Liberals and libertarians frequently misinterpret, misuse and falsify his speech for political purposes: to advance their anti-defense agenda. The truth is that Eisenhower merely wanted to warn the American people to make sure that the defense industry and the US military would not be able to influence elections and the political decision-making process. He did not argue for defense cuts.
Sadly, some stubborn people still refuse to acknowledge this fact. Among them is an ignorant one-time AT contributor C. W. Getz, AKA Bill Getz, who posted a comment to my article. Getz wrongly alleges that Eisenhower’s warning was about generals advocating for particular weapon programs that would benefit only their corporations. He also paraphrased Secretary Gates as asking “what beaches are you going to storm?” and claimed that Gates opposes amphibious vehicles. He also made a straw man argument: “how useful are F-22s and F-35s against the Taliban?” Here’s his comment:
“With all due respect, I suggest that President Eisenhower was referring to the influence of senior military leaders and members of industry who have “pet” weapons programs that they are attempting to “sell” to Congress. They are not “bad guys,” but have perceptions of military needs that may not reflect the reality of future military threats. A good example is happening today as Secretary Gates asks the Marine Corps (and I am paraphrasing), “What beaches are you preparing to storm?” as Gates attempts to eliminate over 400 new sophisticated (read expensive) landing craft from the budget. How many F-22s and F-35s do you need to kill the Taliban? Weapon systems should be procured based upon a realistic threat analysis of the future, not upon past wars or some general’s or admiral’s favorite allied with their favorite contractors. That is what President Eisenhower intended to warn against.”
All of his claims are totally false, and prove that he’s totally ignorant about defense issues.
Regarding Ike’s speech itself: no, it wasn’t a warning about generals advocating for weapon programs. The true meaning of that speech was explained in this post and in my AT article. To be sure, some generals join defense corporations – but they do so AFTER they retire from the military. Most of them, when they advocate for weapon programs, argue for them NOT because of defense corporations’ interests, but because they believe these weapon programs are necessary to defend the US. Note: generals join corporations AFTER they retire from the military, not before.
As for Bob Gates and amphibious vehicles: Gates did NOT question the need for such vehicles, nor the rationale for storming beaches, and did not utter the words Getz attributed to him. Here are Gates’ own words (spoken on January 6th, 2011):
“Let me be clear. This decision does not call into question the Marine’s amphibious assault mission. We will budget the funds necessary to develop a more affordable and sustainable amphibious tractor to provide the Marines a ship-to-shore capability into the future. The budget will also propose funds to upgrade the existing amphibious vehicle fleet with new engines, electronics, and armaments to ensure that the Marines will be able to conduct ship-to-shore missions until the next generation of systems is brought on line.”
Those are the SECDEF’s own words. Of course it would be ridiculous to assume that there will never be another amphibious landing. Omar Bradley claimed so in 1949, and he was proven wrong a year later, when American troops landed at Incheon.
Gates has not ruled out ANY amphibious vehicle. He has merely decided to cancel the EFV program, the USMC’s until-now amphibious vehicle program, which, if pursued further, will consume the USMC’s entire ground vehicle budget. And guess who advised Gates to recommend to the Congress the closure of this program? His own Pentagon generals, including General James Cartwright, the commandant of the Marine Corps. They are hardly guys who wish to rob taxpayers of their hard-earned money to pay off their corporate pals, as Getz paints them. They’re not arguing for “their pet weapon programs”.
What about Getz’s claim that the US will never again fight conventional wars and that conventional programs are useless?
Like all other his claims, it’s 100% wrong. The US is currently facing a wide array of conventional enemies, ranging from Putinist Russia and communist China to North Korea, Iran, Syria and Venezuela. Claims that conventional threats no longer exist and that conventional weapon programs are not needed, although popular in the Beltway, are absolutely false, and the only people who believe in them or spread them are ignorant people who know absolutely nothing whatsoever about defense issues. People like C. W. Getz.
The suggestion that there are still unneeded weapon programs at the DOD is also false. The last unnecessary weapon programs were closed during FY2010 by Gates. These included the FCS (which foreseed a family of lightly-armored vehicles exposed to a wide array of hostile weapons), the Zumwalt class (a class of ships with zero BMD capability), and VH-71 presidential helicopters (not really a weapon program, but an expensive one – would’ve cost tapxayers over $20 bn if pursued).
There are no unneeded weapon programs at the DOD right now.
Getz’s comment revealed how ignorant he is. It hardly undermines the theses in my article.