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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 3rd 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.

FPI is a non-partisan tax exempt “educational” foundation that benefits from significant support from defense contractors. It is a cookie cutter operation reminiscent of so many others inside the beltway, reliably pro-Israel and pro-intervention. It’s mission statement includes: “Continued U.S. engagement–diplomatic, economic, and military—in the world and rejection of policies that would lead us down the path to isolationism; robust support for America’s democratic allies and opposition to rogue regimes that threaten American interests; a strong military with the defense budget needed to ensure that America is ready to confront the threats of the 21st century.”

FPI’s board of directors reads like a neocon dream team: Bill Kristol, Eric Edelman, Dan Senor and Robert Kagan. Kristol is the son of neocon godfather Irving Kristol and is himself the Editor in Chief of The Weekly Standard while Edelman succeeded Doug Feith as head of the Pentagon’s office of Special Plans which did so much good work in Iraq, Senor was the Iraq Coalition Provisional Authority press spokesman and Robert Kagan is one of the infamous Kagan clan which is now leaning towards supporting a Hillary “the Hawk” Clinton run for president. He is also the husband of Victoria Nuland who has done yeoman’s work in attempt to start a war with Russia.

The “Crisis” forum was “presented by Raytheon,” which means it funded the effort. The gathering was held at the Newseum in Washington DC, a no expenses spared venue that incorporates sweeping views over the Mall and Capitol Building. Raytheon has an annual revenue of \$25 billion, 90% of which comes from defense contracts. The speakers did not include anyone skeptical of US military engagement worldwide. In addition to Kristol, Edelman and Kagan they included Senator Bob Corker, Fred Hiatt of the Washington Post, Senator elect Tom Cotton, Senator John McCain, Kimberly Kagan of the Institute for the Study of War, David J. Kramer of the McCain Institute, FPI fellow James Kirchick and Senator Ted Cruz.

Cotton, who is remarkable for his hawkishness even among Republican hawks, wasted no time in making his position clear, that it is past time to “put an end” to the negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program. “I hope that Congress’ role will be to put an end to these negotiations. Iran is getting everything it wants in slow motion so why would they ever reach a final agreement? I think the adults in Congress need to step in early in the new year. The White House can’t conduct an end run around Congress.” Rep. Mike Pompeo, who also participated in the discussion with Cotton, recommended that the United States and its partners currently supporting Iraq should also think of striking Iran’s nuclear capabilities. “In an unclassified setting, it is under 2,000 sorties to destroy the Iranian nuclear capacity. This is not an insurmountable task for the coalition forces.”

The first panel discussion was on “Stopping Iran’s Nuclear Ambitions.” It was followed by “National Security Leadership in a New Congress,” “Providing for the Common Defense,” “Restoring American Leadership,” “The Middle East in Chaos,” “Putin’s Challenge to the West,” “America in a Changing World,” and “Rebuilding the American Defense Consensus.” Many of the presentations are available on the FPI website and some have also been reported elsewhere, including on ABC news.

The message that the forum delivered is that America is a nation that is under threat from all directions, which is, of course, utter nonsense. The United States might well be nearly universally hated, particularly after the recent release of the Senate report on CIA torture, but that hatred does not necessarily equate to any actionable threat. Iran, Russia and the “chaotic” Arabs are, of course, largely to blame but the underlying message is that the United States has to exercise leadership a.k.a. overseas interventions and focus on rebuilding its defenses, which means more military spending. Raytheon would directly benefit from all of the above. It is perhaps telling that Afghanistan was not part of the discussion and Iraq and Syria only surfaced in that they were described as failed policies because the United States had not intervened either long or hard enough. Russia and Putin are, of course, the flavor of the week for the interventionists and memories of Munich 1938 were evoked by several speakers who clearly want to have a second shot at Adolph Hitler.

