Sunday, December 12, 2010

The military-industrial complex explained

In the fall of 1967, I was a scared, small-town, skinny kid trying to figure out this huge mega-university I had decided to attend.  During Welcome Week, I had signed up for a bunch of activities I thought I might find interesting including working for the student newspaper, auditioning for the choir, and signing up for an organization that sought to promote international understanding by helping the rather large contingent of foreign students adjust to their new school.

One of the first parties held by the international organization was a meet-and-greet with the school's new president--a little guy with the funny name of Malcolm Moos.  (Yes, I was tempted to ask him if he was related to Bullwinkle but thought better of it.)  I knew absolutely nothing about the man except for the fact that he had been appointed to please the Republicans in the state legislature and that he had worked for Eisenhower.  Turns out Moos and I would stay at the University of Minnesota for exactly the same length of time 1967-74.

As I passed through the reception line that day, I wish I had known he had authored one of the more famous speeches of the 20th century.

IKE’S SPEECH
by Jim Newton  DECEMBER 20, 2010
A few months ago, Grant Moos was closing his boathouse, near Hackensack, Minnesota, as he does every summer, tying up loose ends, sweeping up debris. This year, though, his sister Kathy insisted that it was finally time to do something about six cardboard boxes that for decades had been stacked in a corner next to a 7.5-horsepower Evinrude engine.
The boxes belonged to their father, Malcolm Moos, a journalist and academic who was a speechwriter for President Dwight Eisenhower. When Moos left the White House, in 1961, he donated some of his papers to the Eisenhower Presidential Library, in Abilene, Kansas, but he kept some, too.
The boxes were full of pine needles, acorns, and mouse droppings, and smelled of campfires. As Moos looked through the contents, he came across a batch of folders marked “Farewell Address.” He looked up the Eisenhower Library, and sent the boxes off to Abilene.
At first, the library did not know what it had. As archivists began to go through the papers, however, they discovered a trove of drafts, memos, and research materials that had long been missing from the record of one of the twentieth century’s most important speeches. For fifty years, Americans have regarded Eisenhower’s Farewell Address with a mixture of awe and bewilderment. Speaking three nights before the end of his Presidency, in 1961, Eisenhower warned of a “scientific-technological √©lite” that would dominate public policy, and of a “military-industrial complex” that would claim “our toil, resources, and livelihood.”
In the decades since, Eisenhower’s warning has seemed prescient. The convergence of American military might and a powerful arms industry has characterized wars from Vietnam to Iraq, and the web of power that he described seems present in American society today. Still, generations have wondered what prompted the most celebrated general of the Second World War to leave the White House with a warning about the military. Eisenhower’s grandson David writes in a new memoir that Ike “developed a kind of split personality about the most controversial speech of his life,” downplaying its significance to old military and business friends while professing pride in it to others.
Some historians have regarded the Farewell Address as an afterthought, hastily composed at the end of 1960 as an adjunct to the 1961 State of the Union. Others have regarded it as the soulful expression of an aging President who was determined to warn the American people of dangers ahead. But the Moos papers make clear that the address, far from being an afterthought, was among the most deliberate speeches of Eisenhower’s Presidency. Regarded in his day as inarticulate and detached, Eisenhower in these papers is fully engaged, grappling with the language of the text and the radical questions that it raised.  more

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