Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Military-Industrial Complex

Throughout America's adventure in free government, our basic purposes have been to keep the peace; to foster progress in human achievement, and to enhance liberty, dignity and integrity among people and among nations. To strive for less would be unworthy of a free and religious people. Any failure traceable to arrogance, or our lack of comprehension or readiness to sacrifice would inflict upon us grievous hurt both at home and abroad.

Those were the noble goals stated by Dwight D. Eisenhower in his famous 1961 speech on the Military-Industrial Complex. I think it's important to revisit history to understand what is happening now. What was new to the American experience 47 years ago is widely accepted and rarely questioned today:

Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime, or indeed by the fighting men of World War II or Korea.

Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.

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 State house, 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.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The 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. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

Thanks to the Internet, we can easily track the costs. So far this month, 255 publicly-reported defense contracts have totaled $40,916,778,410. The total so far this year is $164,176,189,156. And don't foolishly believe that these contracts are all being awarded to American companies. Bahrain Maritime and Merchantile International is being awarded a maximum $2,801,334,120 contract for supply and distribution of food and non-food products.

Of course the money spent is the easy part to measure, but our liberties and our democratic process have also been sacrificed. See my posts on domestic spying, habeas corpus, airport security, proxy wars, terrorist watch list, politicalization of the DoJ, and the cavalier attitude towards war with Iran...

And on this last topic of Iran, maybe we are finally coming to our senses. A recent RAND Research Brief presents the evidence that terrorism groups are rarely defeated by military might:

By analyzing a comprehensive roster of terrorist groups that existed worldwide between 1968 and 2006, the authors found that most groups ended because of operations carried out by local police or intelligence agencies or because they negotiated a settlement with their governments. Military force was rarely the primary reason a terrorist group ended, and few groups within this time frame achieved victory.

In another positive development, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is starting to sound a little bit like Eisenhower. Yesterday, Gates renewed his call for more spending on U.S. diplomacy and international aid, saying the U.S. government risks “creeping militarization” of its foreign policy by focusing its resources on the Pentagon.

So that's what we're calling it now? Creeping militarization? I suppose I don't mind the new wording. Just uttering the phrase "military-industrial complex" makes me feel like a radical tie-dyed hippie.

No comments: