Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Military-Industrial Complexity

In 1961, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us about "the disastrous rise of misplaced power" that our military-industrial complex would spawn, but we can trace the incestuous relationship between the military and private enterprise back to at least the 19th century. Prussian Chief of Staff Helmuth von Moltke (the elder), who used the transportation revolution of his era to transform the Prussian Army and win the German Wars of Reunification, had significant stock holdings in the Prussian railway system.

In 21st century America, we've honed this type of bedfellowing to a fine art. You can't count the hands of everybody who is knocking off a piece of the defense dollar because everybody's hands are in somebody else's pockets. Generals involved in system and doctrine development during their active duty careers retire and go to work for the companies who are developing the very same systems and doctrines. The colonels, majors, and sergeant majors who used to work for the generals retire as well and go back to work for their old bosses on the outside. The retired guys work hand-in-purse on project development with their still on active duty counterparts who are, themselves, looking to retire soon and go back to work doing the same thing they've been doing.

The retired guys take their pet projects to their active duty buddies who insert them into so-called "battle experiments" then rig the games to ensure said pet projects emerge victorious. Everyone publishes after-action reports that hail the projects as having passed "objective" and "empirical" scrutiny. Contracts are drawn up, production lines open, and the military-industrial caisson goes rolling along.

In 19th century Prussia, they called this sort of thing "die Korruption." In 21st century America we call it "business as usual."

The military-industrial complex has achieved what Ike described as "unwarranted influence" over "the councils of government." Regional economies and political careers are wholly dependent on it, as are the empirical aims of "war hawk" leaders. Few are naïve enough to believe that the U.S. can survive and thrive without a credible, capable defense establishment. But America today looks entirely too much like 19th century Prussia--a country that's a life support system for its military.


  1. What I'd like to see is every reichwing pundit chickenhawk shithead like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity -- you know, the cons who didn't serve their country when their country called but who are all too happy to champion a war based on lies -- to tell their dough-brained listeners to enlist and put their asses where their mouths are. Military recruitment is down down down month after month because thinking Americans know a bum deal when they see one and for those mouth-breathers out there saying "We support the troops!" should do so from the front lines.

    /rant :-) Cool blog, Jeff!

    Capitola aka Diamond Dawg

  2. Thanks for stopping by, Cap. I too am sick of the chickenhawks who never served in a war themselves--or had a child serve in one--who are more than happy to send someone else's children overseas to die or be maimed in support of their narrow ideologies.

    Yes, Army and Marine Corps recruiting is way down, and I don't expect it to improve any time soon. We're just beginning to see the unplanned, unfavorable consequences of this ill conceived excursion into Iraq. My crystal ball is no clearer than anyone else's, but I suspect the Iraq invasion will prove to have been the "topple" point, the beginning of the end of U.S. hegemony.


  3. First, anonymous, thanks for posting. You make excellent points. Here are some quick responses.

    I think you're exactly right that "a balance of instruments (economic, diplomatic, informational, military etc.), properly applied, might be more effective than reliance on a single instrument or just a subset thereof."

    My problem is that this administration has never pursued a balanced approach. It has always been, as I state in my May 10 article "The Empire Strikes Out," strong on warfare and weak on everything else. As you say, a nation or group of nations should consider the maintenance of all the instruments a reasonable endeavor, but the present administration of this nation never has.

    The Euros let their military instruments wither because they understood the waning effectiveness of military power (and, frankly, also because they knew we'd cover their backs during the Cold War. But that was the Cold War.)

    "The Bushies jumped in with both feet" because they didn't understand any other way to jump, or that there was any other way to act besides "jumping." And yes, now have the opportunity to rethink and reapply diplomatic, economic and info power to the best of our ability, but we won't under this adminstration.

    The Euro's may well be on "the road that leads nowhere." But we're on the road that's paved with good, bad, or otherwise intentions, and the Bushies, in their hubris, won't take a turn off.

    I’m not sure where--on this blog or elsewhere--I acclaimed myself an intellectual. But as for work that needs to be done: in my honest, "smart guy" opinion, I think I'm doing it.

    Let me finish by saying don't go away mad. Don't go away at all. Please visit often and express your opinions.

    Hoping to hear from you again,