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President Eisenhower’s farewell address turns 50: does his warning against a “military industrial complex” apply to us today?

President Dwight D. Eisenhower circa 1954
President Dwight D. Eisenhower circa 1954
The New York Times via U.S. Library of Congress

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On January 17th, 1961, President Dwight D. Eisenhower delivered to the nation his farewell address. Up to 1961, America had participated in three major wars during the 20th century and subsequently built up a large armament and military establishment. Because of this, President Eisenhower warned against, amongst many other things, the misplacement of power and unwarranted influence abroad coining the famous term “military industrial complex.” So 50 years later, in a new century and at a time that our country is engaged in two wars abroad, does President Eisenhower’s warning still hold true, or have we moved past what would classify as a military industrial complex? What do you think?


Valoise Armstrong, preservation archivist at the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum under the National Archives and Research Administration

Charles Dunlap, visiting professor and Associate Director, Center on Law, Ethics, and National Security at Duke University School of Law; former deputy judge advocate general of the United States Air Force; retired Air Force major general