The patriotic libertarian and the patriotic socialist recognize the damage that wartime profiteers have done to this nation. The military-industrial complex has been a boom sector in 21st century America. Despite President Dwight Eisenhower’s expressed warnings to always be suspicious of the military-industrial complex, the United States is spending an enormous amount of money on the military. General Eisenhower was the man that led America to victory in World War II. It is a shocking state of affairs given his clear and unambiguous warning upon turning over the reins of power to John F. Kennedy. They were strong words that General Eisenhower used in his farewell address, words like, “…conscious or unconscious manipulations of policy.”
Eisenhower understood that given the potential windfall that wartime profiteering could bring to business, many business leaders cannot help but be overly prejudiced toward military action. As president, Eisenhower ended active combat operations in Korea and refused to take military action against the Soviets in Eastern Europe. He also stifled military involvement in Vietnam. The last president who was also a general felt a lot of pressure from civilians to use the military during his term, but multiple times he resisted. However, the pressure was apparently so great that he practically called the defense industry unpatriotic and advised the American people to mistrust perpetually the military-industrial complex as he exited office.
Eisenhower believed the United States was founded to be a nation of civilians. More than once, the general commented on how many elementary schools could be built for the cost of ONE long-range bomber. In his vision, civilian society was supposed to lead and restrain the military. War was necessary, but peace was to be embraced and nurtured. Peace was a time for infrastructure and people investment. A concept he felt he should emphasize on his exit.
When the general who won World War II spoke, one would expect Americans to listen, but the pressure to act forcefully in national confrontation is hard to resist. Playground posturing and real fear make it hard to resist reaching for the weaponry, especially when the United States has so much at its disposal. Couple these issues with the possibility of large profits on small skirmishes against under armed opponents with the temptations of greed and it leads to a very one-sided debate in favor of deploying military resources.
Without a persistent vigilance and energy from the citizenry, the military-industrial complex has become more powerful legislatively. Every confrontation has the potential to yield billions in profit for those that supply the necessary goods of war. With corporate concentrations in the media, it is far too easy to fill the news cycle with vitriol. With the very real drive for profits underlying everything, sponsored infotainment has no viable way to communicate global confrontation in anything close to an objective fashion. A very, very dangerous groupthink can set in sans any unscrupulous intentions. It is what Ike means when he refers to “…conscious or unconscious manipulations.”
Many large corporations in America are making money from military contracts today and most of the rest have revenue streams tangentially tied to the defense industry whether they are aware or not. That simple fact energizes defense industry lobbyists, because so many American jobs are also tied to these industries. These lobbyists are driving the debate in Washington, DC. The United States has spent almost two decades of active war and foreign occupation to start this century with no end in sight and no specific accomplishments to cite as progress.
This situation cannot continue. The costs of endless global deployments is unimaginable, which is why the Pentagon has never stood for an audit. Most likely, the Department of Defense could not pass such a review without trillions being unaccounted for in the end. On 9/10/2001, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld admitted that almost two trillion was unaccounted for from previous DOD budgets. This was before any of the 21st century military deployments, so one can hardly be optimistic about the current state of the DOD budget.
The United States is spending billions every day. As part of these military deployments, the country is also incurring future financial obligations of incalculable proportions with almost no debate. These future obligations are rarely discussed as part of the debate on defense spending, but they are very real and essentially unfunded. It is a dirty business this “Global War on Terror.” Meeting recruiting necessities in such a murky and dangerous enterprise is not that easy. It is here with what the military refers to as “stop loss” incentives to get soldiers to reenlist that there are large future obligations to veterans and their families.
Many civilians are probably unaware that the military has been offering greater and greater incentives for enlistees and even more for those that reenlist. These incentives are not small, and extend beyond the soldier to subsequent generations. These incentives essentially amount to bribery to get the economically challenged into uniform.
For example, a “stop loss” incentive might include paying for the education and health care of the soldier and their children. This includes the unborn future children of the soldier. Taxpayers will pay for the health costs and education of the “stop loss” children decades into the future. Surely, the United States must live up to its promises to pay the benefits, but the nation’s accountants cannot ignore these financial obligations while trying to balance the budget. These “stop loss” liabilities are unfunded and uncalculated obligations that America must recognize, at least if it wishes to treat its veterans fairly and have a balanced budget.
The United States is wasting so much money on foreign occupations that rival nations have begun to comment. Some Chinese business leaders and diplomats have pointed critically to America’s penchant for military adventure. Defending the huge trade deficits between the countries, the Chinese argue that American businesses have failed to invest profits back into their own enterprises. Additionally, they criticize American corporations for preferring the easy profits of war over the difficulties of remaining competitive in the corporate business world.
The Chinese case for squandered resources by America is a strong one, especially since none of the Pentagon budget is seeing true civilian accounting oversight. While the politicians in Washington, DC have argued about spending fractions of these war costs on domestic infrastructure or social programs, hundreds of billions annually evaporate in military actions across the globe with almost no debate. Even when there is a debate, there are no consequences for wild claims that in retrospect appear to be outright lies and/or propaganda. The last decades offer several examples of costly and “conscious” manipulations of American foreign policy.
For example in the 1991 Gulf War, Americans were treated to tearful testimony in Congress from a Kuwaiti princess that Iraqi soldiers had broken into hospitals and thrown babies from incubators. As a princess of the Kuwaiti monarchy, she was believed without question. Of course, this heinous act really helped inflame passions in the US. This testimony was an out and out fiction, yet there were no consequences for any involved once it was exposed.
Afghanistan has long been nicknamed the graveyard of empires. Given the Soviet experience in the 1980s, no one would ever have dreamed that the United States would even consider an invasion and occupation as was done in 2001. Unfortunately at the time, there was a bloodlust in the air, and Americans were demanding that the 9/11 attacks be avenged. To attack an entire nation for the acts of private individuals operating outside the bounds of national sovereignty seems cruel, especially in light of the historical suffering of the Afghan people.
Americans fooled themselves into believing that they were liberators of the Afghan people from the tyranny of the Taliban, but as yet, no Afghan would see themselves as liberated. That foolishness and cruelty were made clear when the final solution for bin Laden involved a small strike team over a decade later. Tens of thousands of boots on the ground had accomplished nothing and at the time of this writing the US and allies only control barely half of Afghanistan after more than 16 years of conflict.
Additionally, while the United States was engaged in Afghanistan, the United States citizenry was sold more fiction about Iraq. Americans were told the invasion and occupation of Iraq was necessary to prevent Iraq from using weapons of mass destruction. They were also told the invasion would cost less than one hundred billion dollars. On top of that grand fiction was added the extra plot twist that the Iraqis themselves would fund their own liberation. Through their frozen assets, Americans were assured, Iraqis would fund America’s military assistance.
Though it made economic sense for the military-industrial complex, this military deployment into Iraq made no strategic sense. The United States had already subjugated Iraq in the 20th century. The Kurds operated in an autonomous region, protected by the northern no-fly zone. In the South, the Shiites were similarly protected by a no-fly zone, and Saddam Hussein was effectively defanged. In addition, Saddam Hussein was a westernized Muslim, in direct opposition to Al-Qaeda’s fundamentalist Muslim philosophy.
Of course, Hussein was still making money off oil and perpetrating acts of terror on the ground within his own borders, but his ability to project his power was non-existent. Additionally, Al-Qaeda was a fundamentalist Muslim organization, and Iraq was a westernized Islamic nation. Given the rivalry between these two philosophies, almost all experts on the matter concluded that there was zero chance that Iraq and Al-Qaeda had joined forces or that they would do so in the future. Nonetheless, America invaded Iraq over the objections of most of the world and the chaos created has made the situation far worse in the Middle East.
America has expended more than a trillion dollars in Iraq without a victory in that theater. Despite the alleged end of hostilities in Iraq, there are tens of thousands of boots on the ground in old Babylon. It goes without saying, but cannot be overemphasized, that Iraq is still costing more than $100 billion annually for those boots on the ground. Again, there appear to be no consequences for military leaders given these negative outcomes.
The lack of victory on any front would seem to indicate incredible incompetence or a purposeful desire by some for the military actions to continue. Unfortunately, few in government even question this lack of progress. Military action can be very useful to politicians who wish to wrap themselves in the flag and very difficult to oppose for those trying to hold the military accountable. Such questions are easy to shout down with accusations of unpatriotic behavior and lack of support for the troops.
If no one can find the backbone to question the generals as to why there is no victory, the answer will never come. America has now fought for thrice the length of World War II and yet seems to have accomplished almost nothing. Unless one counts the lining of the pockets of wartime profiteers and emptying the national treasury as accomplishments.
Given the enormous technological advantages that the United States has enjoyed, it should be embarrassing to the generals that they have not won. Not only should these actions have been won, but won decisively in a timely fashion given these enormous advantages. If America’s generals are embarrassed, they do not seem to show it. Somebody should remind them that World War II was only four years long against a technologically equal enemy. Today, the United States is unable to defeat enemies using homemade devices in some cases. Eisenhower would have fired these boys long ago!
However, rather than being fired, the generals are given more troops and money for an increasing number of military actions in the name of a global War on Terror. Yet there is no progress on any of the global fronts. America’s coffers are empty, but the deployments continue. These undeclared wars have buoyed the stock prices of the military-industrial complex, but have done little to move forward any coherent American agenda or goals. The wars have been fought with little budgetary oversight and essentially been financed by Chinese bond purchases. Any confrontations with China from now until the nation repays this Chinese debt will always be colored by America’s new status as a beggar nation.
The military-industrial complex is not a patriotic group. They are a for profit group with an eye to their bottom line. The fact that the money driving profits for the military-industrial complex is coming from Beijing does not cost their accountants any sleep. Americans must accept that the invasion of these nations may have been for the wrong reasons and played right into the hands of the Chinese government. Whether through conscious or unconscious manipulations of military policy were involved, this nation’s ability to stand against a Chinese deployment in Asia is severely crippled. The United States will have to consider scaling back military commitments to control its debt.
As long as the United States is pinned down in foreign occupations, it is vulnerable to different military incursions against its true interests, domestically and worldwide. Even if the nation were to be able to unwind all the foreign occupations to discourage such incursions, neither the Chinese nor the Russians really fear the United States any longer. Though it may still be true neither nation can stand toe to toe with America in any given conflict, it is now clear that America does not have the financial wherewithal to sustain any long confrontation or deployment against a first rate adversary.
Iraq and Afghanistan have sapped military and financial resources, while boosting the profits of the military-industrial complex. The current escalation occurring in Syria will stretch the military and tax the nation’s financial resources further. Patriots of all stripes must accept the futility of these military actions across the globe. Real patriots will understand the United States can no longer sustain these military deployments without threatening the financial health of the United States.
The damage to the nation’s bank account is not small, but the damage to America’s reputation and honor has been catastrophic. America has suffered the tragedy of the loss of the moral leadership bestowed upon it after World War II. This demotion is directly related to these endless military skirmishes across the globe. Americans continue to see the world during and just after World War II, but that world is long gone.