I don’t have a solution for the defense contractor funding of neoconnish right wing groups that want more wars, but it is certainly an issue that informed Americans should be aware of. Many of the “threats” that are constantly being promoted by the Washington intelligentsia are little more than fictions concocted to keep the cash flowing, both to the selfsame experts and to those who build the guns, bullets and bombs. Whenever an op-ed appears in a newspaper advocating a tough line overseas check out the author and his or her affiliation. Odds are it will be someone from the American Enterprise Institute or from the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies who has real skin in the game as his or her livelihood depends on artfully packaging and selling a crummy product. Maybe someday when Americans come to their senses all these people will go away and will find real jobs in which they have to actually do something, but I wouldn’t want to be too optimistic about that prospect as they will likely slink back to their elite universities where they will be required to do absolutely nothing but bloviate.

• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Military 
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  1. I’d rather you use the less Orwellian term “military contractors” than “defense” since the only legitimate use would be to defend the actual “homeland.” But I guess that is part of the Ferguson phenomenon. I note the President’s previous experience and talent was as a community organizer who’d work out compromises among the major community players. But what does that lead to in Washington, where the players are Wall Street, the military contractors, the Pentagon and sundry state security agencies? “OK, you guys get to make the wars you want to fight, and you guys get to build the weaponry and you guys get to make enormous profits on it. What’s not to like?”

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  2. Personally, I consider a nuclear conflict between Israel and/or India and some Muslim group to be a done deal. The big problem is to prevent the US from being dragged into a major exchange with Russia or China. As the Apocalypse unfolds I expect most deaths to be from bio-weapons – provided said major exchange is avoided.

    But first the “Global” economy must fail, so we’ve got a few years yet.

    • Replies: @zhubajie
  3. athEIst says:

    I know it’s fashionable to speak highly of “Ike” but he was a member of the MICplex from age 18 on. He didn’t write the speech, he may not have read it or understood it before he gave it. He never spoke about it after and he’s been dead for ~45 years.

    • Replies: @follyofwar
    , @Ace
  4. George says:

    Think of the fraud of Mitchell/Jessen, \$81 mil plus to plagiarize the Communist Chinese Torture Manual and have the CIA eagerly embrace it. And the military contractors make that look like chump change for an even worse work product if the ostensible reason for it is to “make us safe.”

  5. Maybe it’s “fashionable to speak highly of Ike” when he’s compared to the flawed dwarfs that have followed him in the oval office.

    Excellent essay.

    • Replies: @Jim
    , @Orville H. Larson
  6. Love this clause from the FPI mission statement:

    “…robust support for America’s democratic allies and opposition to rogue regimes that threaten American interests….”

    It sounds like it says: support for democracies and opposition to rogue regimes. But what it means is: support for allies, which very well may be rogue regimes, and opposition to those who threaten US interests, which very well may be democracies.

    • Replies: @Orville H. Larson
  7. TomB says:

    ddNot to be a damp squib about this but other than Ike warning about the rise of a MI Complex I never quite saw how its existence differed from all the other complexes our system creates.

    I.e., some interest group agitates for a program or programs, same gets established, and eventually enough money gets pumped into same that allows its beneficiaries to recirculate some of that money back into supporting the continued existence of said program or programs at the very least, and more commonly into supporting the pouring of ever more money into it.

    Somewhat of a perpetual motion machine: The more money the government pours into it, the more it’s just funding the lobbying and pressure to keep it going.
    dwSo how is this different from so much else?

    Except, perhaps, that defense *is* clearly a core function of any state, whereas that can’t be said about lots of other programs and etc. our federal government is eternally funding.

    Anyone aware of the continued existence of FDR’s “Rural Electrification Administration”? Created in 1935 with its clear central mission to promote the provisioning of farms with electricity, with something like 90% of all farms lacking same at that point.

    By 1952 almost all were so provisioned, but the REA continued onward and still exists today, albeit with a name-change made in ’94 after, I believe, Pat Buchanan started publicizing its story.

    Just yet more sclerotic plaque in our system’s veins.

    And, to mix metaphors, its gonna be interesting to see, when the songs in this financial game of musical chairs that we are running peters out, who is left sans chairs.

  8. SteveM says:

    About the full page ads in the newspapers, (e.g. The Washington Post), the papers are scrambling for ad revenues from any source. The full page, full color ads bought by the defense contractors are expensive. But since weapons system acquisition is all inside baseball, they provide no explicit business value. What they are then are back door bribes to the newspapers to lay off the hyper-screw-ups promulgated by the Merchants-of-Death/Pentagon Axis.

    When is the last time the Washington Post editorialized against a busted weapons system? The F-22? The F-35? The Littoral Combat Ship? The Army Future Combat System? Hyper-boondoggles all. Did the Post call for the cancellation of any of them?

    Shake the acquisition tree and all kinds of rotten fruit fall out. Yet the editorial page of the Post is mostly silent.

    The one semi-solution for 501c organizations as stooges for sponsors is full source disclosure of donations over \$1,000. Moreover, the Big Cheeses at many (most?) 501c’s get paid huge. Also mandate that the total compensation of the senior officers be prominently listed in any solicitation materials including the “Make a Donation” links of their web pages.

  9. Realist says:

    Fox News and Fox Business News are the worst at denigrating Russia and promoting war and hegemony. It would be comical if not so dangerous. They lie through their teeth and spew government propaganda with absolutely no fact checking. They are sick bastards.

    • Replies: @rod1963
    , @Ace
  10. Jim says:

    Eisenhower whatever his faults was an American patriot not an Israeli stooge.

    • Replies: @Peter G
  11. Douglas says:

    It is not true that competion is not real between defense contractors. I am on staff of a minor defense contractor. We have incredibly stiff competion and must hide all our proprietary data to keep other competitors from winning what we are competing for.

    I do agree that defense comtractors should not be allowed to advertise. Their money should be guarded as intrusted by the American taxpayer.

    One of the areas you failed to mention is the small business and minority set asides. These programs do nothing but drive up the costs to the tax payer. Also, the fact that not using up your entire budget for a given year will result in a smaller budget the following year results in a horrible abuse of the taxpayer. These should stop but will not.

    The problem isn’t with the defense contractors. The problem is with society at large. When people complain about congress then reelect the same idiots, what does that prove about society? It shows people care only in so much as to the amount of money their representative brings into their state or town. They don’t care that it comes from someone else and their own pockets. The people of Alaska want a bridge to no where, but the rest of the country thinks it is a waste.

    The problem is with the heart of people. Blaming these problems on an impersonalized enitity does not help get to a solution.

    • Replies: @Chet Roman
  12. rod1963 says:

    FoxNews is the outfit that never met a war it didn’t like. You aren’t even allowed to appear if your view is different from the narrative they want to promote.

    But it’s no different than the NYT ginning up support to invade Iraq over totally false pretenses.

    They are just different sides of the same coin.

    And we are just the folks they lie to on a regular basis. No more than sheep to be sheered.

    • Replies: @Realist
  13. The torture brouhaha proves one thing: when the nuclear apocalypse comes, the majority sent to Hell will approve it after the fact. H.L. Mencken was right: in our democracy, everyone gets what the majority deserve.

    • Replies: @annamaria
  14. Realist says:

    I agree with you, but Fox seems the worst.
    This country has been in so many useless, needless war since WWII( which may well have been needless for us) it is hard to believe Americans keep falling for the BS. GWB caused so many more Americans to die than were killed on 9/11….all to make some rich and powerful

    • Replies: @David
  15. David says:

    NPR is the worst. NPR says no to war but you can tell by her sly smile she means yes.

  16. “Russia and Putin are, of course, the flavor of the week for the interventionists and memories of Munich 1938 were evoked by several speakers who clearly want to have a second shot at Adolph Hitler.”

    That’s not the only parallel between Germany and Putin’s Russia. Didn’t Germany also suffer from “sanctions” that took the form of a boycott of German exports by tribe-owned department stores in NYC? This reduced demand for German goods helped undermine the DMark and its value plunged–just as the Ruble has today in response to the current contrived glut of oil and crippling trade sanctions enacted by those “speakers who clearly want to have a second shot”.

    Same bag of tricks but this time around the “speakers” have the biggest, baddest military at their beck and call from the getgo, so who knows.

    • Replies: @Pete
  17. Wally says: • Website

    Yet Mr. Giraldi believes in the global warming religion which proclaims the world is about to end.
    Don’ feed the statist religion.

  18. zhubajie says:
    @another fred

    Nuclear war between Israel and India? What a bizarre idea! Are you confusing India and Pakistan?

    • Replies: @another fred
  19. Bill says:

    Jews. Why not say it?

  20. Peter G says:

    agreed – Ike stood up to the Lobby – Kennedy did too but that’s one of the reasons he was murdered.

  21. @athEIst

    Agreed. If Ike was truly alarmed by the huge growth of the MIC that occurred under his watch why did he wait until he was leaving office before delivering that speech?

  22. Pete says:

    “those who want a second shot at Adolph Hitler”. Just wondering; how many of those “true patriots”; (LOL); on the podium have ever hear the bullets fly? A wild guess; ZERO! A message for them; there are no lines at the recruiting station. You can be first in line. OH, I know, like Cheney; “you have more important things to do”. RIGHT!

  23. Missile engineer Bob the new US missiles in Romania, Poland and on 32 ships in the Mediterranean Sea: “Whether they are on ships or land, they are still a necessary component for an unanswerable first strike.” The point is that the US Navy can track and destroy all enemy submarines simultaneously through Extreme Low Frequency and other means, see Obviously, the Europeans are idiots. They believe the US claims that the missiles are to defend us from Iran. Of course, the Russians don’t believe that fairy tale and may adopt Launch On Warning by 2017. See http://www.claus eric/ Please help make them understand: THERE IS NO DEFENCE AGAINST Launch On Warning !!! The Russians won’t die alone !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  24. Giuseppe says:

    What a pity Ike dropped “congressional” from “military-industrial-congressional” complex; it might have had it easier to make the case for congressional complicity in the mind of the average voter. Adding “think tank” as you suggested would make it “military-industrial-congressional-think tank” complex, for which a handy acronym MICTT, redolent of “micturition,” a medical term for urinating, symbolically suggests what this group likes to do on the backs of prostrated American taxpayers.

    And I love the way you write. I read all your pieces I can find.

  25. @Douglas

    “The problem isn’t with the defense contractors. The problem is with society at large.”

    Sounds like the propaganda the military contractors like to spew. It doesn’t matter who “society at large” votes for because the system is corrupted by money. Defense contractors spend millions of dollars in “lobbying” which is a euphemism for bribing politicians. The public has almost zero influence on public policy, something that was confirmed by a recent study done by Princeton/Northwestern. Look at the presidential candidate vetting process, the front runners need to grovel before billionaires like Adelson or Saban whose loyalty is to a foreign country. The whole political system is corrupted and controlled by the deep state.

  26. @Justpassingby

    Yeah, and one thing it always means is groveling support for America’s “51st state,” the Zionist entity.

  27. @JoaoAlfaiate

    Yeah, and don’t forget that Ike and Jack Kennedy were both dubious about Israel. Their successors have been Israeli stooges, more or less.

  28. Philip ! I like your style. Please write an opinion piece about what kind of information would come out of a good waterboarding session of Dick Cheney.

  29. chas says:

    Giraldi for president.

  30. @zhubajie

    I said India AND/OR Israel against a Muslim entity. The obvious foe for India is Pakistan, but there is enough foment in the Middle East that I do not think we can count on current national entities to remain static, either as individual states or as some sort of confederation or larger state.

    An alliance between Israel and India is not inconceivable if a common enemy arises.

