Eisenhower on “our charted course”

In his final address to the American public as President, on January 17, 1961, Dwight D. Eisenhower famously warned of the rise of a military-industrial complex and the threat it posed to what he saw as the ultimate goal of U.S. foreign policy, peace. Eisenhower valued the goal of peace and realized that its priority as a guiding ideal for U.S. policy was undermined by a set of interests that were being cemented and expanded in the Cold War climate. He described the potentially distorting impact on U.S. policy—not only by intricate design but also “unsought” as ideology, interests and profit converged around militarization. Waste was not Eisenhower’s foremost concern when he drew attention to the military-industrial complex. Rather, he was concerned with the distortion of interests that skewed the focus of U.S. foreign policy. The “Global War on Terror” extends and expands the threat Eisenhower identified. In addition to the skewing factor of commercial and political interests in large-scale weapon systems, tilting the balance of democratic practice away from the interests of peace is the expansion of securitization and intelligence. We must now speak of a security-intelligence-military industrial complex, which ebbs away at transparent democratic practices.

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