Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The other side of the Military Industrial Complex

One of my favorite refrains is the vague waring about the "military industrial complex".  To be clear it was part of President Eisenhower's farewell address.  And address almost no one has actually listened to.   But to be clear this is coming from the president who slashed ground forces and wanted to rely on Nukes for national security, the "more bang for the buck" options.  That Ike would warn of such things is extremely Ironic.  Sadly because its such a vague warning and it sounds so good as a talking point, it has thus been made part of almost every SINGLE Liberal talking point about the Military.

They tend to boil it down to Corporations make bombs and stuff.  War is good for business.  Corporations want war.  This simplistic view is so far off the mark that its kind of hard to know where to start debunking it.  Let's take the Corporate part first.  Look, the easiest way to understand any corporate entity is to use the tagline of the movie Robots.  "See a need, fill a need." Often times there is the assumption that because commercials seem to create desire that corporations steer the consumer, but its actually the other way around.  Corporate entities spend millions hell billions if you take them all together, to figure out what the hell you want.  Corporations that cater to the military are no different.  trying to figure out what the hell the military needs, but perhaps more importantly they are also trying to figure out what an increasingly fickle congress will authorize.

The Boeing 707 hasn't been used to carry commercial passengers  since the late 80's.  The vaunted AWACS is a 707 with upgraded engines.  Of course it took them almost 15 years to actually upgrade the engines.  A few years ago there was an attempt to get the 767airframe married up to the AWACS system.  The 767 airframe is discontinued for civilian passengers.  It is slowly being phased out.  We've stopped buying C-17's and F-22's, but we're using the C-17's so much that its estimated the airframes may only last 5 years a piece.  While there will be increased contracts when there are wars on, every company in the defense industry knows that when the war ends times will be extremely lean.

It is assumed that Companies and Military minds are in bed.  While there are a lot of folks that were in the military proliferating the defense industry, it is also clear that this is because Defense is an extreme niche market.  Can you tell me right now what the Army needs in a service rifle, combat vehicle, or helicopter?  Indeed each service has very specific needs, wants, and "if only" lists.  The services are not monolithic.  Added to the fact that despite wanting the best quality they often have to accept the lowest bidder.  Though huge sums of money are spent on acquisitions, these sums are quite frankly nothing compared to what private companies spend on widgets to make your life easier pales in comparison.

Even the build up of WWII really was only a prelude to a massive private buildup of industry.  One could easily argue that Eisenhower was right that there is a direct correlation to the military and industry, but that this has been so poorly understood as to be viewed as a negative thing.  Think about all the things you use.  Microwaves, Plastic, Teflon, Jets, Computers, GPS, Antiseptic Procedure, Most forms of Anesthetic, all were as a direct result of military funding or projects.  Remember when Bob Ballard discovered the Titanic?  Well at the time he got most of his funding from the expedition from the DoD so he could go and check on the USS Scorpion (SSN-589).  I'd be willing to bet you have no idea how many things in your life have a direct path back to some aspect of a military somewhere.  That can of veggies you just bought?  Well why do you think canned goods were invented in the first place? 

Indeed if we should be wary of anything it is of backing ourselves into a corner.  By taking the "more bang for our buck" option in the cold war we set ourselves up for brinksmanship that nearly destroyed the world when weaker presidents painted themselves into a corner and nearly destroyed the world.  Would you find it ironic that while Reagan was increasing the US Military he was reducing our Nuclear stockpile?  What really won the cold war was that very same "Military industrial complex" in that we could make more, quicker and better than the soviets could and they spent themselves into a ground fighting the own inertia of Communism. 

Imagine.  Had Truman delayed in the WWII draw down, and used the force he had at the end of the war to force to Soviets to follow the agreements brokered in Yalta, Poland might not have been doomed to suffer another 40 years of occupation on top of the 8 they already had under the Nazis.  Imagine if the Soviets had not expanded into the Baltic states so far, or went back to what was "officially" USSR territory pre-WWII.  The cold war would not have lasted as long as it did, and indeed many thousands of lives might have been saved.  A very ironic fact, that is sadly overlooked.

