Eisenhower's Farewell Address

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Dwight Eisenhower's Farewell Address

Dwight Eisenhower served the United States as its 34th president. His presidential term lasted from 20th January 1953 to 20th January 1961. On 17th January 1961, Dwight Eisenhower gave a farewell address through the radio and television broadcast. Several important statements can be derived from the speech. It is known to inform the nation to be aware of the possible influence of the military-industrial complex. Eisenhower received credit for the coining of the phrase "military-industrial complex." In his speech, Eisenhower urges Americans to plan for the future and avoid massive spending. The address contains Eisenhower’s last words to his nation where he is grateful for some of his experiences and comments on several issues that affect the United States. Despite Eisenhower being born in the 19th century, the content of his speech is still relevant to the United States in the 21st century.

The Military-Industrial Complex

The military-industrial complex referred to the United States’ military establishment and the industries used to make the military materials like the armaments. In his address, Eisenhower warned the American people about the rising power of the military-industrial complex and how it would affect America’s democracy system. The United States is known to spend a lot of money on its defense and military.

Eisenhower's Role in Military Expansion

Apart from being a United States’ president, Eisenhower served his country in the army as a general and as the leader of the Allied powers during the Second World War. His years as United States’ president were around the same time as the era of military expansion. Instead of drawing down its troops after the Second World War, the United States continued to maintain a large standing army even after the Korean War. The United States preferred ensuring that their army was prepared for any form of attack. The nation got some private companies to continue producing armaments and sophisticated weapons to ensure that it was prepared for any war outbreak.

Eisenhower's Frustration with Military Expenditure

Most probably due to America’s involvement in war, Eisenhower was concerned about the country’s military growth as well as the Cold War during his term. He advocated for the reduction of funds set for military services as he believed that it was too much. However, the army was frustrated by Eisenhower’s suggestion to cut down on their expenditure.

Eisenhower's Farewell Address and the Military-Industrial Complex

According to David Nichols, Eisenhower’s biographer, the military requested for more money than could be given to them by the president, which frustrated them (Dunne 98). In his speech, three days before his last day as president, Eisenhower gave a farewell speech which addressed several issues in the United States including the military-industrial complex. He warned the nation stating, “…we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex,” (Dunne 25). He believed that the military-industrial complex could lead to disastrous misuse of power.

Eisenhower's Concerns and Recommendations

Eisenhower mentioned that United States was experiencing for the first time in history the combination of the massive arms industry and the immense military establishment. For this reason, he was afraid that such a combination could lead to policies that may not be beneficial to the Americans. For instance, the development of the nuclear weapons was at a great cost. Moreover, Eisenhower ensured that he included members of Congress from the districts that relied on the military industries in the Department of Defense.

Eisenhower's Legacy and the Military-Industrial Complex

Even though it was risky, Eisenhower thought that the military-industrial complex was vital to fight any attackers of the United States and its allies. However, he requested his successor to try and balance diplomacy and defense with regards to the Soviet Union. Current reports still reflect that United States spends a considerable amount of money on its military compared to any other nation.

Military Establishment and Maintenance of Peace

The military establishment was mentioned to be a vital tool in the maintaining of peace. He advised the Americans to ensure that their arms are strong and mighty. It would ensure that they are ready for any form of action thus scaring away any potential aggressor. He was concerned that the United States lacked armaments industry even in their latest world conflicts. Eisenhower mentions that the United States no longer engages in the emergency provision of national defense; it is committed to making permanent armaments industry (Dunne 124). He was concerned that the American government set aside a lot of money for military purposes which was way more than the income received from corporations.

Implications of the Military-Industrial Complex

The United States encountered massive military establishment for the first time. Even though such development was necessary, Eisenhower advised the Americans not to ignore its grave implications. It would involve the structure of the society, the people’s livelihood, resources, and toil. He warned against using the military-industrial complex to acquire unwarranted influence. He continued to state that misplacement of power may be disastrous. He called upon the Americans not to allow the weight of the combination to endanger their democratic procedures and liberties. He believed that a citizenry which is alert and knowledgeable would ensure that liberty and security prosper together. The technological revolution facilitated the changes in the industrial-military posture. He thought that the conduction of scientific research was under the influence of the technological revolution. He mentioned that he was afraid that scientific-technological elite would influence public policy.

