buck in a Southern Rodeo, could actually come true if the ‘right’ confluence of circumstance conspired to put the requisite number and variety of madmen in place to despatch the human race to its radioactive ruin.
The culture of militarism only grew in America, as the Eisenhower years morphed into the Kennedy years, and JFK valiantly attempted to focus on domestic policy initiatives with his now much bemoaned and in some cases forgotten ‘New Frontier’ initiatives being a lightning rod for controversy which were among some of the many factors which ultimately led to his untimely demise in Dallas in 1963. The Hawks in the Administration were growing louder and louder and more insistent on pursuing a very aggressive foreign policy of market expansion, especially into Southeast Asia and the Pacific in general, where America had been growing her power base and opening up new markets for her goods and services, her commerce and language, culture and way of life ever since Commodore Perry’s voyage to Japan in the 1840s had led to a permanent American presence in the Pacific, something the Americans had only built on more and more by dealing the Coup de Grace to the Spanish Empire in the Spanish American War of 1898, and in doing so gaining control of such territories as Cuba and especially the Philippines, which made America a big player in the Pacific.
President Kennedy was not so keen on pursuing an aggressive policy of expansion into Southeast Asia in the wake of the French withdrawal from French Indochina at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 (today’s Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia), and preferred to soft-pedal America’s presence in that part of the world through negotiation with the Communists, preferring to focus on improving the standard of living for average Americans at home with many progressive domestic initiatives in the fields of health, education, tax relief for business for the purchase of new plants and equipment, civil rights, and more research into science and technology in the fields of medicine and space exploration.
However, his personal dalliances in his private life, which were becoming increasingly difficult to conceal, and his overt desire to wage war on the Italian organized crime community, who were in large part responsible for delivering the winning votes (albeit fraudulently), in the key Chicago wards which were controlled by the Democratic party, and which have been credited with having given him the slimmest margin of victory of any President up to that time and perhaps even since, did not win him and his brother Bobby any friends in the Italian organized crime community, a community with which the Kennedy patriarch Joseph had longstanding ties to from his rum running days during Prohibition.
So regardless of who actually had JFK removed, the fact remains that he had made himself some very powerful enemies in very high places, both in the Military Industrial Complex as well as in the Underworld. So with Kennedy out of the way, it now fell to Lyndon Baines Johnson to pursue the task of being the champion of America’s foreign and domestic policy aspirations. LBJ said he was going to wage a ‘War on Poverty’ and that America was going to have its ‘Great Society.’ Under Johnson, American foreign policy objectives were greatly ramped up, thanks to some help from such things as the Gulf of Tonkin incident, which allowed Johnson to ratchet up America’s troop commitments in the Pacific without actually having to go to Congress to get an official declaration of war on North Vietnam, much less China, a country with which America still did not as yet have formal diplomatic relations in the wake of Mao Tse Tung’s defeat of his Nationalist rival Chiang Kai Shek in the Chinese Civil War of 1945-49, leaving America in the embarrassing position of not formally having any diplomatic relations with the world’s most populous country, and now finding herself increasingly embroiled in evermore long and drawn out foreign policy entanglements of a military and economic nature such as the Korean War of 1950-53, and now Vietnam.
LBJ essentially tried to wage a ‘war on two fronts’, something no General in my recollection has ever been able to do successfully. He tried to have his ‘Great Society’ with its ‘War on Poverty’ and his ‘War in Vietnam’ all at once and quickly found himself in trouble on both fronts. A lot of public housing units got built during the Johnson years and Medicare and Medicaid came to be regarded as entitlements by many Americans. But debt was piling up fast and so was public opinion against his foreign policy. LBJ was perceived by many in the media as a tough-talking and brusque, often mean-spirited Texan, who could chew nails and spit rust. He was even known to have taken our Prime Minister of the day, the mild-mannered Lester B. Pearson, a fellow Liberal, who’d had the temerity to criticize his US counterpart’s foreign policy stance on Vietnam, and grabbed him with both hands by the scruff of the neck and essentially threatened him with further physical violence if he did not back off with his criticism of the US and its foreign policy in the Pacific.
Eventually in 1968, LBJ did not seek out re-election and Richard Nixon was elected President of the United States, ushering in a period of the ‘Vietnamization’ of the conflict in the Pacific, by getting more of the local people to do the fighting and pulling US troops out gradually. Being a conservative, he was also not as keen on the Democrats progressive measures to desegregate America and allow African-Americans greater access to participation in the fruits of the American Dream. So domestically there was retreat as well as in foreign policy. Eventually, because of Watergate, and Nixon being disgraced by the proof of electoral fraud which had been committed at the Watergate Hotel at Democratic National Headquarters in 1972, Nixon resigned and Gerald Ford, his Vice President replaced him for the remainder of the term until 1976 and pulled out of Vietnam in 1975.
The Carter years were seen by many as an interregnum whereby after the tragedy of Vietnam, and the problems caused also by inflation due in part to the war itself, the Arab Oil shock of 1973-74, people felt that a nice warm fuzzy soft-spoken and congenial peanut farmer from Georgia would be just the ticket to assuage their sense of having gone over the edge. However the Bicentennial year was muted by the recent defeat in Vietnam and Americans were served up once again with yet another Hollywood piece of social commentary to lift their spirits, this time called ‘Rocky’, starring the then fairly unknown Sylvester Stallone as the hapless yet plucky Italian-American fighter in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love and home to the Liberty Bell, who is essentially suckered into fighting what is supposed to be an exhibition fight against a much more powerful rival, Apollo Creed, in a showcase bout to highlight the nation’s Bicentennial. Essentially Rocky was a sort of soother for the American people, who’d just suffered a major defeat in foreign policy and were licking their wounds. They needed an underdog like Rocky Balboa to show them that America was still the ‘Land of Opportunity’, as the promoter says to Rocky in the film.
However, after yet another Oil Shock in 1979 and the humiliation of the hostage crisis in Iran after the rescue efforts failed and Canadians had to bail out the Americans by getting many of their people out of Iran (a feat later immortalized, albeit somewhat inaccurately in the film ‘Argo’) subsequent to the Shah being overthrown and the Ayatollah Khomeini taking over, Jimmy Carter was turfed out of office in the 1980 election and in January 1981 a whole new era in American politics and economics as well as for the Military Industrial Complex and for US foreign policy began. Ronald Reagan (Or ‘Ray Gun’ as his detractors called him), promised to make America strong again and to quell the rising impression that America was weak and that its military was not being taken seriously abroad and that the Russians needed to be beaten once and for all so as to bring an end to the Cold War.
Reagan re-invested massively in all new gear for the US Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. They got new uniforms. The ones from the Vietnam era were ditched and deemed to be symptomatic of an era whereby Armed Services personnel were ashamed of their uniforms, so they were re-thought. They got new helmets, which ironically eerily resembled the old Nazi WWII bucket helmets with the bulge over the ears, which was probably retained quite frankly because it was a superior design, the Germans always having had had the coolest and best stuff during the war, they just never had had enough of it to beat us. (e.g. Panzer tanks vs Shermans, 88 mm artillery pieces vs our 75 mm, etc.)They also got all sorts of new jet fighters like F-14s, F-15s, F-16s and F-18s, all with the latest technology and Hollywood cooperating with Gerry Bruckheimer coming out with his oh-so-thinly-veiled US Armed Services Recruitment Video called Top Gun in 1986, starring Tom Cruise as the dashing young Naval aviator who has many high-flying adventures both in the air and on the ground (or should I say horizontally at least) as he trains to be a Naval aviator and defend the Free World against whatever scourge his country happens to tell him is ‘Them’ at that moment. (Or as Pink Floyd sang in ‘Us and Them’ off the ‘Dark Side of the Moon album: ‘Haven’t you heard it’s a battle of words and most of them are lies.’)
Basically America under Reagan went on a huge military spending spree and at the same time cut back drastically on domestic policy program spending in such areas as Social Assistance, health care, education, social services, and started to drastically enable American corporations to shut down their production facilities in the Northeastern and Midwestern USA and Central Canada and move a lot of them to non-union jurisdictions in the Sun Belt in the South of the USA as well as Northern Mexico and the Pacific, specifically China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and, ironically, Vietnam! Tax policy was also radically reconfigured, with Reagan’s now famous ‘Voodoo Economics’ of ‘Reaganomics’ or ‘Supply Side Economics’ coming into force as of his first budget in 1981.
Essentially what happened was that the new tax policy permitted those who had a certain amount of money to make even more, and those who were just respectably middle class, to lose their shirts and end up in a growing underclass of structurally unemployed and underemployed people in America, many of whom still have no work, many of whom are now incarcerated, living in the streets, are on Social Assistance, living with relatives, or are just scraping by on minimum wage jobs which have caused them to rack up hundreds of thousands of dollars in personal debt and led many thousands more to the brink of despair, even death through suicide, domestic violence, addiction, mental health problems, murder and vehicular trauma of all sorts, not to mention PTSD caused by greater than ever numbers of the American citizenry being compelled to ‘volunteer’ for duty with the Armed Services to serve in one of America’s many foreign policy involvements overseas, because there is simply no work for them at home.
