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Promoting the Apocalypse

 

 

If you read a major newspaper on a regular basis you will no doubt have seen the full page ads placed by defense contractors. The ads generally are anodyne, featuring ubiquitous flags and eagles while praising America’s soldiers and war fighting capabilities, sometimes to include a description of a new weapon or weapons system. That a company whose very existence depends on government contracts would feel sufficiently emboldened to turn around and spend substantial sums that themselves derive from the American taxpayer to promote its wares in an attempt to obtain still more of a hopefully increasing defense pie smacks of insensitivity to say the least. I for one find the ads highly offensive, an insult to the taxpayer.

Some might argue that that is how capitalism works and there is no better system to replace it but such an assertion ignores the fact that competition among defense contractors, though fierce at times, is largely a fiction as all the major companies are on the receiving end of huge multi-year government contracts with built in cost overruns and guaranteed production lines. They also operate a revolving door whereby former senior officers and Pentagon officials like Rumsfeld and Cheney move out to the private sector, get rich, and then return to government in policy making positions. It is more like the worst form of crony capitalism than Adam Smith. Most large companies have decentralized their production facilities so that they have a workforce presence in as many states and congressional districts as possible, making it unlikely that they will ever be lacking contracts.

President and former General Dwight D. Eisenhower called it all a military-industrial complex and warned 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.”He reportedly wanted to call it a military-industrial-congressional complex but demurred on including the nation’s legislature as he wanted it to get on board in bucking the trend towards creating a permanent warfare state. In that he was unsuccessful.

Today Eisenhower might well want to add “think tank” to his description of the problem. Insidious, and largely hidden from public sight, is the funding of institutes and foundations that promote a pro-war agenda which benefits both the organizations in question and the contractors who seek to promote what is euphemistically referred to as a pro-defense agenda. As Lockheed cannot directly call for more war without raising obvious concerns it instead uses its allies in various foundations and institutes to contrive the intellectual justifications that lead to the same conclusion. These self-described experts are in turn picked up by the media and their messages are fed to a larger audience, creating unassailable groupthink on national security policy.

This de facto industrial, foundational and media alliance explains the persistence of a neocon foreign policy in Washington in spite of the numerous failures on the ground since 9/11. Defense contractors Northrop Grumman and Lockheed have long been the principal source of funding for groups like the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). AEI has somewhat faded from public view since the heady days when Dick Cheney and others from the Bush White House would appear to make major pronouncements on foreign policy and national security but it is still a major player among Washington think tanks. It is neocon controlled in its foreign and defense policy under the leadership of Australia born Daniele Pletka, whose most recent work is “The CIA Report is too tainted to matter.” The current offerings on the AEI website include a conversation with Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and an article explaining “Waterboarding’s role in identifying a terrorist”.

There are a number of other foundations that benefit from inside the beltway contractor largesse. The Kagans’ Institute for the Study of War, the Hudson Institute, the Heritage Foundation and the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies all have large budgets, large staffs, and all embrace a generally neoconnish foreign policy, which means acceptance of a form of interventionist globalism by the United States as the so-called “leader of the free world” and international policeman.

A recent gathering in Washington illustrates precisely how the system works, with one hand washing the other. On December 3 rd the Foreign Policy Initiative hosted a day long forum on “A World in Crisis: the Need for American Leadership.” Lest there be any confusion about the conclusions that might be reached in such a gathering the title tells the casual observer everything needed to understand what one might expect. Pasty faced peace creeps would not be welcome.

 

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