Information

Military-Industrial Complex


The military-industrial complex is a nation’s military establishment, as well as the industries involved in the production of armaments and other military materials. In his 1961 farewell address, U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower famously warned the public of the nation’s increasingly powerful military-industrial complex and the threat it posed to American democracy. Today, the United States routinely outspends every other country for military and defense expenditures.

EISENHOWER AND THE MILITARY

A retired five-star general in the U.S. Army, Dwight D. Eisenhower had served as commander of Allied forces during World War II, and directed the D-Day invasion of France in 1944.

Eisenhower’s two terms as U.S. president (1953-61) coincided with an era of military expansion unlike any other in the nation’s history. Rather than draw down its troops, as it had after World War II, the U.S. military kept a large standing army after the Korean War ended in 1953, and maintained a high level of military preparedness due to the ongoing Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Private companies that after past wars had gone back to civilian production kept manufacturing armaments, producing increasingly sophisticated weapons in an arms race with the Soviets.

Despite—or perhaps because of—his own experience with war, Eisenhower worried about the nation’s military growth, and the escalation of the Cold War, throughout his presidency. He tried to cut budgets for military services during his presidency, upsetting many in the Pentagon.

As one Eisenhower biographer, David Nichols, told the Associated Press in 2010: “The military wanted a lot more than he was willing to give them. It frustrated the Army. He thought about it all the time.”

EISENHOWER’S FAREWELL ADDRESS

Eisenhower didn’t coin the phrase “military-industrial complex,” but he did make it famous. On January 17, 1961, three days before John F. Kennedy was inaugurated as his successor, Eisenhower delivered a farewell address in a TV broadcast from the Oval Office.

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex,” the 34th president warned. “The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

According to Eisenhower, the “conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience,” and he feared it would lead to policies that would not benefit Americans as a whole—like the escalation of the nuclear arms race—at great cost to the nation’s well-being.

In addition to the Department of Defense and private military contractors, Eisenhower and his advisers also implicitly included members of Congress from districts that depended on military industries in the military-industrial complex.

Though dangerous, Eisenhower considered the military-industrial complex necessary to deter Soviet Union from aggression against the United States and its allies. But he urged his successors in government to balance defense and diplomacy in their relations with the Soviet Union, saying: “We must learn how to compose differences not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose.”

MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL-CONGRESSIONAL COMPLEX?

Some have claimed that Eisenhower intended to say “military-industrial-congressional complex,” in order to explicitly call out Congress for its role in the growth of the military industry, but that he struck out the final term at the last minute to avoid offending lawmakers.

But according to James Ledbetter, author of Unwarranted Influence: Dwight D. Eisenhower and the Military-Industrial Complex, evidence points away from this theory: A draft of the speech dated almost a month before it was delivered included the phrase “military-industrial complex” intact.

Still, it was clear Eisenhower and his advisers did see at least some members of Congress playing a role in the dangers the military-industrial complex posed to the public.

Eisenhower and his fellow conservatives also viewed the growth of the military-industrial complex as part of a broader expansion of federal power that began with President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal.

MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX TODAY

Since Eisenhower delivered it in 1961, his farewell speech has come to be a touchstone for those with concerns about unchecked military expansion, and the continuing close ties between private military contractors, members of the military establishment and the federal government.

The United States regularly spends far more on its military than any other country, though its defense spending is usually a relatively small percentage of the nation’s total gross domestic product (GDP), compared with some other countries.

According to a 2014 report by the Council of Foreign Relations, in the years after World War II, national defense spending as a percentage of GDP ranged from a high of 15 percent in 1952 (during the Korean War) to a low of 3.7 percent in 2000. Military spending rose sharply again the following year, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks led to the U.S. government declaring a global war on terrorism.

Military expenditures, which are included in the discretionary spending category in the federal budget, include a base budget for the U.S. Department of Defense as well as additional spending on Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) and the Global War on Terror (GWOT).

In fiscal year 2016, according to the Pew Research Center, the U.S. government spent some $604 billion on national defense, which made up 15 percent of its total spending of about $3.95 trillion.

By contrast, a two-year budget deal passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump in February 2018 approved some $716 billion for defense spending in fiscal year 2019, compared with $605 in non-defense domestic spending.

Sources

Christopher Ball, “What is the Military-Industrial Complex?” History News Network (August 2, 2002).
James Ledbetter, “50 Years of the Military-Industrial Complex,” New York Times (January 25, 2011).
“Papers shed light on Eisenhower’s farewell address,” USA Today/Associated Press (December 12, 2010).
Drew DeSilver, “What does the federal government spend your tax dollars on?” Pew Research Center (April 4, 2017).
Dinah Walker, “Trends in U.S. Military Spending,” Council on Foreign Relations (July 15, 2014).
“Trump Signs 2-Year Spending Pact,” NPR (February 9, 2018).


Military-Industrial Complex - HISTORY

The History of the Culture of War

Over the past century, state militarism has been greatly expanded and strengthened by its alliance with a major branch of industry, the military-industrial complex. As military expenditures have increased, the military-industrial complex has become engaged with the state as a powerful lobby for the maintenance and strengthening of military force and the culture of war that goes with it.

In the United States it has become such an integral part of government that it has come to be called the "military-industrial-congressional complex". A particularly authoritative description comes from Chuck Spinney who worked in the U.S. Department of Defense Office of Program Analysis and Evaluation and who made a report in 1982 on the procurement of complex and expensive weapon systems. In the following extract from a television interview by the American journalist Bill Moyers (2002), he explains how Congressmen build their political power base by increasing military production in their home districts:

"SPINNEY: [The military-industrial-congressional complex] is the product of a long-term evolution that occurred in the 40 years of Cold War. If you think about it those 40 years were a very unique period in our nation's history. Now what happened was during that period the different players in the military industrial Congressional complex basically fine-tuned their bureaucratic behavior to exist in that environment . . "

"MOYERS: Tell me how members of Congress benefit from increasing costs like this, driving weapons systems that the country doesn't need, spending money that puts us deeper and deeper in deficit. How does Congress gain?

SPINNEY: They gain because they get money flowing to their Congressional districts. It's in the way Congress gains from controlling the federal budget. They get money flowing to the districts, that helps build your power bases."

There is a particular irony about the history of the term, "military-industrial complex". It was made famous by the farewell speech of American President Dwight Eisenhower in 1961. The speech was written by Eisenhower's speechwriter Malcolm Moos who, earlier that year had prepared a memo for the President stating that the top hundred defense contractors employed 1,400 retired military officers and that "For the first time in its history, the United States has a permanent war-based industry." According to one account, Eisenhower looked at the draft of his farewell speech and told Moos that he disagreed with it, demanding that he write another kind of speech. After all, Eisenhower's fame came from his career as a military general in charge of Allied forces in World War II. But all of the other Presidential staff members had left since it was the end of his Presidency, and they had taken jobs (guess where!) with the military industry. So when Moos refused to write a different speech, Eisenhower had no other speechwriter to turn to. Unable to write his own speech, Eisenhower had to read the one written by Moos. Moos had been an academic and professor prior to the Eisenhower years, and later he became the President of the University of Minnesota.

Back in the 1980's it was my opinion that the Soviet Union did not have a military-industrial complex, but subsequent revelations showed that this was mistaken. Its existence became evident when Gorbachev attempted to convert military industry to civilian production as a way to avoid the impending crash of the Soviet economy. As explained at a briefing at the United Nations, November 1, 1990 by Ednan Agaev, head of the Division of International Security Issues, Department of International Organization of the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Defense refused to provide the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with any information about defense industrial plants. When Agaev reported this to Gorbachev, he was told that there was nothing that could be done about it.

As Spinney describes above in the Moyer interview, the military-industrial-congressional complex has become a driving force for the culture of war in and of itself, as it has come to provide the power base for the political leadership in the United States and perhaps other countries as well. In this sense, one needs to add this "use" for the culture of war to the other uses that have persisted since the dawn of civilization: conquest, defense and internal control.

The military-industrial complex has reinforced the culture of war in smaller countries as well. Even the European countries of the Netherlands, Sweden and Italy are among the major exporters of armaments, ranking ahead of China. Putting "Sweden" and "military-industrial complex" into an Internet search engine revealed the following section of an article entitled Democracy and Globalization in which Professor Lars Ingelstam (2000), Institute for TEMA, Linköping University, Sweden explained how the Swedish government supports military spending as an essential component of the national economy:

". . a recent Swedish public inquiry on information technology found that the market for high technology within the defence sector was likely to decline. But instead of noting that probable development plainly and, one would have thought, with a degree of satisfaction that it was linked to a reduced risk of war, the commission expressed concern that the resulting 'loss of competence . . will create problems for related production in such areas as civil aeronautics, high-speed electronics, advanced MMI and control systems, etc.,'

The commission concluded that it was necessary for the government to guarantee an annual purchase-volume of at least one billion Swedish kronor for affected industries."


Beware the Military-Industrial Complex

Fifty years ago, Dwight Eisenhower delivered what has become, with the possible exception of George Washington's departing speech, the best-known presidential farewell address in U.S. history. In his valedictory, Ike famously warned against"unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex." That final phrase entered the political lexicon almost immediately, signifying the notion that a permanent ruling class, encompassing the Pentagon and its corporate suppliers, was on the verge of controlling the American government, even in peacetime.

To caution against the defense industry's outsize power made good sense, of course, and overblown Pentagon budgets that divert funds from other needs remain an onus and a scourge. The persistence of a powerful peacetime war apparatus has helped to foster a misplaced deference to military authority throughout our culture.

But as a recentwave of anniversarypieces has reaffirmed, Eisenhower's speech itself has come to be romanticized all out of proportion to its merit, and the reasonableness of straightforward critiques of Pentagon spending cannot account for the mad embrace of Eisenhower in recent decades by anti-war leftists and so-called realists. (Both groups once brimmed with contempt for this steely Cold Warrior.) In our time, fulminations against the military-industrial complex have become a lazy, hackneyed, histrionic reflex, while Ike has implausibly morphed from martial hero and hard-line anti-Communist into a prophet of peace, a cousin of Norman Cousins. Worst of all, the faddish zeal for the speech has fed the spurious notion that wars occur not because we choose them but because shadowy, faceless forces have railroaded us into them.

In his excellent new book Unwarranted Influence: Dwight D. Eisenhower and the Military-Industrial Complex,James Ledbetter (who is a former Slate staffer) labels this last idea"the Merchants of Death thesis." (Though Ledbetter admires the farewell address more than I do, his book, which I blurbed, is a balanced, rigorous, and fascinating intellectual history of the speech.) The thesis was born of an overreaction to World War I. Although the United States and its allies of course won that war, it wrought terrible carnage, and the peace negotiations tragically failed to bring the stability and democracy that President Woodrow Wilson had envisioned. Americans, disillusioned, looked for comforting solutions to explain how they could have so eagerly backed the war.

One escape hatch from responsibility was the idea that arms makers pushed America into it. Because the Allies had lacked Germany's manufacturing prowess, they needed American firms to supply them with weapons. So arms merchants were blamed for having encouraged or even engineered the hostilities. By the mid-1930s, as tensions built anew in Europe, isolationist sentiment in the United States surged, along with new fears of the armaments industry. Polemicists wrote alarmist books, including one titled Merchants of Death, with a foreword from Harry Elmer Barnes, a respected historian whose isolationism later overflowed into a Holocaust denial. In 1934, North Dakota Sen. Gerald P. Nye led an investigation into the World War I munitions makers. His ally, Sen. Bennett Champ Clark, the son of 1912 presidential aspirant Champ Clark, finally exacted revenge on his father's old rival, claiming that Wilson had deviously schemed to bring America into war.

The"merchants of death" idea was not only ugly in spirit (even arms makers don't deserve to be slandered) but also factually wrong. Although the causes of any war are complex, and the Kaiser's Germany did regard America's aid to the Allies as provocative, the traffic in arms was far from decisive in pushing the United States into the conflict. Most troubling, the idea that sinister forces took America to war against the public's interests or wishes became a trope ripe for abuse. It was enlisted to buttress the case for the appeasement of Hitler, and even during more recent, ill-advised wars—notably Vietnam and Iraq—critics poisoned the discourse and dashed their credibility by using merchants-of-death language to evade the painful truths that the public had supported those conflicts, too. The thesis allowed its proponents to retreat into an unearned innocence: a grand theory of global conflict that pinned the blame for wars that go badly on forces outside the public's control, rather than on the American people and their elected leaders.

If the cult around Ike's farewell address has transformed the military-industrial complex from an outsize special interest into an octopus-like evil, it has also misleadingly recast Eisenhower—a lifelong internationalist and military man—as a veritable peacenik. This misreading of Eisenhower and his foreign policy reached its apogee in the fear-mongering anti-Iraq-war documentary of 2005, Why We Fight, which invoked Ike as though he were Cindy Sheehan. One commentator in the film stated,"I would think Eisenhower must be rolling over in his grave."

Really? Would Eisenhower have opposed the Iraq war? It's impossible to guess how any figure from the past would feel about today's issues. But we do know that Ike, a staunch believer in the domino theory, supported the Vietnam War under both John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. In 1964, Eisenhower said that to quit the war would mean"a tremendous loss of prestige—the loss of the whole subcontinent of Southeast Asia" the next year he declared,"In Vietnam, the way the president is conducting operations is very good indeed for the United States." These defenses of LBJ's intervention came at the moment his ideas about the military-industrial complex were starting to gather their cultlike following.

Eisenhower's fears about standing military power never outweighed his conviction that it was necessary. As Ledbetter writes, Ike was,"by any definition, a leading figure in that complex." He loved the army and devoted his life to it. Within the Republican Party, his great accomplishment was to drag the rank and file into the age of internationalism with his triumph over Robert Taft for the 1952 presidential nomination, which isolated the isolationists in the GOP.

In the geopolitics of the 1950s, moreover, Eisenhower was a Cold Warrior nonpareil. His Secretary of State John Foster Dulles belittled containment and talked with George W. Bush-like braggadocio of what he called"liberation" or"roll back"—an active program to free countries under Soviet domination. Dulles never quite pulled that off, but he did create a new American foreign-policy doctrine of"massive retaliation," the readiness to use nuclear weapons against conventional attacks. During Eisenhower's years in the White House, the nation's nuclear arsenal swelled from roughly 1,000 warheads to 23,000.

Nuclear diplomacy was part of Eisenhower's"New Look" foreign policy. So, too, was the brave new world of CIA-led coups and assassinations. It was Eisenhower whose CIA deposed the leaders of Iran, Guatemala, and possibly the Belgian Congo. The Eisenhower administration also planned the Bay of Pigs invasion to overthrow Fidel Castro in Cuba, which John F. Kennedy was left to carry out. These ruthless operations of Ike's may not have required a multibillion-dollar industry, but they hardly exemplified the anti-interventionist politics that today's farewell-address enthusiasts tend to share.

What united all these parts of Eisenhower's foreign policy was not any pacifistic streak but a cramped, green-eyeshade parsimony—a desire to wage the Cold War on the cheap. Reared with old-fashioned values about thrift, Eisenhower tried to cut the Defense Department budget not because he wanted to scale back America's military profile or role in the world but because he wanted to save money.

As Ledbetter's book shows, Eisenhower had estimable motives too. He feared America might become a"garrison state," as the lingo of the day had it, limiting civil freedoms in the name of one military crisis after another. He resented the skill with which Defense Department brass finagled congressional leaders. Even his obsession with balancing the books, though a product of a pre-Keynesian worldview, had the virtue of keeping him alert to Pentagon bloat. And his warnings about military overreach were couched, it's usually forgotten, in passages insisting on the need for a military of unprecedented size, which Eisenhower called"a vital element in keeping the peace."

Despite these modest origins, the speech and its key snippets were quickly quoted out of context and enlisted in all manner of anti-war screeds. They provided an authoritative-seeming foundation for baseless conspiracy theories. There were plenty of good reasons to oppose the Vietnam War, but when anti-war extremists, invoking Ike, claimed that weapons-makers such as Dow and Honeywell were prolonging the fighting to line their pockets, they mainly served to discredit their fellow dissenters. Similarly, the Bush administration's case for invading Iraq was best opposed on its merits the shrill claims that Dick Cheney's previous service at Halliburton was somehow to blame only undermined the war's critics.

In 1985, Ralph Williams, one of Eisenhower's speechwriters, said he was"astonished" at how much attention the military-industrial-complex sound bite had received. Its"true significance," Williams maintained,"has been distorted beyond recognition." Ike's limited expression of concern about defense-industry growth became, Williams argued,"red meat for the media, who have gleefully gnawed on it for twenty-five years." We can now double that figure to 50.

Eisenhower's speech deserves to be studied, but in its complete context. If the farewell address is invoked merely to argue against extravagant military spending or to stand up against limits on civil liberties in the name of war, then count me as a fan. When it's used—as it all too often is these days—to build the case for a conspiratorial, demonic system that bulldozes the American people into going to war or malevolently prolongs the fighting for reasons of profit, then it should be called out for what it is: the seedbed of some of the nastier rhetoric to infect our politics in recent times.


The Woke-Military-Complex

Republicans should stop worshiping an institution that cannot even care for its own veterans.

Heidi McCarthy had just walked into her home when the crack of a handgun sounded outside. Her husband, Matt McCarthy, had shot himself. Just moments before, they had been sitting together drinking in the summer evening now, she would administer aid to him until emergency medical technicians arrived.

Sgt. Matthew McCarthy died in July 2020, after his second suicide attempt succeeded.

By the time of his death, McCarthy had left the military. But multiple tours to Afghanistan and Iraq as a bomb tech in the Army would haunt him to the end. After his first suicide attempt, Heidi encouraged him to seek help from the Department of Veterans Affairs. However, McCarthy would not find what he needed. “They did not diagnose him with PTSD and I promise you that everybody that’s close to him would tell you that he should have been diagnosed with PTSD,” she said.

On average, eighteen veterans commit suicide per day. Heidi, in other words, likely did not grieve alone that night.

Apart from staggering suicide rates, many internal problems should keep military leaders up at night. Indeed, leaked data published online in 2019 showed that 84 percent of women and 30 percent of men failed the Army Combat Fitness Test. However, these troubling trends appear to take a back seat to the important work of clapping back at civilian critics.

Recently, Fox News show host Tucker Carlson committed the sin of scrutinizing the military’s general embrace of a “woke” perspective. “So we’ve got new hairstyles and maternity flight suits,” he said, referring to updated Army and Air Force hair regulations. “Pregnant women are going to fight our wars. It’s a mockery of the U.S. military.” Put simply, he believes the Pentagon has the wrong priorities—and he’s right. Consider that since 2016, the military has also spent roughly $8 million on hormone therapy and surgical treatments for 1,500 transgender troops. How does this prepare America for a seemingly inevitable confrontation with China?

Tough questions like these don’t seem to sit well with official mouthpieces and sensitive senior military personnel.

The official Twitter account of the II Marine Expeditionary Force called Carlson a “boomer” for his criticisms. When a random person replied that perhaps the Marines should focus their attention on China rather than insulting civilians, the account responded: “Come back when you’ve served and been pregnant.” The tweets were subsequently deleted.

Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston, Army Gen. Paul Funk II, and other senior leaders also dogpiled the Fox News host showing that it’s actually quite alright to engage in politics while in uniform—so long as it’s the correct kind of politics.

“We’ve seen senior military leaders use social media in a completely new way within the past year,” Martina Chesonis, spokeswoman for the Service Women’s Action Network, told the Military Times. “Seeing senior military leaders address Tucker Carlson’s comments on pregnancy in the military so quickly and so directly is really validating, honestly.”

The military sees none of this as problematic and doesn’t have an issue telling civilians that they are essentially subordinates. Intimidating civilians is also on the table.

On Jan. 15, Rep. Michael San Nicolas (D-Guam) marched a platoon of National Guard troops to the Washington, DC, office of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.). In an address at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, Greene suggested American tax dollars shouldn’t fund the business of empire. “We believe our hard-earned tax dollars should just go for America, not for what? China, Russia, the Middle East, Guam, whatever, wherever,” she said. For what it’s worth, the island is currently exploring independence, free association, and statehood.

Turning soldiers against political opponents in a wildly unconventional way, in the nation’s capital no less, resembles what some might call an insurrection, depending on how one defines an “insurrection” these days. Again, it all depends on a person’s politics, and Greene’s views put her squarely on the wrong side of history. The Military Times reported that “National Guard officials are insisting that a march on a controversial congresswoman’s office by a large group of uniformed members wasn’t a political statement but instead an effort to raise awareness about their operations.” It’s worth noting that the Pentagon rejected former President Donald Trump’s request for troops at the border to help protect Customs and Border Protection agents dealing with a group of Central American migrants.

The absurdity of all this belies vicious realities with disturbing implications.

On March 12, the Army News Service published a story written by Thomas Brading about the efforts of Col. Timothy Holman, the Army’s “chief diversity officer,” to “eradicate extremist behaviors and activities.”

“As an engineer officer, there were many times Holman served as the only Black officer leading white Soldiers, who looked like the individuals who once oppressed him,” the Brading wrote. “Over the years, the Army, as well as the nation, has made great strides with diversity,” Holman told Brading, noting that “the Army must invest in teaching Soldiers that what they may have learned at their house, or the environment from which they came, may not comport with the Army values.”

This news follows the Army’s application of screening to ensure ideological hygiene among troops, supposedly to root out extremists after the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. Some officials are more candid about what that means: purge individuals aligned with Trump’s “America First” ideals.

“We’re not talking about half a dozen people,” Thomas Kolditz told Fortune on Jan. 8. Kolditz is a retired Army brigadier general who now runs the Doerr Institute for New Leaders at Rice University. “We’re probably talking about thousands across the Department of Defense,” he said. “Many of them will have already run their mouth, put things on social media.” Presumably, he means that should make it easy to identify and deal with them.

