The United States is controlled by the military-industrial complex. You might think this is an off the wall conspiracy theory. Who came up with this idea? Was it a loony leftie? No, it was a Republican president. In his farewell address President Dwight D Eisenhower warned the American people to be on their guard against the overweening influence of the military industrial. President Eisenhower’s valedictory words about the threat posed to democracy by the military-industrial complex could have come from the words of an official Soviet publication.
What is the military industrial complex? It is a circle of military manufacturing companies, the military, mercenaries (er… sorry… I mean ‘private military companies’), hawkish journalists, bellicose politicians and war mongering lobbyists. Another way to put it is it is the war profiteers. The military manufacturing companies want to make fat profits. They pay lobbyists to persuade politicians to vote major contracts through Congress. Military manufacturing companies are canny enough to manufacture a product in as many states as possible. Sometimes if it is something highly complex like a aeroplane they can make the wings in one state, the cockpit in another, the engine in another etc…. so that senators and representatives from a multitude of states have a vested interest in voting through this defense contract. It is pork barrel politics at its most pigheaded and porcine. Journalists for war mongering channels such as Fox ‘News’ become cheer leaders for bombing brown people. Politicians receive bribes, I mean, donations to vote through these contracts. Military officers once they leave military service can find a comfortable stable as a lobbyists, journalist, or executive at a military manufacturing company. Many of the people in the non-military parts of the war profit industry are part-time members of the US military. You might be a politician who is in the US Army Reserve or a journalist who is in the National Guard etc… There is a revolving dor between the various sections of the military-industrial complex. If you are a politician who loses your place in Congress you can become a lobbyist, journalist of military manufacturing executive.
Being voted out is increasingly unlikely. The United States has got gerrymandering down to a fine art by packing and cracking. The United States is the country that gifted the world with the term gerrymander. The expression is derived from the name of a Governor of Massachusetts and Vice-President of the United States: Elbridge Gerry. He drew district boundaries shaped like a salamander. Electoral district boundaries are drawn with the express intention of maximizing partisan advantage. This is about distributing your support as efficiently as possible and your opponent’s support as inefficiently as possible. Packing means concentrating your support in a district such that you can be confident that you will win. You do not want just over 50% of the people in the district to support your party. That is too close. There are the vagaries of individual candidates, the economic cycle, turnout and so forth. 51% would be too close for comfort. You want about 55% of the people in the district to be your supporters bearing in mind that there are only two parties of serious significance in the United States. The fact that there are only two parties of note in such a gigantic and diverse country is a grave indictment of the United States. You should not have too much over 55% of the people on your side in any one electoral district. That would be overkill and waste votes. Conversely, you want your opponents support to be close to 100% in other districts. This means that his or her support is squandered by being so heavily concentrated in one electoral district. You cannot prevent your opponent winning any representation therefore seek to minimize it by keeping it corralled in a small number of electoral districts.
Because the flagrantly partisan nature of re-districting in the United States most electoral districts are non-competitive. The minor party does not stridently campaign in most districts. Once the Republicans have won a district several times the Democrats there become demoralized and are unlikely to bother vote. Others move away. Therefore, a district where the Republicans won 55% of the vote several times consecutively turns into one where they won 65% regularly. The same is true in Democrat held constituencies. A very small number of districts changes hands at each election. In the so-called blue wave election in 2018 the Democrats gained under 10% of the districts in the House of Representatives.
There are tens of millions of praiseworthy Americans who recognized that much has gone deeply wrong in the United States. The twisted cult of militarism stalks the land. This is a far cry from the vision of the Founding Fathers. They rightly recognized that an overmighty military could be a weapon in the hands of a tyrant. It was against excessive military spending and the undue power of army officers over civilians that the American Revolution started. That is not to mention the hefty impositions levied to pay for all this. The Founding Fathers considered restricting the US Army to 5 000 men. It is perhaps a pity that they did not.
