Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Eisenhower: Right All Along

I have always regarded Dwight Eisenhower as a great general who led us to victory in an extraordinary war. I also, with more than a little ignorance, sometimes thought of him as an ordinary, perhaps even boring president who presided during ordinary times.

Nothing of course is farther from the truth. But in viewing the events of today with great concern, I was reminded of Eisenhower's farewell speech where he warned us of a number of threats that, sadly, have become all to real.

The full speech, well worth reading, is here. Here are some excerpts that proves the man knew of what he spoke. (Emphases are mine.)

  • "In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together."
  • "Another factor in maintaining balance involves the element of time. As we peer into society's future, we -- you and I, and our government -- must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow."
  • "Down the long lane of the history yet to be written America knows that this world of ours, ever growing smaller, must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect. Such a confederation must be one of equals. The weakest must come to the conference table with the same confidence as do we, protected as we are by our moral, economic, and military strength. That table, though scarred by many past frustrations, cannot be abandoned for the certain agony of the battlefield."

Sometimes I wonder if the man had a crystal ball. These quotations, forty-five years old, have an uncanny prescience to them.

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