Ironically, Kolditz chastises pro-Trump officers for taking what he considers to be inappropriate, public political stances. It’s their responsibility, he says, “to remain politically unbiased and independent in the way they execute their duties. That includes not making statements that their subordinates might see on social media or otherwise publicly. For an officer, stating a preference is almost giving an order.” Now there’s an interesting thought.

Kolditz, at any rate, is right that the individuals the military considers extremists-in-waiting are mostly white Republican men—just as the corporate world does. Therein lies a fundamental problem that is only starting to come into view with its implications.

Surveys show white male Republicans, especially those without a college education, are more likely than any other group to feel “extremely proud to be Americans.” Thus, the military is treating the group that tends to feel the most patriotic as the main source of “extremist behaviors and activities” within its ranks. Instead of making the military a more unified, effective fighting force, it could cultivate a culture of distrust, resentment, demoralization—and ultimately, division.

What could cause the military, as an institution, to make such an obscene and bizarre turn? The simplest answer lies in viewing the military not as an apolitical, sacrosanct institution set apart from the rest but as part of the military-industrial complex.

A Project on Government Oversight investigation found that from 2008 to 2018, nearly four hundred high-ranking Department of Defense officials and military officers transitioned into the private sector to become lobbyists, board members, executives, or consultants for defense contractors. The military is effectively a pipeline to influence-peddling in the corporate world for senior officers. It’s no secret that companies like Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, and Boeing have embraced the pieties of diversity and inclusion, in part, to rehabilitate their industry’s image. President Joe Biden’s secretary of defense is illustrative.

Lloyd James Austin III, a former Army four-star general, is the first Black man to serve as America’s secretary of defense. He also sat on the board of Raytheon, receiving $1.4 million in compensation since 2016 after he retired from the military. The media appeared to fawn over Austin as he, on cue, pledged to root out racists and extremists from the military. We can’t keep America safe, he said, if “enemies lie within our own ranks.”

Among the Biden administration’s first military sales was an $85 million order of missiles to Chile to be produced by Raytheon.

It ultimately matters little if men like Austin or Funk genuinely believe in the tenets of progressivism. What matters is that they pay lip service to them at all. Because, as Kolditz put it, “stating a preference is almost giving an order.” And in time, if the cynic plays the part long enough, he might become a true believer.

“From the point of view of the theory of the ruling class,” wrote political theorist James Burnham, “a society is the society of its ruling class. A nation’s strength or weakness, its culture, its power of endurance, its prosperity, its decadence, depend in the first instance upon the nature of its ruling class.” If the military has taken an institutional left turn, then it is because that is the general direction that America’s ruling class is going, and whether its affections are cynical or sincere is irrelevant to the consequences this has for the rest of society.


Military-Industrial Complex - HISTORY

by Paul A. C. Koistinen (Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas Press, 2012)

What concerns Paul Koistinen in his new book State of War can be summed up in the following data point: twenty years after the end of the Cold War, Pentagon budgets today are higher than they were at any point between 1946 and 1992. And those budgets don't include the costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars (p. 8).

It is Koistinen's purpose to explain what he calls the political economy of war. By "political economy" Koistinen means how the interplay of four factors - economics, politics, military, and technology – work to create the conditions of military mobilization. The focus of this book, therefore, is how these four factors developed and reinforced each other during the period of the Cold War and in the 20 years since it concluded.

In 1961 outgoing President Dwight Eisenhower recognized that something significant had changed in American life, and in his farewell address to the nation he coined the phrase "military-industrial complex." Eisenhower used that address to issue a warning to Americans about the dangers of a permanent state of wartime readiness – one, it must be said, that he himself had helped to create – not simply on the economy or on our foreign policy but on the American spirit as well.

In this book, Koistinen explains how that complex (he abbreviates it MIC) came to be and how it has grown since – a thorough-going demonstration that Americans have ignored Eisenhower's warning entirely.

The anatomy lesson begins with the institutions of government: a chapter on the presidency, one on Congress, and one looking at the expansion of the armed services themselves. He then moves outward from Washington. Chapter 4 considers the growth of the defense industry, reminding us of the extent to which many of the nation's high-tech and aerospace companies exist on Department of Defense contracts. The next two chapters examine the role the DOD played in promoting and funding "big science" as well as the deep connections between the Pentagon and think-tanks, universities and other non-government centers of research. Call it the "military-intellectual complex."

Chapter 7 explores the development of military technology, especially high-tech weaponry, the purchase of which Koistinen believes "was driven more by political, economic, and power considerations than by those of national security" (p. 168). In the next chapter Koistinen looks at the effect the MIC has had on the economy as a whole, drawing on the work of economists like Seymour Melman and others who have studied the question. He juxtaposes the growth of military spending with the deindustrialization of the American economy, suggesting that part of the support the MIC enjoys stems from the fact that the defense industry "is one of the few remaining industries that provides blue-collar employment that pays well" (p. 227). The nation's industrial heartland devolved into the "rustbelt" even as Pentagon spending produced a new "gunbelt" in sections of the south and west.

If, as Koistinen observes, all this military spending has not been good for the larger economy, he also insists that it hasn't been good for the military either. Because so many decisions about spending have been, in a sense, forced upon the Pentagon by legislators acting on behalf of large corporations, basic military readiness has suffered.

This is especially true as military technology has grown more and more sophisticated, and thus expensive. Koistinen notes that the United States has spent roughly $7.5 trillion on nuclear weapons, but when he takes us to visit warehouses full of mothballed tanks, Koistinen points out that of roughly 11,000 tanks the Army owns, only 2100 are operational with combat divisions (p. 173).

Likewise, the MIC now drives much of our foreign policy. Koistinen charts the extent to which sale of military equipment to foreign governments now constitutes a major revenue stream for American firms. Those sales, of course, are brokered by the United States government: when Congress approves a military aid package to some country, that package usually stipulates that the money be used to buy American products. So the Federal government subsidizes the defense industry directly through generous contracts (and lax oversight, something else Koistinen notes) and indirectly through our foreign aid.

This is a quiet, measured history, but it is not without a point of view, one which becomes increasingly apparent as the book goes on. Koistinen clearly sees the growth of the MIC as an enormous problem in American life. He believes that it has created a permanent security state, whose economy has been distorted by gargantuan military expenditures. He is also deeply skeptical that the rest of the nation has truly benefited from the expansion of the MIC. He thinks, in other words, that Eisenhower was right.

Sometimes writing history is about charting change over time. Sometimes it is about exploring the continuities that run under the surface of epiphenomenal events. State of War stresses the latter. Congress changes hands, administrations come and go, wars begin and end but the MIC stays the same, only more so. In this sense, State of War joins several other recent titles, including Andrew Bacevich's Washington Rules, in highlighting the MIC as the most important continuity in American life.

With the publication of State of War, Paul Koistinen has completed an extraordinary life's work. This book is the fifth and final volume in his examination of the political economy of American warfare from 1606 to the present. Taken together, Koistinen's work reminds us uncomfortably that as much as we have professed to be a nation of peace-lovers, underneath that rhetoric has been a political economy geared toward war.

State of War: The Political Economy of American Warfare, 1945-2011 by Paul A. C. Koistinen (Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas Press, 2012)


Papers Reveal Evolution of Term “Military-Industrial Complex”

Papers released to the public on December 10 by the Eisenhower Presidential Library appear to show that as America’s 34th President prepared his farewell address to the nation, he toyed with several options before coming up with the term &ldquomilitary-industrial complex&rdquo to describe his supposed fears of a highly placed network of powerful groups and individuals driving the nation’s foreign policy.

