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America’s Permanent-War Complex

What President Dwight D. Eisenhower dubbed the “military-industrial complex” has been constantly evolving over the decades, adjusting to shifts in the economic and political system as well as international events. The result today is a “permanent-war complex,” which is now engaged in conflicts in at least eight countries across the globe, none of which are intended to be temporary.

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This new complex has justified its enhanced power and control over the country’s resources primarily by citing threats to U.S. security posed by Islamic terrorists. But like the old military-industrial complex, it is really rooted in the evolving relationship between the national security institutions themselves and the private arms contractors allied with them.

The first phase of this transformation was a far-reaching privatization of U.S. military and intelligence institutions in the two decades after the Cold War, which hollowed out the military’s expertise and made it dependent on big contractors (think Halliburton, Booz Allen Hamilton, CACI). The second phase began with the global “war on terrorism,” which quickly turned into a permanent war, much of which revolves around the use of drone strikes.

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The drone wars are uniquely a public-private military endeavor, in which major arms contractors are directly involved in the most strategic aspect of the war. And so the drone contractors—especially the dominant General Atomics—have both a powerful motive and the political power, exercised through its clients in Congress, to ensure that the wars continue for the indefinite future.

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The privatization of military and intelligence institutions began even before the end of the Cold War. But during the 1990s, both Congress and the Bush and Clinton administrations opened the floodgates to arms and intelligence contractors and their political allies. The contracts soon became bigger and more concentrated in a handful of dominant companies. Between 1998 and 2003, private contractors were getting roughly half of the entire defense budget each year. The 50 biggest companies were getting more than half of the approximately $900 billion paid out in contracts during that time, and most were no-bid contracts, sole sourced, according to the Center for Public Integrity.

The contracts that had the biggest impact on the complex were for specialists working right in the Pentagon. The number of these contractors grew so rapidly and chaotically in the two decades after the Cold War that senior Pentagon officials did not even know the full extent of their numbers and reach. In 2010, then-secretary of defense Robert M. Gates even confessed to Washington Post reporters Dana Priest and William M. Arkin that he was unable to determine how many contractors worked in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, which includes the entire civilian side of the Pentagon.

Although legally forbidden from assuming tasks that were “inherent government functions,” in practice these contractors steadily encroached on what had always been regarded as government functions. Contractors could pay much higher salaries and consulting fees than government agencies, so experienced Pentagon and CIA officers soon left their civil service jobs by the tens of thousands for plum positions with firms that often paid twice as much as the government for the same work.

That was especially true in the intelligence agencies, which experienced a rapid 50 percent workforce increase after 9/11. It was almost entirely done with former skilled officers brought back as contractor personnel. Even President Barack Obama’s CIA director Leon Panetta admitted to Priest and Arkin that the intelligence community had for too long “depended on contractors to do the operational work” that had always been done by CIA employees, including intelligence analysis, and that the CIA needed to rebuild its own expertise “over time.”

By 2010, “core contractors”—those who perform such functions as collection and analysis—comprised at least 28 percent of professional civilian and military intelligence staff, according to a fact sheet from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

The dependence on the private sector in the Pentagon and the intelligence community had reached such a point that it raised a serious question about whether the workforce was now “obligated to shareholders rather than to the public interest,” as Priest and Arkin reported. And both Gates and Panetta acknowledged to them their concerns about that issue.

Powerfully reinforcing that privatization effect was the familiar revolving door between the Pentagon and arms contractors, which had begun turning with greater rapidity. A 2010 Boston Globe investigation showed that the percentage of three- and four-star generals who left the Pentagon to take jobs as consultants or executives with defense contractors, which was already at 45 percent in 1993, had climbed to 80 percent by 2005—an 83 percent increase in 12 years.

The incoming George W. Bush administration gave the revolving door a strong push, bringing in eight officials from Lockheed Martin—then the largest defense contractor—to fill senior policymaking positions in the Pentagon. The CEO of Lockheed Martin, Peter Teets, was brought in to become undersecretary of the Air Force and director of the National Reconnaissance Office (where he had responsibility for acquisition decisions directly benefiting his former company). James Roche, the former vice president of Northrop Grumman, was named secretary of the Air Force, and a former vice president of General Dynamics, Gordon R. England, was named the secretary of the Navy.

In 2007, Bush named rear admiral J. Michael McConnell as director of national intelligence. McConnell had been director of the National Security Agency from 1992 to 1996, then became head of the national security branch of intelligence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. Not surprisingly McConnell energetically promoted even greater reliance on the private sector, on the grounds that it was supposedly more efficient and innovative than the government. In 2009 he returned once again to Booz Allen Hamilton as vice chairman.

The Pentagon and the intelligence agencies thus morphed into a new form of mixed public-private institutions, in which contractor power was greatly magnified. To some in the military it appeared that the privateers had taken over the Pentagon. As a senior U.S. military officer who had served in Afghanistan commented to Priest and Arkin, “It just hits you like a ton of bricks when you think about it. The Department of Defense is no longer a war-fighting organization, it’s a business enterprise.”

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The years after 9/11 saw the national security organs acquire new missions, power, and resources—all in the name of a “War on Terror,” aka “the long war.” The operations in Afghanistan and Iraq were sold on that premise, even though virtually no al Qaeda remained in Afghanistan and none were in Iraq until long after the initial U.S. invasion.

The military and the CIA got new orders to pursue al Qaeda and affiliated groups in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and several other African countries, parlaying what the Bush administration called a “generational war” into a guarantee that there would be no return to the relative austerity of the post-Cold War decade.

Drone strikes against targets associated with al Qaeda or affiliated groups became the common feature of these wars and a source of power for military and intelligence officials. The Air Force owned the drones and conducted strikes in Afghanistan, but the CIA carried them out covertly in Pakistan, and the CIA and the military competed for control over the strikes in Yemen.

The early experience with drone strikes against “high-value targets” was an unmitigated disaster. From 2004 through 2007, the CIA carried out 12 strikes in Pakistan, aimed at high-value targets of al Qaeda and its affiliates. But they killed only three identifiable al Qaeda or Pakistani Taliban figures, along with 121 civilians, based on analysis of news reports of the strikes.

But on the urging of CIA Director Michael Hayden, in mid-2008 President Bush agreed to allow “signature strikes” based merely on analysts’ judgment that a “pattern of life” on the ground indicated an al Qaeda or affiliated target. Eventually it became a tool for killing mostly suspected rank-and-file Afghan Taliban fighters in both Pakistan and Afghanistan, particularly during the Obama administration, which had less stomach and political capital for outright war and came to depend on the covert drone campaign. This war was largely secret and less accountable publicly. And it allowed him the preferable optics of withdrawing troops and ending official ground operations in places like Iraq.

Altogether in its eight years in office, the Obama administration carried out a total of nearly 5,000 drone strikes—mostly in Afghanistan—according to figures collected by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

But between 2009 and 2013, the best informed officials in the U.S. government raised alarms about the pace and lethality of this new warfare on the grounds that it systematically undermined the U.S. effort to quell terrorism by creating more support for al Qaeda rather than weakening it. Some mid-level CIA officers opposed the strikes in Pakistan as early as 2009, because of what they had learned from intelligence gathered from intercepts of electronic communications in areas where the strikes were taking place: they were infuriating Muslim males and making them more willing to join al Qaeda.

In a secret May 2009 assessment leaked to the Washington Post, General David Petraeus, then commander of the Central Command, wrote, “Anti-U.S. sentiment has already been increasing in Pakistan…especially in regard to cross-border and reported drone strikes, which Pakistanis perceive to cause unacceptable civilian casualties.”

More evidence of that effect came from Yemen. A 2013 report on drone war policy for the Council on Foreign Relations found that membership in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen grew from several hundred in 2010 to a few thousand members in 2012, just as the number of drone strikes in the country was increasing dramatically—along with popular anger toward the United States.

Drone strikes are easy for a president to support. They demonstrate to the public that he is doing something concrete about terrorism, thus providing political cover in case of another successful terrorist attack on U.S. soil. Donald Trump has shown no interest in scaling back the drone wars, despite openly questioning the stationing of troops across the Middle East and Africa. In 2017 he approved a 100 percent increase in drone strikes in Yemen and a 30 percent increase in Somalia above the totals of the final year of the Obama administration. And Trump has approved a major increase in drone strikes in Afghanistan, and has eliminated rules aimed at reducing civilian casualties from such strikes.

Even if Obama and Trump had listened to dissenting voices on the serious risks of drone wars to U.S. interests, however, another political reality would have prevented the United States from ending the drone wars: the role of the private defense contractors and their friends on Capitol Hill in maintaining the status quo.

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Unlike conventional bombing missions, drone strikes require a team to watch the video feeds, interpret them, and pass on their conclusions to their mission coordinators and pilots. By 2007 that required more specialists than the Air Force had available. Since then, the Air Force has been working with military and intelligence contractors to analyze full-motion videos transmitted by drones to guide targeting decisions. BAE, the third-ranking Pentagon contractor according to defense revenues, claims that it is the “leading provider” of analysis of drone video intelligence, but in the early years the list of major companies with contracts for such work also included Booz Allen Hamilton, L-3 Communications, and SAIC (now Leidos).

These analysts were fully integrated into the “kill chain” that resulted, in many cases, in civilian casualties. In the now-famous case of the strike in February 2010 that killed at least 15 Afghan civilians, including children, the “primary screener” for the team of six video analysts in Florida communicating via a chat system with the drone pilot in Nevada was a contract employee with SAIC. That company had a $49 million multi-year contract with the Air Force to analyze drone video feeds and other intelligence from Afghanistan.

The pace of drone strikes in Afghanistan accelerated sharply after U.S. combat ended formally in 2014. And that same year, the air war against ISIS began in Iraq and Syria. The Air Force then began running armed drones around the clock in those countries as well. The Air Force needed 1,281 drone pilots to handle as many “combat air patrols” per day in multiple countries. But it was several hundred pilots short of that objective.

