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Dwight D. Eisenhower and the Military-Industrial Complex


Dwight David Eisenhower is one of the most famous historical personalities of the United States. He was the thirty-fourth American President, and the highest ranking military official in the World War II. Dwight D. Eisenhower was one of ten most prominent American Presidents and his political experience as a head of the country is highly respected by the American people. It is not fortuitous that the third American nuclear aircraft carrier number sixty nine was called USS Dwight D. Eisenhower in honor of the prominent American political leader. Dwight Eisenhower was a General of the Army, when he was assigned Supreme Commander of the Allied forces in Europe in the World War II.

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US History Thematic Essay

After the war, in 1949, Dwight Eisenhower was Supreme Commander of NATO, when the organization was established. In 1953, Dwight Eisenhower took an active part in negotiations on ceasing the Korean War resulted in the division of the country into the south and north parts. The goal of the paper is to analyze warnings of Dwight D. Eisenhower in his farewell address regarding answering the question whether he was right concerning threats to the American society from the military-industrial complex.

Of course, any peaceful coexistence of capitalist and communist regimes in the divided world without modern military technologies and armed forces was impossible. According to such fact, Dwight Eisenhower was right in his warnings for the American people because the uncontrolled military-industrial complex could bring more problems to the society than any bloodshed war. To prove this statement, it is necessary to analyze both Dwight Eisenhower presidency and historical events which took place after his two presidential terms.

General Eisenhower was a very self-critical person, who cherished subordinate officers and soldiers, taking every misfortune in the battlefield as his own fault. Therefore, American people considered Dwight Eisenhower as one of the most prominent national military leaders. Dwight D. Eisenhower became a president of the United States in the result of the presidential election of 1952, when the Korea War was in its active phase. He was against the war because he saw what disasters it caused in Europe. Therefore, Eisenhower preferred peaceful coexistence with totalitarian communist regime in the divided world to war. With these thoughts, Eisenhower promised to stop the Korean War and increase NATO’s military presence in Europe for restraining the communist aggression.

The Soviet Union had a nuclear weapon by that time and posed a real threat to the West World. It tried to expend its communist influence over the Third World’s countries considering the West as its potential enemy. The entire Soviet foreign policy was directed at making the world’s revolution and the emergence of communist regimes in East Europe after the World War II. The Korean War proves this statement. In addition, the Soviet Union military officials initiated launching of the first space satellite in 1957, which was designed to explore the space for military purposes. As a result, the Soviet Union created Space Forces for their aggressive plans afterwards.

Dwight D. Eisenhower knew the entire situation in the military-industrial complex as he was the first American president from the armed forces, and he could evaluate the reasonable sufficiency of the American armed forces and their supply. Moreover, Dwight D. Eisenhower did not panic in the result of the first Soviet space flight because he was sure in the superiority of the American industry, which could create better space ships for the space exploring. Meanwhile, the Korean War ceased in 1953, but the Vietnamese crisis emerged. Dwight Eisenhower had to aid the South Vietnamese regime in preventing the further spread of communist ideology. At that time, American troops did not take part in military operations.

The next achievement of Eisenhower was the suppression of an armed conflict between Britain, France, Israel and Egypt in 1956-1957, which took place when Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal. After that, the whole world recognized the United States as the major advocate of the Western democracy in the Middle East. Eisenhower proclaimed that the United States would use its armed force to protect the Middle East from any aggression of the communist regime. Thus, the United States improved its international positions and gained new allies. At the same time, Eisenhower made a crude mistake allowing the CIA to eliminate the Guatemalan government in 1954 for avoiding communists to seize the power. As a matter of fact, a real corrupt regime was established in Guatemala, while the former government was not communist. However, Dwight Eisenhower realized his mistakes, and it was one of the reasons to warn the American people about potential threats in the future in his farewell address.

Dwight D. Eisenhower did all possible to improve relations with the Soviet Union because he considered military expenses to have aggravated the welfare of the American society shortening funds for various social programs. According to Pavelec, Eisenhower said in his speech in spring, 1953, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed” (97). At the same time, Eisenhower did not trust the Soviet Union, especially after suppressing the Hungarian rebel in 1957. The American armed forces did not take part in this conflict, though the Hungarian opposition called for help. Meanwhile, after Stalin’s death, Eisenhower invited a new Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev to visit the United States, but after decreasing the number of the American reconnaissance aircraft in the Soviet Union, the visit was disregarded.

