Eisenhower's Paradoxical Relationship with the "Military-Industrial Complex"

By Janiewski, Dolores E. | Presidential Studies Quarterly, December 2011 | Go to article overview

Eisenhower's Paradoxical Relationship with the "Military-Industrial Complex"


Janiewski, Dolores E., Presidential Studies Quarterly


Dwight D. Eisenhower's parting advice to the American people about the dangers of "misplaced power" being exerted by the "military-industrial complex" became an indelible part of the national vocabulary. Eisenhower spoke in response to what he viewed as cynically generated hysteria about a nonexistent "missile gap" set off by Sputnik in October 1957 and the opportunistic leaking of a report primarily written by Paul Nitze for a presidential advisory panel. (1) The exaggerated claims about Soviet superiority in missile technology gave the Democrats what Eisenhower considered "a useful piece of demagoguery" to exploit in the 1958 and 1960 elections. Seeking to reassure an agitated public, the president had repeatedly cautioned against overreaction and argued for the need for tight controls of military expenditure but failed to win the rhetorical battle against his critics. The farewell address constituted his final effort to "warn the nation, again, of the danger in these developments." This analysis situates the speech in conjunction with a hawkish strand of contemporary conservatism while making use of recent additions to the documentation to explore the inspiration for the speech and Eisenhower's paradoxical relationship to its core concept (2) (Divine 1993; D. Eisenhower 1961, 1965; Henry 1994; McDougall 1993; Prebble 2003; Snead 1999; Tulis 1987).

Eisenhower's farewell address has attracted attention from scholars of rhetoric, the role of presidential speechwriters, the rhetorical presidency, and proponents of the warfare state thesis. Charles Griffin credited Malcolm Moos and Ralph Williams, two presidential speechwriters, with the primary authorship of the speech, viewing Eisenhower's role as a carefully calibrated rhetorical performance of what Fred Greenstein labeled his "hidden-hand presidency." Martin J. Medhurst has traced the concept to Eisenhower's concerns and those of Bryce Harlow, one of his more influential aides, that the inexperienced John F. Kennedy could not restrain the advocates of excessive military spending. Medhurst also pointed to the influence of Washington's farewell address upon the speech. Other scholars and commentators have uncritically appropriated the concept of the military-industrial complex without examining its original meaning. The proponents of the warfare state thesis have produced a one-sided interpretation of the more complex and nuanced concept in Eisenhower's original formulation. These interpretations either fail to move outside the White House staff to investigate other sources of inspiration or reduce its core concept to a simple opposition to the complex (Baack and Ray 1985; Cook 1962, 1964; Fallows 2002; Hartung 2001; Greenstein 1994; Griffin 1992; Litfin 1974; Medhurst 1994a, 1994b, 1994c; Melman 1970; Nelson 1971; Parry-Giles 2002; Pursell 1972).

Historians have given relatively scant attention to the speech. Robert A. Strong briefly referred to it in his discussion of the "apparent contradictions" in Eisenhower's policies. H. W. Brands briefly referred to the speech's themes in a perceptive analysis of Eisenhower's allocation of "enormous power over fundamental decisions to an elite of scientists, engineers, and defense bureaucrats" as a result of his "New Look" strategy. Paul Koistinen, Roger W. Lotchin, and Bruce Brunton have traced the complex back to World War I or the late 19th century thus challenging the speech's claim of its Cold War origins. Kerry Irish's examination of Eisenhower's experience in the War Department in the early 1930s provides useful insights into how the future president's views developed but does not carry the discussion forward to their final form. James Ledbetter's recent book-length study extensively documents the evolution of Eisenhower's views on the military-industrial complex but gives little space to the textual and rhetorical evolution of the speech itself (Brands 1989; Brunton 1988; Irish 2006; Koistinen 1967, 1980, 2004; Ledbetter 2011; Lotchin 1979; Strong 1987). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Eisenhower's Paradoxical Relationship with the "Military-Industrial Complex"
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.