To fulfill that requirement the Air Force turned to General Atomics—maker of the first armed drone, the Predator, and a larger follow-on, the MQ-9 Reaper—which had already been hired to provide support services for drone operations on a two-year contract worth $700 million. But in April 2015 the Air Force signed a contract with the company to lease one of its Reapers with its own ground control station for a year. In addition, the contractor was to provide the pilots, sensor operators, and other crew members to fly it and maintain it.

The pilots, who still worked directly for General Atomics, did everything Air Force drone pilots did except actually fire the missiles. The result of that contract was a complete blurring of the lines between the official military and the contractors hired to work alongside them. The Air Force denied any such blurring, arguing that the planning and execution of each mission would still be in the hands of an Air Force officer. But the Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Office had published an article in its law review in 2010 warning that even the analysis of video feeds risked violating international law prohibiting civilian participation in direct hostilities.

A second contract with a smaller company, Aviation Unlimited, was for the provision of pilots and sensor operators and referred to “recent increased terrorist activities,” suggesting that it was for anti-ISIS operations.

The process of integrating drone contractors into the kill chain in multiple countries thus marked a new stage in the process of privatizing war in what had become a permanent war complex. After 9/11, the military became dependent on the private sector for everything from food, water, and housing to security and refueling in Iraq and Afghanistan. By 2009 contractors began outnumbering U.S. troops in Afghanistan and eventually became critical for continuing the war as well.

In June 2018, the DoD announced a $40 million contract with General Atomics to operate its own MQ-9 Reapers in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province. The Reapers are normally armed for independent missile strikes, but in this case, the contractor-operated Reapers were to be unarmed, meaning that the drones would be used to identify targets for Air Force manned aircraft bombing missions.

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There appears to be no braking mechanism for this accelerating new reality. U.S. government spending on the military drone market, which includes not only procurement and research and development for the drones themselves, but the sensors, modifications, control systems, and other support contracts, stood at $4.5 billion in 2016, and was expected to increase to $13 billion by 2027. General Atomics is now the dominant player in the arena.

This kind of income translates into political power, and the industry has shown its muscle and more than once prevented the Pentagon from canceling big-ticket programs, no matter how unwanted or wasteful. They have the one-two punch of strategically focused campaign contributions and intensive lobbying of members with whom they have influence.

This was most evident between 2011 and 2013, after congressionally mandated budget reductions cut into drone procurement. The biggest loser appeared to be Northrop Grumman’s “Global Hawk” drone, designed for unarmed high-altitude intelligence surveillance flights of up to 32 hours.

By 2011 the Global Hawk was already 25 percent over budget, and the Pentagon had delayed the purchase of the remaining planes for a year to resolve earlier failures to deliver adequate “near real time” video intelligence.

After a subsequent test, however, the Defense Department’s top weapons tester official reported in May 2011 that the Global Hawk was “not operationally effective” three fourths of the time, because of “low vehicle reliability.” He cited the “failure” of “mission central components” at “high rates.” In addition, the Pentagon still believed the venerable U-2 Spy plane—which could operate in all weather conditions, unlike the Global Hawk—could carry out comparable high-altitude intelligence missions.

As a result, the DoD announced in 2012 that it would mothball the aircraft it had already purchased and save $2.5 billion over five years by foregoing the purchase of the remaining three drones. But that was before Northrop Grumman mounted a classic successful lobbying campaign to reverse the decision.

That lobbying drive produced a fiscal year 2013 defense appropriations law that added $360 million for the purchase of the final three Global Hawks. In Spring 2013, top Pentagon officials indicated that they were petitioning for “relief” from congressional intent. Then the powerful chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, California Republican Buck McKeon, and a member of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, Democrat Jim Moran of Virginia, wrote a letter to incoming Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on May 13, 2013, pressing him to fund the acquisition of the Global Hawks.

The Pentagon finally caved. The Air Force issued a statement pledging to acquire the last three Northrop Grumman spy planes, and in early 2014, Hagel and Dempsey announced that they would mothball the U-2 and replace it with the Global Hawk.

Northrop spent nearly $18 million on lobbying in 2012 and $21 million in 2013, fielding a phalanx of lobbyists determined to help save Global Hawk. It got what it wanted.

Meanwhile, Northrop’s political action committee had already made contributions of at least $113,000 to the campaign committee of House Armed Services Committee Chairman McKeon, who also happened to represent the Southern California district where Northrop’s assembly plant for the Global Hawk is located. Representative Moran, the co-author of the letter with McKeon, who represented the northern Virginia district where Northrop has its headquarters, had gotten $22,000 in contributions.

Of course Northrop didn’t ignore the rest of the House Armed Services Committee: they were recipients of at least $243,000 in campaign contributions during the first half of 2012.

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The Northrop Grumman triumph dramatically illustrates the power relationships underlying the new permanent-war complex. In the first half of 2013 alone, four major drone contractors—General Atomics, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, and Boeing—spent $26.2 million lobbying Congress to pressure the executive branch to keep the pipeline of funding for their respective drone systems flowing freely. The Center for the Study of the Drone observed, “Defense contractors are pressuring the government to maintain the same levels of investment in unmanned systems even as the demand from the traditional theatres such as Afghanistan dies down.”

