Selling Aid to Ukraine: Spilling Blood to Create Jobs
Kill a few Russians, fuel a major conventional war, and risk nuclear conflation, all to put an American to work. What could possibly go wrong?
The war against Russia is going badly for Ukraine. The latter’s backers are getting desperate.
Facing growing opposition to Washington’s proxy war against Russia, some Kiev advocates now claim the conflict is a great way to create jobs. Kill a few Russians, fuel a major conventional war, and risk nuclear conflation, all to put an American to work. What could possibly go wrong?
For instance, Gabrielius Landsbergis, foreign minister of Lithuania, one of America’s many European defense dependents whose governments wail about the Russian threat while devoting less—sometimes much less—to defense than the U.S., announced an upcoming trip to America to squeeze more money out of Washington.
He explained: “We have a plan to travel…to separate states, meeting—for example—the companies that sell equipment that actually create jobs in the U.S. Most of the money that has been spent on Ukraine was actually spent in the U.S.”
The Biden administration has begun making a similar pitch to sell the war in Washington. Reported Politico: “In recent weeks, senior House Republicans and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have separately told national security adviser Jake Sullivan and other administration officials to step up their efforts in selling lawmakers on additional Ukraine aid or risk losing critical support.”
So Biden aides also are arguing that killing foreigners is good for the economy. In another story, Politico detailed that “the White House has been quietly urging lawmakers in both parties to sell the war efforts abroad as a potential economic boom at home. Aides have been distributing talking points to Democrats and Republicans who have been supportive of continued efforts to fund Ukraine’s resistance to make the case that doing so is good for American jobs.”
The administration insists that dumping even more taxpayers’ earnings into a foreign war will make us all richer, “strengthening the American economy and creating new American jobs.” But if so, why stop at the administration’s $61.4 billion request? Why not double, triple, or even quadruple the request? That should put the economy into hyper-drive and create millions of jobs. The greater the foreign death toll, the better off Americans will be!
Indeed, why only fund the battle between Russians and Ukrainians? Why not join in? If Americans were fighting as well, think of the weapons Washington would have to buy and the jobs that would be created! And it wouldn’t just be the merchants of death who would prosper—so would America’s undertakers.
This is obviously an awful argument. Money spent on arms is diverted from elsewhere, destroying other, more productive jobs. Buying almost anything else would be better than purchasing bombs for a needless foreign war. Military outlays are necessary when America’s security is at risk. They are not an effective economic stimulus. According to Heidi Peltier at Brown University’s Watson Institute, “military spending doesn't produce as many jobs as some other sectors, like education, healthcare or clean energy.” Carpet-bombing America with cash would create more jobs than sending arms-makers’ wares to Ukraine.
Unfortunately, supporting mass killing to create jobs did not start with Ukraine. This policy was at full bloom even during the last administration. For instance, President Donald Trump opined: “I want Boeing and I want Lockheed and I want Raytheon to take those orders and to hire lots of people to make that incredible equipment.” Even when those weapons were used to kill civilians.
For a time, congressional opposition threatened arms sales to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which was waging a murderous war of aggression against Yemen. Trump, however, was enthralled by Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman. Peter Navarro, whose chief fame came as a China hawk who sought to overturn the 2020 election, warned “job losses imminent” and convinced Trump to push the sales through.
The arms industry knew that it had a friend in Navarro, who valued dollars more than lives. Reported the New York Times: The merchants of death “assiduously courted Mr. Navarro, who intervened with White House officials on Raytheon’s behalf and successfully pressured the State Department, diminished under Mr. Trump, to process the most contentious deals.” The humanitarian impact was horrendous. Noted the Times, “Mr. Trump’s embrace of arms sales has helped prolong a conflict that has killed more than 100,000 people in the Arab world’s poorest nation, further destabilizing an already volatile region.” The spectacle of the U.S. repeatedly and callously supporting murder and mayhem throughout the Arab and Muslim worlds—Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Gaza—has made a mockery of Washington’s humanitarian pretensions in Ukraine.
Although it is a mistake to blame America’s recklessly interventionist policy solely on the military industrial complex, the latter’s influence is significant. Columnist Paul Krugman, a fan of almost any federal program, dismissed the military–industrial complex’s role because Pentagon outlays have fallen as a percentage of GDP. Yet this measure is deceptive: GDP has multiplied dramatically over time. The Pentagon and other agencies collectively spend more on war than ever, with arms-makers thoughtfully spreading production among multiple states and congressional districts.
Get daily emails in your inbox
Moreover, advocates for the ancient god Mars remain many: well-connected lobbyists patrolling Capitol Hill, war industry benefactors funding think tanks, defense contractors distributing campaign contributions, retired general officers representing arms makers and defense contractors, military commentators receiving media retainers, and Navarro lookalikes pandering to foreign dictators. All told, observed national security analyst Melvin Goodman: “The Hill is particularly responsive to the arms lobby, producing large bipartisan majorities for any legislation that involves military spending, military deployments, and military weaponry. Senators and representatives consider the military spending bill to be a jobs bill, and rarely vote against weapons systems that are developed in their states.”
At least these people purport to represent the U.S. Some Americans openly join the Dark Side: “Too many general officers and admirals also retired to take on secretive work on behalf of foreign governments, particularly in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf,” putting the interests of other states before that of the American people. Saudi Arabia alone has hired more than a dozen top military officers, including former heads of the National Security Council and National Security Agency. Yet Riyadh’s kleptocratic royals are actively undermining American interests—while inflicting some of the worst oppressions possible.
Washington should be working to end, not expand, the Russia–Ukraine war. Promoting U.S. military assistance as a jobs program is a bad, even grotesque, argument at the best of times. Justifying a major proxy war against Moscow—fueling endless conflict in Europe, risking nuclear escalation, and pushing Moscow toward Iran, North Korea, and China—as a source of domestic employment is beyond reckless. Instead of offering poor excuses for bad policies, the Biden Administration should be protecting the American people.