Eisenhower's Warning: Watch out for armed zombies! - The Daily Reckoning
The Daily Reckoning by Bill Bonner
On This Day - 12 September 2013
Eisenhower's Warning: Watch out for armed zombies! A  A  A

Baltimore, Maryland

    ". . . we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. 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."

    Dwight D. Eisenhower Farewell Address to the Nation January 17th 1961
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When Ike Eisenhower made this speech, many people were puzzled. Eisenhower was a career military man. How could he be so disloyal to his professional class, they wondered?

But Ike knew something most people don't. He understood war-mongers. And he knew that armed zombies are the most dangerous zombies of all.

We saw Ike in the flesh many years ago, just before he died. We were visiting our own father in the Walter Reed military hospital in Washington. We were walking down the corridor with Dad, a WWII veteran, when he suddenly stood up straight and saluted. It has been at least 20 years since he had worn a uniform, but the reflex was still there. When General Eisenhower whisked by us in a wheelchair, Dad came to attention.

Now, another 40 years has passed. Eisenhower's warning, ignored and forgotten, has turned into a curse. For reasons of its own - money, power, status - the 'military industrial complex' pulls us into war after war.

Our old friend Steve Chapman:
    The United States boasts the most powerful military on Earth. We have 1.4 million active-duty personnel, thousands of tanks, ships and planes, and 5,000 nuclear warheads.

    We spend more on defense than the next 13 countries combined. Since 1991, notes University of Chicago security scholar John Mearsheimer, the U.S. has been at war in two out of every three years....

    ... We are more secure than any country in the history of the world. What almost all of our recent military interventions have in common is that they involved countries that had not attacked us: Libya, Iraq, Serbia, Haiti, Somalia, Panama, Grenada and North Vietnam.

    With the notable exception of the Afghanistan invasion, we don't fight wars of necessity. We fight wars of choice.
Why do we choose to stick our noses in other peoples' business? What reward do we get for the trillions spent...and the young men with missing limbs and suicidal tendencies?

Why do we do it? Hawks, doves, geo-political strategy, national security - none of them have anything to do with it. They are just wind. BS. TV babble. The real reason we spend so much and get ourselves into so many wars is that we have developed a whole class of military zombies. Their careers, their wealth, their social standing, their sex lives - all depend on meddling in other peoples' affairs.

A few years ago, we wrote a book with Addison Wiggin called "Empire of Debt." We explained the phenomenon as something great powers inevitably do. As soon as they can push other people around, they aspire to empire, we said.

In a new book, not yet released, we explain it in another way: humans developed into what they are in the paleolithic period. Back then, based on bone records and guesswork, if the men of a tribe weren't ready to defend themselves, fiercely and without question, the tribe might not survive. Their women and their territory might soon be taken from them. Those pre-civilized instincts are now hard-wired into the human race. In a modern context, America's wars seem silly, stupid and counterproductive. But they are as popular as an NFL championship.

Both of those explanations have merit. But Ike understood it differently. He saw how powerful internal forces drive a military machine to become an empire...and to make war. An 'educator' will try to aggrandize himself by insisting on more education. A butcher will want more meat on the menu. And a man with a gun in his hands will declare - with a straight face and in solemn sincerity - that we need to kill someone in Syria in order to protect our manhood!

Bill Bonner is the President & Founder of Agora Inc, an international publisher of financial and special interest books and newsletters.

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3 Responses to "Eisenhower's Warning: Watch out for armed zombies!"


Sep 13, 2013

Further to my comments of 12th instant I submit my further comments as below. I humbly suggest that because we in financial enterprises or other corporates operate at our profit making best when peace and smooth social conditions prevail, we may not call them zombies who secure those peaceful conditions largely by peaceful means unnoticed by us and very occasionally by the use of armed might to defend us. Proof is at hand. Syria has not been struck. Both public opinion and sagacious leadership all around seems to be making a difference. A small sigh of relief now is perhaps not out of tune with the latest developments. One hopes the serene environs in which the talks are taking place in Switzerland even as these words are being keyed in may soothe the frayed tempers and replenish the energy zap of the participants as they engage in prolonged and complicated negotiations. They may emerge bleary eyed and exhausted at the end of it all but the prayers of good and decent people all over the world are with them. One hopes the unbearable agony of the people of Syria which no words can describe comes to an end soon. May brotherhood win and may the emigrants return to what is left of their battered and bullet riddled homes to rebuild their lives with help from all.
The Syrian crisis is too complicated too typical and too topical to be missed as an opportunity to be used to hammer out a new paradigm of solution for the tragic and prolonged human suffering that has plagued the Middle East.
The thought that Israel 'is a villa in the forest' as someone graphically described the present situation may sound factually correct but it does not fail to wrench one's heart at the colossal human suffering that we are all witness to for so long in the area.
The curse of Colonialism including Slavery, Colour of skin and Crude oil and natural gas have caused immense suffering to vast chunks of humanity. The first has been wiped out. The second is dying. The third, alas, continues. The first two were conquered largely non-violently, but with immense sacrifices.
Let us hope diplomatic win-win negotiations and fair and transparent business practices will end the curse of the third.
The school of thought that squarely blames religion, or sectarian beliefs for wars and human suffering needs a deeper re-appraisal. Actually at the interface between religion and political/financial power play there is a little explored phenomenon of deep seated behavioural/psychiatric maladjustment of individuals who straddle both spheres of activity. Observe their words, their body language and their stated goals and it will become obvious. Their need for mastery over others' minds or others' riches and their total lack of empathy give them away. The way out of this tragic tangle of traumatised minds is not easy. Perhaps humane, life protective polities should not shun them as pariahs but engage them discretely at every little opening.
The Syrian crisis is one such opening.



