Eisenhower left us with wise words

They say we must fight to keep our freedom, but Lord knows there’s got to be a better way.

Chelsey Perkins

I’ve had a war-filled weekend. Between writing a story for class about a soldier’s death, watching Ken Burns’ PBS documentary “The War” and watching Eugene Jarecki’s film “Why We Fight,” I’ve felt both inspired and depressed.

Ken Burns’ documentary is truly captivating. Burns made a point of taking a “bottom-up” approach to this film, which he spent the last six years constructing. I admire this aspect of “The War” tremendously. He tells a story about an era very few of us in the present day can fully understand, but he does not tell it from the perspective of our government. Instead, the story lies in the everyday people in this country whose lives changed dramatically over the four years the United States fought in World War II.

“Why We Fight” picks up not long after “The War” ends, with Dwight D. Eisenhower giving his final speech as president and reflecting upon the course America had taken following World War II. Eisenhower’s words could not be more relevant today as he discussed what he feared would have “grave implications,” the military-industrial complex.

Eisenhower said, “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.”

The multibillion dollar defense industry is so prolific in today’s society that it is easy to forget that at one time America prepared for war as it came. Now, as Eisenhower said, and I agree, “We can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense,” the permanent armaments industry in the United States does allow for much easier intervention or pre-emptive warfare. We all saw this in 2003 as pre-emptive attacks were carried out against Iraq.

A friend of mine attended the anti-war rally in Washington, D.C., this past weekend. We discussed whether efforts such as anti-war rallies would really make a difference in the overall picture. Although we found value in a rally, such as networking with others who have similar beliefs and passions and having the ability to exercise rights and speak up, we both agreed that it would not make a real difference, at least not until more people in this nation get involved.

After watching “Why We Fight” however, I’ve begun to think that even if we do win the battle against Congress and the President and finally bring our troops home, there will just be another conflict elsewhere in which America feels compelled to intervene. Especially in light of the “enemy” we now face, “terror,” which could manifest itself in many different ways forever.

As we are soon to enter the fifth year of the war in Iraq, I think it is important for all of us to heed Eisenhower’s warning and to assure that our unstoppable military machine is acting responsibly in today’s world and is not endangering our liberties or democratic processes.

Chelsey Perkins welcomes comments at [email protected]