The Military-Industrial Complex Is Not a Way of Life at All

W.J. Astore

As I mentioned in a previous Bracing View, I was invited to participate in a forum to generate new ideas to tackle the military-industrial complex (MIC) that President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us about in 1961. Here are a few more thoughts in response to this stimulating collaboration:

When I was a college student in the early 1980s, and in Air Force ROTC, I wrote critically of the Reagan defense buildup. Caspar Weinberger, he of the “Cap the knife” handle for cost-cutting, became “Cap the ladle” as Reagan’s Secretary of Defense, ladling money in huge amounts to the Pentagon.  History is repeating itself again as the Biden administration prepares to ladle $813 billion (and more) to the Pentagon.

How do we stop this?  Of course, we must recognize (as I’m sure we all do) what we’re up against.  Both political parties are pro-military and, in the main, pro-war.  Our economy is based on a militarized Keynesianism and our culture is increasingly militarized.  Mainstream Democrats, seemingly forever afraid of being labeled “weak” on defense, are at pains to be more pro-military than the Republicans.  Biden, in Poland, echoed the words of Obama and other past presidents, declaring the U.S. military to be “the finest fighting force” in history.  Think about that boast.  Think about how Biden added that the nation owes the troops big. This is a sign of a sick culture.

Ike gave his MIC speech in 1961, and for 61 years the MIC has been winning.  Even after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early ‘90s, the MIC held its own; after 9/11, it went into warp speed and is accelerating.  To cite Scotty from Star Trek: “And at Warp 10, we’re going nowhere mighty fast.” 

We need a reformation of our institutions; we need a restoration of our democracy; we need a reaffirmation of the U.S. Constitution; we need to remember who we are, or perhaps who we want to be, as a people.

Do we really want to be the world’s largest dealer of arms?  Do we really want to spend a trillion or more dollars, each and every year, on wars and weapons, more than the next dozen or so countries combined, most of which are allies of ours?  (“Yes” is seemingly the answer here, for both Democrats and Republicans.)  Is that really the best way to serve the American people?  Humanity itself?

Consider plans to “invest” in “modernizing” America’s nuclear triad.  (Notice the words used here by the MIC.)  What does this really mean?  To me, it means we plan on spending nearly $2 trillion over the next 30 years to replace an older suicide vest with a newer one, except this suicide vest will take out humanity itself, as well as most other life forms on our planet.  To channel Greta Thunberg’s righteous anger, “How dare you!” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xVlRompc1yE

Or, as Ike said in 1953, “This is not a way of life at all … it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.”

We will need the broadest possible coalition to tackle this outrage against civilization and humanity.  That’s why I applaud these efforts to tackle the MIC, even as I encourage all of us to enlist and recruit more people to join our ranks.

My father enlisted in the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1935 to do his bit for his family and his nation.  He fought forest fires in Oregon and later became a firefighter after serving in the Army during World War II.  That was the last formally declared war that America fought.  It was arguably the last morally justifiable war this country has fought, waged by citizens who donned a uniform, not “warriors” who are told that the nation owes them big.

In “It’s A Wonderful Life,” Jimmy Stewart, a true war hero, played a man who never fought in World War II, who stayed at home and helped ordinary people even as his younger brother Harry went off to war and earned the Medal of Honor.  Yet the movie doesn’t celebrate Harry’s war heroism; it celebrates the nobility, decency, and humility of George Bailey.

How do we get back to that America?  The America from before the MIC, that celebrated decency and kindness and humanitarianism?

Yes, I know.  It’s just a Frank Capra movie, and America has never been a perfect shining city.  All I’m saying is we need more of that spirit, and more of the righteous anger of Greta Thunberg, if we are to prevail.

45 thoughts on “The Military-Industrial Complex Is Not a Way of Life at All

  1. Hear, Hear! (Though in ending with Capra, you might also note that he also made the 7 hugely pro-war propaganda films: “The Way We Fight” (1942-1945). These were specifically to shore/whip up enthusiasm for WWII. And FWIW, according to the font of all knowledge [Wikipedia…] Capra was directly inspired by, and trying to out-do Riefenstahl’s “Triumph of the Will”.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s warning at the time of the Vietnam War rings true today: “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Bil, as you know there are dozens of YouTube military channels that everyday post new videos boasting of the US Military’s latest boondoggle weapons. And the comment sections are rife with militarists…USA USA…we are Number 0ne! God Bless America, etc.

    I used spend my time going onto every one of these and posting Martin Luther King, Jr.’s warning as my comment. Until I was booted off YouTube!

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I often wonder who produces these video’s
    “US Military News” – is this your taxpayer money being spent to brain wash you?
    Who actually is behind these? Dozens of such channels are on YouTube.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This YouTube video, posted by a channel called “Wild Iron” surely was the work Raytheon…
    And who are these videos’ aimed at?
    Who else? The American tax payer.
    Overwhelming military hardware sabres to rattle. What could possibly go wrong? Vietnam, Afghanistan.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. ‘The Ukraine – a decisive transfer of the balance of power from west to east’

    The 2022 Russo-Ukraine is also a proxy war between Russia and the Western world. We should be prepared for a decisive transfer of the balance of power from West to East…The bulk of the fighting is in the Donbas where there are few or no Western journalists.

    Most of the debate and coverage of the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian war in Australia and the Western world is decidedly banal. It is characterised by the simplification of an extremely complex situation to generate a narrative that can be summarised as Putin and Russia are evil and Ukraine is good.

    This gross simplification is not helpful in either understanding the causes of the war, the nature of the war, its broader implications and most importantly of all, how it can be ended with the least number of additional deaths and injuries and damage to Ukraine’s infrastructure.

    The preponderance of human-interest reporting of the conflict in lieu of coverage of the war itself is illustrative. The heartbreaking examples of families torn asunder along with the brave exploits of Ukrainian soldiers or allegations of war crimes by Russia, whilst important, tends to trigger an emotional response rather than provide an accurate depiction of the course of events……………………………………
    https://johnmenadue.com/cameron-leckie-a-decisive-transfer-of-the-balance-power-from-west-to-east/

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The number one priority for the situation in Ukraine should be an all out diplomatic effort by everyone, including the US, to end the fighting. Instead, it is pour in the weaponry and let the fighting continue, intensify even, if we can punish Russia that way. This ignores the plight of the Ukrainians, the victims whose lives we claim to value. All the sanctions in the world do not do to Russia what is being done to the Ukraine – open wholesale destruction and death.

      We are deeply implicated. I make the analogy of the bully in a schoolyard threatening all around him. A person taller and bigger than the bully stands outside the fence of the schoolyard and whispers to the kids, “go get him! Take him on! Here, use this baseball bat I have for you” but this outsider says all this knowing perfectly well that he will never step into the schoolyard himself, that if the bully goes nuts with unlimited violence, the outsider will do no more than hand the kids, who are continually being downed, more things to enrage the bully.

      The US is that outsider.

      Liked by 3 people

        1. It seems to me that the analogy depends (1) on the identity of the “bully” and (2) how its pack of associated yapping poodles hopes to do against the bear they have foolishly antagonized. Mistaking a bear for an easy meal does not seem the height of perspicacity, especially for an overweight bully who has mistaken a dense and forbidding forest for his elementary school playground.

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      1. As far as Diplomacy is concerned, the US is not interested. It is totally content using Ukrainians as the Sacrificial lambs in their War with Russia that started at the end of WWII.

        I just received 2 more replies from US Senators to the Message sent to all 100 of them between February 3 & 6. Both of them cite the usual anti-Putin talking points advocating for more weapons.

        This is a line from Senator Hawley, “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine must be met with a clear and purposeful response, including by sanctioning Russian energy production to a halt, and helping arm the Ukrainians to defend themselves. On March 10, 2022, I was proud to join 40 of my colleagues in pressing the Biden administration to facilitate without delay the transfer of fighter aircraft and other capabilities to Ukraine.”

        This is a line in Senator Ernst’s letter, “I am working with my colleagues in the House and Senate to maximize our contributions in support of the Ukrainian resistance, while applying a maximum pressure campaign on President Putin and his inner circle. Peace can be achieved, but it will not result from a doctrine of appeasement. My legislation to authorize the Department of Defense to transfer existing stores of articles was signed into law, providing lethal aid complementary to the platforms used by the Ukrainian army. Additionally, I lead a letter encouraging the President to complete a transfer of MiG-29 fighters from Poland to resupply the Ukrainian Air Force.”

        That’s 16 Senators who replied so far to the February Message sent through their embedded Office email systems.

        Curiously, I also received a reply yesterday from Congressman Eric Swallwell on the Ukraine War and I never wrote to any House Representatives. He did not call for more Weapons transfers, but more humanitarian assistance and saying he met with Findland’s President urging him to join NATO.

