President Eisenhower and the Military-industrial Complex: Unheeded Warning or Unnecessary Paranoia?

Ben Bowlin

To say that a U.S. President's farewell address is important is, at the very least, an understatement. During their last opportunity to address the nation as its top elected official, outgoing presidents often recount the milestones of their time in office, offer guidance for the future of the nation and attempt to build a memorable foundation for their legacy. President Dwight D. Eisenhower's speech contained another, less routine message: A warning, clear and explicit, about what he saw as the growing power of the military-industrial complex. (This is an umbrella term, and it describes a broad range of private contractors, institutions and individuals working on military hardware and weaponry.) In his farewell address, Eisenhower urged the public to "guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex." Coming from a decorated veteran and war hero, this warning seemed counterintuitive. Yet Eisenhower's message has survived, and over the years it has been cited by scholars, antiwar activists and -- of course -- conspiracy theorists. For decades people wondered how this unusual warning found its way into President Eisenhower's speech. Did the wily speechwriter Malcolm Moos manage to slip it into the text? Did Eisenhower decide to issue this warning on a last-minute whim?

Absolutely not. According to new documents discovered by the National Archives and Records Administration, Eisenhower had planned this speech for at least two years. Check out the video below:

It's strange to think that such a powerful man would find himself appealing directly to the public for assistance and, fifty years later, we have to wonder: Was his warning legitimate? Did the public listen? Here's a snapshot of the business: According the Federation of American Scientists, the U.S. exported more than 142 billion dollars worth of arms across the globe from 1992-2000. The debate over the necessity of arms manufacturing continues today. Some see the arms industry as a crucial component of global peacekeeping, essential for the protection of civilians across the planet. Yet others believe this industry causes more harm than it prevents, and some conspiracy theorists argue that the military-industrial complex actually works to create conflicts as a means of generating profit.

What do you think? Were Eisenhower's claims justified, or was his concern overblown? Please comment below: