On April 16, 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower gave a speech which has been increasingly quoted recently– probably because it has become increasingly relevant when examining the affairs of our President and our government.
The way chosen by the United States was plainly marked by a few clear precepts, which govern its conduct in world affairs.
First: No people on earth can be held, as a people, to be enemy, for all humanity shares the common hunger for peace and fellowship and justice.
Second: No nation’s security and well-being can be lastingly achieved in isolation but only in effective cooperation with fellow-nations.
Third: Any nation’s right to form of government and an economic system of its own choosing is inalienable.
Fourth: Any nation’s attempt to dictate to other nations their form of government is indefensible.
And fifth: A nation’s hope of lasting peace cannot be firmly based upon any race in armaments but rather upon just relations and honest understanding with all other nations.
Pay particularly close attention to his third and fourth principles above. It seems we are clearly violating them– in the same way the Soviet Union did during the aftermath of World War II. We soundly condemned them for what they did in Eastern Europe, yet are we not doing the same thing in Iraq today? Oh, the hypocrisy.
Continuing to discuss the Cold War and the arms race, Eisenhower said:
The worst to be feared and the best to be expected can be simply stated.
The worst is atomic war.
The best would be this: a life of perpetual fear and tension; a burden of arms draining the wealth and the labor of all peoples; a wasting of strength that defies the American system or the Soviet system or any system to achieve true abundance and happiness for the peoples of this earth.
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 thirty cities.
It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of sixty thousand. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete highway.
We pay for a single fighter with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than eight thousand people.
This, I repeat, is the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. But 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.
These plain and cruel truths define the peril and point the hope that come with this spring of 1953.
And the spring of 2008.