Sep 12, 2013

The reference to the writer's Dad, a veteran of WW II, is a little confusing. Obviously he, the Dad, is not a zombie in the writer's view. Perhaps the point is that militarism is hardwired in trained military personnel. Otherwise they may not make a good military. Point well taken.
When it comes to the military-industrial complex being responsible for the US waging unwanted wars, yes, there is some substance to the argument. As usual the evidence for this is not out in the open as much as it should be, involving as it does campaign funding, lobbying, plain bribing and so on. Perhaps the US Presidents in the past were so influenced.
There is also an ideological slant : promotion of freedom, democracy and the free market model around the world. This has been and continues to be a driving force. However it is often tainted by commercial/economic tendencies (greed-driven speculation, unbridled profiteering, etc) and energy and resource compulsions (Oil, gas, minerals etc). All ideologies are susceptible to corruption of their original purity when put into practice by these compulsions. There is also the fact that capitalism itself may thrive if wars continue to ravage several parts of the world. Naomi Klein has written a book The Shock Doctrine – The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, wherein she posits with some force that disaster-shocked people and countries have been exploited by the so called free market forces. Even Hurricane Katrina was about to be exploited when a Senator came up with a wish list then which included suspending tariffs on Canadian lumber, and allowing drilling in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge which had nothing to do with Katrina. (Quoted from naomiklein org)
The original purity of the ideological left has also been lost due to rampant corruption and nepotism, not to mention its inherent flaws that stifle entrepreneurial creativity and fair competition and the denial of congregational spiritual solace however frail it may be as man struggles with his social and personal tragedies.
One saving grace in all this is the undying plasticity and adaptability of the human mind which keeps on learning and evolving against heavy odds.
Which brings us to the concept of the paleolithic human brain's state of evolution staying on till date as hardwired as it was then and dictating our behaviour even now to the point where we are 'zombies' according to the writer, who intends to write a book about it shortly. This is stretching it a bit, though it has its strong intellectual protagonists like Arthur Koestler whose book Ghost in the Machine covers more or less similar ground. Koestler never said we are zombies though apparently our brains are not fully wired enough to harmonize passion (diktats of the limbic area of the brain) with reason, logic and other aspects of our civilization (science, technology, arts and humanities or knowledge in general) and the mystery of Consciousness all located in the neocortex. Recent research indicates that altruism and self-sacrifice to varying degrees are also part of the mammalian brain or human psyche, if research is indeed necessary to prove it. Research into Yoga and meditation also seem to indicate that harmonizing the reason-emotion tug of war is not beyond the reach of sincere, conscious and guided effort.
As for the concept of Empire building, yes, sometimes basic humanity dictates that good, humane and life-protective systems of polity use their military strength to ensure large masses of people under a cruel tyrant elsewhere who kills chunks of humanity like swatting flies is rendered powerless and made to account for his or her acts of brutality and genocide. This can get corrupted and end up in the 'cock of the dung heap' syndrome of powerful empires. History is replete with examples of this. This does not appear to be the case in the fast unravelling Syrian imbroglio as of now.
Syria must be viewed against the backdrop of the Tunisian phenomenon and the Arab Spring. Unfortunately the present generation of Syrian ruling class became corrupt and enriched themselves and started enjoying a lavish life style, even as the common Syrian was getting a raw deal. This is true of many countries including even big democracies like India. Powerful people in any polity enjoy obscenely luxurious lifestyles while the chasm between them and others keeps widening, sparking civil wars in tyrannical polities and a groundswell of public wrath and unseating of ruling members in democracies at the hustings. (A rags to riches life at its acme of luxury in a relatively free society rarely angers people. It often inspires them. It is often highly philanthropic too. It is only when power is used to enrich the powerful themselves at the cost of others that civil wars happen.) Even democracies with a built in dynamic to restore balance and equity are now failing because one set of politicians seem no better than the other set or sets in restoring equitable and humane distribution of growth and opening up of opportunities to all. It is only a question of time before a new brand of democracy empowered by modern technology emerges that will make sure that power itself gets truly spread among the masses and governance will work in a new paradigm where no one individual or set of individuals can set the agenda of their choice. Standard of living of all people then improves relative to their merit and hard work in an open and transparent ambiance. Crowd sourcing of legislative work, referendums and so on may become the norm rather than the exception. There will be problems created by cyber-vandals and cyber-psychopaths. The answer to this will evolve from the vast reservoir of goodness that still keeps mankind ticking.
Now let us address the larger issue of war and peace briefly. The efforts towards peace in any emerging war-like scenario must be absolutely honest and strain our every collective nerve from the level of the common man and the media to the level of the true power-holders whose lonely and collective burden it is to decide go to war or not. There is no question about this. However, when confronted by desperadoes masquerading as rulers of peoples, if and after the strenuous efforts mentioned above fail, the strike by good, humane and life-protective polities must be swift and effective to the extent that there is neither an attempt at empire building or spreading a commercial sphere of influence nor is there a possibility of a worse set of rulers coming to power with impunity. Any day this is not beyond the capacity of the collective reservoir of global leadership, whatever be the style or the forums in which the leaders themselves interact, be they leaders of thought in their respective domains or leaders of political power.
Fanatical militias would try to carve out their territories of bloody power when a tyrant who held them together with a gun to their heads is displaced. This also can be countered by strong backing and support from international leaders in disarming them and bringing them on to the path of whatever polity they wish to experiment with sans internecine street fights and prolonged bloodletting. It is doable.



Sep 12, 2013


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