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Showing 1-10 of 10 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 13 reviews
on December 23, 2010
January 17, 2011 will be the 50th anniversary of Dwight David Eisenhower's best known speech, the one in which he warned of the development of a military-industrial complex in the United States. James Ledbetter digs deeply into the origins of Eisenhower's speech and systematically examines some of its consequences. The book is well-written, clearly referenced, and blessedly concise. For those who would like to know a bit more about "Ike" and where he was coming from, this book will be very welcome.

To me the most telling thing about the book is that its interpretations and judgments don't seem to need revision even though 21 new drafts of the speech were discovered (in the boat house of speech writer Malcolm Moos) in Minnesota. For more information on the drafts, see The New Yorker, Dec. 20 & 27, pp. 42 and 44. Of course, those new drafts have yet to be thoroughly studied, and so "the last word" is yet to be written.

Ultimately, that is what I like about the book. It provides great context and content, and doesn't overreach, while opening new doors for further exploration. My further exploration will be along the lines of learning more about the actual military-industrial complex, rather than the term itself. But that is only one door out of Ledbetter's book.
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on March 19, 2011
The American sociologist C.Wright Mills has published his most famous book in 1956, called "The Power Elite". In the book, Mills has written about the centers of power concentration which was to be found in a fwe sectors of society: business, the military, and national government. Mills was worried about a schism between an elite with ever-increasing power and control and a mass society with little or no identification with that elite. It was this development which posed a threat to any democracy.
Five years later, in his farewell speech, President Eisenhower echoed Mills' concern, when he warned that "we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex". What this phrase meant-and still means today-is the subject of Lebetter's fascinating and important book.
Some historians locate the history of the military-industrial complex(MIC) somewhere in the middle of the nineteenth century when the munitions industry has supplied the U.S military with weapons and supplies especially during the Civil War and after it. Ever since then, charges of profiteering have surfaced in the area of military procurement and these charges increased in number around the time that World War One broke out. The claim was that arms manufacturers cheated the government "in order to preserve their profits". They deliberately encouraged countries to start wars, join wars, or prolong wars in order to create demand for their products.
Some books published during the 1930 had even dubbed those arms manufacturers "merchants of death", and Mr. Ledbetter gives some examples and main themes regarding these books.
Before and after becoming President, Eisenhower was aware of the need for a rational military policy which balanced the duties, budgets and roles of the Army, the Air Force and the Navy. The president argued that war was destructive and undesirable and he also held the opinion that spending on war even during peacetime diverted resources that could be "put to better use" such as "the building of schools, new homes and fully equipped hospitals".
Mr. Ledbetter shows the many paradoxes which governed the tenure of Eisenhower during his presidency. One of them was had to do with the need to spend billions of dollars since those were crucial years in the history of the Cold War, and on the other hand Eisenhower's constant criticism of the social costts of military spending.
The origins of the phrase "military-industrial comp" were never established, although there are some sources which are pointed at by the author. By 1959, Eisenhower had begun to see private military contractors as self-interested, malign actors in the budget process.
The second part of the book shows what impact Eisenhower's last speech had in the history of the MIC. Four detailed examples in which the MIC was deemed to be shaping public life in a malovolent way are presenteed to the reader. They are about the shaping the nation's military budget; the infringing upon civil liberties; the distortion of national and social priorities, and the way academic freedom and the role of universities were affected. The time frame under which these four aspects are discussed and elaborated on concern the years 1961 to the late seventies.
The last chapter serves as a warning, echoing Eisenhower's fears as they came up in his speech. The chapter called: "Eisenhower must be rolling in his grave" shows to what extent recent events have revived interest in the MIC. These are, for example: the role of Cheney and the detention center at Guantanamo Bay as well as the torture in the Abu Ghraib prison; the privatisation of security and combat as represented by the Blackwater firm and many more. Mr. Ledbetter states that military spending under Obama is more than a trilion dollars a year, "significantly higher in constant dollars than during the Cold War period, the Vietnam War, or the Reagan-era buildup". Although the fact that some effects are beneficial, such as cell phones, the GPS, the Internet-all of which emerged from technologies first developed for and by the military, one should be aware of the dangers of the MIC, as stated by Eisenhower's speech.
This book,which is a long essay,is a brilliant piece showing the history, background and consequences of the MIC, and is extremely relevant especially these days.
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on May 24, 2017
I'm fully satisfied.
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on July 22, 2013
As a boomer born in the late 40s, I've grown up with conflicts and wars of both the cold and hot varieties. But I never truly thought of them as products of a growth indrustry. Perhaps as by products of an at times incompetent elected government, but never as investments. To quote Pogo "...I've seen the enemy and he is us."
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on January 26, 2015
This book recalls the full history of the MIC, dating back to the Civil War, and Eisenhower's relationship to it. It also looks at how the speech has been misrepresented, especially by conspiracy theorists on the left wing. If you want an objective read about the most powerful and most misunderstood institution in America, read this book.
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on March 28, 2011
My review is a view from outside USA. For people from USA, I think this is a book that every citizen should read, or should know about.

