On Political Books

March/April 2011 Ike Reconsidered

How conservatives ignored, and liberals misconstrued, Eisenhower’s warnings about military spending.

By Christopher Preble

Or, at least, it has up to this point. The fiscal catastrophe facing the federal government, though a long time coming, has invited renewed scrutiny over the Pentagon’s budget. Eisenhower hoped that “an alert and knowledgeable citizenry” would constantly weigh the costs and benefits of national security policies “so that security and liberty may prosper together.” Even many Republicans now concede that in their search for spending cuts, everything, even the military’s budget, must be on the table. Although the military as an institution enjoys overwhelming support, a recent Reuters poll found that 51 percent of Americans support actual cuts in military spending, not merely the slowing of the rate of growth that Secretary Gates announced in January.

Strategic change is necessary if we are serious about bringing the Pentagon’s budget under control. The United States in 2011 could have a far smaller military if Washington were to embrace restraint, an approach to global affairs characterized by the minimal use of force combined with extensive economic and cultural engagement around the world. Such a shift makes sense on its own terms, and would be consistent with the wise vision set forth fifty years ago by Dwight Eisenhower.


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Christopher Preble is director of foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute and the author of The Power Problem: How American Military Dominance Makes Us Less Safe, Less Prosperous, and Less Free.

Comments

  • Anonymous on May 21, 2011 8:31 PM:

    "[T]he neocons are the first to call for intervention, though they are loath to do the fighting themselves.

    Thanks for adding that dig. Some may criticize your words as an ad hominem attack but I feel it is necessary to point out that dirty little fact.

    I never fail to remind my marine and navy service buddies that there when it comes to matters of war--in which young people DIE, and can't return after we understand entering into military action was a mistake--an individual's background is of great importance.

    The appalling lack of military service by national security-obsessed neocon "experts" and their jingoist fellow travelers suggest physical cowardice and a despicable moral disposition. To name a few. I question their patriotism as well.

    After all, knowledge of national security can be obtained through experience. (It's not like philosophy were books are the primary source of information.) And there are numerous part-time opportunities such as the National Guard or reserve component of the five uniformed branches.

    I've been giving up 12 (paid) weekends and 100+ days per year for several years. My "sacrifice." such as it is. results in several weeks of leave without pay from my regular job and vacation days used to fly missions.

    Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think that's too much to ask these neocon "muscular foreign policy/Iran next!/war, war, everywhere types. I also have a reservoir of antipathy for liberal hawks such as Iraq apologist/I-was-just-trying-to-be bipartisan/me sorry Peter Beinart (tell it to the our dead guys) and Michael (CBO bean counter, so wtf do you know about invading Iraq?) O'Hanlon.

    Don't even get me started on Rush I have-a-boil-on-my-ass Limbaugh impugning the patriotism of others and Ted I shit-on-myself-for-a-week-to-get-out-of-the-draft-because-Viet-Cong-shoot-back Nugent.

  • tec619 on May 21, 2011 8:32 PM:

    "[T]he neocons are the first to call for intervention, though they are loath to do the fighting themselves.

    Thanks for adding that dig. Some may criticize your words as an ad hominem attack but I feel it is necessary to point out that dirty little fact.

    I never fail to remind my marine and navy service buddies that there when it comes to matters of war--in which young people DIE, and can't return after we understand entering into military action was a mistake--an individual's background is of great importance.

    The appalling lack of military service by national security-obsessed neocon "experts" and their jingoist fellow travelers suggest physical cowardice and a despicable moral disposition. To name a few. I question their patriotism as well.

    After all, knowledge of national security can be obtained through experience. (It's not like philosophy were books are the primary source of information.) And there are numerous part-time opportunities such as the National Guard or reserve component of the five uniformed branches.

    I've been giving up 12 (paid) weekends and 100+ days per year for several years. My "sacrifice." such as it is. results in several weeks of leave without pay from my regular job and vacation days used to fly missions.

    Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think that's too much to ask these neocon "muscular foreign policy/Iran next!/war, war, everywhere types. I also have a reservoir of antipathy for liberal hawks such as Iraq apologist/I-was-just-trying-to-be bipartisan/me sorry Peter Beinart (tell it to the our dead guys) and Michael (CBO bean counter, so wtf do you know about invading Iraq?) O'Hanlon.

    Don't even get me started on Rush I have-a-boil-on-my-ass Limbaugh impugning the patriotism of others and Ted I shit-on-myself-for-a-week-to-get-out-of-the-draft-because-Viet-Cong-shoot-back Nugent.