Lenny Domnitser’s
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This is a static archive of the domnit.org blog,
which Lenny Domnitser wrote between 2006 and 2009.

A Virtue of Political Detachment

Why We Fight is an update on the state of the “military-industrial complex” since Dwight Eisenhower first warned the public about it in 1961. The film is fast-paced—a good trait for a thriller, not so much for a documentary. The interviews are chopped into sound-bites of the sort I’ve learned to suspect or ignore. That’s a shame, because what is said is true and frightening.

Once you realize that that bad taste is just propaganda, for which the prescription is a grain of salt, the film can be pretty good, and the content has legs to stand on. The theme is set by Eisenhower’s farewell address, in which he describes the potential danger of a standing army and an economy built around it. To the classic formula of military, contractors, and government, the film adds think tanks, which create policy without public accountability; otherwise Eisenhower was spot-on.

I’ve heard and agreed with the same arguments before, and while data are nice to know, to me the most interesting part of Why We Fight was the way it exposed Eisenhower’s clairvoyance. Listening to Eisenhower speak led me to wonder of he surpasses even George Washington as a farewell addresser. (Of course, I didn’t have the benefit of hearing Washington’s voice.) I enjoyed it so much because the farewell address is the most honest medium of public speech; there are no politics to play.

So I did as any self-respecting web-geek would do, and mined Google to see which were the most important farewell addresses, based on mentions along side the words “farewell address”. Tools used were Greasemonkey, JS shell, OpenOffice, a plain text editor, and my own historical knowledge (read historical web searching) and discretion. I started with this search, wrote this script, and got this data out. I went to work removing nonsense entries, merging spelling errors and variations, translating synonyms like Ike to Eisenhower and Springfield to Lincoln, and culled the list to a reasonable size. The non-scientific but interesting result—15 men 1 greater than You 2:

Person Mentions
Washington 183
Eisenhower 138
Lincoln 22
MacArthur 16
Truman 15
Reagan 13
Annan 13
Rumsfeld 12
Clinton 11
Lee 7
DeLay 6
Jackson 6
Forrest 5
Proxmire 5
Powell 5

  1. If the list wasn’t cropped, I think Thatcher would have been the only woman.
  2. You’re cool too.