Civilian control of the military has been a central tenet of democratic governance. The trenchant warning from retiring President Dwight D. Eisenhower on the dangers to democracy from a permanent “military-industrial complex” is the most memorable presidential farewell warning in our history. The civil-military gap has widened over the years, starting with the controversy over the Vietnam War in the 1970s; the Goldwater-Nichols Act in the 1980s; and the Global War on Terror in the wake of the attacks in New York City and Washington in 2001. Our bloated defense budget, which accounts for more than one trillion dollars when all departments of government are included and two-thirds of discretionary spending, contributes to the belief that only a professional military class can manage the sophisticated technology of the Pentagon.
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Breaking the Addiction to Secrets and Secrecy
There is no question that the government must protect its sources and methods in the collection of intelligence. Regarding substance, however, I believe that, with the exception of details on weapons systems as well as on sensitive negotiations, there are few legitimate secrets and almost none that must remain classified for more than ten years at most. The secrecy that surrounded the Iran-Contra affair probably saved the Reagan presidency over the short term, but greater transparency would have prevented Iran-Contra from ever getting off the ground in the first place.
Harvard’s Kennedy School: Key Part Of The Military-Industrial Complex
Harvard’s Kennedy School’s denial of a fellowship to Kenneth Roth, the former head of Human Rights Watch, because of his criticism of Israeli policies in the West Bank and Gaza is only the latest example of the corporate role played by Harvard’s most prestigious think tank on public policy. Roth, who has spent the last three decades at HRW defending human rights around the world, was offered a senior fellowship at the School’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy. It was quickly withdrawn.