I just finished reading an absolutely awesome book. It’s entitled The War State: The Cold War Origins of the Military-Industrial Complex and the Power Elite, 1945-1963. (Order hard copy here and Kindle version here). I’ll be writing a more extensive discussion of the book in FFF’s monthly journal Future of Freedom. (If you’re not a subscriber, this would be an excellent time to do so!) In the meantime, I can unequivocally say that of all the books I’ve read on the national-security state and the warfare state, this book ranks among the best.
What fascinates me is that the book is self-published. According to the biographical sketch at the end of the book, Swanson “lives in rural Virginia. He received a Masters Degree in history from the University of Virginia and then dropped out of the college’s Ph.D. program to enter the business world. He ran a hedge fund from 2003 until 2006 and runs the website wallstreetwindow.com.”
The War State provides an excellent introduction to the major problem that is facing the American people: the warfare-state, national-security state apparatus that was grafted onto our constitutional order after World War II. Swanson carefully explains how this fundamentally changed our constitutional order and our way of life as Americans, for the worse.
Swanson shows how the national-security state has become a permanent bureaucratized part of the U.S. government. He cites President Eisenhower’s warning to the American people about the dangers that the military-industrial complex pose to our democratic processes. And he details the ever-growing tensions that existed between Eisenhower’s successor, John Kennedy, and the national-security state establishment. His perspectives on the Cold War and the Cuban Missile Crisis are among the best I’ve read.
While the book covers the period 1945-1963, in the final chapter Swanson shows the relevance of the war state to Americans today:
Today the military-industrial complex is more powerful than ever and the war state has become a bloated fiscal nightmare intent to engage in seemingly endless and unwinnable wars until the end of time — all on the basis of supposed threats that are even bigger exaggerations than the Soviet threat was ever portrayed to be during the Cold War. The problem is that if defense spending is not brought under control, eventually the size of the federal debt and the budget deficit will grow so large that the value of the US dollar will decline. It already has….
The promoters of the war state answer by claiming that it is all necessary for your own safety. But is it? In my view, our choice today is not one of safety or defense, because it really doesn’t take much to defend the United States of America. Instead, our choice is between reducing military spending and creating a rational foreign policy or going bankrupt in order to maintain the power of the war state and its imperial policies that don’t work and harm the national economy.
Best of all, this book, this book is oriented toward the educated layman, not the academic. As such, it is easily readable and easily understandable. It’s about 400 pages long, and I read it in about three consecutive evenings.
Michael Swanson gets it. He sees what the embrace of the national-security state has done to our nation. Just like us here at FFF, he’s not willing to accept the notion that the warfare-state apparatus is a necessary part of the U.S. government. He clearly understands, in fact, that the freedom and future well-being of the American people lies in its dismantling.
Buy this book! It is a shining light in the dark times in which we live. Better yet, buy multiple copies for your family and friends!