Eisenhower’s Cross of Iron Speech: Trade-offs for the Defense Budget

April 3, 2014 at 1:14 am 4 comments

I recently watched the documentary Why we fightand was struck by the prescience of President Eisenhower’s warning.  So many of our educational decisions are made because of the harsh economic realities of today.  How many of these are guns-for-butter choices might we have made differently if education was considered?  Here in Georgia, computer science curricular decisions are being made with a recognition that there will be little or no funding available for teacher professional development — certainly not enough for every high school CS teacher in the state.  What percentage of the DoD budget would it cost to provide professional learning opportunities to every CS teacher in the country?  It’s certainly in the single digits.

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.

This world in arms in not spending money alone.

It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.

The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities.

It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population.

It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals.

It is some 50 miles of concrete highway.

We pay for a single fighter with a half million bushels of wheat.

We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.

This, I repeat, is the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking.

This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.

via Cross of Iron Speech.

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. BenK  |  April 3, 2014 at 6:39 am

    While at one time Defense was the largest part of the government, now it is entitlements. While Defense looked to be an increasing part of the economy, now the largest sector is Finance. The ‘broken window’ economists who fail to recognize non-productivity are blind to the inherent isometric exercise of an arms race in any sector, from high frequency trading to the practice of law.

    We cannot inherently control the parties who are engaged with us in a more literal arms race vis a vis Defense. On the other hand, we have only ourselves to blame for arms races in which we are both competitors. High frequency trading, intellectual property excesses, and huge bureaucracies are all self-inflicted waste – not just of apparent money, but of the lives, the sweat, the intellect that the money indirectly and imperfectly represents.

  • 2. Mike  |  April 3, 2014 at 12:54 pm

    The current administration’s proposed Defense allocations would leave us with the smallest armed forces since the beginning of the second world war, and that didn’t turn out so well. Yes, we and the Allies eventually won, but at the cost of over 1 million casualties and 405,000 deaths in the U.S. Armed Forces; many of those early on were due to lack of preparation and inferior arms (c.f., torpedo bombers at the Battle of Midway). You don’t have to be a war-monger to hope our men and women in the armed forces are never put in such a position again.

    I would love to be able to draw back into an isolationist cocoon and attend only to domestic matters; unfortunately, the vast distances that allowed the U.S. to do this in the 19th and early 20th centuries have shrunk considerably. What’s more, there are others who have a different take on how their polity might prosper (illustrated by current events in the Ukraine). While conflict with such parties is not inevitable, history has shown that abject weakness is not a successful strategy this side of Heaven.

    • 3. Mark Guzdial  |  April 3, 2014 at 1:27 pm

      It’s really interesting to hear Eisenhower’s take. He said that he felt sorry for his successors who didn’t know the Pentagon and the contractors as well as he did. He was sure that they would take advantage of future Presidents. As a former WWII general, I don’t think Eisenhower could be seen as naive about our military needs.

    • 4. Michael S. Kirkpatrick  |  April 3, 2014 at 7:00 pm

      But does it do anything to mitigate the effects of the F-35 debacle?


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