  31. Nice one Phil. The one criticism I would offer is, missing the inter-relationship of interventions to the stock markets and probable finishing off of the western democracies economic engines if the USA (et al) were to suddenly behave like rational states:

    ^ “It’s not rocket science but it is a trap”

  32. annamaria says:
    @Fran Macadam

    There is an erroneous assumption about “our democracy.” The Citizen United and activist Supreme Court have finished this nuisance.

  33. adsicks says:

    “It is more like the worst form of crony capitalism than Adam Smith.”
    Did you forget to complete your thought with an example from Adam Smith, or are you speaking of Smith’s twilight career managing tariffs?

    • Replies: @Philip Giraldi
  34. @adsicks

    Thanks adsicks, I expressed it badly. I was trying to make the point that Adam Smith would have not recognize the type of “free” market that exists in the US MIC.

  35. Lyov Myshkin [AKA "lyovmyshkin"] says:

    Let’s talk turkey, we all know that these Think Tanks are funded by companies that have a vested interest in permanent conflict. That’s a given and will never change.

    We need money and our own think tanks because our ideas are popular when they are disseminated on mass.

    So we need to ask ourselves the very cynical question: Who benefits from peace?

    We need to find the people who do, approach them and ask them to fund our NGO’s and think tanks because it will benefit them financially.

    Does anyone have any ideas on where to start on figuring out who benefits from peace (besides the whole world collectively, of course)?

  36. Overlooked in the same speech is Eisenhower’s warning of a growing, corrupt federal government. The global warming hysterics fit his warnings perfectly:

    Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades.

    In this revolution, research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.

    Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.

    The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded.

    Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific/technological elite.

    It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system — ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society.

  37. Mr. Anon says:

    Very good article, Mr. Giraldi.

  38. Mr. Anon says:

    “SteveM says:

    About the full page ads in the newspapers, (e.g. The Washington Post), the papers are scrambling for ad revenues from any source. The full page, full color ads bought by the defense contractors are expensive. But since weapons system acquisition is all inside baseball, they provide no explicit business value. What they are then are back door bribes to the newspapers to lay off the hyper-screw-ups promulgated by the Merchants-of-Death/Pentagon Axis.

    When is the last time the Washington Post editorialized against a busted weapons system? The F-22? The F-35? The Littoral Combat Ship? The Army Future Combat System? Hyper-boondoggles all. Did the Post call for the cancellation of any of them?

    Shake the acquisition tree and all kinds of rotten fruit fall out. Yet the editorial page of the Post is mostly silent.”

    Interesting point. Back in the 80s, there was a lot of coverage of wasteful Pentagon spending. Now – nary a word. I think you are on to something. It is becoming readily apparent that virtually all the money that changes hands between members of the press/business/government classes are bribes: speeches, book deals, board memberships, think-tank gigs. Our Government and elite classes are everybit as corrupt as that of Pakistan – just in a somewhat different way.

    I think it is important that we refer to these people as what they really are – people like this think-tank harpy Danielle Pletka – whores and parasites.

  39. Ace says:

    I’ve wondered about Ike’s speech. I can’t say I think he didn’t understand it but, if the MIC was such a major threat to the world, why did he never mention it again?

    Wouldn’t it be like Al Gore as VP giving one speech at the end of his term on AGW and then never mentioning it again? Even if Gore made a lot of money from peddling his AGW theory, he sure acted like AGW was a huge deal.

  40. Ace says:

    Bill O’Reilly and Bill Miller repeatedly referred to Vladimir Putin at “Pootee Poo.” Not just on one program, either. One of our most watched “conservative” commentators.

    Apparently no one in senior management at Fox thought it necessary to tell them to cut out the juvenile name calling.

  41. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @Fran Macadam

    let change back to what it was THE WAR DEPARTMENT or THE DEPARTMENT OF WAR like it used to be.

  42. Doc Lemm says:

    Government pension funds are heavily invested those “Defense” contractors… It’s a hidden dynamic behind the drama…

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