CALIFORNIA STATE POLYTECHNIC UNIVERSITY POMONA

A SHORT REVIEW
THE AMERICAN MILITARY INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX, THE AMERICAN PEOPLE & THE WORLD
CHER H. TAN
SUMMER 2007

The turning point of World War 2 is 7th December 1941; Roosevelt would call it “the day which will live in infamy”. The Pearl Harbor attack immediately galvanized a divided nation into action. Public opinion had been moving towards support for entering the war during 1941, but considerable opposition remained until the Pearl Harbor attack. Overnight, Americans united against Japan, and that response probably made possible the unconditional surrender position later taken by the Allied Powers. The attack firmly drew the United States and its massive industrial and service economy into World War II, and the U.S. sent huge numbers of soldiers, weapons, and supplies to help the Allies fight Germany, Italy, and Japan, contributing to the utter defeat of the Axis powers by 1945. Though this has a big impact on how the world is shaped today; the beginning of the end of imperialism and the independence of countries under colonial rule, the implications that it has brought to the American people in terms of its military expenditure and strength can still be seen today. Its implication to the rest of the world in terms of United States foreign policies and the ignorance or the inability of the American citizens to the knowledge and control of the military power is being used is evidence that the American government have misused its powers to keep the citizens in the shadows. The Military- Industrial Complex as Dwight D. Eisenhower would call it in his farewell speech refers to a close and symbiotic relationship among a nation's armed forces, its private industry, and associated political and commercial interests. In such a system, the military is dependent on industry to supply material and other support, while the defense industry depends on government for revenue.1 This can be evidently seen as the ‘iron triangle’ consisting of the industries, the Pentagon, and the United States government. Can it be said that the ‘grave implications’ foreseen by him from ‘a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions’ is the misuse of power by the government and the military industry by giving and receiving portfolios that are worth billions of dollars. One of America’s favorite pass times is to attend air shows where various aircrafts and skilled pilot men show their trade while the applauding crowd cheer from down below; sitting under the blistering sun of the desert. Is this the justification that their tax money has been used by the government for advancement in technology and of its military strength to protect the freedom and democracy of the American citizens. It is drilled into the mindset of the citizens that America’s involvement in almost everything is because the nation is a freedom fighter, freeing the world or at least the Middle East from oppression and to spread democracy to these nations. It is no surprise then that when the media repeatedly shows the World Trade Center collapse would they ask that with so much good that they have done to the region, then why is there so much hatred for the Americans in the Middle East. This shows that the knowledge of the citizens regarding its government and the world is a skim on the surface; not understanding the in depth or historical reasons for this ‘implication’, an effect of arrogance; from peace and technological advancement unseen in other places of the world and of how the government is not being honest to its citizen.
1. Military-Industrial Complex; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military-industrial_complex

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While it can be said that the government has had the mindset for a policy of longterm contracts with private arms manufacturers even before the Civil War, it was not until World War 2 that government-sponsored research and development on a large scale brought the military industry into an industrial scale. Zinn was stating that by 1941, threefourths of the value of military contracts was handled by fifty-six large cooperation, in which $400million of the $1 billion used on scientific research went to large corporations. A further acceleration of armaments was during the Cold War; when the Soviet Union was a treat to the Americans and the world. The expenditure of the military has seen a steady increase from after World War 2, under Truman’s administration; Roosevelt died in April 1945, by setting the idea of an atmosphere of crisis and cold war. Truman presented the Soviet Union; wrecked by the war and making an astounding comeback by rebuilding its industry and military strength, an immediate threat.1 The culture of anti-communism and the drills of crouching under the desk when the sirens were signaled were all perpetuated to created so that there was no questioning and support of a policy of rearmament. Due to the hysteria of Communism; in the year 1946 there was an astounding military expenditure of $556.9billion2; the highest in American history. Was the citizens subordinating themselves under the ‘Apparatus’ as Simone Weil calls it? The 60’s saw another increase in the expenditure of armaments and an international trade of these weapons when the “Domino Theory” was put forth by President Eisenhower and Vice-president, Richard Nixon. Nixon in his speech in 1953 said that if Indochina fall to Communism; Thailand, Malaya and Indonesia; countries in the south that were rich with resources would eventually fall to into the Communism ideology.3 Therefore, SEATO (Southeast Asia Treaty Organization) was set up in 1954, consisting of Thailand, Philippines, France, Pakistan, Australia and the United Kingdom to curb communist advancement as well as new markets for the military industry.4 There was another treat as well, from South America; the overthrowing of Fulgencio Batista by Fidel Castro in 1959. Defense purchases increased to 14% in the GDP during the Korean War and 10% during the Vietnam War. It is during this time that there was a massive build up of military bases around the world; currently amounting to 700 military bases in more than 130 countries. By the time the Cold War was over, the United States had 100 times more nuclear weapons than during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and together with the Soviet Union, enough nuclear weapons to blow up the world 15 times. The presidency of Jimmy Carter amidst activism; protesting against war and that ‘human rights’ established abroad, saw no reduction to maintaining the huge military machine, leaving intact the ‘old
1. Zinn, 185 2. U.S. Military Spending 1946- 2009, Appendix 3. Ninkovich, Frank; Modernity and Power 4. http://www.teara.govt.nz/1966/I/InternationalRelations/Seato/en