The previously unseen papers came in the form of drafts of Mr. Eisenhower’s farewell speech found among other papers at a northern Minnesota cabin owned by Malcolm Moos, former University of Minnesota president and one-time speech writer for Mr. Eisenhower. Moos’ son discovered the papers, covered with pine cones and other debris at the remote cabin, and turned them over to the Eisenhower library in October.

&ldquoWe are just so fortunate that these papers were discovered,&rdquo said Karl Weissenbach, director of the library. &ldquoWe were finally able to fill in the gaps of the address. For a number of years it was apparent that there were gaps.&rdquo

In part, the papers appear to show the evolution of the term &ldquomilitary-industrial complex&rdquo coined by the President and used for years afterward in foreign policy debate. During the nearly two years it took the president, chief speech writer Moos, and even Mr. Eisenhower’s brother, Milton, to hammer out the text of the speech, the now-historic term evolved from &ldquowar-based industrial complex,&rdquo to &ldquovast military-industrial complex,&rdquo and finally to simply &ldquomilitary-industrial complex.&rdquo

In the final version of the speech, President Eisenhower said that the nation could no longer rely on &ldquoemergency improvisation of national defense&rdquo as it had during World War II, noting that a permanent arms industry was vital to the nation’s security. Nonetheless, he warned, there would be &ldquograve implications&rdquo to the conjoining of military and industrial power against which the American people would have to stand firm. &ldquoIn the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex,&rdquo declared Mr. Eisenhower. &ldquoThe potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes.&rdquo

Weissenbach called the speech &ldquoprobably the most important farewell address of the modern era,&rdquo adding that &ldquonow we get to see its evolution, which started in May 1959 and didn’t end until it was delivered. We also learn the important role of Milton Eisenhower, who was instrumental in making sure that his brother’s thoughts would be correctly portrayed.&rdquo

The recently discovered papers reveal that the President’s farewell address began 20 months before its delivery as reflections on Mr. Eisenhower’s years of service and the role of the military, gradually expanding into observations on the rapid advance of technology, with Mr. Eisenhower reflecting that while he wasn’t able to move the world significantly closer to world peace, he had at least done his part to avert nuclear war.

Among the papers were 21 drafts showing the speech’s evolution over the nearly two years of preparation, and revealing the extent of the involvement of Milton Eisenhower, whom the President considered an important part of his inner circle of advisers. Notations by the President’s brother were present throughout the drafts, with major revisions by him appearing just ten days before the Mr. Eisenhower delivered the speech. &ldquoThat to me illustrates how Milton had a take-charge moment where he wasn’t pleased with the direction it was taking and made an overhaul,&rdquo said Weissenbach. &ldquoObviously he wouldn’t have done it without the blessing of his brother.&rdquo

While in his farewell address President Eisenhower made a splendid show of his supposed concern about the increase of power in the hands of a few highly placed individuals and groups, it has been well documented that as Supreme Allied Commander in Europe during World War II, and later as Military Governor of the U.S. Occupation Zone after the war, Mr. Eisenhower was as responsible as anyone for allowing the Soviet Union to gain unchallenged domination in eastern Europe.

In fact, in his privately published report entitled The Politician, John Birch Society Founder Robert Welch documented how Mr. Eisenhower, both as a military commander and as President, had — either intentionally or unintentionally — dramatically helped advance the cause of communist world domination.

A recent article by the Salt Lake Tribune reveals that even one of Mr. Eisenhower’s own former cabinet members, Secretary of Agriculture Ezra Taft Benson, became convinced that the President had been used to advance the communist cause. The Tribune’s Lee Davidson, writes that in a highly confidential letter to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, Benson attempted &ldquoto convince Hoover that The John Birch Society was a clear-thinking anti-communist group. So he wrote how it had convinced him that a friend of theirs had been a tool of the worldwide communist conspiracy.&rdquo


Contents

The concept of a "medical–industrial complex" was first advanced by Barbara and John Ehrenreich in the November 1969 issue of the Bulletin of the Health Policy Advisory Center in an article entitled "The Medical Industrial Complex" and in a subsequent book (with Health-PAC), The American Health Empire: Power, Profits, and Politics (Random House, 1970). The concept was widely discussed throughout the 1970s, including reviews in the New England Journal of Medicine (November 4, 1971, 285:1095). It was further popularized in 1980, Arnold S. Relman while he served as editor of The New England Journal of Medicine. [1] in a paper titled "The New Medical-Industrial Complex." Relman commented, "The past decade has seen the rise of another kind of private "industrial complex" with an equally great potential for influence on public policy — this time in health care. " Oddly, Relman added, " In searching for information on this subject, I have found no standard literature and have had to draw on a variety of unconventional sources. " [1] Subsequently, this paper and the concept have been discussed continually. [2] An updated history and analysis can be found in John Ehrenreich, "Third Wave Capitalism: How Money, Power, and the Pursuit of Self-Interest have Imperiled the American Dream" (Cornell University Press, May 2016).

Manufacturers of medical devices fund medical education programs and physicians and hospitals directly to adopt the use of their devices. [3]

The management of health care organizations by business staff rather than local medical practice is one of the trends of the increasing influence of the medical-industrial complex. [4]

Another trend is that increased pressure to generate profit for providing services can decrease the influence of creativity or innovation in medical research. [5]

In the 1970s profit-seeking companies became significant stakeholders in the United States healthcare system. [6]

The influence of economic policy on the practice of medicine has a long history. [7]

Because the General Agreement on Trade in Services regulates international marketplaces, in countries where the industrial-medical complex is more strong there can be legal limitations to consumer options for accessing diverse healthcare services. [8]

Because the industrial-medical complex funds continuing medical education, this education has a bias to promote the interests of its funders. [9]


Beware the Military-Industrial Complex

Fifty years ago, Dwight Eisenhower delivered what has become, with the possible exception of George Washington's departing speech, the best-known presidential farewell address in U.S. history. In his valedictory, Ike famously warned against"unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex." That final phrase entered the political lexicon almost immediately, signifying the notion that a permanent ruling class, encompassing the Pentagon and its corporate suppliers, was on the verge of controlling the American government, even in peacetime.

To caution against the defense industry's outsize power made good sense, of course, and overblown Pentagon budgets that divert funds from other needs remain an onus and a scourge. The persistence of a powerful peacetime war apparatus has helped to foster a misplaced deference to military authority throughout our culture.

But as a recentwave of anniversarypieces has reaffirmed, Eisenhower's speech itself has come to be romanticized all out of proportion to its merit, and the reasonableness of straightforward critiques of Pentagon spending cannot account for the mad embrace of Eisenhower in recent decades by anti-war leftists and so-called realists. (Both groups once brimmed with contempt for this steely Cold Warrior.) In our time, fulminations against the military-industrial complex have become a lazy, hackneyed, histrionic reflex, while Ike has implausibly morphed from martial hero and hard-line anti-Communist into a prophet of peace, a cousin of Norman Cousins. Worst of all, the faddish zeal for the speech has fed the spurious notion that wars occur not because we choose them but because shadowy, faceless forces have railroaded us into them.

