Donald Trump must have heard something about the military-industrial complex since he was outed for slandering dead soldiers and Marines killed in France during World War I. He badly needs some shade from flamed Americans, particularly vets and active-duty military service members.
Since Monday, Trump has several times babbled incoherent analogies about how America’s soldiers love him, and their generals and admirals hate him because they refuse to end the endless wars Trump ostensibly commands. Trump later tweeted a comparison of his own efforts to Eisenhower’s famous remarks.
Trump’s utterances strongly suggest he is confused by the meaning of the phrase coined by two-term President of the United States Dwight David “Ike” Eisenhower. At the end of his second term on Jan. 17, 1961, Eisenhower warned the nation to beware of the growing relationship between industrialists, so-called defense contractors, and the revolving door between the Pentagon and corporate power brokers. Since then, his brief comments have been studied as assiduously as entomologists study bugs.
This is what Eisenhower said to the nation:
“A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction …
“This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every statehouse, every office of the federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. 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.”
At Trump’s dog-and-pony show Monday, he claimed America’s most senior military leaders aren’t fans of his because “they want to do nothing but fight wars, so that all of those wonderful companies that make the bombs and make the planes and make everything else stay happy.”
The problem with his theory is that Trump is the commander-in-chief of the U.S. armed forces, the guy who says yea or nay. Unless the big brass has effected a coup against the national government that the country is unaware of, Trump is still the nutty, tin-plate dictator he always was.
He cares nothing about world peace. Trump has sold some of most bizarre, archaic governments in the world many of America’s most sophisticated weapons. He has increased the national debt so much by buying new ones that the U.S. is spending more money than it earns while dismantling just about every nuclear arms treaty that still exists.
A think tank/anti-Trump organization called National Security Action quickly published a report that confirmed that Trump is once again lying about what he knows, what he agreed to, and what actually happened during his until now secret battle against the military-industrial complex. For the purposes of brevity, the NSA list has been cherry-picked to illustrate just one of the most egregious of his peace-seeking schemes.
In May 2019, the Trump administration issued a declaration of emergency to push through an $8.1 billion arms deal to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan in the face of bipartisan Congressional opposition. Those entities reportedly needed new defenses to protect them from Iran and its primitive proxy Yemen.
Trump: “Saudi Arabia is a big buyer of American product. That means something to me. . . . Take their money.” [NBC, 6/23/19]
The deal allowed Raytheon, a top U.S. weapons manufacturer, to partner with Saudi Arabia to build high-tech bomb parts, potentially sharing sensitive bomb-making technology. [NYT, 6/7/19]
Of the overall $8.1 billion, $4.3 billion went directly to the big four defense contractors: Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and General Dynamics. [Center for International Policy, July 2019]
Trump fired the State Department inspector general who was investigating the administration’s use of this emergency declaration to bypass Congress and sell weapons directly to Saudi Arabia. [CNN, 5/21/20]
Of Trump’s eight total vetoes, five of them have been to protect arms sales and his desire to be able to take the country to war. [U.S. Senate]
This year, his administration intends to sell an additional half a billion dollars of arms to Saudi Arabia.
What is today the norm in “defense” was seen in post-WWII America as a threat to the future stability of the nation. The United States never wanted a standing army before World War II ended. In times of relative peace between the Civil War and the end of World War II, the U.S. was militarily among the weakest nations on the planet. When Germany invaded Poland in 1939, the U.S. was 17th among the world’s standing armies, one step above Portugal.
What made the U.S. powerful up to and including World War I was the world’s awareness that the U.S. was an industrial giant. The American Civil War had completely turned warfare on its head by combining military power with industrial might, moving the war machines and the men who deployed them like cargo on the nation’s railroads. When the North’s industrial might flexed its considerable muscles, the federal government built a mechanized war machine never before witnessed on earth. At the end of the Civil War, the same war machine that conquered the Confederates disappeared, literally turned into plowshares.
In 1900, Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, then a candidate for president, said Americans should “speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.” His remarkable observation stayed in force until the bomb-now, think-later policies conceived in the Vietnam era and born in the post- 9/11 era that ultimately replaced sanity with Trumplandian belligerence.
It is sometimes hard to understand that Eisenhower was at heart a man of peace. He was a five-star general who reluctantly commanded the Allied armies in Western Europe during World War II. Stalin’s generals ordered and shot almost as many Russian soldiers for disobedience in Eastern Europe than Eisenhower’s war sacrificed in combat deaths on the way to victory. In 1952, his advice was sought to broker the Korean Armistice Agreement. That deal still dictates the tenuous peace on the Korean peninsula and contributed substantially to keeping a tenuous peace in Western Europe by consistently outfoxing adversaries in the Soviet Union.
The only thing Trump ever outfoxes is himself.