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establishment’; the continual power of the American military and business. During the 1980s to the mid 1990s, Reagan’s and Bush’s administration, defense spending were 25% of all federal government outlays and the 1990s saw defense spending to be highly concentrated by the industry. It was a monopoly of less that a hundred companies; each with little turnovers and failures of their businesses. An increase would be seen again after the 1990s due to the Gulf War and the War on Terrorism. During this time, even Clinton’s administration embraced arm export promotion as a valid concern of American foreign policy.1 Democracy is shaped and structured in the eye of the beholder and it remains a fact that cooperate influence on the White House and the Congress is a permanent fact of the American system. According to Richard Hofstadter the administration from the beginnings of America has been ‘always bounded by the horizons of property and enterprise’ thus accepting ‘the economic virtues of capitalist culture; that has been intensely nationalistic.’2 Therefore looking at this circumstances it would be easy to identify which party has its dominance in the ‘Iron Triangle.’ An example is that the military industry has tended to be concentrated in Indiana, California, Texas, and Massachusetts. Geographically and politically; especially in the Senate, defense spending represented about 10 percent of U.S. industrial output and employed about 7.5 million workers in 1967. Of this, about $110 billion was in military prime contracts to industry, employing 800,000 civilians, about half of whom lived in the South.3 It is a wonder what the effects of not supporting the military industries by these states in Congress be to the scientists and engineers who were employed in the defense industries, and the mouths they feed? Has the ‘council of government’, in the long run failed to’ guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence’ of the potential disastrous rise of the militaryindustrial complex? For one, the Military-Industrial Complex has ‘miraculously’ become the very treat of American ‘idealism.’ Eisenhower speaks of the immense military establishment influence; ‘– economic, political, even spiritual – is felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the Federal government’ and that ‘our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.’ This change is leading the country away from the supreme goal of a ‘free society.’ The government since World War 2 has failed to ‘maintain a balance among national programmes,’ with increment of the military expenditure annually and reducing budgets in different departments; such as Agriculture, Healthcare and Education. These three departments added up is lower or almost equal to the annual defense expenditure of year 2004 to 2006.4 It can clearly be seen that Eisenhower himself; in the speech blames communism rather then the Military- Industrial Complex for the Cold War and conservatively believe that if it was controlled was necessary.
1. 2. 3. 4. James A. Huston "The Military-Industrial Complex". Encyclopedia of American Foreign Policy. (2002). Zinn, 287 James A. Huston "The Military-Industrial Complex". Encyclopedia of American Foreign Policy. (2002). The Federal Budget 2004 – 2009, Appendix

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The United States military spending is two-fifths of the world’s spending and the second largest spender, China has its spending seven times smaller than the United States. Justifying that the United States has treats from the outside that the unrealistic expenditure is made, but if compared its six potential enemies, China included only spends 30% of United States budget. The obedience of the citizens during the Cold War could be seen with the allowing of the buildup of America’s nuclear arsenal even though the Soviet Union was far behind in terms of number of intercontinental ballistic missiles and bombers. Politicians and strategies succeed in their "These complicated topics should be left to the experts, Trust us and we will assure your national security" policies. Since nothing has been done to change the economy, the blacks were left behind. As stated by Susan Eisenhower, President Eisenhower’s granddaughter: “The greatest tragedy of the Cold War period, however, is that it induced the public to forgo their interest in the formulation of our policy. The public had no reason to demand it back until recently, when the American people finally understood that the "piper" would have to be paid for the "guns and butter" expenditures that are still on account.”1 Eisenhower expressed that people that values its privileges above its principles; the political and spiritual heritage soon loses both. In the 1960’s prior to the Vietnam War, the cruelty of the war could be felt in the conscience of the American public; it was the era of the civil rights movement. Furthermore, sparked by the release of The Pentagon Papers; saw the end of the war by President Nixon’s administration. Soon, he was to resign for his involvement in the Watergate case. By this point government trust was low and there was a social void in every section of the population. This void was the optimism of the American future because the people have lost its trust to the bipartisan system could be felt up to the Bush administration. Martin Luther King called the war institution a demonic destructive suction tube and that the government would never invest to help the poor. Carter’s administration saw the increase of military expenditure; where the cuts would be made on the Department of Agriculture by not giving second helpings of milk to schoolchildren who get free meals in school. The prices of food and necessities continued to increase and unemployment of black people was at 20 to 30%.2This could be seen in Reagan’s administration as well, where benefits for the poor continued to be cut. Social Security disability benefits were terminated for 350,000 people and over sixteen million Americans lost medical insurance. This time, free school lunches for more than one million poor children was eliminated. Soon twelve million children live in poverty; most of which depends on welfare; which was decreased too.3
1. 2. 3. Susan Eisenhower; Cold war legacy - military-industrial complex's impact on U.S. public policy; Omni, Nov, 1993 Zinn, 292 Zinn, 296-297