In his excellent new book Unwarranted Influence: Dwight D. Eisenhower and the Military-Industrial Complex,James Ledbetter (who is a former Slate staffer) labels this last idea"the Merchants of Death thesis." (Though Ledbetter admires the farewell address more than I do, his book, which I blurbed, is a balanced, rigorous, and fascinating intellectual history of the speech.) The thesis was born of an overreaction to World War I. Although the United States and its allies of course won that war, it wrought terrible carnage, and the peace negotiations tragically failed to bring the stability and democracy that President Woodrow Wilson had envisioned. Americans, disillusioned, looked for comforting solutions to explain how they could have so eagerly backed the war.

One escape hatch from responsibility was the idea that arms makers pushed America into it. Because the Allies had lacked Germany's manufacturing prowess, they needed American firms to supply them with weapons. So arms merchants were blamed for having encouraged or even engineered the hostilities. By the mid-1930s, as tensions built anew in Europe, isolationist sentiment in the United States surged, along with new fears of the armaments industry. Polemicists wrote alarmist books, including one titled Merchants of Death, with a foreword from Harry Elmer Barnes, a respected historian whose isolationism later overflowed into a Holocaust denial. In 1934, North Dakota Sen. Gerald P. Nye led an investigation into the World War I munitions makers. His ally, Sen. Bennett Champ Clark, the son of 1912 presidential aspirant Champ Clark, finally exacted revenge on his father's old rival, claiming that Wilson had deviously schemed to bring America into war.

The"merchants of death" idea was not only ugly in spirit (even arms makers don't deserve to be slandered) but also factually wrong. Although the causes of any war are complex, and the Kaiser's Germany did regard America's aid to the Allies as provocative, the traffic in arms was far from decisive in pushing the United States into the conflict. Most troubling, the idea that sinister forces took America to war against the public's interests or wishes became a trope ripe for abuse. It was enlisted to buttress the case for the appeasement of Hitler, and even during more recent, ill-advised wars—notably Vietnam and Iraq—critics poisoned the discourse and dashed their credibility by using merchants-of-death language to evade the painful truths that the public had supported those conflicts, too. The thesis allowed its proponents to retreat into an unearned innocence: a grand theory of global conflict that pinned the blame for wars that go badly on forces outside the public's control, rather than on the American people and their elected leaders.

If the cult around Ike's farewell address has transformed the military-industrial complex from an outsize special interest into an octopus-like evil, it has also misleadingly recast Eisenhower—a lifelong internationalist and military man—as a veritable peacenik. This misreading of Eisenhower and his foreign policy reached its apogee in the fear-mongering anti-Iraq-war documentary of 2005, Why We Fight, which invoked Ike as though he were Cindy Sheehan. One commentator in the film stated,"I would think Eisenhower must be rolling over in his grave."

Really? Would Eisenhower have opposed the Iraq war? It's impossible to guess how any figure from the past would feel about today's issues. But we do know that Ike, a staunch believer in the domino theory, supported the Vietnam War under both John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. In 1964, Eisenhower said that to quit the war would mean"a tremendous loss of prestige—the loss of the whole subcontinent of Southeast Asia" the next year he declared,"In Vietnam, the way the president is conducting operations is very good indeed for the United States." These defenses of LBJ's intervention came at the moment his ideas about the military-industrial complex were starting to gather their cultlike following.

Eisenhower's fears about standing military power never outweighed his conviction that it was necessary. As Ledbetter writes, Ike was,"by any definition, a leading figure in that complex." He loved the army and devoted his life to it. Within the Republican Party, his great accomplishment was to drag the rank and file into the age of internationalism with his triumph over Robert Taft for the 1952 presidential nomination, which isolated the isolationists in the GOP.

In the geopolitics of the 1950s, moreover, Eisenhower was a Cold Warrior nonpareil. His Secretary of State John Foster Dulles belittled containment and talked with George W. Bush-like braggadocio of what he called"liberation" or"roll back"—an active program to free countries under Soviet domination. Dulles never quite pulled that off, but he did create a new American foreign-policy doctrine of"massive retaliation," the readiness to use nuclear weapons against conventional attacks. During Eisenhower's years in the White House, the nation's nuclear arsenal swelled from roughly 1,000 warheads to 23,000.

Nuclear diplomacy was part of Eisenhower's"New Look" foreign policy. So, too, was the brave new world of CIA-led coups and assassinations. It was Eisenhower whose CIA deposed the leaders of Iran, Guatemala, and possibly the Belgian Congo. The Eisenhower administration also planned the Bay of Pigs invasion to overthrow Fidel Castro in Cuba, which John F. Kennedy was left to carry out. These ruthless operations of Ike's may not have required a multibillion-dollar industry, but they hardly exemplified the anti-interventionist politics that today's farewell-address enthusiasts tend to share.

What united all these parts of Eisenhower's foreign policy was not any pacifistic streak but a cramped, green-eyeshade parsimony—a desire to wage the Cold War on the cheap. Reared with old-fashioned values about thrift, Eisenhower tried to cut the Defense Department budget not because he wanted to scale back America's military profile or role in the world but because he wanted to save money.

As Ledbetter's book shows, Eisenhower had estimable motives too. He feared America might become a"garrison state," as the lingo of the day had it, limiting civil freedoms in the name of one military crisis after another. He resented the skill with which Defense Department brass finagled congressional leaders. Even his obsession with balancing the books, though a product of a pre-Keynesian worldview, had the virtue of keeping him alert to Pentagon bloat. And his warnings about military overreach were couched, it's usually forgotten, in passages insisting on the need for a military of unprecedented size, which Eisenhower called"a vital element in keeping the peace."

Despite these modest origins, the speech and its key snippets were quickly quoted out of context and enlisted in all manner of anti-war screeds. They provided an authoritative-seeming foundation for baseless conspiracy theories. There were plenty of good reasons to oppose the Vietnam War, but when anti-war extremists, invoking Ike, claimed that weapons-makers such as Dow and Honeywell were prolonging the fighting to line their pockets, they mainly served to discredit their fellow dissenters. Similarly, the Bush administration's case for invading Iraq was best opposed on its merits the shrill claims that Dick Cheney's previous service at Halliburton was somehow to blame only undermined the war's critics.

In 1985, Ralph Williams, one of Eisenhower's speechwriters, said he was"astonished" at how much attention the military-industrial-complex sound bite had received. Its"true significance," Williams maintained,"has been distorted beyond recognition." Ike's limited expression of concern about defense-industry growth became, Williams argued,"red meat for the media, who have gleefully gnawed on it for twenty-five years." We can now double that figure to 50.

Eisenhower's speech deserves to be studied, but in its complete context. If the farewell address is invoked merely to argue against extravagant military spending or to stand up against limits on civil liberties in the name of war, then count me as a fan. When it's used—as it all too often is these days—to build the case for a conspiratorial, demonic system that bulldozes the American people into going to war or malevolently prolongs the fighting for reasons of profit, then it should be called out for what it is: the seedbed of some of the nastier rhetoric to infect our politics in recent times.


