With Americans dreaming that change begins and ends on Pennsylvania Avenue, Filmmaker Eugene Jarecki provides the real home address of its implementation and gives definition to what the word should mean to Americans thinking about living there. With the release of his new book, "The American Way of War," he said politicians need an "unrelenting mandate" from us to face down the threat President Eisenhower prophesied in his farewell address on the Military Industrial Complex.
So whether the perceived Kennedy-esque agent of our age or the maverick persona appeals, he says, "The machine does not care about good intentions." That means even presidential power is minuscule in comparison and chipping away at the monster begins by addressing our representation in congress.
Piggybacking on Eisenhower and expanding on his documentary film, Why We Fight, Mr. Jarecki describes congress as the conduit that solidifies the unholy alliance between industry and military production. For instance, production of the multibillion-dollar F-22 Fighter is scattered across the country, deliberately tying re-election and those jobs to numerous representatives.
Of course, some constituents will question why such a huge program is needed to develop a fighter plane against an enemy with no air force. In comparison, a limited number of complaints cannot match what will happen if the elected official raises the issue in congress. "Campaign funding from those industries will dry up and the out of bounds representative will soon see the door," says Mr. Jarecki.
Also weakening the legs under a senate seat is the disproportionate power that has resided in the executive branch since FDR, and the manner in which the media latched onto him and his successors. Power then truly comes due in a time of war.
In the case of Iraq, Republicans simply stood with their party, but many wondered where the dissenting Democrats were. "They had to follow the executive branch in regard to the WMD's," he says, because all those jobs (and campaign finances) tied to the F-22 would disappear when the Department of Defense decides to locate those contracts to another state.
Of course, that is the Department of Defense in the executive branch, and it works the same way regardless of the party in power. Making matters worse is that media outlets not following the party line suffer a similar fate. Reporters asking the wrong questions will find themselves left out of the loop and lose the scoops that they come to count on from the White House.
It doesn't take a so called war to keep everyone in line either. Without much discussion, "Bill Clinton starved a half a million Iraqis and fought a war under the radar in Operation Desert Fox," says Jarecki.
In contrast, he prefers George Bush's brash, in your face approach to the nice guy double take of Bill Clinton. "He's a logo for how not to run a country," he says, and in turn, progressive causes gained ground all across the country and the world.
Nonetheless, with this broken machine, an unbridled effort to secure ourselves after September 11th would probably have arisen in either party. Eisenhower spoke to it long before The Patriot Act ever stood in for actual patriotism. "There's no such thing as perfect security but you may destroy yourself to get there," Mr. Jarecki conveyed the sentiment as student of the 34th president.
He might also go along with hero worship, but even from where he stands and studies, Mr, Jarecki cautions against our tendency towards the American style of cult of personality adulation. Lincoln, Reagan, King and even Elvis stand out for us but change did not come solely from them. Obviously backed by masses, he says, within those groups there were smaller, dedicated groups that pushed the future over the top. That leaves us to look up and fill out the change of address forms.