Instead of dying down, the demand from drones in Afghanistan has exploded in subsequent years. By 2016, the General Atomics Reapers had already become so tightly integrated into U.S. military operations in Afghanistan that the whole U.S. war plan was dependent on them. In the first quarter of 2016 Air Force data showed that 61 percent of the weapons dropped in Afghanistan were from the drones.

In the new permanent-war complex the interests of the arms contractors have increasingly dominated over the interests of the civilian Pentagon and the military services, and dominance has became a new driving force for continued war. Even though those bureaucracies, along with the CIA, seized the opportunity to openly conduct military operations in one country after another, the drone war has introduced a new political dynamic into the war system: the drone makers who have powerful clout in Congress can use their influence to block or discourage an end to the permanent war—especially in Afghanistan—which would sharply curtail the demand for drones.

Eisenhower was prophetic in his warning about the threat of the original complex (which he had planned to call the military-industrial-congressional complex) to American democracy. But that original complex, organized merely to maximize the production of arms to enhance the power and resources of both the Pentagon and their contractor allies, has become a much more serious menace to the security of the American people than even Eisenhower could have anticipated. Now it is a system of war that powerful arms contractors and their bureaucratic allies may have the ability to maintain indefinitely.

Gareth Porter is an investigative reporter and regular contributor to The American Conservative. He is also the author of Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.

33 Comments (Open | Close)

33 Comments To "America’s Permanent-War Complex"

#1 Comment By Kurt Gayle On November 15, 2018 @ 12:09 am

Gareth Porter: “Eisenhower was prophetic in his warning about the threat of the original complex (which he had planned to call the military-industrial-congressional complex) to American democracy. But that original complex, organized merely to maximize the production of arms to enhance the power and resources of both the Pentagon and their contractor allies, has become a much more serious menace to the security of the American people than even Eisenhower could have anticipated. Now it is a system of war that powerful arms contractors and their bureaucratic allies may have the ability to maintain indefinitely.”

I was a junior in high school in January, 1961, when President Eisenhower left the US Presidency after 8 years in office. Our US History teacher gave as a class assignment that we all watch this last speech on TV. I can only remember that we had a good class discussion the next day. But we were kids and even those of us who jotted down the Eisenhower warning in our notes never imagined how important the warning would prove to be. We certainly never imagined that we as a nation would fail so utterly to heed President Eisenhower’s warning.

“Eisenhower warns us of the military industrial complex” – Excerpts from President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s exit speech of Jan.17,1961 (youtube–2:30–1,957,874 views)

#2 Comment By Ronald Sevenster On November 15, 2018 @ 12:25 am

If you are a global power, you are per definitionem in a state of perpetual war — more or less. There’s no way around it. So if the US complains about this, they should simply stop to consider themselves the leading nation, become a second rate country, and subject themselves to China and the EU. If you don’t want that alternative, then please stop whining.

#3 Comment By Clyde Schechter On November 15, 2018 @ 1:49 am

This is the lethal blending of neoliberalism and neoconservatism.

#4 Comment By Whine Merchant On November 15, 2018 @ 6:11 am

Permanent war has an important political aspect that runs parallel to the high cost / high tech aspect. The”voluntary” military sucks-up a lot of America’s underclass, keeping them off the streets, providing gainful occupations for many who would be un- or under-employed or in crime, and offering some modest veteran benefits for after enlistment [no one enlists planning to rely upon the woeful VA medical system].
Those in uniform and the military’s civilian infrastructure help to redistribute the wealth and create ‘make work’ jobs that are actually a form of socialism that is never given that label.

#5 Comment By Fran Macadam On November 15, 2018 @ 6:33 am

America’s export to the world is war – it’s what our elites make. Even a President can’t change that corporate mission, as he or she is CEO of War, Inc., and must satisfy his corporate shareholders – who aren’t the ordinary drones whose votes have no effect on policy.

War? What’s it good for? Corporate profit.

#6 Comment By Kent On November 15, 2018 @ 6:44 am

Our Libertarian paradise.

#7 Comment By Frank D On November 15, 2018 @ 8:06 am

“I am shocked that there is gambling going on in this establishment!”

#8 Comment By Oleg Gark On November 15, 2018 @ 9:12 am

The political influence that military contractors have is in direct proportion to the amount of money they receive from the government. This creates a positive feedback loop of corruption. Foreign aid to Israel creates a similar problem.

One solution is to make campaign contributions and PAC funding illegal for entities that are financially dependent on Uncle Sam. This, however, contradicts the legal theories that corporations are people and money equals free speech. Plus, politicians are generally in favor of corruption, as long as it’s wrapped in a flag and beyond criticism.

#9 Comment By Stephen J. On November 15, 2018 @ 9:28 am

The writer states: “In the new permanent-war complex the interests of the arms contractors have increasingly dominated over the interests of the civilian Pentagon and the military services, and dominance has became a new driving force for continued war.”
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“The Permanent –War Complex” and all its allies were recently seen at a war “anniversary” in Paris. Therefore I ask:

“Were War Criminals Present At a Ceremony in Paris”?