We all know that the US is a military behemonth. Twas not always thus. Until 1941 the US military was decidedly small. The US Navy was formidable since the United States has a very long littoral. Moreover, she possessed islands in the Pacific and the US had made the Caribbean little more than an American lake. But the US Army and the US Marine Corps were not large, not well-equipped and not highly paid. The Second World War was to change that beyond recognition. Until the 1940s most Americans were wisely suspicious of the notion of a bloated military. It was not the American way. They did not want to be lorded over by martinets. America’s boast was that it had no compulsory military service. In so many other nations men were obliged to serve in the armed forces. America being a free country did not compel men to do so. But from 1941 the United States jettisoned some of these most estimable mores.
There are plenty of anti-militarists in America. There are courageous voices raised against the excessive and undue influence of the military-industrial complex. People complain about the heavy taxes which burden then to support the military juggernaut. They are rightly alarmed by the deficit which balloons apace. Why are these voices so seldom heard? The military-industrial complex will not tolerate such dissent.
If the military-industrial complex is to be sustained what does America need? In a word: enemies. The war industry has to invent bogymen if they cannot be found. To some extent that is true with the CIA as well. The war industry is often itching for a war. It would be a pity to be all dressed up and have nowhere to go. If there was no mortal peril what then? Then there would be a serious danger of cutbacks in military spending.
I am not blaming the ordinary Joe who enlists in the US military. Many of the youths who sign up for the US military are escaping poverty. They know little of world politics. ‘There’s not to reason why/ There’s but to do and die…’ There are different sorts of personalities in the US military as there are in any other vast organization. Some of them are amiable and others are at least decent.
The blatantly unfair electoral district system calls into question America’s incessantly repeated claim to be the pinnacle of democracy. The US mission to export democracy by cruise missile is hard to credit.
The war profiteers do not want peace breaking out. That would spell doom for their jerk circle. It would suit the war industry if we had Bellum omnium contra omnes.
The US has hundreds of military bases. Many are on the border of the Russian Federation. Russia feels hemmed in, menaced and encircled. Imagine if the Russian Federation concluded a formal military alliance with America’s neighbours. Supposing Russian troops were stationed in Canada, Mexico and the Bahamas? Then Uncle Sam would go apoplectic. When Soviet troops were stationed in Cuba in 1961 the Americans felt very threatened. Cuba had the absolute right to form a defensive alliance with another sovereign state. The Cubans had good reason to seek Soviet military assistance. They knew that Langley Farm was plotting the overthrow of Cuba’s government.
It is hard to believe that the US is under threat. It defines its security as the insecurity of everyone else. Other nations must be vulnerable to America or else America gets scared.
Some right wing opinion forms have excoriated the military-industrial complex. Pat Buchanan is perhaps the foremost of them. He is the scourge of the welfare-warfare state. He noted that the Democrats started the Spanish American War, the First World War, military interventions in Nicaragua and the Caribbean, the Second World War, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. However since then Republicans invaded Grenada, Panama, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan. The trouble is that Buchanan makes no convincing show of being an isolationist. He served in the Reagan White House. Reagan was one of the most military interventionist presidents of all time. Buchanan excoriates the welfare-warfare state.
What are some of the core propaganda messages of the war profit industry in the US? Muslims are bad. Foreigners are a threat. We must defend our allies. Our allies do not spend enough on weapons so we must spend more. Spend more and more and then eventually we will have permanent peace and be able to cut back on spending.
This peace dividend when the US can afford to slash its military budget never, ever comes. There were some notable reductions under Clinton. But since George W Bush the cost of so called ‘defence’ has spiraled. Washington Rules by Andrew J Bacevich is a searing indictment of the pernicious influence and destructive deeds of the military-industrial complex. Dr Bacevich is a former career US Army officer and writes with immense authority and unsparing clarity in his expose of the profoundly corrupting effect of the war profiteer caucus in Washington DC.