New Perspectives on the History of the Military–Industrial Complex

1. Farewell Address by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, January 17, 1961.

2. The number of books published on the subject peaked in the early 1970s. See, for example, Schiller , Herbert I. and Phillips , Joseph D. , ed., Super-State: Readings in the Military-Industrial Complex ( Urbana : University of Illinois Press , 1970 )Google Scholar Melman , Seymour Pentagon Capitalism: The Political Economy of War ( New York : McGraw Hill , 1970 )Google Scholar Lens , Sidney The Military-Industrial Complex ( London : Kahn & Averill , 1971 )Google Scholar Rice , Berkeley , The C-5A Scandal: An Inside Story of the Military-Industrial Complex ( Boston : Houghton Mifflin , 1971 )Google Scholar Pursell , Carroll W. Jr. , ed. The Military-Industrial Complex ( New York : Harper & Row , 1972 )Google Scholar Sarkesian , Sam C. The Military-Industrial Complex: A Reassessment ( Beverly Hills : Sage , 1972 )Google Scholar Rosen , Steven ed., Testing the Theory of the Military-Industrial Complex ( Lexington, MA : Lexington Books , 1973 ).Google Scholar For a concise, much more recent overview of the subject, see Roland , Alex The Military-Industrial Complex ( Washington : American Historical Association , 2001 ).Google Scholar

3. Wright Mills , C. The Power Elite ( New York : Oxford University Press , 1956 )CrossRefGoogle Scholar Melman , , Pentagon Capitalism Mary Kaldor, The Baroque Arsenal ( New York : Hill & Wang , 1981 ).Google Scholar

4. Horowitz , David ed., Corporations and the Cold War ( New York : Monthly Review Press , 1969 ).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

5. Franklin Cooling , B. ed., War, Business, and American Society: Historical Perspectives on the Military-Industrial Complex ( Port Washington, NY : Kennikat Press , 1977 )Google Scholar Smith , Merritt Roe , Harpers Ferry Armory and the New Technology: The Challenge of Change ( Ithaca, NY : Cornell University Press , 1977 )Google Scholar Franklin Cooling , B. Gray Steel and Blue Water Navy: The Formative Years of America’s Military-Industrial Complex, 1881–1917 ( Hamden, CT : Archon Books, 1979 )Google Scholar Koistinen , Paul A.C. The Military-Industrial Complex: A Historical Perspective ( New York : Praeger , 1980 ),Google Scholar Koistinen has continued to write broad historical surveys of the subject. For the most recent volume in his multivolume study, see Koistinen , , Arsenal of World War II: The Political Economy of American Warfare, 1940–1945 ( Lawrence : University Press of Kansas , 2004 ).Google Scholar

6. Weir , Gary Building American Submarines, 1914–1940 ( Washington, DC : Naval Historical Center , 1991 )Google Scholar Weir , , Forged in War: The Naval-Industrial Complex and American Submarine Construction, 1940–1961 ( Washington, DC : Naval Historical Center , 1993 )Google Scholar Vander Meulen , Jacob A. The Politics of Aircraft: Building an American Military Industry ( Lawrence : University Press of Kansas , 1991 )Google Scholar Davidson , Joel R. The Unsinkable Fleet: The Politics of U.S. Navy Expansion in World War II ( Annapolis, MD : Naval Institute Press , 1996 )Google Scholar Hackemer , Kurt The U.S. Navy and the Origins of the Military-Industrial Complex, 1847–1883 ( Annapolis, MD : Naval Institute Press , 2001 )Google Scholar Roberts , William H. Civil War Ironclads: The U.S. Navy and Industrial Mobilization ( Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press , 2002 ).Google Scholar

7. Hooks , Gregory Forging the Military-Industrial Complex: World War II’s Battle of the Potomac ( Urbana : University of Illinois Press , 1991 )Google Scholar Sparrow , Bartholomew H. From the Outside In: World War II and the American State ( Princeton : Princeton University Press , 1996 )CrossRefGoogle Scholar Katznelson , Ira “ Flexible Capacity: The Military and Early American Statebuilding ,” in Shaped by Trade and War: International Influences on American Political Development , ed. Katznelson , Ira and Shefter , Martin ( Princeton, NJ : Princeton University Press , 2002 ), 82 – 110 CrossRefGoogle Scholar Angevine , Robert G. The Railroad and the State: War, Politics, and Technology in Nineteenth-Century America ( Stanford : Stanford University Press , 2004 )Google Scholar Wilson , Mark R. The Business of Civil War: Military Mobilization and the State, 1861–1865 ( Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press , 2006 ).Google Scholar

8. For example, Weir , Gary Building the Kaiser’s Navy: The Imperial Naval Office and German Industry in the Tirpitz Era, 1890–1919 ( Washington, DC : Naval Institute Press , 1992 )Google Scholar Green , Michael J. Arming Japan: Defense Production, Alliance Politics, and the Postwar Search for Autonomy ( New York : Columbia University Press , 1995 )Google Scholar Conca , Ken Manufacturing Insecurity: The Rise and Fall of Brazil’s Military-Industrial Complex (Boulder, CO: L. Rienner, 1997) David Edgerton, Warfare State: Britain, 1920–1970 ( New York : Cambridge University Press , 2006 )Google Scholar Tooze , Adam The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy ( New York : Viking , 2006 )Google Scholar Engel , Jeffrey A. The Cold War at 30,000 Feet: The Anglo-American Fight for Aviation Supremacy ( Cambridge, MA : Harvard University Press , 2007 )CrossRefGoogle Scholar Engel , Jeffrey A. ed., Local Consequences of the Global Cold War ( Palo Alto, CA : Stanford University Press , 2007 )Google Scholar Felice , Emanuel “ State Ownership and International Competitiveness: The Italian Finmeccanica from Alfa Romeo to Aerospace and Defense (1947-2007) ,” Enterprise & Society 11 ( 2010 ): 594 – 635 .Google Scholar

9. Much of this literature has focused on regional economic development in the age of the MIC. See, for example, Markusen , Ann R. The Rise of the Gunbelt: The Military Remapping of Industrial America ( New York : Oxford University Press , 1991 )Google Scholar Schulman , Bruce J. From Cotton Belt to Sunbelt: Federal Policy, Economic Development, and the Transformation of the South, 1938–1980 ( New York : Oxford University Press , 1991 )Google Scholar Lotchin , Roger W. Fortress California, 1910–1961: From Warfare to Welfare ( New York : Oxford University Press , 1992 )Google Scholar Scranton , Philip ed., The Second Wave: Southern Industrialization, 1940–1970 ( Atlanta, GA : Georgia Technological Institute Press , 2002 ).Google Scholar There is also a rich literature on the military’s role in nineteenth-century economic development in the West: for example, Prucha , Francis Paul Broadax and Bayonet: The Role of the United States Army in the Development of the Northwest, 1815–1860 ( Madison : State Historical Society of Wisconsin , 1953 )Google Scholar Miller , Darlis A. Soldiers and Settlers: Military Supply in the Southwest, 1861–1885 ( Albuquerque : University of New Mexico Press , 1989 )Google Scholar Smith , Thomas T. The U.S. Army and the Texas Frontier Economy, 1845–1900 ( College Station : Texas A&M University Press , 1999 ).Google Scholar

10. Smith , , Harpers Ferry Armory David F. Noble, Forces of Production: A Social History of Industrial Automation ( New York : Knopf , 1984 )Google Scholar Smith , Merritt Roe ed., Military Enterprise and Technological Change: Perspectives on the American Experience ( Cambridge, MA : MIT Press , 1985 )Google Scholar Leslie , Stuart W. The Cold War and American Science: The Military-Industrial-Academic Complex at MIT and Stanford ( New York : Columbia University Press , 1993 )Google Scholar Abbate , Janet Inventing the Internet ( Cambridge, MA : MIT Press , 1999 )Google Scholar Roland , Alex and Shiman , Philip Strategic Computing: DARPA and the Quest for Machine Intelligence, 198f3–1993 ( Cambridge, MA : MIT Press , 2002 )Google Scholar Heinrich , Thomas “ Cold War Armory: Military Contracting in Silicon Valley, ” Enterprise & Society 3 ( 2002 ): 247 –84Google Scholar Lécuyer , Christophe Making Silicon Valley: Innovation and the Growth of High Tech, 1930–1970 ( Cambridge, MA : MIT Press , 2007 )Google Scholar Duffner , Robert W. The Adaptive Optics Revolution: A History ( Albuquerque : University of New Mexico Press , 2009 ).Google Scholar

11. Some might argue that such critical distance is necessary. For an example of a recent work that differs in tone and approach remarkably little from older treatments of the MIC, see the film Why We Fight (E. Jareki, dir., 2005).