“World leaders gathered in Paris on Sunday under the Arc de Triomphe to mark the centennial anniversary ending World War I….
“Grotesquely, as the world leaders donned solemn faces and mouthed pious platitudes for peace, the whole occasion was a triumph in burying reality and the ongoing causes of wars, as well as whitewashing the very culprits responsible for wars. Among the war criminals wearing a mournful black suit was former French President Nicolas Sarkozy who launched the NATO blitzkrieg on Libya in 2011.”
Finian Cunningham
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I believe a number of those present in Paris are “war criminals” and that there is an abundance of evidence available to convict them, and others now retired from public life.
These people, I believe are responsible for millions of deaths in a number of countries, and millions of refugees, yet, they remain Free. One wonders, what will it take to put them on trial? Are they above the law? Why are they getting away with these 21 Century War Crimes?…

[read more at link below]

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#10 Comment By Sid Finster On November 15, 2018 @ 10:07 am

Two additional ironies:

1. In spite of unprecedented military spending, when was the last time the United States actually won a war?

2. The United States a dwindling number of friends that are not bribed and/or stongarmed. Most of those who remaining are odious and stand with the United States only because it supports their odious deeds.

#11 Comment By Dan Green On November 15, 2018 @ 10:15 am

Neve deploying a post WW 2 strategy to win wars we either started or pushed our way into is the basis for our Military ongoing complex . Is either Russia or China seriously motivated to attack us on our soil ? Muslim terrorist organizations I would agree are here to stay. After they pulled off 9-11 they never have looked back. Democracies have no solutions to terror attacks

#12 Comment By Mac61 On November 15, 2018 @ 10:32 am

Depressingly thorough. Permanent-War Complex should be the phrase now. “Military-Industrial Complex” is a cliche now that has no rhetorical force.

#13 Comment By Stephen J. On November 15, 2018 @ 11:24 am

Could we call the servants of these, “Permanent” wars?
“The Mad March of the Brainwashed”

Left, right, left right, see them march ready to bomb and destroy
Obeying orders from war criminals and maniacs; do you feel the joy?
Full of pride and waving their flags, all standing to attention
As they listen to the mad war criminals that brook no dissension

An order is an order even if it sets the world on nuclear fire
Left, right, left right, “Yes sir, what else do you desire”?
“Just make every missile hit its target, as we your leaders’ watch on T.V.
Burn up the peoples’ tax dollars, because this is, “the land of the free.”

Left right, left right, the brainwashed take orders from the insane
When the nukes start flying, their landings will be the end game
Still, not to worry, the “leaders” will be hiding in their bunkers underground
Issuing the orders; as the brainwashed bomb the people, that live on the
battleground

Left right, left right, “A question sir, if I may, will we get a medal”
When we blow up the world, this fine and wonderful day”?
“Of course, you will my brave man/woman you are serving your country
And we will be watching all the action from our bunker, to put it bluntly”

Left right, left right, “Are you ready to fight and to do battle”?
“Are all the bombs and missiles ready, to kill people like helpless cattle”?
“Yes sir, yes sir, everything is ready and we are ready too”
“Just issue the orders and we will press the buttons, we are a brave crew”

Left right, left right and the brainwashed marched away
Ready to fire their missiles on an unfortunate land this very day
The war criminals that planned all this filthy hellish action
Are hiding in their underground lairs smiling with crazy satisfaction

The end result of all this treachery and insanity
Could probably be the end of the world and humanity
Left right, left right, orders are orders, and the enemy must be punished
Will nuclear war be the end result of the mad march of the brainwashed?
Will we all be extinguished?…

[more info at link below]

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#14 Comment By TheSnark On November 15, 2018 @ 11:57 am

Eisenhower had the stature and military background to do something about this, but he only warned us as he was leaving office.

Today, our leaders lack that stature. With 3 of our last 4 presidents (Clinton, Bush Jr, Trump) having been draft dodgers, and the fourth (Obama) with no military service, they were and are too scared of looking weak to even try to rein this military-civilian conglomerate. And I seriously doubt the next President will be any better on this score.

#15 Comment By david On November 15, 2018 @ 12:34 pm

Those part-taking in the Permanent War Complex are not only criminals, they are treasonous, and should be punished accordingly, when the people take back this country. This should include the politicians, the CEOs, contractors and lobbyists.

#16 Comment By One Guy On November 15, 2018 @ 2:04 pm

I don’t know whether to blame the leaders for engaging in this behavior, or the People for allowing and encouraging it. As long as there is a sizable lump of voters that worship the military, the situation will continue. I suppose it’s a good thing that the only U.S. military people killed have volunteered.

#17 Comment By JeffK On November 15, 2018 @ 3:24 pm

SCOTUS made it very difficult to prohibit campaign contributions to candidates and PACs, specifically 501Cs.

If we cannot make it illegal for individuals and corporations to make political contributions then it should no longer be tax deductible. That should be relatively easy (except for congress).

#18 Comment By Kurt Gayle On November 15, 2018 @ 5:20 pm

One Guy says (Nov 15, 2:04 pm): “I suppose it’s a good thing that the only U.S. military people killed have volunteered.”