One of the core fallacies indefatigably propagated by the war profiteers is that the United States is ‘the best last hope of earth’. This highly self-flattering notion is genuinely believed by the gullible. Those who fall for this tripe ought to recall that self-praise is no praise. Many Americans labour under the dangerous delusion that it falls to the United States to remake the world in its own image. Turning another country into an imitation of the United States has been America’s mission since 1945. It has often succeeded and seldom failed. The notion that Iraq can be turned into America has been tested to destruction. There is the unspoken arrogant presupposition that Iraqis want to be Americans. This is as preposterously specious as imagining that Americans want to be Iraqis. But in terms of reducing living standards, increasing gun deaths, misogyny, homophobia, racialism, environmental degradation and religious mania the war profiteers have done a decent job of making the US become more like Iraq under Saddam Hussein.
There are a number of glaring contradictions in the war industry’s claims. If America’s allies fail to pull their weight then the US should not defend them.
The US claims to stand for the furtherance of democracy. Yet the US has so often propped up despots, sawdust Caesars, Punjabi Pinochets, and tinpot tyrants. The war industry says that Muslims are evil. But again and again the US has thrown its weight behind Muslim states. These are usually oppressive religious reactionary regimes in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kuwait and Yemen. Washington has opposed and crushed reformists and moderates in the Muslim world.
The US Department of Defense is a misnomer. Should it be called the Department of Attack? The Department of Invasion and Occupation? Or possibly the Department of Bombing Brown People. Since 1945 US Department of Defense has never defended the United States. The US military is invariably fighting abroad – usually a very long way from home.
There are 700 US Military bases in 131 countries. Who is a threat to whom?
Some pointed questions need to be posed in the United States. America spend 60% of all the money spent on the military in the world. For such a mind blowing sum of money Uncle Sam ought to conquer all before him. Yet time and again the United States has been bested by a puny foe such as the Taliban. Even with the able assistance of NATO allies the United States has been unable to extirpate guerrillas armed only with handheld weaponry. By contrast the United States boasts state of the art military technology. America is always pushing back the frontier of the possible with weaponry. It is proud to invent each new generation of weapon systems.
The United States spends more on the military than the next dozen odd countries combined. Most of those nation states are US allies. Why does the United States have to pay so much for its security? Its higher spend it partly because of higher salaries for its military personnel. In countries less affluent than the US salaries are commensurately lower. China, Pakistan, India and Russia all have gargantuan armies but as the average income in these lands is lower than in the United States so is a soldier’s pay. There is another factor that explains the mind boggling sums that America spends on its armed forces. In a word: welfare. Many Americans fulminate about the supposed wickedry of socialism. They may preach the much vaunted virtues of rugged individualism. A man should stand on his own two feet. People must be subjected to the disciplines of the free market and be self-reliant. Except when it comes to the US military. The US military provides for its people from cradle to grave. Its hospitals treat not only US military personnel but also the immediate family thereof. Once a man or woman has completed military service he or she will be treated by Veterans’ Administration hospitals. The US military provides higher education free of charge as well as housing. Some of this education is germane to the US military’s mission. Some of it is not even tangential to the mission. There are US military officers studying degrees in English at Oxford University. In no wise is this connected to their career. It is staggering that American politicians who shriek about pork and spit blood at the notion of publicly funded tertiary education show such largesse to the US military. The military-industrial complex has managed to con people into believing that profligate spending on the armed forces is patriotic. Retrenchment, living within your means, peace and modesty – these should be regarded as patriotic. Braggadocio, the ostentatious show of patriotism, overspending and militarism ought to be perceived as the vices which they are. The perverse cult of toughness has led to America’s love affair with the gun. The tragic consequences of this deeply unhealthy fixation with firearms play out on America’s streets every day. Chauvinism and firearms make an unpalatable combination but when added to machismo the mixture is lethal.
Do all the US bases abroad actually enhance US security? Or are they provocative? Do they make war more likely not less? And if they do raise the chance of war should they not be closed forthwith?
