America’s corporate jihad: the military-industrial complex

Date: 
Tue, 2017/03/07
By: 
Shoaib Khan

It was recently reported that President Trump seeks to expand the military budget by 54 billion dollars. It can be presumed that this is to make the country stronger against foreign threats. This is not a rare idea among politicians, as even former president Obama was open to the idea. He had once stated “given the depletion of our forces after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we will probably need a somewhat higher budget in the immediate future” (Audacity of Hope, P. 307).

It is difficult, however, to find strong empirical proof for these claims. According to the National Priorities Project, the United States spends more money on its military than the next seven countries combined (figure 1). Furthermore, the military is one of the top recipients of government spending. The San Diego Veterans for Peace organization notes that there are two types of spending: "total" and "discretionary". The latter excludes costs that are legally mandatory (e.g. Medicare, education, etc). When examining the two, defense spending ranks as the third and first most expensive, respectively (Figure 2).

This would explain why most military officials support a decrease in the military budget. A report by the Task Force on a Unified Security Budget declared: “Our top military and civilian national security leaders have all expressed support for repairing the extreme imbalance in our security spending to strengthen our non-military security tools” (available on the Institute for Policy Studies website).

There are various reasons as to why these high military costs exist. One of the key issues is the involvement of the country in various conflicts it does not belong in. While many may remember the recent War in Iraq, the problem has existed for almost a century.  In the early 1900s, for example, the United States Marines invaded Nicaragua and installed their own leader Anastasio Somoza Garcia. Marines leader Smedley Butler stated that his role was "a high class muscle man for big business, for Wall Street and for the banks. In short, I was a racketeer ... for capitalism ... I helped purify Nicaragua for international banking house." Similar actions occurred in Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, and El Salvador (see “Support for Latin American dictators” at wais.stanford.edu).  Such a record led Noam Chomsky, in his debate with Richard Perle, to state: “…it’s a staple of independent scholarship that I quote now: ‘While paying lip service to the encouragement of representative democracy in Latin America, the United States has a strong interest in just the reverse.’"

Similar circumstances have occurred in the Middle East, where the military has been involved in several unnecessary foreign interventions. Despite claims of terrorist threats, most experts have emphasized that the claims have been highly exaggerated but could be worsened if violently confronted. The events throughout the region, according to WIN/Gallup polls, have instigated increasing anti-American sentiment which only produces more enemies and strains America’s relationship with the rest of the world (Figure 3). In the words of sociologist Charles Kurzman, “almost every academic expert on Muslim societies, insisted that the United States needed to adopt more conciliatory and multilateral policies” (The Missing Martyrs: Why There Are So Few Muslim Terrorists; P. 128).

While every country undoubtedly needs some military resources, the United States requires increased spending on diplomatic causes.  The primary beneficiaries of our wars have not been American citizens. Rather, the beneficiaries have primarily been military industrial corporations, who have profited with the increased militancy of our nation. Democrats and Republicans would do well to remember the farewell address of former President and Word War II military leader Dwight Eisenhower: “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 … 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.”