In every build up, there are fears that the military will somehow overpower the Civilian Authority.  While it is tempting at times, to turn on the "masters" that send us into a pointless situation without any guidance, you can bet that the Dog Face, Leatherneck,   GI Joe will do his damndest up to and including dying to make the mission succeed.  More often than not they will even when others can not see that they have.  It is not the Industry you should fear.  That is a tool like any other.  The military too is a tool.  Rather you should fear the idea that these things are negative.  That these tools can not be used responsibly or effectively.  While the hippies blather on about Peace, they tend to forget that real, lasting peace is only secured through sacrifice vigilance and hard work.  No amount of good feelings and chanting is going to bring "peace" to the world. 

One should always be wary of war.  But not being prepared for it will only make the war that *eventually* will happen that much worse.  Be Prepared.  Its a good motto to keep when dealing with the Military, and while some are loathe to accept that nebulous plots to create wars don't exist. . . they really don't.  Even the most callous General will admit at some point that there is nothing to be gained by protracted wars.  Wars without end or purpose do not help anyone.  They do not make fortunes only break them.  That Liberals seem to think that there is something to be gained by simply preparing for the worst possible out come, shows that they do not live on Planet Earth, but some Bizzaro World where being prepared is the same as actually creating the wars.  This talking point is, sadly so over used, and stretched, that its almost impossible not to see though the sad and pathetic ploys used.  Really they ought to stop breathe and pull their head out of their fourth point of contact. 


Sean Dustman said...

I'm worried about every time we go to war, we build up our military and then break it down to half of what it was. What happened after the Navy after the revolutionary war? We pawned off all of our ships to nothing. It's a lesson what we still haven't learned. This time our mistake was cutting taxes and fighting two wars at the same time, where exactly is that money coming from? Where and when will that stress point happen? Well thought out post and I see that you're paying attention to the history behind why things are going on. Good job, Kathy pointed me this way, I used to, still somewhat do, blog at a place called Doc in the Box.

Cholo said...

hum.... I am not sure what direction to go on here. Yes military-industrial complex serves its purposes and yadda, yadda, yadda. And there is also big $$ to be made in it and yadda, yadda, yadda. Liberals bash, Neo-Cons worship.

But the real concern Eisenhower had, was the $$ drain that the MIC could(and has) become. As well as the destruction of our economy that could (and is) happening by getting involved in small conflicts abroad.

It is not ironic that Ike pushed for the building of nuclear weapons and did not increase conventional military spending. He did not want Korea (and later Vietnam) to become the operation model of US foreign policy during the Cold War. (Meaning: spending $$ on conventional forces and being involved in conflicts. All the while the USSR sits back sending some war material while the US spends blood and treasure in said conflicts). Therefore, Ike "hoped" that the threat of US nuclear strikes (we had more back in the 50s and 60s) would keep the Soviets at bay. Unfortunately for Ike the Soviets and Europe were not the only people shaping Cold War geo-politics.

So that's what went on with Ike and the arising MIC.....

Now all that talk about the stuff that we currently use in our daily lives that was initially created for war, is really just debate fluff.

As to what people should fear... again dude more debate fluff. A large MIC (as well as other industries that exist for the sole purpose of satisfying bureaucratic gov't demands) leads the gov't to overspend, over-regulate, and over-tax. That, my friend, is the real problem with the MIC (and the like in the health care, energy, pharmaceutical, banking, insurance, etc, etc, sectors).

Being prepared for war is more effective by paying attention to the effects our and others' foreign policies have in geo-politics. (You can see winds of war brewing).

Having a large peacetime military is throwing $$ away. And then the enemy won't fight "fair" and will force us to re-invent the military and its doctrines of battle.

I am sure you have seen the great job the DoD and Big Army does when handling $$.