The US abets injustice and mass murder is deemed unmentionable in Washington. The illegal occupation of Palestine is not called what it is – a crime against humanity.
The Colombian coke kingpin Pablo Escobar was a CIA asset. He eventually outlived his usefulness and was assassinated by the United States. But Escobar taught his American paymasters one thing. His policy was ‘silver or led’. People would be offered a choice. They were either paid by him and therefore worked for him or they would be shot dead. The war profiteers have much the same policy only their attitude is not quite so brutal. Budding politicians in the United States need to accept donations from the war profiteers. If they do then they must be obedient puppets in Congress. If not their political career will be killed before it is even born. The war profiteers have their allies in the media to blackguard anyone gallant enough to tell the unvarnished truth about the baleful work wrought by the war industry. It is a rare voice indeed that is raised against the the war profiteers. The brave souls may be stricken in their bloom by vengeful war mongers. The war industry will not tolerate dissent. The journalists who work their wicked will shall calumniate any politician with the moral decency to decry militarism.
What would happen if the war profiteers had their stranglehold on power broken? The US military budget would be scaled back to a sane level. At the moment the United States spends 6% of GDP on the military. This is 3 times the NATO average. The US would then be able to cut taxes, pay off the national debt and fund excellent public services. Publicly funded healthcare for all would be possible. Publicly funded tertiary education all the way to PhD level would be very possible. A green revolution would be eminently feasible. Teachers and other public servants could be decently paid. Welfare payments to the handicapped, the elderly and jobseekers would be brought up to a humane level.
The war profiteers would not possibly stand for that. We simply cannot have social justice can we? We could not abide paying off the national debt and indeed having a sovereign wealth fund. Free healthcare for all is simply intolerable. The government should only cause death not prevent death. That at least is the outlook of the war industry. Making life better for the average American is inadmissible to the war profiteers. A clean environment with all the health benefits that would follow in its train would be quite unthinkable for the war industry.
Reducing the US military to a sensible level would defuse tense situations in a number of zones. It would lead to a general change in attitude. For all too many in the US the gun is not the last resort but almost the first. This is why the police in the United States demonstrate a deep seated prediliction for shooting dead unarmed black people. The excuse proffered is often ‘I thought he had a gun’. He is allowed to have a gun! The entrenched defenders of police murders of black people tend to be gun nuts. They are those who say that anyone should carry any gun anywhere anytime. They would send five year olds to school with guns and grenades. You think I am joking? Sacha Baron Cohen did a video in 2018 when he interviewed a US gun nut Philip Van Cleave who proposed just that. Van Cleave is not a nobody – he is President of the Virginia Citizens’ Defense League. That is no petty organisation. Its viewpoint is almost mainstream in the United States. These same firearm obsessives then use the excuse that a police officer imagined a black person possessed a gun to say that murdering black people is entirely legal and ethical. It underscores yet again the strong strain of racism that exists among a large section of American society.
The polluters, the racists, the war industry and the robber barons form a tight little circle. This axis of evil is called the Republican Party. Unfortunately, it also finds considerable representation in the Democratic Party too. Sometimes I feat that the United States is past saving.
Permanent war seemed the new normal. However, with the withdrawal from Afghanistan there is a glimmer of hope. Has Uncle Sam learnt a very painful and costly lesson?
If the US cut its military down to size it might think about its prison population. It is well known that the US has the highest prison population per capita in the world. This is the prison-industrial complex. Many of the same factors are as play here as are found in the military-industrial complex. The corrupting effect of political donations is plain to see. If the war profiteers were tackled then the prison profiteers might follow. America might begin to see that violence is not the solution to every problem. Sure some people belong in prison but not three million of them. A third of them are there for drug offences. In some cases this is possession. It was a victimless crime. It was never alleged that the so-called felon did anyone the tiniest bit of harm. How odd that the land of the free should be addicted to making its people unfree.