        They all wrote using normal email I can answer, not their ‘do not reply’ email.

        What was sent to then all in February, with my replies to Senators Feinstein of California and Senator Cornyn of Texas is in my Blog article, “HAVE WE ARRIVED AT ARMAGEDDON/WWIII?”

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        1. I admire your communications effort to more than just your own rep/senators. It’s encouraging that you get the responses you do from others. I find when I write my rep/senators that 90% of the content of the replies simply states the situation that I already know from following the news – in other words, it is gratuitous probably robot-generated content that from looking at the page gives the impression of depth before getting to the actual reply.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Clif9710, seeing the Message was sent 2 months ago, the replies can’t be computer generated all this time later.

            This was the opening sentence in that February Message, “As a World Citizen Child of God at 77, and a Canadian, I sent the same Message to all 100 Senators November 5,8,15 &16, not as Representatives of Local Parochial interests, but as National and International Leaders” still every Senator that replied wrote as though I was a Voter in their States.

            That leads me to believe the US Senate is sleepwalking into the Abyss.

            Like

  7. As You said, Colonel: “Biden, in Poland, echoed the words of Obama and other past presidents, declaring the U.S. military to be “the finest fighting force” in history. Think about that boast.”

    Especially think about it within the context of the fact that the United States has not won a war since 1945. Or even come close. Unless one calls Panama, Grenada, and Kuwait “wars.”

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Much thanks to Mr.Astore and others who enlighten us about these important issues concerning our country and humanity. I believe there is one more basic issue that needs to be addressed to allow us to effectively reform the Military Industrial Complex problem. Our voting system keeps us stuck in the two-party reign that greatly limits the reform of corruption and the introduction of more creative solutions to various problems. Thankfully, Ranked Choice Voting, which allows people to also vote for the candidate they really want instead of just the one they think has a chance to win, has grown in our country for some local elections. And the state of Maine now has it on a state level I read. Ranked Choice Voting (or Instant Runoff Voting) is just the logical extension of Democracy, which we claim to love and believe in for our Government. Giving us second or more selections when voting would allow more candidates from smaller parties that have more logical and honest goals and solutions to be elected and bring more positive change to government. So the improvement of our democracy is a basic issue for ending much corruption and wasteful spending by government. And various practices to ensure more open and verifiable elections are part of this and will restore trust in our election system. Thanks.

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    1. First of all, Achilles, up here in Alaska, we will have our first Ranked Choice election in a special vote sometime soon to replace Don Young, who recently died after serving as Alaska’s sole Congressman since 1973 [the same year Joe Biden began his career in Swampland].

      Second of all, Ranked Choice or Instant Runoff Voting, while a decided improvement on the established system of choosing our political leaders, still does not give the Voter an ultimate say on things.

      As it stands right now, in every federal election to be held in 2022 and 2024, Americans will have five choices. They will be able to:

      1. Vote for the Democrat.
      2. Vote for the Republican.
      3. Vote Third Party.
      4. Write-In.
      5. Not Vote.

      What if there was a sixth Choice? What if on every ballot for every federal election there was also a designated spot for “None Of These Candidates,” or NOTC?

      i am prepared to argue that “None Of These Candidates” should be on every ballot of every federal election, so as to give the American Voters a real Alternative to ~ and an actual Antidote for ~ what America’s Ruling Political Class will give them for choices in 2022 and 2024: To make “None Of These Candidates” a mandatory choice on every ballot in every federal election held in the United States for Election2022 and Election2024.

      This would give a meaningful vote to that cohort of Totally Forgotten Voters who have been dis-enfranchised since the beginning of elections in America, and presents a very quick, simple, easy, and low-cost solution to that problem.

      People don’t vote for lots of reasons. There are those who share Emma Goldman’s sentiment that “If voting could actually, really change anything, it would be illegal.” Or they remember Papa Joe Stalin’s timeless admonition that “It’s not who votes that counts; it’s who counts the votes.” Or, they can only concur 100% with George Carlin’s recommendation: “Don’t vote. It only encourages the mother-fuckers.”

      But one other reason folks don’t vote is because there is no candidate that they can, in all honesty and sincerity, actually vote FOR, even if it is just AGAINST somebody or even Everybody else. So the question becomes: How can these people make that judgment and conviction known in a way that has any actual impact in the real world, which Not Voting does not and can not have?

