This is the first in what could be a series of blogs on the Military-Industrial complex and how it may be responsible for our attempts at being the world’s police officer.
Every afternoon at 5 pm, Monday through Friday the U.S. Department of Defense announces the awarding of new contracts valued at $7 million or more. Every day. Few Americans are aware of how enormous and pervasive is the influence of the Defense industry. The fact is the defense industry is really the shadow government of the U.S. While the Defense department exists to defend Americans its contractors exist to enrich their shareholders. They pledge allegiance to the dollar, not the flag.
Everyone has heard of Defense contractors like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics and Blackwater and you might suspect they are in the top 100. But did you know that Verizon, Oshkosh Corporation, Humana Inc. and Johns Hopkins University are, too? You’d be surprised at how many of the companies you deal with on a daily basis are also major defense contractors.
The story of military expenditures is of monumental importance but before I explore that further let’s go back to the last century. Dwight D. Eisenhower was a five-star General. It was he who led Allied forces to victory in Europe in World War ll. He was elected President of the United States in 1952 and among other things he was immediately faced with extricating the U.S. from the Korean War. He left office in 1960 and in his farewell speech issued one of the greatest and most memorable warnings in our nation’s history. Here’s an excerpt from that speech.
“The 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 military-industrial 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.”
Today our annual military budget is near $600 billion. Do you have any idea how much money that is? Let’s look at just ONE billion dollars.
- If you were to stack one billion one dollar bills one at a time it would take about 30 years. The pile would be about 70 miles high and weigh ten tons.
- Or – If you laid all the one dollar bills end to end you would stop 97,000 miles later
But what will a billion dollars buy?
The simple answer is, “a Lot.” If you could spend $20 a second 24 hours a day it would take you over a year and a half to spend it all.
But if you wanted to make one big impact:
- A billion dollars would feed 590,000 one-year-old children for an entire year.
- Or – you could feed 281,000 19-50-year-old adults for an entire year. (Calculations made on the cost of feeding Americans. Costs in developing countries could be much lower).
Or – according to UNICEF you could get the following for a billion dollars (a partial list).
- 5 billion doses of vaccines to 99 countries reaching 58% of the world’s children
- 80 million doses of vaccines
- 20 million malaria treatments
- 40 million malaria diagnostic tests
- 80 million HIV tests
- 300 million Vitamin A capsules shipped to 76 countries
- 90 million zinc tablets
- 10,000 metric tons of peanut-based Ready-To-Use Therapeutic Food
- Approximately 123 billion water purification tablets
- 13 million textbooks and distribution to schools
Or – according to the College Board the average cost of an education at a public university is in the neighborhood of $25,000 a year.
- One billion dollars would provide complete four-year college educations for 10,000 students.
Now if you multiply all of that by 600 that’s the U.S. Defense budget which is more than the next eight countries combined. Of all the money spent on defense in all the nations of the world, the U.S. makes up nearly 40 percent of it.
So if you are a defense contractor the Government is obviously the kind of client you would “kill” for and that’s what their products do. The Government, though, has as its goal the defense of the citizens of the United States. Defense contractors have a different allegiance. For them it is stockholders and, of course, the executives who run the companies. Stockholders are never happy, they always want a greater return on their investment so what’s a corporation to do? How do they increase profitability? It’s pretty hard to make the defense department spend more when the guns, planes, tanks and ships seem to last forever. You can only make more money if those things need replacing but in peacetime, nothing gets destroyed and rust is really slow, so revenue may remain flat. There are three ways for defense contractors to boost profits. One is to support candidates who want to increase the defense budget, a second is to force an increase in the defense budget by going to war and a third is to propose new “wonder weapons.” To be perfectly logical, war is good for business. And – a huge defense budget is good for the politicians and the Generals and Admirals. Their turf gets bigger, their power greater and as a result, their necessity is absolutely assured.
How do you force the government to spend more money on defense? You use your lobbying efforts and money to do the following.
- Spread fear and panic
- Support super PACs
- Support brush fire wars
- Feed political paranoia
- Encourage militancy
- Encourage clandestine operations
- Offer technology no one else has (even if it is unnecessary)
- Support military actions against adversaries.
Peace is not in the best interests of the Military industrial complex. It needs war, the threat of war, terrorism, fear and paranoia to survive and thrive. Having said that I am then obligated to prove my point. If you ask a government official how many wars the U.S. is involved in at the moment a legitimate and honest answer would be “Zero.” That’s because the U.S. Congress has not declared war since December 7, 1941. But – if you were to ask about the number of countries in which we have some type of military operation, that’s a different story.
134 is the number. That’s right 134. That’s not a typo and it is not an exaggeration. That’s the number of countries in which we have military involvement. Some of that activity is as simple as the Navy Seals raiding a terrorist hideout and leaving again. In some we have military advisors helping young governments fight dissidents, or helping dissidents fight young governments, whichever best suits our purpose. But at any given time the number is around 134. https://www.thenation.com/article/americas-secret-war-134-countries/
We’ll deal with more of that in our next blog when we look at military organizations like the US Special Operations Command (SOCOM which is one of nine organizational units that make up the Unified Combatant Command. But that’s our next blog in a series on the military industrial complex.
Stay tuned. From where I sit that’s the truth.