Study Guide

The Military-Industrial Complex in Eisenhower's Farewell Address

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The Military-Industrial Complex

The legendary Military-Industrial Complex: that terrifying cadre of individuals, corporations, organizations, and ideological interest groups that are involved in the preparation for war and defense. Arms manufacturers, aerospace engineering firms, secretive defense agencies with equally secretive budgets—it's a complex complex.

In the wake of WWII, America was left with a huge industrial base and supply chain specifically designed to create and distribute outrageous amounts of weaponry and firepower all around the world. We wouldn't want all that to go to waste, now would we?

Conveniently enough, there was still another superpower left in the world, and it sure looked scary. So the good people of MIC got to keep their jobs and their budgets and their status as Vitally Important to the National Interest. Ike was cool with all that in principle, since he was a Cold Warrior as much as the next guy.

But by the end of his presidency, Ike had some serious concerns about the way business was being done behind closed doors and the way public policy was being influenced by the private arms industry. He was wary of how American idealism was being co-opted by people and corporations more interested in their bottom lines than peace, justice, and the American Way.

So he gave the American people a kind-hearted but stern talking-to about the dangers this Complex posed to the long-term security and integrity of the nation. Which seemingly did nothing to change the business of war, even all these decades later. MIC just thumbed its nose at Ike, the cheeky punk.

For example, during the last major conflict (the Iraq War), the U.S. military was forced to outsource major infrastructure and logistics to independent contractors, including mercenary-type companies. About $138 billion went directly to those kinds of contracts (source). Somebody needs to supply the 800 or so U.S. military bases around the world.

How about the fact that, a quarter-century after the end of the Cold War, the U.S. military budget is greater than the next seven or eight countries combined (five of which are American allies, btw)? (Source)

In the Ike vs. MIC matchup, this is one fight the old general couldn't win.

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