An Unserious Man

Paul Hanley, the StarPhoenix‘s answer to David Suzuki except without the charm, trots out ol’ faithful — the military has no use in this day and age. In doing so, he evokes every leftist’s favorite quote:

War and the preparation for war has no purpose anymore. Military spending is merely a means of concentrating public wealth in the bloody hands of the military-industrial complex.

Too melodramatic? Too extreme a statement? Former U.S. president and top general Dwight Eisenhower put it much more forcefully: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”

“We pay,” he continued, “for a single fighter with a half-million bushels of wheat,” implying that that wheat is lost to the hungry.

As happens when other leftists quote this line, Hanley predictably takes it out of context. The speech, President Eisenhower’s farewell address, was actually calling for a balance in government affairs. Where Hanley says that there is no need to prepare for war, Eisenhower also said: “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.”

In other words, a strong military is not only desirable, but absolutely necessary to preserve the Western way of life. The military-industrial complex, as unwieldy as it is, was designed to ensure the American military could not be overpowered in pitched battle. Eisenhower was calling for the citizenry to limit the power of this complex with respect to other priorities, not to dismantle it entirely.

Moreover, in the same speech Eisenhower warns against the growing influence and power of the technocratic Federal government:

The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded.

Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific technological elite.

It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system — ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society.

Hanley ought to consider these words with respect to his previous call for a new world government in response to global climate change, an increasingly dubious theory propagated by the “scientific technological elite.” In fact, there is certainly far more evidence that civilization’s past superpowers had been brought down because of the size of their government and extent of entitlements rather instances in which empires fell because of their immense superiority on the battlefield.

Then again, I seriously doubt Hanley had even read President Eisenhower’s address. It is a hell of a lot easier to repeat favorable quotes sent across email chains and fringe blog posts than it is to follow up on the quote’s context.

Hanley’s argument — that the benefit of war decreased to the point that we should not even prepare for one — is as dangerous as it is ignorant. The best way to not fight a war is to make sure no one wants to fight one with you. A case could be made that we spend too much (i.e. $16 billion on fighter jets that could be obsolete in a decade), but it is foolish to think that we should not spend anything on defense at all.

This nation’s freedoms were built not on government largess, but on the fields of battle. It is shameful that there are those who are conveniently ignorant on this fact.

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