If Eisenhower were here today…

Fifty years ago this week, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned Americans about the growing power of the military-industrial complex. He lived in a different time from ours, but the debate over our government’s plan to purchase a fleet of F-35 stealth fighters shows his message is still relevant for Canadians today.

As Eisenhower might have predicted, the forces allied in favour of the F-35 program are defence firms and the military. But the stealth fighters’ tremendous cost, at least $16-billion — Canada’s most expensive purchase in history–comes at a time when the federal budget defecit has never been higher. How many valued social programs will have to be cut to reduce the deficit and pay for the stealth fighters? Is that what Canadians want?

Eisenhower feared that the military-industrial complex’s influence would undermine democracy, but added that an alert and knowledgeable citizenry could check its unwarranted influence. Some things never change.

Steven Staples, Rideau Institute, Ottawa.

This letter was published in the National Post on January 18, 2011.

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