Lost in the Military-Industrial Complex

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have ducked any serious discussion of America’s escalating military spending, suggesting that whoever wins will be captive of President Eisenhower’s “Military-Industrial Complex,” writes Chuck Spinney.

By Chuck Spinney

America is engaged in the longest and second most expensive war in its history — a small war in terms of forces deployed and op-tempos, but a war that is grinding on endlessly, without a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

Contrary to the whining about constrained budgets causing readiness and modernization problems emanating from the Pentagon, all dutifully regurgitated without question by the mainstream media, defense spending in the Pentagon’s so-called Base Budget is close to an all-time high and poised to increase over the long term.

The Pentagon, headquarters of the U.S. Defense Department, as viewed with the Potomac River and Washington, D.C., in the background. (Defense Department photo)

The Pentagon, headquarters of the U.S. Defense Department, as viewed with the Potomac River and Washington, D.C., in the background. (Defense Department photo)

The bulk of the Pentagon’s budget reductions from the recent peak in 2010 has been concentrated in the war fighting account (the Overseas Contingencies Operations or OCO) account — and this is true regardless of if or how one accounts for inflation. Compared to the OCO, reductions in the Pentagon’s so-called Base Budget — i.e., that part of the defense budget responsible for maintaining readiness and ensuring modernization — have been relatively modest.

Moreover, President Obama is leaving his successor with a base budget containing a modernization bow wave that is poised to explode, creating unstoppable political pressures for growing defense budgets until the end of the next decade or even beyond.

Yet the United States now spends far more on the military than any other country in the world. Add in the expenditures of our allies, and the spending advantage over any conceivable combination of adversaries becomes overwhelming.

Claiming today that we must increase the Pentagon’s budget to counter the rising threats of spending increases by Russia and China is tantamount to saying that defense spending by the Military – Industrial – Congressional Complex in the United States is grotesquely inefficient when compared to the spending of the MICC’s equivalents in Russia and China.

Deafening Silence

Most puzzling of all, the size of the Pentagon’s budget and the conduct of the militarized foreign policy that is a direct consequence of the domestic politics pushing so hard for defense budget increases are not significant political issues in the 2016 campaign for president.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaking to the AIPAC conference in Washington D.C. on March 21, 2016. (Photo credit: AIPAC)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaking to the AIPAC conference in Washington D.C. on March 21, 2016. (Photo credit: AIPAC)

To be sure, the alternative press is full of essays describing the patent lunacy of America’s militarized foreign policy, but very little ink has been devoted to analyses of how the dirty triangular political forces of the Military – Industrial – Congressional Complex (or MICC) drive that policy.

Some people hope Donald Trump will rein in the big green spending machine with a less aggressive foreign policy. But Trump is a grotesque bully, whose wild divagations of the mind exhibit neo-fascist behavior by inflaming hatred and xenophobia among his alienated and adoring supporters.

His recent kowtowing to Israel on the question of military aid suggests Trump is a transparent phony to boot. So, ‘Trump the Bully’ will end up spending what the power brokers in the MICC’s Iron Triangle tell him to spend.

Hillary Clinton’s public attitude toward defense spending is one of maintaining silence, no doubt to pacify the Left. All she has said (last September) was that she would appoint a blue-ribbon panel to examine the size of the defense budget, if elected president.

But her attitude toward the “symptom” of the domestic political imperative to keep spending at high levels — i.e., her attitude toward America’s militarized foreign policy — is obvious and ominous as David Bromwich brilliantly explains in “The Roots of Hillary’s Infatuation with War” — a very important essay, which I urge readers to study carefully.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressing the AIPAC conference in Washington D.C. on March 21, 2016. (Photo credit: AIPAC)

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressing the AIPAC conference in Washington D.C. on March 21, 2016. (Photo credit: AIPAC)

She will play the tough girl, and in so doing, like Mr. Trump, she will also end up spending what the power brokers in the MICC’s Iron Triangle tell her to spend.

In short, President Obama is leaving his successor with a defense budget time bomb. But what passes for checks and balances on the Pentagon and its allies in the arms industry and in Congress has completely broken down in the election of 2016. This is Eisenhower’s nightmare writ large.

When I worked in the Pentagon, we had a term for describing this type of sick situation — the United States has maneuvered itself into one big sticky “chocolate mess.”

Chuck Spinney is a former military analyst for the Pentagon who was famous for the “Spinney Report,” which criticized the Pentagon’s wasteful pursuit of costly and complex weapons systems. [This article appeared previously at http://chuckspinney.blogspot.com/2016/07/message-of-2016-election-goodbye-checks.html]

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7 comments for “Lost in the Military-Industrial Complex

  1. Zachary Smith
    July 3, 2016 at 1:53 pm

    So, ‘Trump the Bully’ will end up spending what the power brokers in the MICC’s Iron Triangle tell him to spend.