Military expenditures are a hot topic nowadays. Dwight D. Eisenhower is with no doubt an important historical figure, with wise and intellectual ideas. I really enjoyed reading his thoughts about military expenditures. The part I liked most is the part about his thoughts on university.

This books clearly states what Dwight D. Eisenhower thought, the environment that he developed this thought and the past of this thought. For non-English readers, you may need a dictionary with you, but the times you will need to refer to the dictionary is acceptable (actually I used the dictionary on my iPhone, so I was comfortable with dictionary usage).

I think this book is a must read for people thinking about defense industry and about defense expenditure.
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on August 4, 2012
This was a thorough book, though it did seem to offer an activist anti-military bias. Despite this, I really appreciated the vast access to sources which this book provides. I was able to do a great deal of research for a paper I was working on based on many of the sources this book brings together. There are, in my opinion, several instances where the facts are accumulated to serve the theme, and while they are similar enough to advance the idea being expressed, I'd caution the reader to be careful in making their judgments based solely off the methods employed here. As a brief example, the inferences made concerning the roots of the MIC and the theories and philosophies which had ran prior to the Eisenhower administration are delivered in a very direct manner, coloring the ominous nature which this book seemingly attempts to sculpt the matter. I'd caution the reader in this instance and point them towards seeing Eisenhower's words as directed more in a political response to opposition claims about military strength verse the Soviet nuclear missile threat at the time and the reports being used to bolster and undermine the President and his party's stance. One of the fore-runners in this opposition was a young Senator named Kennedy, who later after ascending to the Presidency, admitted that many of the claims made were baseless and unmerited. They had, however, influenced the political will of the nation and the democratic institution which Eisenhower was trying to defend. There is a serious leap one must make to go beyond the very real events which Eisenhower was addressing, almost rising to a conspiracy level of indictment. This may make for intriguing Hollywood films and best selling books, but aren't always the purest image of reality. Much of what this book does is trace the evolution of the MIC in the USA and in that it is a great collection of information. The punch is delivered by inserting Eisenhower's famous words from his farewell address, which had at least during Eisenhower's time bore, in my opinion, a greater innocence than this offering portrays.

Summary: I enjoyed this book and found easy to read and follow. The bias I detected may not be something others will see, so please don't let this stop you from getting this if you are interested. I found this book to be a great survey of what has become known as the MIC and recommend it as a wonderful introduction into the subjects of both Eisenhower and the MIC.
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on March 2, 2016
Thoughful, provocative
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on April 19, 2013
It was a core book for a class that I took and the book was very helpful and informative. I liked his writing--easy to read.
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on February 5, 2011
This was a gift to my brother so I really don't know about the book. I saw the author talk about it on c-spans Book TV & thought it sounded quite interesting. My brother is an avid reader cencerning lots of things that are being written about now.
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