Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Next World Order and America's Military Industrial Complex

Parts I and II in the "Next World Order" series deflated the neoconservative notion that American can establish global dominance through network-centric military applications. Part III examines how the American arms industry's influence allows this delusion to linger.

If you think your defense tax dollars are keeping America safe, think again.

This is a tough thing to say, because few people understand and respect the sacrifices the men and women of our armed forces make more than I do. But it has to be said. The United States military does not defend America. It hasn't repelled an invasion of American soil since 1812, and it certainly didn't defend us from the terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001.

"Fighting them over there" was the military's job throughout the 20th Century: World War I, World War II, and the Cold War and the third world proxy wars like Korea and Vietnam that sprang from it. When the Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet Union collapsed, the military's motivational battle cry "defending our country" was gradually replaced with "protecting our interests overseas."

Today, the "best trained, best equipped" military in history is bogged down in Hobbesian conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan that have no apparent resolution, much resolutions that support any coherent expression of American national interest.

Yet, in 2006, U.S. taxpayers will pony up somewhere in the neighborhood of a half trillion dollars for our Department of Defense, an expenditure that matches the military spending of the rest of the world combined.

Por que? Are we planning to fight a war with the entire rest of the world all at once? I'm thinking even the chicken hawk neoconservatives who run this country aren't mad enough to contemplate a move like that. At least I hope they aren't.

Military Industrial Complexities

In his 1961 farewell address, President Dwight David Eisenhower cautioned Americans that…
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.

In October of last year, I outlined the state of the military industrial complex's stranglehold on contemporary America's economy and foreign and domestic policy for ePluribus Media in an article titled "In an Arms Race with Ourselves."
Civilian service secretaries, appointed by the President, responsible for weapons and equipment acquisition, largely come from the executive ranks of the U.S. defense industry. Current Secretary of the Navy and Acting Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England is a prime example. Before entering public life, England was a senior officer with defense giants General Dynamics and Lockheed Corporation. Donald Winter, nominated to replace England as Navy secretary, is a highly placed executive with Northrup Grumman, the world’s third largest military contractor.

Supporting these “captains of industry” are the military officers and senior enlisted personnel who establish second careers in the private defense sector as “beltway bandits.” Their's is a story well known around inner circles, but one seldom told outside of them.

Generals who manage doctrine and weapons programs late in their active-duty days retire from the military and go to work for the very corporations whose programs they sponsored while in uniform. The colonels, majors and sergeant majors who served under the generals retire as well and go back to work for their old bosses.

The retired guys work hand-in-purse with their still on-duty cronies — who are looking to stake out second careers themselves — to insert pet programs into so-called “battle experiments,” war games designed to determine how to fight future conflicts. The games get rigged to ensure that the pet programs prove victorious. Impressive after-action reports are written, contracts are signed, appropriations are passed in Congress, and the gravy caisson goes rolling along.

Here's an illustration of just how far off the rails the collusion between industry, politicians and the military has gone.

In November of 2005, Representative Randall "Duke" Cunningham (R-California), the Vietnam era Navy fighter ace, pleaded guilty to charges of taking over $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors to steer business in their direction. A key figure in the scandal was Mitchell Wade, CEO of the defense contracting firm MZM who not only bribed Cunningham but whose firm contributed to Cunningham's congressional campaigns.

One MZM employee said that Wade twisted his subordinates' arms to donate to his MZM political action committee. "We were called in and told basically either donate to the MZM PAC or we would be fired."

Coercing employees to make political contributions is a direct violation of federal election campaign laws.

MZM PAC money went to the congressional campaigns of Cunningham, Virgil Goode (R-Virginia) and Katherine Harris (R-Florida).

MZM has a facility in Goode's Virginia district, from which it supports the Army National Ground Intelligence Center, one of its biggest government customers.

In February of this year, Wade confessed to funneling $32,000 in illegal contributions through his employees to Katherine Harris's 2004 congressional campaign in order to obtain a $10 million dollar defense contract in Harris's Florida district. Harris attached the contract as an "earmark" to another bill. The bill didn't pass, but that's not the point. The point is that politicians like Harris constitute a bargain basement opportunity for arms contractors.

When Wade stepped down as MZM CEO over the Cunningham controversy in June 2005, his place was taken by retired three-star general James C. King, who's last job on active duty was head of the National Imagery and Mapping Agency. In 2001, King retired to join MZM as a vice president. He played a key role in helping Cunningham funnel over $20 million in defense contracts to MZM between 2002 and 2004.

In 2003, MZM partnered with General Dynamics and other defense contractors to support the Air Force Information Warfare Center. As of 2005, General Dynamics was the fifth largest defense contracting conglomerate in the world, and the same General Dynamics that, as we noted earlier, now assistant Secretary of Defense Gordon England was a senior executive with.

Small world, that military industrial complex.

If a relatively little guy defense contractor like MZM was strong-arming employees to contribute to GOP campaigns, what do you think is going on with the big guys like General Dynamics and Northrup Grumman? And how exponentially overbalanced do you think the campaign contribution to the defense dollar is?

You can't count the hands of everyone who's knocking down a piece of the defense budget because their hands are all buried in the taxpayers' pockets.

We won't be able to build and maintain an effective, affordable military force until we find a way to trust bust the pyramid scheme known as the American arms industry.

Coming up in the Next World Order series: America's armed force identity crisis.


Other Jeff Huber articles on national security issues:

In an Arms Race With Ourselves

Wars and Empires

Invasion of the Transformers


In a private e-mail, Brian Hoffman made a good point regarding my statement that U.S. forces haven't repelled an invasion on American soil since 1812. He noted that the Japanese invaded the Aleutians in World War II, and he's right.