They didn’t “volunteer” so much as they were “recruited.” There is a world of difference. In “The Deep Unfairness of America’s All-Volunteer Force — Children of the elites fight in disproportionately small numbers. Does that lead to more war?” (The American Conservative, Oct. 16, 2017) Major General (Ret) Dennis Laich and U.S. Army Reserve. Col. (Ret.) Lawrence Wilkerson write:

“A more serious challenge for the democracy that is America, however, is the ethical one. Today, more than 300 million Americans lay claim to rights, liberties, and security that not a single one of them is obligated to protect and defend. Apparently, only 1 percent of the population feels that obligation. That 1 percent is bleeding and dying for the other 99 percent.

“Further, that 1 percent does not come primarily or even secondarily from the families of the Ivy Leagues, of Wall Street, of corporate leadership, from the Congress, or from affluent America; it comes from less well-to-do areas: West Virginia, Maine, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, and elsewhere. For example, the Army now gets more soldiers from the state of Alabama, population 4.8 million, than it gets from New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles combined, aggregate metropolitan population more than 25 million. Similarly, 40 percent of the Army comes from seven states of the Old South. As one of us has documented in his book, Skin in the Game: Poor Kids and Patriots, this is an ethically poisonous situation. And as the article in The Economist concludes, it’s dangerous as well…”

“Is there anyone among us who would not believe that having an all-volunteer (or, more to the point, an all-recruited) military coming only from the 1 percent does not contribute to the facility with which presidents call upon that instrument? In a rational world, we would be declared insane to believe otherwise.

“Said more explicitly, if the sons and daughters of members of Congress, of the corporate leadership, of the billionaire class, of the Ivy Leagues, of the elite in general, were exposed to the possibility of combat, would we have less war? From a socio-economic class perspective, the AVF is inherently unfair.”

“Major General (Ret) Dennis Laich served 35 years in the U.S. Army Reserve. Col. (Ret.) Lawrence Wilkerson is visiting professor of government and public policy at the College of William and Mary. He was chief of staff to secretary of state Colin Powell from 2002-05, special assistant to Powell when Powell was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1989-93), and deputy director and director of the USMC War College (1993-97).”

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#19 Comment By Sid_finster On November 15, 2018 @ 8:10 pm

@Ronald Sevenster: if only “second rate powers” are at peace, then not only would I prefer to be a second rate power rather than a glorified robber, but I would deliver over the current and past leadership of this country over for a Nuremberg style trial, preferably followed by a good old fashioned hanging, to make sure everyone gets the message loud and clear.

#20 Comment By Ghostship On November 16, 2018 @ 5:49 am

This bleeds into the intellectual property rights issue that the US has with China. By privatizing defense technology, China spying on the United States privately-owned defense industry can be claimed as an IP crime while the United States spying on China’s state-owned defence industry can be claimed as espionage and what is wrong with that.

#21 Comment By Peter Blomquist On November 16, 2018 @ 7:31 am

Eisenhower warned about the Military Industrial Complex, but he also went from 1,000 nukes at the beginning of his administration to 22,000 when he left.

That is like the founders saying all people are created equal except slaves.

#22 Comment By DrivingBy On November 16, 2018 @ 8:42 am

But if we elect Barak the Lightgiver with Hillary the Wise directing foreign pol, we shall without fail exit from the evil Republican warscape!

aaaand anyone who uses the term “Deep State” is a Trumpanzee conspiracy kook, and may even be (spit!) a white male.

Actually I have nothing sentient to add. We do seem to have gotten into perpetual mini-wars where the goal and intended endpoint, if there ever was one, is forgotten. That is directly in line with Eisenhower’s warning.

On a related topic, it’s interesting that an airplane developed in the 1950s is better than the shiniest new thing that MIC is willing to build, despite the U2 coming from the infancy of the Jet Age and the Reaper from a time when an entire plane can be designed as a simulation, refined, and virtually flown before the first prototype is built. We’ve won’t do better, because no one cares enough. We’re still flying the B-52 because later replacements were less useful in actual war.

A generation of patriots vs an infestation of parasites.

#23 Comment By Balconesfault On November 16, 2018 @ 10:59 am

The last Republican President who campaigned on cutting military spending?

Lol. Trump parades around bragging that he signed off on a big bump in military spending … and he’s at 90% approval rating in the “small government” GOP.

#24 Comment By b. On November 16, 2018 @ 6:41 pm

Eisenhower nurtured this beast, he didn’t have the balls do call it the congressional-military-industrial complex, as his speech was originally written, and he was not honest enough to call it what it is – the presidential-congressional-military-industrial complex of P4 – public-private “partnerships” for profit, the biparty standard model of corruption that has become pervasive in our blighted nation.

Politics is how we determine governance, governance is the attempt to generate consent and consensus and gather the resources and funds required for collective action – to transcend our individual limitations, be they cognitive, ethical, or of industry. Hence, governance – functional or not – will concentrate the resources of a community (esp. with the power to borrow), and hence governance and the individuals involved will inherently, inevitably attract the attention of inbred wealth and organized power – of the profiteers set on strip-mining those resources concentrated from taxes and debt, and those powers created by consensus. Hence, corruption of any government is inevitable, and, if not fought to a standstill, will make our institutions part of a self-reinforcing feedback loop in which inequality and imbalances of wealth and power are amplified by the ruthless profit extraction from public spending.