On January 17, 1961, Dwight D. Eisenhower warned the American people about potential threats connected with the military-industrial complex. As Bardes, Shelley and Schmidt state, some arms manufacturers influenced Eisenhower to make decisions in their favor at the cost of the American taxpayers, but Eisenhower said that only the American citizens could 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” (528). President considered that huge artificially increased expenses could cause political and economic crises in the United States improving benefits for the certain military and manufacturing establishments. Eisenhower was sure it could undermine the American ideology violating social rights and freedoms of each citizen of the United States, and decreasing funds of the American economy social sphere. As a matter of fact, it could create the same totalitarian regime as it had been in the Soviet Union, which was unbearable for the American people.

At the same time, the military expenses increased by about twenty percent. At the end of his presidency, the military expenses amounted of fifty billion dollars. Of course, it was a huge sum, but it would have been sufficiently higher, if the Eisenhower’s administration had not controlled the budget. New nuclear weapons and systems for their launching demanded sufficient funds and creation of new business and industrial links in the military-industrial complex. At the same time, it gave jobs to millions of Americans providing them with all necessary things for their well-being.

The Democratic Party condemned Eisenhower for missile gap in the arms race with the Soviet Union. The Democrats stated that the Soviet Union had overtaken America in the space exploring, but Eisenhower knew the situation and did all possible to gain the superiority in the space exploring. At the same time, he rejected some reports of scientific advisors urging to increase expenses on building fallout shelters and creating new missile technologies. Of course, Dwight D. Eisenhower was right because the issues connected with military orders for the military-industrial complex had to be controlled.

The military-industrial complex was created during the World War I for improving supplying armed forces of the American allies with necessary weapons and equipment. As Bardes, Shelley and Schmidt state, the military-industrial complex is “the mutually beneficial relationship between the armed forces and defense contractors” (528). After the Eisenhower’s presidency, historical events in the divided bipolar world developed dramatically, proving President Eisenhower to be right in his decisions concerning the further arms race with the Soviet Union and the role of the military-industrial complex in it. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy developed the Flexible Response for decreasing nuclear tensions in relations to the Soviet Union, but in 1962 the Cuban Missile Crisis emerged after revealing by the United States some Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba.

The world emerged on the adge of the third world war and only political diplomacy could solve this problem. Nevertheless, if the United States had not possessed nuclear weapon in the sufficient number and quality, the Soviet Union would have dictated its will to the whole world. It ended with the removal of the Soviet missiles from Cuba and the emergence of the certain tension between the Soviet Union and Cuba. At the same time, it gave opportunity to implement social programs on the Great Society in May 1964 by President Johnson. Still, in August, the United States was involved in the Vietnam War due to the Tonkin Incident. It lasted till 1973, when President Nixon finally stopped it.

In 1969, Nixon started the long process of the disarmament from the limitation of strategic missiles on earth and in the sea. During July – August 1975, President Jerald Ford started negotiation with the Soviet Union about the further disarmament, which was conducted by President Carter from 1975 till 1979. A great amount of money was directed to various social programs, when the Iranian Crisis broke out in November. In December 1979, the Soviet Union started the War in Afghanistan, which put an end to all measures on disarmament. In March 1983, President Reagan proclaimed the Strategic Defense Initiative with a high-cost program to improve American weapons for protecting the United States from Soviet missiles. In April 1986, the first military operation against terrorists took place in Libya.

In December 1989, the United States conducted a military operation against drug trade in Panama. In January 1991, the Persian Gulf War I started to liberate Kuwait. In March 1999, the Operation Allied Force was conducted to destroy communist totalitarian regime in Yugoslavia, which posed a danger to the democratic movements in the former Yugoslavian provinces. In 2001, the United States declared war against terrorism after the terrorist act in New York. The renewed military-industrial complex started to fulfill tasks on improving military equipment for the American armed forces. In 2002, the Persian Gulf War II started to overthrow the totalitarian regime of Saddam Hussein, which posed a real threat to the world’s democracy.


President Eisenhower was right when developed his strategy on maintaining peace with the help of the armed forces, equipped with modern weapons. He predicted that any totalitarian regime could maintain American initiatives, when the United States could have strong armed forces. At the same time, the American government should take control over military expenses lest the military-industrial complex initiate corruption. Therefore, the military-industrial complex has always been an integral part of the American policy and ensured the independence of the state.