    To be fair, some mention ought to be made of “Trump the Lazy Ignoramus.” Because Trump has been a successful bully for most all his life, and is already 70 years of age, he likely sees no need to alter his ‘ignorant’ condition. Just keep on braying out the uninformed BS and expect the same results as usual.

    No, he’s probably not going to be our savior regarding the Big Military/Corporate Weapons Complex. Sad to say, neither will Hillary.

    Worse yet, Sanders appears to be totally in bed with Big Weapons Spending as well.

    In my own lifetime I can’t remember a Presidential campaign even remotely as insane as this one.

  2. Joe Tedesky
    July 3, 2016 at 1:59 am

    Just think the same tooling it takes to build a bomb, could machine ploughs, surgical tools, bone-screws, and on and on. Don’t allow anyone to sell you on the idea, that without weapons of war that this country would be broke. That’s just not true. With a new focus, we could do anything. Yes, there will be robots, but there would also be thousands of tiny little machine shops out here manufacturing all kinds of components, that would be going into a product you would see in whole. Harley does it that way, with over three hundred vendors. We can do anything, so move some, or all of that military budget over here, and let’s get started.

  3. Rob
    July 2, 2016 at 6:00 pm

    It’s been a long time since we had a president who was *not* a captive of the military-industrial complex. JFK may have made the last stand in the Cuban missile crisis. Otherwise, they have all caved, without exception. I doubt that any human being could resist the pressure that is brought to bear and remain alive for very long.

  4. rosemerry
    July 2, 2016 at 4:23 pm

    When brash toughness and refusal to even consider negotiation and any attempt at harmony in relations among countries, instead of insisting on making “enemies” are accepted as normal and strong, the world will be in greater danger than it is now.

  5. delia ruhe
    July 2, 2016 at 4:20 pm

    “Most puzzling of all, the size of the Pentagon’s budget and the conduct of the militarized foreign policy that is a direct consequence of the domestic politics pushing so hard for defense budget increases are not significant political issues in the 2016 campaign for president.”

    That’s hardly “puzzling.” As the article itself goes on to intimate, both candidates (and the MSM, which parrots what they say, not what they fail to say) have their own versions of how to Make America Great Again, and both involve militarism – lots of it.

    Moreover, generations of American voters going right back to the onset of the Cold War have been conditioned to respond to the politics of fear by support for a bigger, better military machine – and, as pretty much every non-American knows, US governments regard governing through the politics of fear a tradition as American as apple pie.

    Seems pretty nonpuzzling to me.

  6. Joe B
    July 2, 2016 at 1:44 pm

    It is astonishing that many poorly educated people do not see through the Hillary tough-girl game. It worked for Thatcher, Nuland, Albright, and many others, and it will work again. She can be just as tough or tougher than the stupidest men. The fools always line up behind the tyrant, in sympathy and hope of gain. Long lives the tyrant.

    Also sad that the first of any previously-underrepresented group tn the halls of power are the ones who betray their group, because they are the agents of the oligarchy. They are admitted to the top positions only when they have proven their betrayal of humanity for money.

    • Joe Dubyah
      July 4, 2016 at 1:16 pm

      Yep.

      The chosen to be POTUS by the CFR members must play by the rules. MIC = jobs for Americans, and profits for the CFR members that control the programming of the US nation’s populace via MSM and thus the installation process of the next POTUS.

      Weapons by the MIC are useful trading tools for oil from the ME countries that use such weapons in their never ending quest to kill each other off due to being the “wrong brand” of Muslim. They love killing each other.. and we love the benefits of petroleum products. It is akin to modern day bead trading for furs.

      Jobs, profits, reduced world population, weapons for oil.. everyone is happy. What’s not to love?

      The US took out the satraps that understood the methods to maintain peace in Iraq and Libya.. and, the MIC and the installed POTUS, and all those of the CFR in the game that benefit, understood fully the profits and benefits of doing such.

      Trump is playing the actor role of the Republican distractor, and will be rewarded handsomely for his performance.

      Hillary will be installed and the people.of the US will benefit from the jobs and trickle down related to oil and MIC endeavors.

      And she will do as she is told, and her and her family and friends will be rewarded for their lifetimes for their “duty and service”.

      Same thing..different “Election”.

      All is well.

      Moooo…mooooo…. this cow is back to grazing and production as a good, hardworking, taxpaying citizen. I know my role: one of the cattle. I am just an insignificant poof in history. Everyone at the level to read this is.

      It is fun though to understand how it all works though.

      Ranting.. meh.. for what?

      Mooo..moooooo… I carry on for the rest of my short days On the Earth. The GREATS (the Royals) play their Kings of Thrones game for the rest of their days.

      In the end though… who is happier?

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