From Eisenhower to Too Big To Regulate/Fail/Govern, from Clinton “Foundations” and Obama “mandates” to Trump-Kushner foreign policy for hire, from the rackets of publicly-backed student loans to subsidize for-profit colleges, to mandated health insurance, to “job guarantees” and subsidized low wage scams, to the prison-industrial complex and the election-industrial complex, to car loans and mortgages, there is no essential component of modern life that has not been appropriated by a corrupted government to serve relentless corporate interests at the expense to The People born and unborn.

Eisenhower, he of the unconstitutional and illegal impunity of “covert” interventions, gets no pass. He is as much to blame for this malignancy as anybody – especially as, if he had taken a stand against it when it mattered, at the beginning of his second term, he of all Presidents could have taken the military down from its self-serving elevations – starting with the former USAAF and the nuclear-industrial complex of Mutually Assured Suicide.

#25 Comment By michael hall On November 16, 2018 @ 9:22 pm

Dulce Et Decorum Est III
In due homage
to Horace, Owen & Mikhail
i humbly nod
for how sweet & glorious
it must be to kill or die
for God & country
via pompous duty
asphyxiatingly-wrapped
in ersatz honor
and a fool’s pride
so c’mon kiddies,
any up for good jingo sport?
who’s hungry & poor,
who wants to play
the hubris ‘anything for profit’ killing game?
As newspapers, rah rah
pied piper patriotism
with journalistic integrity
star spangled objectivity ha ha!
as a new battle/fear lies just around the corner
& armed forces day just weeks away hooray!
rally loyal citizens
to whitewash warm innocuous blood
off disgraced musket & sullied polluted flag
strike up the marching parade
manifest destiny down main street usa hurrah!
Awaken & open thine eyes
chauvinistic folk
come & see
your overseas deeds of nefarious brutality
You’re liable
for this appalling
tax-paid supported violence
exported to hamlets & villages
Assaulting families
who’ve never
did you any harm
in lands you’ve never heard of
nor care less for
so step on up
one & all
Take a trip
to the overflowing morgues
filled with small smashed bodies
once toddlers
full of laughter & life
Deeply inhale
the rancid stench
of scorched flesh
crispy burnt
to a black bubbly mass
by phosphorus
Gaze into doll dead eyes
frozen forever
by shock & awe
renditioned
via your God blessed terror from overhead
Atop a cold gurney
a stiff finger of a tiny hand
amidst a mish-mosh of mangled flesh
bulls-eyed at you war supporters
Watch
as grief-stricken father’s
zombie-wander
in shattered silence
sifting through ragged debris
devastating destruction
searching
for lost sons
missing daughters
Discovering
ripped wet mangled body parts
strewn out as pieces of a human jig-saw puzzle
taking home
the ear, the hand, the foot
to be quietly buried
while 6000 miles away
heroes giggle and snicker
calling this crime against humanity
‘bugsplat’
Harken
to the heart-piercing shrieks
as soul-torn asunder mothers
wail like howling wild animals
as they find their loves buried
broken & bloody
in the rubble
of your glorious works
Then if you can
please explain
to the unresponsive moaning
neonatal orphan
why your armed forces
just murdered his parents
by accident
then wave a condolence payment
like juicy enticement in his face
Celebrate
as your special op-forces
silently & quickly
dig out bullets
from civilian bodies
to cover their tracks
from being at the wrong address
again
Declare as a national holiday
murdered women at a bridal shower
or when
4 kids are droned to smithereens
while tending sheep
rejoice
in exported evil exploits
as great american victories
for which your war crimes always are
Trust flim-flam,
the PR propaganda spin
from subjective mass media
obey leaders and church bosses
pay your taxes
which finances anglo-terrorism
through illegal & immoral aggressive violence
Raise your polluted flag
higher higher ever higher
to cover the rising pile where the butchered lie
however
dear good christian citizens
no civic rag
could ever soar over
the sick slaying of the innocent
Consider Fallujha
surrounded & caged
as the cowering cringing unarmed civilian inhabitants
are shot, burned & barbequed
like slaughtered sitting ducks
in a ‘free-fire zone’ shooting gallery
Ponder
upon your sanctimonious attack
at a school in Bajour
where 69 children are massacred by joystick
as you deceive yourself
into believing
it did not happen
washing your hands
turning as you walk away
This is Sand Creek
Wounded Knee
My Lai
Haditha
too many other mass-media
contorted & distorted great triumphs
To whit
no doubt in my mind
the next war crime called
a ‘battle’
or a ‘humanitarian bombing’
will be patriotically anointed too
sanctioned of course
ta ta

#26 Comment By Dave Sullivan On November 16, 2018 @ 11:41 pm

An important, maybe most important aspect of the warfare state is security secrets. We have powerful enemies right now, threatening to control your TV remote. We cant tell you who they are, we cant tell you how we are going to spend the money you give us to protect you. You cant come on the army base you paid for, or see the books, it’s that dangerous.

