Sunday, February 12, 2012

I Like Ike, and So Does Stephen Walt

Paying attention to issues surrounding the selection of public monuments, over whom to honor and in what form, is instructive although often a bit crazy in manifestation. People can argue over the trivial, no doubt, and just getting a monument would prove more than I'll ever get! However, as I say, it is instructive, and in this case, what the heck, I'll throw my 2 cents in with Stephen Walt. Walt notes that famous architect Frank Gehry wants to portray Ike (a/k/a President Eisenhower) in monument as a barefoot Kansas farm boy! His roots, yes, but how we should think of him and his accomplishments, no way! Ike helped lead an Allied coalition against Hitler's Germany to victory, and then as president he led us through nearly a decade of peace and prosperity. Although Republicans will howl, Ike is the best Republican president since TR (take that, Reagan!). However, as Walt notes, Ike should be honored for what he told us as he was about to leave the White House. And since you might not go to the link Walt's site to read it, I'll save you the trouble. From Ike's farewell address given in 1960:
This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, 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.

And was this his view only as he ended his presidency? Note what Walt quotes him from 1953:

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.

The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities.

It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population.

It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway.

We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat.

We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.

This, I repeat, is the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking.

This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.

Those words themselves are worth a monument.

Thomas Homer-Dixon Update

Homer-Dixon sent out a recent email on updated activities, and a visit to his site led me to read above-linked article on complexity. Complexity is one of the most interesting, and I think productive, theories to arise on my intellectual horizon. It applies to natural sciences and social sciences (which, of course, shade into one anther). Homer-Dixon gives a succinct description of complexity theory and of "panarchy", taken from the work of his fellow Canadian, "Buzz" Holling.

This article deals with climate change, Homer-Dixon's current number one concern. Unlike the enigmatic Seth Roberts (a UC Berkley/Quinghua) professor who takes appropriate skepticism to an extreme of denial, Homer-Dixon looks beyond theoretical skepticism to realities, such as the Arctic, and says we'd better sit up and pay attention. I really admire his work. Deep theoretical understanding combined with first-hand observations and engagement make his work the most compelling and important that I've read on the issue (burning, literally) of climate change.