Three months after taking office, President Dwight Eisenhower delivered a speech called “The Chance for Peace,” commonly referred to as the Cross of Iron speech. Eisenhower is perhaps most famous for his declaration in his farewell address, that “we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”
Eisenhower’s “Cross of Iron” speech is directed at the Soviet Union in a time of global uncertainty. His description of the U.S.S.R. sounds more like a recent description of current U.S. affairs in security and defense.
In the world of its design, security was to be found, not in mutual trust and mutual aid but in force: huge armies, subversion, rule of neighbor nations. The goal was power superiority at all costs. Security was to be sought by denying it to all others. The result has been tragic for the world and, for the Soviet Union, it has also been ironic. The amassing of the Soviet power alerted free nations to a new danger of aggression. It compelled them in self-defense to spend unprecedented money and energy for armaments. It forced them to develop weapons of war now capable of inflicting instant and terrible punishment upon any aggressor.
Eisenhower continues by outlining the costs of war, what is lost when we choose war over peace, whether communist or terrorists or capitalist are behind the decisions.
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 in 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 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.