#27 Comment By Jana On November 18, 2018 @ 1:35 am

How many millions of Americans are involved directly or indirectly in production, sales, use of weapons? The price for global power or empire has always been war, never mind if it’s Otoman empire or america’s permanent war complex. So don’t worry none of it is permanent. America was much better selling the world cars and fridges.

#28 Comment By George Hoffman On November 18, 2018 @ 1:07 pm

I served in Vietnam, the last generation of baby boomers, who were subject the draft. Back then, support functions such as the mess hall, garage collection, maintenance of trucks and jeeps, etc, were all done by the draftees, because our wages were too low and we were so plentiful. Even the late Chalmers Johnson pointed out in an interview, that KP (Kitchen Patrol) in the mess halls was done by draftees. All those jobs have also been privatized to outside contractors at much higher wages. So it’s more than just this revolution in robotics, here I mean drones, that add cost to the functioning of our armed forces. Of course, these grunge duties aren’t “sexy” topics compared to drones. But the money adds up in the budget for our armed forces. Another important reason for the explosion and reliance on drones is the armed forces is clearly overextended with a volunteer armed forces. But in my days in the military, there was plenty of cannon fodder for the brass to play around with. So you can thank the anti-war proetesters, who forced Richard Nixon to replace the draft with a lottery to defuse their influence, and pressured him to get out of the Vietnam War. Now we essentially have a quasi-mercenary armed forces and military service has become just another career choice in our neoliberal economy. The concept of the citizen/soldier from the Second World War is nostalgia which became another casualty of the Vietnam War. Actually, the war hawks probably prefer a volunteer armed forces given how badly the brass were burnt during the era of the Vietnam War. Chalmers Johnson and even Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff for Secretary Colin Powell, predicted our armed forces mau eventually come to resemble France’s Foreign Legion. And although he has been criticized roundly in the press by war hawks, Erik Prince’s sales pitch to employ private professional soldiers in Afghanistan to prosecute our longest war seems to a natural progression economically based upon the neoliberal paradigm. And drones never go AWOL, get a Dear John Letter and follow orders from the brass. But there will come a time in the future when one of the regional wars we are prosecuting will spin out of control and we are once again in a global war not unlike the First or a Second World Wars. And war hawks will need a lot of boots on the grounds to prosecute the war.

#29 Comment By Tony On November 18, 2018 @ 8:36 pm

Our defense budget is bloated because we have committed to the defense of so many nations. The US is an island, separated from those countries by vast oceans, therefore demanding huge defense expenditures. The simple answer – let those other nations fend for themselves. We’ll be fine.

#30 Comment By PubliusII On November 19, 2018 @ 8:51 am

If you like the idea of international law having any teeth, then you are supporting the idea of a global hegemon who will be the enforcer.

Who’s it going to be? State your case below, and show us how that nation will have the military power to enforce the rules on everyone.

If there’s no country in that position, then “international law” is nothing more than an absurd nullity.

As for me, I prefer a world with rules that mean something, and I prefer the United States over any other country as the enforcer.

However, I do think every now and then, we need to win a war that leaves the transgressor state — large or small — in the same condition as Japan and Germany were in 1945.

Human memories being short, it’s important to not to let the lessons lapse of what happens when your country breaks the rules.

We are now getting into the timespan — 75+ years — since 1945, and those who lived through WW 2 are rapidly dying off. Soon most people won’t know anyone personally who experienced it. That’s not good for the prospects of international peace and a global economy that isn’t held hostage to bad actors in various parts of the world.

I wish human beings were different in this regard. But with the ‘crooked timber of humanity,” there’s no other workable course.

#31 Comment By david On November 19, 2018 @ 8:06 pm

PubliusII says:
“If you like the idea of international law having any teeth, then you are supporting the idea of a global hegemon who will be the enforcer…. I prefer the United States over any other country as the enforcer.”

LOL, sounds like lots of MIC propaganda.

Firstly, who makes the international law? You skipped that crucial part. Let me guess: United States?

Second, is the international law for the good of all countries, some countries or just one country?
And if there is dispute between countries, who will decide?

So, there is no role for international organizations like UN to enforce international law? US has to bomb its ways to law and order?

So, US does not have to subject itself to international law? For example, we criticize China for not respecting law of sea, but don’t rectify UNCLOS ourselves.

So, if the international law is the common good, and build on agreement by all or most nations, why should US be the enforcer? Unless of course, your so called “international” law is actually just “national” law.

You don’t even see the fault of US policy of bullying its way to national interests, and you are feeding into the hungry beast of MIC that have kidnapped this country.

#32 Comment By Procopius On November 24, 2018 @ 5:23 am

Actually, the permanent war and the expensive “all-volunteer Army” don’t do much to absorb the “underclass.” Most of the “underclass” who so frighten Trump voters and suburban middle classes are not eligible to enlist. 70% of American are barred from serving, either because of felony convictions, lack of education, or lack of physical fitness. Most of those eligible are middle class or above, so have little incentive to join.

#33 Comment By Larry Bliss On January 21, 2019 @ 11:51 pm

This a seriously under-covered story. All Americans should read this, because the implications are truly frightening.