This militarization of America is similar to how Britain emptied her country’s problems into her colonies, except that America does not as such have ‘colonies’ to send her people to, except to send them to US Armed Services bases overseas and to serve within the context of an ever increasingly militarized foreign policy apparatus, both civilian and military. It reminds me somewhat of the Soviet Union just before it collapsed. In the late 1980s and early 90s, the Russians could no longer keep up with the US in regards to defence as well as civilian production and her political ideology was so repressive that even trying to allocate the resources both human and material to match the US head to head was impossible. So their system collapsed. But what was interesting was that their society had grown to become characterized by a culture of militarism and militaristic values and an omnipresence of all things military in the lives of the Russian people, as if their country lacked any other significant institution of a socio-economic or socio-cultural, or socio-religious nature to give meaning and definition to its existence.
Its civilian manufacturing industries were of poor quality and were never capable of producing a sufficient quality or quantity of gods to keep Russians happy. Something similar now seems to be happening in America. Her manufacturing base has largely disappeared and her sole significant industrial base seems to be her military industries, which, like the Russians, they are using as a huge source of export income, aggressively exporting armaments overseas to as many countries as will buy them, in exchange for the influence and resources that flow from having a government equip its armed forces with your weaponry and to have your personnel train their personnel on how to use it and so therefore help that same government stay in power and hopefully supply America with the animal, vegetable and mineral resources she requires to maintain her high material standard of living, including, first and foremost, equipping her military to remain deployed overseas!
Which brings me back full circle to the original premise of this piece in that elites, in this case the American Military Industrial Complex, is a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy as well as a self-perpetuating elite, whose main purpose, before it ever purports to defend anybody’s liberty or to be the guarantor of anybody’s individual or collective security, is to be the guarantors of its own survival and existence, which, like I said at the beginning, is rule one of any elite who hopes to subsequently defend and promote the interests of its constituents: It must first look out for number 1, like BTO sang back in the 1970s. This is understandable to a point in that as a recovered addict/alcoholic and Psychiatric Survivor, I know that I cannot be of use to anybody in any capacity, whether it be as a role model of sobriety or abstinence or whether I simply want to be able to get out of bed in the morning and get through my day, I have to be strong and fortified with the weapons of faith, hope and love, as well as being properly armed with the correct instruments of psychopharmacological wizardry, diet, exercise and spiritual discipline if I am to ‘win the war’ called daily life, which I wage every day that I put my feet on the ground by getting out of bed and facing yet another challenging day within God’s earthly kingdom filled with concerns over money, power, property, prestige, and personalities, not to mention the ever-present scourge of gluttony and concupiscent carnal predispositions of conscience to deviate from God’s plan for eternal salvation.
The post Reagan years have brought us only a greater level of militarization of American society, with the number of mass shootings rising every year, the number of marginalized and desperate young men suffering from social isolation and lacking communication skills rising every year. One only has to look at the front covers of any DVD selection in any Canadian or American video store to see the egregious weaponization of American society. Just a brief anecdotal perusal of the video store will reveal a person, usually a man but increasingly a woman also, brandishing a weapon of some sort, usually a firearm, usually a handgun or automatic weapon, in some sort of full-colour dramatized ‘action’ scene, depicting the protagonist of the film blasting away at whatever or whoever is threatening to usurp his or her constitutional right to Life Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Or is that the Right to Bear Arms against any enemy, foreign or domestic (or real or imagined I should think at this point).
Jim Morrison in his Swan Song with the Doors off the album American Prayer spoke eloquently in a tone resembling a sort of Book of Revelation. He alluded to the American White Protestant Maelstrom as a sort of cohort of militaristic white elite supremacist evangelical Protestants, inheritors of their ‘City on a Hill’ ideal of what essentially the Puritans and Pilgrims viewed as a Utopian Society of White Anglo Saxon Protestant Libertarian dissenters, who not only had fallen out with the Anglican Church in England and had been exiled to the Colonies in perpetuity for their transgressions, but that they as Anglicans had fallen out with Holy Mother Church before them in a fit of pique over divorce and taxation of Church properties by Rome.
So essentially what I’m saying is that the Founding Fathers were Shit Disturbers of Shit Disturbers, and as such were not prone to be of a conciliatory nature, but rather were prone to being argumentative, combative, contrarian, highly individualistic regarding the inalienable rights of men (especially white Anglo Saxon common Christian men of property intent on acquiring as much of said commodity as humanly possible in as short a period as possible, if not sooner), and highly prone to fits of bellicosity if said rights were in the least bit trammeled upon.