      How can these people make a vote of conscience, and thus give voice to their beliefs, desires, and intents? And, more importantly, how can they get their votes to count; Papa Joe’s reminder notwithstanding?

      A major step in the right direction would be to make “None Of These Candidates” a mandatory choice on every ballot in every federal election held in the United States for Election2022 and Election2024.

      And finally, any changes to our election system will do little, if anything, to end “much corruption and wasteful spending by government.” The problem is not how people get elected to positions that enable them to be corrupt and wasteful. The problem is that the only way anybody can GET elected, survive, thrive, and, most importantly, get re-elected, is to be as corrupt and wasteful as the System demands.

      The problem is a system of government and governance that enables the owners and operators of our politicians ~ and their bureaucrats and political appointees ~ to bring the full force of their power to use the authority of the government to regulate and manipulate the nation’s Economy to those owners’ and operators’ advantage.

      But that’s another rant.

      Like

      1. Thank you JG MOEBUS for your thoughtful reply to my post about improving our Democracy. I thought about your “sixth choice”, “None Of These Candidates” idea for adding to ballots. I take it as a serious and practical step to improve our democracy. Just having the results of this “NOTC sixth choice” on the record would have good influence. If a candidate won with less vote than the “NOTC” vote it would be well know and a possible basis for legislation to limit his/her unilateral power in office in favour of, for examples, voter petitions or a majority congressional vote. So your idea for adding this extra voting choice to every ballot might be the simplest and easiest way to extend and improve our democracy some. And I have learned to appreciate the next simplest step available, no matter how small, as often the most important for bringing progress. So thanks for giving me a practical idea I can promote and support for ballot initiatives in our Democracy at any level, such as in my home state of Michigan.

        Like

        1. Hi Achilles. Thank You for Your positive feedback on the NOTC idea. That was an abbreviated version of a longer piece that goes into more detail. Send me Your e~ address to notc.alaska@gmail.com, and i will be very happy to forward it to You. And to explore ways to begin the process of making NOTC a mandatory choice on all federal elections, if not for Election2022, then certainly for Election2024. Have a Great day. ~ jeff

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  9. “The trade of governing has always been monopolized by the most ignorant and the most rascally individuals of mankind.”– Thomas Paine

    Like

            1. As Moe Howard would often say when talking about his Brother’s Curly & Shemp Yea, isn’t he a scream :/ :o) That’s all I got! lol

              Like

  10. The Irony of Ukraine
    We Have Met the Enemy, and It Is Us

    One month into the Ukraine war, a broad consensus has formed among American commentators about why Russia has failed to achieve its goals. Trapped in an emotional and ideological bubble, the argument runs, Russian President Vladimir Putin made several basic strategic blunders. He convinced himself the war would be quick and easy, that foreign troops would be welcomed as liberators, that he could shock or crush any resistance, and that he would be able install a friendly local government to protect his interests once the fighting stopped. Soon after the invasion began, however, these fantasies ran into reality. Ukrainian forces stood up and Russian forces bogged down. And now an angry, wounded bear is stuck in a quagmire, lashing out in frustration instead of rationally reversing course.

    The analysis appears sound, but the irony is rich—for the description of Putin’s mistakes is a decent summary of not just the earlier Soviet experience in Afghanistan but also much of U.S. national security policy over the last several decades, including the wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Washington has repeatedly launched military interventions with extravagantly unrealistic expectations, overestimated its own capabilities and underestimated its opponents, believed it would be loved rather than hated, and thought it could put its favorites into office and then get away easily. And time and again, after running up against the same harsh realities as Putin, it has tried to bull its way forward before ultimately deciding to reverse course and withdraw.

    Yes, American motives were nobler. Yes, American methods were less brutal (most of the time). Yes, there were many other differences between the conflicts. But on a strategic level, the broad similarities are striking. This means there are several important lessons to be learned from recent American military history—but only if that history is looked at from the enemy’s perspective, not Washington’s. Because it was the enemies who won…………………………………………..

    https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2022-03-29/irony-ukraine

    Like

    1. Yes, American motives were nobler. Yes, American methods were less brutal (most of the time).

      Russia has not gone “all in” to Kiev like the US Shock & Awe of Baghdad in violation of the same International Law Russia is accused of violating.
      That’s the essence of American Exceptionalism. International Law is for America’s enemies to follow, not the US and it’s Allies.

      Like

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