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Guest Thinkers

Whose Idea Was the Military-Industrial Complex?

Some historians have regarded Eisenhower’s Farewell Address as an afterthought. Others have regarded it as the soulful expression of a prescient if aging President.

Speaking three nights before the end of his Presidency, in 1961, Eisenhower warned of a “scientific-technological élite” 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.


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