Eisenhower and the Military Industrial Complex "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." - Dwight D. Eisenhower external image dwight-d-eisenhower-circa1956.jpg
The Military Industrial Complex is commonly referred to as the relationship between governments, national armed forces, and the industrial sector that supports them. The Military Industrial Complex that Eisenhower referred to represents big business' influence in congress to create policies. Dwight D. Eisenhower was tied throughout the 1950's and into the 1960's warning Americans about this potential danger. Eisenhower's main concern was that military industries would exert an undue influence on government policy. "Munitions makers were likely to encourage warlike policies in the interest of their own profits, Eisenhower saw a danger that individual companies might influence military strategy by their advocacy of their own weapon systems" (Schweikart). Near the end of his presidency, in 1961, Eisenhower cautioned Americans about the growth of this new sector of the economy, which he called the "military-industrial complex." With the increase of military industrial power and its influence over government, the Military Industrial Complex could also threaten personal liberty.

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The iron triangle consists of three branches that are influenced by lobbying and special interest. The iron triangle is considered to be a form of "policy-making" between the interest group, congress, and bureaucracy.

Interest Group: These are the powerful interests groups that influence Congressional votes in their favor and can sufficiently influence the re-election of a member of Congress in return for supporting their programs.

Congress: seek to align themselves with a constituency (Interest Groups) for political and electoral support. These congressional members support legislation that advances the interest group's agenda.

Bureaucracy: The bureaucracy is often pressured by the same powerful interest groups their agency is designated to regulate.

President Eisenhower and his Foreign Policy

Dwight D. Eisenhower brought a "New Look" to U.S. national security policy in 1953. The “New Look” consisted of keeping the vitality of the United States’ economy. The economy had to continue to build sufficient strength to act against the Cold War. In addition, Eisenhower relied on nuclear weapons to deter Communist aggression by threatening to get involved with war. Eisenhower used the Central Intelligence Agency, CIA, to secretly spy on governments that were responsive to Soviet control. To allow other countries to view the United States as a friend rather than a threat, Eisenhower strengthened allies and won the friendship of neutral governments. “Eisenhower’s defense policies, which aimed at providing ‘more bang for the buck,’ cut spending on conventional forces while increasing the budget for the Air Force and for nuclear weapons” (Miller). Although Eisenhower did increase national spending for the military, he did this in efforts to preserve world peace.

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Dwight David Eisenhower "Ike" was the 34th President of the United states, from 1953 until 1961. He was one of the only presidents who had military experience. Throughout his presidency, he was involved with the conflicts of the cold war. In war World II, Eisenhower, a five star general, served as the Supreme Commander of the Allied forces in Europe. His military leadership flourished as he successfully launched the invasions of France (D-Day) and Germany. Eisenhower was the first commander of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization).

  • Born: October 14, 1890; Denison, Texas
  • January 20, 1953 – January 20, 1961 (in office)
  • came to the presidency from a military background, rather than from the usual political career
  • Republican
  • Presbyterian
  • Died March 28, 1969 (age 78) in Washington, D.C.

Dwight Eisenhower's Involvement and Beliefs

Eisenhower led the invasion of Europe as the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces during World War II and supported defense for the United States during the beginning of the Cold war. Eisenhower created a safer country and tried to implement world wide peace. As the first republican president in 20 years, he negotiated a truce in Korea and created the International Atomic Energy Agency. The International Atomic Energy Agency helped pool sixty-two countries in developing atomic information and materials for peaceful purposes. Along with securing the use of atomic materials, Eisenhower also tried to promote peace by organizing the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO). The SEATO was organized comprising of eight countries in Southeast Asia serving to resist Communist aggression. In attempt to Preserve World peace, the SEATO was formed after North and South Korea had split. Eisenhower's main concern during his administration was the "Domino Theory". Eisenhower knew that the domino theory could become a danger, therefore; he knew to take action. Eisenhower "Viewed the limited war in Korea as a mistake, Eisenhower believed that American national security and containment of Communist expansion could best be achieved through nuclear deterrence and the utilization of other assets, such as negotiations, psychological warfare and economic aid" (citizendium).

Domino Effect: a foreign theory during the 1950s to 1980s speculated that if one country in a region came under the influence of communism, then the surrounding countries would follow.

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At the end of Eisenhower's presidency, Eisenhower gave a farewell speech to the nation that reflected his preoccupation with international relations and world peace. "While calling attention to what he saw as the ongoing threat posed by Communism, he also warned Americans to be careful to limit the increasing power of what he called 'the military-industrial complex,' the pairing of huge military forces with the vast new domestic arms industry. Eisenhower's own military career gave great weight to this message" (Drew).

International Atomic Energy Agency: The IAEA, established in 1957, is an international organization seeking to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy while inhibiting the use for military purpose (nuclear weapons).
external image iaea.gif IAEA Logo

Southeast Asia Treaty Organization: Signed in 1954, the SEATO was an international organization for collective defense. This organization was primarily created to block further communist gains in Southeast Asia.

external image xseato-f.gif SEATO Logo

Eisenhower's Farewell Address

Eisenhower’s Farewell Address summarized principles that had guided a lifetime of service to his country. Eisenhower focused mainly on the United States’ dangers from the Cold War in America rather than the dangers around the world. He told his fellow citizens to be wary of the “military industrial complex”. The military industrial complex acted as a combination of a huge military establishment and a large military related industry. “Defense was a means to an end, and the American people had to be careful that they did not allow special interests to absorb an ever-increasing share of national wealth or to endanger our liberties or democratic processes”(Miller). To Eisenhower, it was difficult to balance the national security because he had to provide aid to dictators in the interest of protecting the free world. Spending more half of the United States’ budget on the military, Eisenhower stated, “every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket Fired was a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed” (Miller). Eisenhower knew he must implement security; thus, he had to preserve basic values.

Fun Fact!

Eisenhower played football at West Point and was injured trying to tackle Olympic and NFL star Jim Thorpe.











Primary Source:

Drew, Bettina. "Farewell Address." Inside American History. Abingdon/Cambridge: Helicon, 2007. History Study Center. ProQuest LLC. 23 May 2010 <http://www.historystudycenter.com/>.

Online Databases:

Osgood, Kenneth. "Presidential Policies of Dwight D. Eisenhower." History in Dispute, Vol. 2: American Social and Political Movements, 1945-2000. Robert J. Allison, ed. St. James Press, 1999. Reproduced in History Resource Center. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale. http://galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/HistRC/

Schweikart, Larry. "The Military-Industrial Complex (1950s)." American Decades CD-ROM. Gale Research, 1998. Reproduced in History Resource Center. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale. http://galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/HistRC/

"Eisenhower's Farewell Address (17 January 1961)."Dictionary of American History. Stanley I. Kutler, ed. 3rd ed. 10 vols. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2003. Reproduced in History Resource Center. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale. http://galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/HistRC/



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