Unwarranted Influence: Dwight D. Eisenhower and the Military-Industrial Complex

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Overview

In Dwight D. Eisenhower’s last speech as president, on January 17, 1961, he warned America about the “military-industrial complex,” a mutual dependency between the nation’s industrial base and its military structure that had developed during World War II. After the conflict ended, the nation did not abandon its wartime economy but rather the opposite. Military spending has steadily increased, giving rise to one of the key ideas that continues to shape our country’s political landscape.

In this book, published to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of Eisenhower’s farewell address, journalist James Ledbetter shows how the government, military contractors, and the nation’s overall economy have become inseparable. Some of the effects are beneficial, such as cell phones, GPS systems, the Internet, and the Hubble Space Telescope, all of which emerged from technologies first developed for the military. But the military-industrial complex has also provoked agonizing questions. Does our massive military establishment—bigger than those of the next ten largest combined—really make us safer? How much of our perception of security threats is driven by the profit-making motives of military contractors? To what extent is our foreign policy influenced by contractors’ financial interests?

Ledbetter uncovers the surprising origins and the even more surprising afterlife of the military-industrial complex, an idea that arose as early as the 1930s, and shows how it gained traction during World War II, the Cold War, and the Vietnam era and continues even today.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Fifty years after the 34th president delivered his best known address, Ledbetter (Starving to Death on Million) deconstructs the origins of the term "military-industrial complex" and weighs its contemporary meanings and misinterpretations. Eisenhower, a WWII legend, feared that deepening the relationships between government officials, lawmakers, and weapons producers would ultimately undermine democracy. The president’s fears were not new, but Ledbetter makes a convincing case that the 1957 launch of Sputnik by the Soviets cemented the unholy alliance—long before the phrase became popular in the Vietnam era. Ledbetter deftly connects the dots between these two sectors, documenting how military appropriations were linked to job creation projects in congressional districts; how the "revolving door" for employment between the military and the firms providing weapons to the Defense Department endures; and how government-funded university research activities undermined traditional notions about academic freedom. Ledbetter makes a disturbingly persuasive case that Ike was right. (Jan.)
Slate

"Excellent . . . a balanced, rigorous, and fascinating intellectual history of the speech."—David Greenberg, Slate

— David Greenberg

Washington Post
"Few commentators on the 34th president''s mind and methods have more rigorously considered the evolution of Eisenhower''s preoccupations than Ledbetter has."—Josiah Bunting III, Washington Post
— Josiah Bundting III
The Christian Century

"James Ledbetter has given us an excellent study to make the 50th anniversary of Eisenhower''s farewell."—Robert Westbrook, The Christian Century

— Robert Westbrook

Washington Monthly

"Ledbetter provides a readable and well-informed argument."—Christopher Preble, Washington Monthly

— Christopher Preble

Slate - David Greenberg

"Excellent . . . a balanced, rigorous, and fascinating intellectual history of the speech."—David Greenberg, Slate
Washington Post - Josiah Bundting III
"Few commentators on the 34th president's mind and methods have more rigorously considered the evolution of Eisenhower's preoccupations than Ledbetter has."—Josiah Bunting III, Washington Post
The Christian Century - Robert Westbrook

"James Ledbetter has given us an excellent study to make the 50th anniversary of Eisenhower's farewell."—Robert Westbrook, The Christian Century
Washington Monthly - Christopher Preble

"Ledbetter provides a readable and well-informed argument."—Christopher Preble, Washington Monthly
Presidential Studies Quarterly - Lora Cohn

"[A] detailed showcase for an idea that continues to touch us, even after 50 years."—Lora Cohn, Presidential Studies Quarterly
Journal of American Studies - Helen Bury

"Unwarranted Influence is a well-researched, thought-provoking amd very well written account of the evolution of  the military-industrial complex, whose influence has extended beyond the Cold War." — Helen Bury, University of St. Andrews
Josiah Bunting III
Few commentators on the 34th president's mind and methods have more rigorously considered the evolution of Eisenhower's preoccupations than Ledbetter has.
—The Washington Post
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300153057
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 1/17/2011
  • Series: Icons of America Series
  • Pages: 280
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

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  • Posted August 7, 2011

    Well done

    A solid analysis of a serious and expensive issue.

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