The term, “military industrial complex,” tends to be associated with anti-war conspiracy theorists, but it was coined by none other than President Eisenhower (anti-war conspiracy theorists are rather fond of pointing this out). In his famous farewell address to the nation, he warned of the dangerous concentration of power resulting from the Cold War buildup that started under his watch.
But in “Ike’s Bluff,” author Evan Thomas reveals that Eisenhower feared the consequences of an out of control arms race almost from the moment he entered office. And while he made sure the Soviets believed the nuclear ‘bluff’ described in Monday’s interview, he simultaneously pursued peace and disarmament, until his own CIA managed to screw up the diplomatic efforts.
In a largely forgotten speech from 1953, barely a year into his presidency, Eisenhower uses the death of Joseph Stalin as an opportunity to reach out to the Soviet Union, proposing disarmament. He couches the proposal in moral terms that evoke a hippie protester in 1968 more than the general who liberated Europe.
“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed… The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals … This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.”
Eisenhower delivered the speech, titled “The Chance for Peace,” to the American Society of Newspaper Editors on April 16, 1953. Spoiler alert: the moment soon passed, and world peace did not follow. You can hear the speech in full here.