Echoes from 1961: Ike’s Fear of Red Scare Consequences and Today’s Crisis of Code Red

By Nick Deiuliis

In January 1961, as President Eisenhower was preparing to move out of the White House and exit public office, he delivered a primetime radio and TV farewell address to the American people. It became known as the ‘military industrial complex’ speech. It has largely been forgotten and deserves a revisit.

That speech 60-plus years ago contains core themes that proved prescient. Ike was warning us back in 1961 of the current crisis facing not just America, but all Western republican democracies.

Read the full text of President Eisenhower’s Farewell Address here via the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library. Watch the address here on C-SPAN.

The Red Scare

The primary threat America was facing in 1961 was communism, what Ike referenced as a “hostile ideology” that was “global in scope, atheistic in character, ruthless in purpose, and insidious in method.”

His descriptors demonstrate how communism and the Left were viewed as serious and legitimate threats to the West back then.
And both remain threats today.

The contemporary Left snugly fits Ike’s 1961 phraseology for communism. It is certainly atheistic in character, as it looks to subvert religions because it views religions as competition, with leftism becoming a religion unto itself. The Left is ruthless, patiently and methodically, in purpose. And it is insidious, working from within legacy and impactful institutions, coercing change, gradually and everywhere.

Negative Consequences of Extreme Policy

As worried as Ike was about the specter of communism, he dedicated much of the farewell speech to warning Americans about the negative, serious consequences of committing to poor policies that promised to combat the threat but that would end up doing more harm than good to Western society.

He pointed out that there are no silver bullets to pressing problems in life and in geopolitics: “Crises there will continue to be. In meeting them, whether foreign or domestic, great or small, there is a recurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties.”

Ike worried the military industrial complex would see the threat of communism as a convenient crisis; an opportunity to grab undue power and influence.

He pointed out that in the early 1960s, the nation’s spend on military security exceeded the net income of all US corporations. He saw the potential for substantial power being misplaced into the wrong hands and special interests, and viewed such as a very serious threat.

It could result in government subsidy and funding subsuming intellectual curiosity in academic and industrial research. Public policy might become captive to an elite class that ruled under a veneer of being scientifically and technologically omnipotent and infallible. Plunder for the benefit of the special interests today would ruin the potential of everyone tomorrow.

The Remedy

Ike saw a simple preventative remedy to avoid the military industrial complex threat taking root. He prescribed, in a word, balance. Between costs and benefits, the private sector and government, national interests and individual rights, and the present and the future.

And Ike saw as a prerequisite to finding good policy balance the nurturing of an “alert and knowledgeable citizenry.” Doing so would deliver equilibrium between liberty of the individual and protection from the threat when making policy.

The Left’s Gambit

Ike’s 1961 warnings about the danger of extreme policies when attempting to vanquish communism come with a modern irony.

The Left procured the risks and fears enumerated in the military industrial complex speech when America was deep in the Cold War battling the Left.

We thought the Left vanquished when the Iron Curtain fell. But while we slumbered, the Left successfully convinced the West to self-impose policy templates that embraced those risks and fears to ‘tackle’ climate change.

The crisis of communism back then was replaced with the crisis of Code Red today. Along with promised salvation through extreme environmental policies warranting to save the planet yet designed exclusively for the benefit of the Left. Genius.

Code Red Consequences Today

Today’s energy transition policies rooted in climate alarmism are extreme and violate the warnings Eisenhower provided in the military industrial complex speech.

A climate apocalypse is presented as an unavoidable certainty without drastic action prescribed by an expert class. It is a risk that supersedes all other risks, past and present. Thus, we are told that extreme policy is a must and is the only option.

Experts assure that extreme policy offers a silver bullet.

If we obediently follow the policy prescriptions and surrender personal freedoms and quality of life, the planet will magically cool to whatever temperature setting we desire, to within a tenth of a degree of accuracy. And it will rain when and where we want it to. Eco-nirvana awaits if we adhere to energy transition policy.

We are told that with a silver bullet solution at the ready to the Code Red existential threat, we must stop worrying about finding balance in our policies. This is no time to quibble, this is Code Red! Yes, the costs of the policies today are massive, but they pale next to the avoided costs in a century of unabated climate change. Surrendering personal freedoms is a small price to pay for saving the planet; especially when many of those freedoms are sinful excess and indulgence. The private sector must take a back seat to decision making and instead follow what is assigned by the state.

Yes, the energy transition will require the consumption of more national treasure, personal wealth, and taxpayer subsidy than anything in history. Avoiding the highway to climate hell is not going to be cheap; trillions of dollars is simply the price of salvation.

Yes, climate policies will place enormous power in monied special interests, the unelected government bureaucrat, and the chosen elite. But we must trust them, for they are the experts who hold the solution to our existential problem. Our future indeed rests in the hands of the Code Red complex illuminati.

Those who desire to be alert and knowledgeable on energy and climate policies, especially those who have the audacity to dissent and follow the scientific method, are threats to all of us. They must be silenced, censored, vilified, and labeled as ‘deniers.’ Investigate them. Blackball them. After all, this is an emergency that calls for drastic emergency measures.

Yes, government becomes all-powerful if we wish to successfully tackle climate change. It pushes out private sector endeavors and investment. It manipulates capital markets on an unprecedented, epic scale. It will incentivize business models and academic research that exist exclusively to rent-seek taxpayer subsidy. Innovation, disruptive technology, meritocracy, and the scientific method are suffocated. But we save the planet.

And soon enough a tipping point is achieved, whereby all policy is driven by a small cadre of elites and experts. We are not sure how they became credentialed as such, but nevertheless, we are told to blindly follow or face the consequences.

Ike Is Rolling Over In His Grave

President Eisenhower would have seen right through the scheming and exposed the associated danger of the Code Red complex. And he would be devastated to see how the Left today has used climate alarmism to inject the risks he warned about when combatting the Left then.

Toward the end of the speech, Eisenhower issued a warning that is sadly laughable today. He advised to “avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage.”

The Code Red complex justifies its plundering in the name of future generations. Yet its policies bankrupt the future.

The US government has run a budget deficit every year since 2002. During boom and recession; during and after pandemic; whether at war or in peaceful times. In 2004, with troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, the deficit was $400 billion. In 2009, during the Global Financial Crisis, the federal deficit was $1.4 trillion. Last year, with low unemployment and high economic growth, the deficit was $2 trillion. The level of deficit has exponentially increased.

Policies developed and justified by the Code Red complex are the root cause.

And the complex will make the numbers worse. The CBO projects the national debt is going to increase somewhere just shy of $120 trillion in the next 30 years, much of it squandered on energy transition mandates and subsidy. Perhaps the greatest plundering of future generations by a current generation in history.

Today our nation desperately needs leaders like Ike. Leaders who focus on pursuing policies that serve the best interests of America and its citizens.

Echoes from 1961: Ike’s Fear of Red Scare Consequences and Today’s Crisis of Code Red