Eisenhower's Concern for Future Generations

Eisenhower advised the Americans to avoid the impulse of living for today at the expense of the resources of tomorrow. He continued to state that he wanted democracy to be present in the future generations. Eisenhower believed in mutual respect and trust. He also mentions how the civilization in the United States could be destroyed if another war broke out. Fortunately, they were able to avoid the war successfully.

Eisenhower's Focus on the Military-Industrial Complex

Eisenhower’s main concern of the whole speech was the rising of the military-industrial complex. He defined it as a permanent armaments industry that could acquire unwarranted influence. For years, the military-industrial complex has been studied. The studies revealed that Eisenhower feared that the United States’ burgeoning military power controlled its foreign policy. It is evident that Eisenhower was focused on the connection between the nation’s security and its economic strength. He believed that the strength of the military and the nation’s fiscal health were essential pillars of national defense. As a result, the government may be forced to make difficult decisions.

Eisenhower's Reflection on Military Role

Eisenhower tried to understand the change in the character of the American society during the Cold War: after the Second World War. He witnessed more money being set aside to finance the defense (Janiewski 672). Another part of his farewell speech showed how grateful he was for having been in office for eight years. He showed a lot of respect and gratitude for the opportunity that he had been given to be the president of the United States. He had already accepted that his term had come to an end and was addressing the Americans for the last time as president.

Eisenhower's Career and Military Transformation

Throughout his career, Eisenhower witnessed a vast transformation in the role of the military in the lives of the Americans. Eisenhower had served in the military for roughly fifty years where he concluded as a commander-in-chief. In his speech, he addressed the massive changes that had taken place throughout this period, especially those that occurred after the Second World War. He also reflected on the growth of the military during the Korean War. During his rule, there was a huge commitment to supporting the military compared to the other aspects of American society. It was a significant part of the economic structure.

Emphasis on Technology and Innovation

After the Second World War, there was a considerable emphasis on the development and innovation of new technologies (Kuiper 2033). New technologies were required for the creation of improved weapons or new ones. The United States wanted to have a strong armament industry. The idea was that the United States had to be ready for any form of attack and they could achieve this through improving the weapons it had. New technologies were required to enable the United States to attain a powerful armament industry.

Eisenhower's Concern for Balance

From reading and interpreting the content of Eisenhower’s address “The Farewell Radio and Television Address,” it is clear that Eisenhower was concerned about the military-industrial complex and its effect on his nation. He mentioned how a massive section of the federal budget was set aside for the military. There was a need for some balance in the national programs. The balance was also necessary for the public and private economy. The American government needed to reduce the amount of money set aside for the military since it was too much.


Military-Industrial, Complex, balance, post-world war II, America.

Works cited

Dunne, J. Paul, and Elisabeth Sköns. "20 The military industrial complex." The Global Arms Trade: A Handbook(2014): 281. https://books.google.co.ke/books?hl=en&lr=&id=aWChAwAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PA281&dq=the+military+industry+complex+dunne&ots=x1F1q2kOay&sig=64JWHT1kTkYkt0qSZ0E8MV8NGfM&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=the%20military%20industry%20complex%20dunne&f=false

Dunne, J. Paul, and Elisabeth Sköns. "The changing military industrial complex." Bristol: University of the West of England, Department of Economics (2011). https://www.researchgate.net/profile/John_Dunne/publication/232947021_The_changing_military_industrial_complex_in_the_UK/links/0f31752e8c57893feb000000.pdf

Farish, Matthew, and Patrick Vitale. "Locating the American military–industrial complex: An introduction." Antipode 43.3 (2011): 777-782. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1467-8330.2010.00828.x

Janiewski, Dolores E. "Eisenhower's Paradoxical Relationship with the “Military‐Industrial Complex”." Presidential Studies Quarterly 41.4 (2011): 667-692. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1741-5705.2011.03909.x

Kuiper, Bruce. "Eisenhower's Farewell Speech: Initial and Continuing Communication Effects." International Scholarly and Scientific Research and Innovation 10.6 (2016): 2033. https://digitalcollections.dordt.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://scholar.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1781&context=faculty_work

November 13, 2023
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