In 2007 the United States signed a new deal with Israel to provide $30 billion over the next ten years in military aid. Interesting catch: $20 billion of that had to be used to buy from U.S. defense suppliers. Other countries getting deals are Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf allies, mostly weapons deals.
In his Farewell Address President Dwight Eisenhower famously coined the phrase “military-industrial complex” at this point of his speech
One of Ike's biographers, Geoffrey Perret, says that one draft had it as “military-industrial-congressional complex.”
Making our allies stronger is a good deal so long as they stay allies. Perhaps an ongoing injection of cash can help, if you can guarantee the money goes where you need it and actually buys goodwill towards the US. As for military hardware, it would be nice if each gadget were equipped with a remote "kill" switch to prevent blow back, but apparently we've decided to take our chances.
But that doesn’t happen. See e.g. ISIS. Among many others. In any event, what I really see going on here is some big-time corporate welfare, but it rarely gets reported as such. Let's say you're a U.S. company, Consolidated Army Gizmos. CAG is having a down year. But CAG has a long history of dealing with Israel (or Saudi Arabia or Egypt or Ukraine, etc.), on a limited basis. Suddenly, Israel has a bucket of money, and most of that bucket has to be poured into the US.
This is how it plays out: U.S. policy destabilizes a region, or a country (Iraq, Syria, Libya). Destability boosts the need for military hardware purchases. U.S. government can't pay CAG et al. to simply deliver military hardware willy-nilly. So, U.S. pays other countries to buy it. Middleman Israel gets $10 billion for funneling the $20 billion to U.S. companies. CAG pays dividends and executive bonuses! Winning!
Again, all fine and dandy if these weapons/systems/whatever are deployed and never used, as potential aggressors read Ike’s speech and are deterred by the mightiness and readiness of Saudi or Israeli arms. The rub is that the goodwill we sought with this particular type of foreign aid does not buy us veto power over how these weapons are used. And no “kill switch” enables us to disable them when they are used contrary to what might be our wishes.
But I still wonder if that is even the right way to look at it. I have begun to think that foreign policy is a remote secondary benefit (if any) to the economic benefit that happens when the government can pump tens of billions of dollars into the war economy of the United States when we are not actively engaged in combat on any kind of a large scale. Corporate profits, jobs, stable or rising shareholder value are the payoff.
Eisenhower’s worry was that our liberty or democratic processes would be endangered. Have we reached that point?
Depending on how you feel about the Citizens United decision (which I think was a Constitutional two-fer: speech and association) you might look at corporate campaign donations as dangerous to democracy. If so, the solution is not to legislatively overturn Citizens United, but to require federal contractors to make their donations public. My dream solution is that after each election newly elected politicians are required to be sworn in wearing something like a NASCAR driver’s suit: they take their oath dressed in an outfit that contains the logos and names of all their “sponsors.”
My stronger concern is over the distribution of military gear to police and other law enforcement agencies. As Seth Stoughton, a former officer turned law professor, has said, two different mindsets are available to officers as they interact with civilians: the Guardian and the Warrior. Warriors are what we want from our military as they engage our enemies; Guardians are what we want from police as they engage citizens.
But having cool toys encourages departments to use them. Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) teams were developed for, well, special situations. In 1980 they were deployed 3000 times, now they are used 80,000 times a year. No longer limited to “special” situations they have been widely misused.
“Other SWAT team excursions are far more mundane missions. For example, a SWAT team was deployed in Fairfax, Virginia, to take down an optometrist guilty of nothing worse than making bets on football games with an undercover officer he believed to be his friend. The gambling hobbyist was killed during the raid even though he made no violent gestures and was not armed.
Meanwhile, in Arizona, a SWAT team ransack revealed that a local man was keeping chickens in his backyard. The chickens were all killed. In Florida, it took a judge's order to stop the Orange County Sheriff's Office from sending paramilitary teams out to take down unlicensed barber shops, holding customers and barbers at gunpoint. In New Mexico, a SWAT team pursuing a suicidal man saved him from killing himself by doing the job themselves. In Georgia, a SWAT team targeted an errant DJ. In Illinois, one stormed a man's house because he mocked a politician on Twitter.”
I see a direct link to the military-industrial complex, aided by the congressional campaigns to scare the crap out of us. President Eisenhower said we can mesh the two machines and secure our liberty peacefully. I’d like to see us try.
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