Was that a serious attempt at "invading America?" Well…

This blurb from the World War II Multimedia Database pretty much reflects what I remember learning a decade ago about the Aleutian Operations in War College:
The Aleutians Operations 1942-1943
When the Japanese occupied the islands of Attu and Kiska in the Aleutians in Alaska in June 1942, the Allies had to remove them before they could attack the Kuriles. The Aleutians would be the only land battles in North America during World War II. The cold weather and remote location would make resupply of the Japanese garrison difficult, while the Americans would send thousands of highly trained soldiers to attack the outpost that conceivably could threaten Canada and the Western coast of the United States.

When the Dutch Harbor installations were attacked on June 3, 1942, the Americans were not fully prepared for an invasion. But occupying Attu and Kiska was a feint for the Midway operation, with little value other then the tactical goal of drawing the US Pacific Fleet into a major surface engagement. Reading the Japanese codes, the US Navy ignored the landings on Attu and Kiska and went to the defense of Midway, sinking most of the First Air Fleet.

I certainly don't want to minimize the efforts of U.S. forces in these operations. The father of one of my college fraternity brothers served on a minesweeper in the Aleutians during this period, and boy, did I hear some stories about that.

Still, I maintain that the Japanes Aleutian incursion was part of an operational deception, and not a genuine attempt to invade the United States or the American continent.

Thanks to Brian for bringing this up.



  1. "Trust bust" is exactly right. The military-industrial complex* has, in effect, a worldwide enterprise very much like a monopoly.

    *Sounds like a MAD-TV skit: "...it needs a catchy corporate name to go with its new branding and mission statement -- 'KaBOOMCorp.'? too silly. What about 'PINHEADCO.'? No, the White House has dibs on that... Wait I got it! 'FUBARsys'!")

  2. "a member of the Cheney group if fine companies."

  3. Jeff H:

    This series has been extremely well done. Very nice work. This is precisely why I read this blog (you've got a great deal of expertise on these matters, and you present things in an engaging manner).

    This is preferably to resorting to personal slams on people you don't like. I vote for more content like this (of course a blog isn't a democracy...).


  4. Personal Slams on people I don't like?

    Hmm. Can you give me a total count on the times I've used the terms "Preznit Wingnut" or "Chimper in Chief" or the like here? Or how often I've deflated someone who didn't set themselves up for it?

    I'd guess the total is fewer than five.

    Satirizing someone's actions or expressed views is a totally different thing from a personal slam.

    Please don't come by here and infer that I'm some sort of Don Rickles insult artist. I am not.

    And this is not the WritersBBS.

  5. I echo Scott's comments regarding the excellence of this series. It is well-researched, and thoughtfully written, itilizing a wide variety of sources - everything a think piece should be.

    You're technically right about the "invasion" comment, but only because the Japanese themselves saw the occupation of Attu and Kiska islands as strategic diversions. It was originally intended to recover the troops by the time of the Midway battle, but unexpectedly quick reaction by the US to establish an air base on Adak, combined with a surprisingly effective naval interdiction limited their ability to supply, and later, evacuate the troops.

    The 7th Infantry Division was tasked to attack on Attu and Kiska, and suffered some 3900 casualties on Attu, killing the last Japanese during a desperate banzai attack near the ned of May, 1943.

    The invasion of Kiska on August 7th failed to locate any of the Japanese occupiers, who had been successfully evacuated on July 28th.

    At the time, the US viewed the occupation with great alarm, so much so that they sent very poorly trained and equipped troops in quick reaction. In the US history books this qualifies as a "real" invasion.

  6. A lot of people were alarmed. My mom tells me stories that people around St. Louis were afraid the Germans would invade by bringing troops up the Mississippi in submarines.

    Bottom line in my book, WWII was not a war about repelling invasion--it was another "over there" war. Defending American interests vs. American soil.

  7. I agree that WWII was realistically not about repelling invasion, but was rather, in the American psyche a war of "revenge." Many areas of the country were alarmed, fearing Japanese and German parachutists, etc. This is typical in America, it seems, since we're quite familiar with what happened inside the UD to Nisei - American citizens - after Pearl Harbor. And let's not forget the fervid wave of anti-Muslim intolerance after 9/11, either.

    Interestingly, after Germany declared war on America in support of her ally, Japan, no Germans other than a very few politicals known to the US Government were interned.

    I think we all know why.

  8. The series is excellent Jeff, as is the blog.
    Revelling in ancillary points, such as the Aleutian conflicts, does not detract from the larger discussion, as I see it.

    On a side note, I'll bet I may know Mr. Hoffman. If so, he would know of what he speaks. He worked in the Alaska lab, next to my own. His field work would have allowed the opportunity to view elements of wrecked and discarded materiel from those days, much of which is still lying about in remote locations. Preservation is pretty good, up there.

  9. Thanks for stopping by and posting, Danny.

    FWIW, I'm not trying to make an issue overr the Aleutian incursion by the Japanese. It was serious as hell to the folks who had to fight there, and today a military assault on Alaska would certainly be a MAJOR event.

    At some point in the future, I'll discuss how important the purchase of Alaska was of militarily geostrategic importance, and still is today.

    For now, let's just say acquiring Alaska constituted guaranteed access to a vulnerable defensive flank.

  10. P.S.

    re: defensive flank

    If you've ever played the board game RISK, you'll get a flash of what I mean.

    The problem with RISK as a lesson in geostrategic positioning is that it doesn't take climate or terrain into account.