So where does that leave Dwight D. Eisenhower? Well as we speak, we’ve had two Bushes since Reagan (not sure if either of them was burning or if the voice of the Almighty was ever heard to spring forth ardently from either of them in any manner which could be construed as being anything more than a scripted speech prepared by a policy wonk, or anything less than an egregious and extemporaneous malapropism, especially in the case of the beloved ‘dubya’), and one Clinton and now Obama, who is now running on empty in the approaching twilight of his lame duck ascendancy as America’s Great White Hope in Black, who essentially spent the lion’s share of his political capital in his first term getting a near-tragically flawed keystone piece of legislation which now bears his name, ramrodded through a legislative system and process which is so diabolically complex and riddled with ways to sabotage virtually any initiative at timely structural change, that one wonders if it was all worth it in the end when it was all said and done. The Affordable Care Act stands as a testament to one man’s dogged determination to take on the system and the Pyric victory that has ensued since its enactment is an enduring testament to America’s stalemated and troubled Revolution which, as it stands now, is armed to the teeth with the unholy and ungodly instruments of self-assured annihilation within the so-called ‘Arsenal of Democracy’, which seek only a true and unequivocally Gorgonesque ‘Them’ so as to justify itself unleashing the full fury of the Hellfire, Stinger and Patriot Missiles, the laser guided bombs, the cluster bombs, the biochemical pathogens of unreservedly merciless aggression against a potential future foe for whom the bell shall surely toll, as for all who have faced the unrelenting core-periphery mission of the Great Republic to vanquish any and all foes, both foreign and domestic, who have the temerity to impede the progress of Frederick Jackson Turner’s Frontier, which has now spread to the far reaches of the ancient Mayans, Aztecs and Incas , to the storied lands of Mesopotamia and Babylon and to the fragrant vistas of the fabled Silk Route, by way of the Steppes of Mother Russia and the sacred Motherland of the African people and the farthest reaches of the North and South Poles and beyond.
Dwight D. Eisenhower saw the burgeoning of a matrix, a confluence of factors which are now being fulfilled in real time both for good and for ill. How America deals with the militaristic aspects within her nature will ultimately determine the outcome of not only America, but of humanity writ large, because onwards beyond all this lays the ultimate pearl, the riches of Cathay and its people and the secrets of its language, culture, history and religion, which ultimately are at diametrically opposite polls to that of the western alliance, led by America.
America will have to determine just how much of itself it deems prudent to spend on a military solution to its rivalry with the Empire of Cathay, and how much it seeketh to compete with China head to head in a pitched battle for cultural, economic, financial, religious, and linguistic supremacy, without resorting to force of arms to resolve the significant differences which separate these two last remaining putative protagonists in the realm of world supremacy.
If Dwight D. Eisenhower has any lessons to teach us in this regard, I would say that yes, truly, we must beware of the military industrial complex. But without it, our ultimate guarantee of liberty, freedom and democracy would then hinge on the dubious virtues of rhetoric and empty promises, left likely never to be fulfilled in deeds of valour. Yea verily I tell you we must be like armoured saints, ready at any moment, like the Minuteman of yore, to drop the pursuit of our bucolic endeavours and take up arms against our oppressor, who seeketh to usurp our freehold tenure to our land, our property and our inalienable right to worship the Almighty Creator who gaveth us this earthly kingdom of His to be His stewards, to warrant, safeguard and to vouchsafe our eternal bond of fidelity that we hath forged with Him, as the sheep of His flock, which He hath purchased for us on the wood of the cross, once and for all, the perfect and Holy Paschal sacrifice which hath redeemed all humanity in his image. A soldier and later a President saw the evolution of American society going in ways which disturbed him to the core, yet which he by the same token did not fully understand or ever come to grasp in his lifetime.
Without the Military Industrial Complex of America we are left to ponder who would fill the gaping void left by the withdrawal of American military industrial power, might and supremacy on land air and sea. I shudder to think of what this world would look like if perchance tomorrow, America were to unilaterally disarm and all others, including China and Russia, Britain and France were to follow suit. The world would be left to the devices and to be plundered by every single two bit tin pot potentate who would seek to brandish a weapon of some sort so as to wield coercive power over another, and the world would descend into utter anarchy, until the whole bloody process of global pacification would have to be undertaken again to get us to where we are today once again, to amalgamate all the tiny warring factions of humanity into essentially two remaining blocks, one in the east and one in the west, with a series of minor and middle players staking out places in mid field and on the sidelines, ready for the final game to be played.
When this is to take place is anybody’s guess. Dwight D. Eisenhower is long dead, but his words still ring true. However I don’t think he ever foresaw the emergence of such a formidable challenge to western control of the agenda of world governance that if he had known, he may have changed his tune somewhat. Imbedded within the Rule of law lays the fundamental principle of the State’s right to have a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence to establish and maintain law and order. This therefore calls to the very fundamental irony concerning human civilization in that it is essentially barbaric and uncivilized in that the peace which underpins the rule of law is predicated upon the use of violence to first achieve it then the continuing and essentially perpetual threat of violence to maintain it.
So like the US Armed Service commercial always said: ‘The Price of Freedom is Never Free’, or elsewhere it is written ‘Eternal vigilance is the price of Liberty.’ I’m sure Dwight D. Eisenhower would agree with me. Amen. God Bless America.