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More and more salary checks were deducted by the Social Security taxes. All in all, another social tragedy was to take place; broken homes, family violence, street crimes and drugs saw the involvement of the black poor population and the government responded by building more prison; often termed the Prison- Industrial Complex.1 Why would a military man like Eisenhower talk about mutual and honorable disarmament and despised war? Could he have felt the building hatred and fear of the world towards the Americans for destroying their painfully built civilization? America’s foreign policy has always been to protect it imperial intactness to the country or region of interest. In 1941, the Atlantic Charter was signed stating that “the right of all people to choose the form of government under which they will live” was violated when the Americans return the French back into power in an already independent Vietnam. Furthermore, the International Bank of Reconstruction and Development was set up to reconstruct war-destroyed areas; but its true intentions were to have its political control on these governments. In the seventies, it can be clearly seen that ‘multinational’ companies consist of 98% Americans on their top executives. This multinational alone constitute as the third largest economy in the world. As a region with vast oil reserves, the Middle East has always been the target of American Corporations to feed the huge consumption of natural resources in the United States. In 1953, when the government nationalized its oil industry, the CIA organized the overthrow of Prime Minister Mussadegh and returns Shah Reza to the throne; a proWestern Shah who was viewed as autocratic and oppressive with his secret police, SAVAK. By 1979, The Islamic Republic of Iran was set up after a revolution against the Shah. The popular hatred of the Shah also tarred his American supporters, and the revolution's anti-American passion led to the storming of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, where 53 hostages were held for more than a year. As in 1958 in Lebanon, Iraq in the 1990’s and Afghanistan in 1979, tensions grew or became worst due to the intervention of America in terms of military, illegal armament, financial or diplomatic support for its most favorable ‘allies.’ After keeping elites of rival clans in control in Lebanon, tension grew and a civil war broke out in 1975. The civil war had the involvement of Palestinian refugees who were expelled from their country during the Israelis war for independence in 1948. In the war, America was involved in the massacre of ten of thousands of civilians for militarily backing the Israelis and further blocked efforts by the United Nations to force an Israeli withdrawal or even a cease fire. Until today America plays an active role in blocking the United Nation to meet resolutions demanding Israel’s unconditional withdrawal forcing many refugees to join groups like Hezbollah. From 1979 to 1990, United States secret armed rebel fighters against the leftist government of Afghanistan to provoke the Soviets to invade so that the Soviets would be bogged down in a debilitating counter- insurgency war, assisting America’s Cold War aim.3 Later, America blocks effort by the United Nations to
1. 2. 3. Zinn, 299 http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/globalconnections/mideast/questions/uspolicy/ Stephen Zunes; A History Lesson: US Intervention in the Middle East Has Always Ended Up Being a Disaster for American Interests; Common Dreams, February 10, 2003

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bring a peaceful settlement to the war, allowing of a stable government; allowing the Taliban to come to power and support Al- Qaeda in its network of terrorism against America.1 In the two years before the Gulf War, America sold arms both to Iran and Iraq at different times to keep with its “balance of power” strategy in the Iran-Iraq war. Later, Desert Storm was launched to ousted Saddam Hussein which is continued today by President Bush as Operation Iraqi Freedom; killing soldiers and civilians who were of no treat.2 CIA, set up under Eisenhower’s administration saw its operation in the Bay of The Pigs, in its attempt to oust Fidel Castro. Other operations includes Iran (1953), Guatemala (1954), Cuba (1959 to the present), Congo (1960), Brazil (1964), Indonesia (1965), Vietnam (1961-73), Laos (1961-73), Cambodia (1961-73), Greece (1967-74), Chile (1973), Afghanistan (1979 to the present), El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua (1980s), and Iraq (1991 to the present), to name only a few. The CIA uses the term blowback as a definition to clandestine operations carried out by the U.S. government that are aimed at overthrowing foreign regimes, or seeking the execution of people the United States wants eliminated by “friendly” foreign armies, or helping launch state terrorist operations against overseas target populations. Actions that generate blowback are normally kept totally secret from the American public and from most of their representatives in Congress. This means that when innocent civilians become victims of a retaliatory strike, they are at first unable to put it in context or to understand the sequence of events that led up to it. The retaliation would be the attacks on the World Trade Center.3 At the end of the speech, “the weakest must come to the conference table with the same confidence as do we” has never been achieved as America continues to denounce the rest of the world and place itself as the police; the liberator of democracy. If disarmament of the big military institution has been done after the Cold War, the American government could use the money for the betterment internally as well as internationally. America; as the strongest and richest nation in the world has indeed successfully set an example for other nations to follow in its footstep; that is to increase its own armament as the only way to prevent a forced intervention or change, depleting the resources which could have been used to save millions of life.

1.

Stephen Zunes; A History Lesson: US Intervention in the Middle East Has Always Ended Up Being a Disaster for American Interests; Common Dreams, February 10, 2003

2. 3.

Zinn, 309-310 Chalmers Johnson, Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire

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