Big money behind war: the military-industrial complex

More than 50 years after President Eisenhower’s warning, Americans find themselves in perpetual war.

In January 1961, US President Dwight D Eisenhower used his farewell address to warn the nation of what he viewed as one of its greatest threats: the military-industrial complex composed of military contractors and lobbyists perpetuating war.

Eisenhower warned that “an immense military establishment and a large arms industry” had emerged as a hidden force in US politics and that Americans “must not fail to comprehend its grave implications”. The speech may have been Eisenhower’s most courageous and prophetic moment. Fifty years and some later, Americans find themselves in what seems like perpetual war. No sooner do we draw down on operations in Iraq than leaders demand an intervention in Libya or Syria or Iran. While perpetual war constitutes perpetual losses for families, and ever expanding budgets, it also represents perpetual profits for a new and larger complex of business and government interests.

The new military-industrial complex is fuelled by a conveniently ambiguous and unseen enemy: the terrorist. Former President George W Bush and his aides insisted on calling counter-terrorism efforts a “war”. This concerted effort by leaders like former Vice President Dick Cheney (himself the former CEO of defence-contractor Halliburton) was not some empty rhetorical exercise. Not only would a war maximise the inherent powers of the president, but it would maximise the budgets for military and homeland agencies.

This new coalition of companies, agencies, and lobbyists dwarfs the system known by Eisenhower when he warned Americans to “guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence… by the military-industrial complex”. Ironically, it has had some of its best days under President Barack Obama who has radically expanded drone attacks and claimed that he alone determines what a war is for the purposes of consulting Congress.

Investment in homeland security companies is expected to yield a 12 percent annual growth through 2013 – an astronomical return when compared to other parts of the tanking economy.

Good for economy?

While few politicians are willing to admit it, we don’t just endure wars we seem to need war – at least for some people. A study showed that roughly 75 percent of the fallen in these wars come from working class families. They do not need war. They pay the cost of the war. Eisenhower would likely be appalled by the size of the industrial and governmental workforce committed to war or counter-terrorism activities. Military and homeland budgets now support millions of people in an otherwise declining economy. Hundreds of billions of dollars flow each year from the public coffers to agencies and contractors who have an incentive to keep the country on a war-footing – and footing the bill for war.

Across the country, the war-based economy can be seen in an industry which includes everything from Homeland Security educational degrees to counter-terrorism consultants to private-run preferred traveller programmes for airport security gates. Recently, the “black budget” of secret intelligence programmes alone was estimated at $52.6bn for 2013. That is only the secret programmes, not the much larger intelligence and counterintelligence budgets. We now have 16 spy agencies that employ 107,035 employees. This is separate from the over one million people employed by the military and national security law enforcement agencies.

The core of this expanding complex is an axis of influence of corporations, lobbyists, and agencies that have created a massive, self-sustaining terror-based industry.

The contractors

In the last eight years, trillions of dollars have flowed to military and homeland security companies. When the administration starts a war like Libya, it is a windfall for companies who are given generous contract s to produce everything from replacement missiles to ready-to-eat meals.

In the first 10 days of the Libyan war alone, the administration spent roughly $550m. That figure includes about $340m for munitions – mostly cruise missiles that must be replaced . Not only did Democratic members of Congress offer post-hoc support for the Libyan attack, but they also proposed a permanent authorisation for presidents to attack targets deemed connected to terrorism – a perpetual war on terror. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) offers an even steadier profit margin. According to Morgan Keegan, a wealth management and capital firm, investment in homeland security companies is expected to yield a 12 percent annual growth through 2013 – an astronomical return when compared to other parts of the tanking economy.

The lobbyists

There are thousands of lobbyists in Washington to guarantee the ever-expanding budgets for war and homeland security. One such example is former DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff who pushed the purchase of the heavily criticised (and little tested) full-body scanners used in airports. When Chertoff was giving dozens of interviews to convince the public that the machines were needed to hold back the terror threat, many people were unaware that the manufacturer of the machine is a client of the Chertoff Group, his highly profitable security consulting agency. (Those hugely expensive machines were later scrapped after Rapiscan, the manufacturer, received the windfall.)

Lobbyists maintain pressure on politicians by framing every budget in “tough on terror” versus “soft on terror” terms. They have the perfect products to pitch – products that are designed to destroy themselves and be replaced in an ever-lasting war on terror.

The agencies

It is not just revolving doors that tie federal agencies to these lobbyists and companies. The war-based economy allows for military and homeland departments to be virtually untouchable. Environmental and social programmes are eliminated or curtailed by billions as war-related budgets continue to expand to meet “new threats”.

A massive counterterrorism system has been created employing tens of thousands of personnel with billions of dollars to search for domestic terrorists.

With the support of an army of lobbyists and companies, cabinet members like former DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, are invincible in Washington. When citizens complained of watching their children groped by the TSA, Napolitano defiantly retorted that if people did not want their children groped, they should yield and use the unpopular full-body machines – the machines being sold by her predecessor, Chertoff.

It is not just the Defense and DHS departments that enjoy the war windfall. Take the Department of Justice (DOJ). A massive counterterrorism system has been created employing tens of thousands of personnel with billions of dollars to search for domestic terrorists. The problem has been a comparative shortage of actual terrorists to justify the size of this internal security system.

Accordingly, the DOJ has counted everything from simple immigration cases to credit card fraud as terror cases in a body count approach not seen since the Vietnam War. For example, the DOJ claimed to have busted a major terror-network as part of “Operation Cedar Sweep”, where Lebanese citizens were accused of sending money to terrorists. They were later forced to drop all charges against all 27 defendants as unsupportable. It turned out to be a bunch of simple head shops. Nevertheless, the new internal security system continues to grind on with expanding powers and budgets. A few years ago, the DOJ even changed the definition of terrorism to allow for an ever-widening number of cases to be considered “terror-related”.

Symbiotic relationship

Our economic war-dependence is matched by political war-dependence. Many members represent districts with contractors that supply homeland security needs and our on-going wars.

Even with polls showing that the majority of Americans are opposed to continuing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the new military-industrial complex continues to easily muster the necessary support from both Democrats and Republicans in Congress. It is a testament to the influence of this alliance that hundreds of billions are being spent in Afghanistan and Iraq while Congress is planning to cut billions from core social programmes, including a possible rollback on Medicare due to lack of money. None of that matters. It doesn’t even matter that Afghan President Hamid Karzai has called the US the enemy and said he wishes that he had joined the Taliban. Even the documented billions stolen by government officials in Iraq and Afghanistan are treated as a mere cost of doing business.

It is what Eisenhower described as the “misplaced power” of the military-industrial complex – power that makes public opposition and even thousands of dead soldiers immaterial. War may be hell for some but it is heaven for others in a war-dependent economy.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University and has testified in Congress on the massive counter-terrorism budgets and bureaucracy in the United States.