After more than 10 years of war and nearly 6,000 American deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, plus untold civilian deaths, you’d think the military-industrial complex would take a breather. But no, they’re already back at it. But before I explain, I was shocked, to learn a couple days ago that I’d better define the term. A member of the younger generation asked me, “What’s the military-industrial complex?”
I assume that the same lack of information is shared by others in the business community. Still, it’s the unstated subtext of much of the machinations of the media. So here goes with that answer. The term, military-industrial “complex,” was nicely coined and defined by a military man: General, and then President Dwight Eisenhower. In his farewell address he argued that interlocking and self-serving relationships among the military, industry and the legislature, driven by the defense industry’s search for profits, would warp foreign policy. But he didn’t stop there. He also worried that too much state control of the private sector would result in economic stagnation, that continual preparations for war were inconsistent with our history, and that it was bad for our “spiritual health.”
"This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence – economic, political, even spiritual – is felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. "
Some of the evidence
The fact that the “complex” is back at it, even though America is exiting Afghanistan, is evidenced by a number of reports.
First, the war hawks are lining up against the candidacy of Chuck Hagel. No question but what Hagel lines up with Obama, viewing war as corrupting. The hawks argue that Hagel won’t support Israel and that he would make America “a weaker country.” But the real problem is that Hagel doesn’t bow to the military establishment or Netanyahu, and knows, as a Vietnam vet, that it’s important to question the military and its use--and that a different world order is demanded.
Second, Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman General Martin Dempsey warn that the hiring freeze and deep cuts at the Pentagon are a “perfect storm” that would leave the military with a worst-case outcome as a “hollow force.” Dempsey argued that even though he would do their best to protect the readiness of units, “how do you protect the war-fighter, those involved in Afghanistan, those areas that are critical to our national defense.” Nothing, of course was said about the well-known fact that US defense expenditures were larger than the total of the next 26 countries combined, 25 of whom are our allies. Thankfully, Obama, although boxed in by his generals to escalate the war in Afghanistan, has now outmaneuvered them, calling their bluff and ordering a drawdown.
Third, in response to the attempt at gun control, the gun industry is using contests, games and semiautomatics to recruit children. The point is that these young “peer ambassadors” should help introduce guns to their friends. The NRA argues that the research is supportive of the need for guns to “protect” us . . . from the government(?). Since the country has nearly as many guns as people, every American can now be his own policeman. Hmmmm.
Fourth, the reinforcement of gun rights continues in never-ending fashion on the tube, the cable and the media at large. No one any longer questions the interpretation of the 2nd Amendment. The consequence is that a fundamentally erroneous interpretation by the “originalists” has become doctrine and calcified into pulpit-pounding dogma, much to the delight of its adherents.
Were Eisenhower alive, he’d be aghast at our militarily-created debts and the still expanding military-industrial complex. Eisenhower was more aware than we know. Originally, he defined the complex as the military-industrial-legislative complex but his advisors warned again that truth. Put John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Buck McKeon, along with a few hundred other legislators into the mix, and you know why without strong leadership we’re beating a dead horse about a death-giving issue.
In a recent article on the militarization of America, Aaron O’Connell of the US Naval Academy got it right when he wrote that Eisenhower would certainly be critical of the “insidious penetration of our minds” by video game companies and television networks, the news media and the partisan pundits. With so little knowledge of what Eisenhower called the “lingering sadness of war” and the “certain agony of the battlefield,” they have done as much as anyone to turn the hard work of national security into the crass business of politics and entertain.
Flickr photo: David Swift Photography