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Weissman writes: "Major oil companies are top Pentagon suppliers, I know, but selling fuel to the military is not why they try to control the lion's share of the world's oil and natural gas. Nor do most people have the oil companies in mind when they talk of the military-industrial complex."

Ike's warning about the military industrial complex was a two edged sword. (photo: wikicommon)
Ike's warning about the military industrial complex was a two edged sword. (photo: wikicommon)

Rethinking the Military-Industrial Complex

By Steve Weissman, Reader Supported News

15 August 13


hen President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned his fellow Americans about the dangers of the military-industrial complex, he did both good and bad. As a widely respected military leader, he made it possible for ordinary citizens to challenge the Pentagon's growing power in so many aspects of our economy and foreign policy. But, by focusing on the military, Ike misdirected our attention away from other, often more important segments of Big Money's collaboration with Big Government.

No question, the military chiefs, the manufacturers who supply and then often hire them, and the members of Congress who take political contributions from the armaments industry or look to lucrative careers as lobbyists for them all work together as a standing lobby for incredibly wasteful Pentagon budgets. The same groups also support the endless fear-mongering, whether of the old Soviet Union and Red China, the newly capitalist Russians and Chinese, al Qaeda terrorists, or whatever other threat appears to justify massive spending and - as we now see - massive surveillance.

But let's get real. Most of us could make a good case that Big Oil exercises far more influence on our imperial foreign policy than do the Big Brass and their merchants of death. Major oil companies are top Pentagon suppliers, I know, but selling fuel to the military is not why they try to control the lion's share of the world's oil and natural gas. Nor do most people have the oil companies in mind when they talk of the military-industrial complex.

Ike's warning also takes our eye off Wall Street and the CIA, both of which exercise enormous influence on U.S. foreign policy. And his military focus obscures a larger truth about our political economy. From Big Pharma to the new digital giants, many, if not most, of our major industries have their own hyphenated relationship with various parts of Big Government. Call the system capitalism, if you want, but it has precious little to do with either free enterprise or free markets.

Much as the über-capitalistic Ayn Rand lamented in her writing, most big business people are in no way anti-state or necessarily advocates of a small state. They simply want to make the state their own, a corporate state or corporate multi-state arrangement like the European Union.

"Corporate," as a term, has a long history, and most of those who now employ it make facile comparisons to earlier uses in Italy under Benito Mussolini and in Spain under General Francisco Franco. Don't be fooled. Current corporate states lack the radical nationalist and racist ideologies, maximum leaders, mass mobilizations, labor institutions, social programs, and party control that distinguish historical Fascists. Nor do the current incarnations exhibit the working class roots, trade union participation, and ideological concern with social equality that characterize classic Socialists, the bogeyman for our friends on the Right. Today's corporatism has no need for black shirts, brown shirts, or red flags.

The corporatists we now see make gargantuan demands on government, and their shopping list provides the Magna Carta for the new corporate state. Beyond huge bailouts for the extremely well-connected, and the implicit guarantee of more to come, they demand the full monty: preferential tax rates on capital gains and "carried interest." Tax breaks for Big Oil, Silicon Valley, Hollywood, NASCAR, and a who's who of the well-connected. Government contracts and guarantees. Subsidies, open and hidden. Public spending to build and maintain the infrastructure they need and to counteract their carbon emissions. More protection for their intellectual property and less for our privacy. Healthcare mandates rather than a simple extension of Medicare. And a host of other laws, regulations, and government interventions to boost their corporate profits, vastly increase their personal wealth, and legally disadvantage their competitors.

Many corporatists want "right-to work" laws, restraints on union organizing and strikes, more limits on picketing and public demonstrations, and restrictive voting registration laws to rein in the rest of us. Most of them want lopsided free trade treaties, government finance and insurance for foreign investments, export promotion and diplomatic pressure, covert action, and hot wars to force open markets and strengthen their control of foreign oil and other natural riches. And, as Ike warned, a scary number still want cold wars and never-ending anti-terrorist crusades to scare up a market for suppliers of everything from aircraft, drones, tanks, and ships to over-priced toilets and paper clips.

This elaborate collaboration is long-standing, widespread, and deeply entrenched, making nonsense of Libertarian notions that "free enterprise" and "free markets" ever were or ever could be free of significant government involvement. Nor are the questions that the collaboration raises easy to answer. Looking back, most Americans would salute the industrial mobilization that defeated Nazi Germany. But how should we feel about the input of Vice President Dick Cheney's friends from Big Oil before the invasion of Iraq and during the occupation? We might applaud Big Government's role in building Europe's high-speed rail systems and the life-changing Internet that nurtured America's lead in digital technology. But how far do we want politicians and bureaucrats to go in picking winners and losers in alternative energy? How far do we want government to pursue even a democratically decided industrial policy that favors some sectors of the economy over others?

If we are ever to have a serious Left, these are questions we need to consider. They are also points of discussion and likely contention with any anti-surveillance and anti-war allies from the Right, such as Tea Party Republicans like Justin Amash.

A veteran of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and the New Left monthly Ramparts, Steve Weissman lived for many years in London, working as a magazine writer and television producer. He now lives and works in France, where he is researching a new book, "Big Money: How Global Banks, Corporations, and Speculators Rule and How To Break Their Hold."

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


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+22 # fredboy 2013-08-15 08:48
The military is America's ultimate, infinite Cash Cow. Yet, as a nation of droolers, we allow it to happen. As Napolean said, "Give me enough ribbon and I will conquer the world!"
+16 # womyn 2013-08-15 13:09
Well stated!
Until Americans wake up and pro-actively participate in the US' failed democracy, the present US' plutocracy will continue and things will worsen and worsen and worsen in the US.

Bush/Cheney would never have been able to start the illegal unnecessary preemptive wars and occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq without the enormous support of the majority of Americans.

Polls showed 80% to 90% of Americans supported these unconscionable wars. My husband and I, independents,
were always in the small minority (10-20%) of Americans opposed to these unnecessary ridiculous wars, even in the so-called progressive left or among bush-opposing-democrats.

Was it because we 10-20% were so darned smart and the 80-90% were so darned stupid? What then?
+1 # 2013-08-15 19:05
Possibly Napolean was wrong, USA gives all the ribbon's as they seek, but USA hasn't won a war since Independence? Be it prohibition's Nessy monster, terror, drug, only as EU ally was WW I or II decided not by USA ribbon and New World Order is still the unreachable American Dream of the "Promised pursuit" of happiness they will never have in Greek Aristotle "eudaimonea" definition of happiness. No one can tell me today that today's civilian death tolls in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan or any other venue of USA intersection between Shia and Sonny Islam has either success for USA stated humanitarian gains, or Religious Freedoms for that matter. Why is it USA right to "conquer" the dictate World democratic preferences in anything but the right to life, liberty and eudaimonea reality such as we all 4bn already dream of from birth?
Yes "Pursuit of happiness" many nations convert to cash, Aristotle's eudaimonea is happiness of a deeper kind, happy inn the life we lead now, in past time, and ion the next life if there is one. Only USA has decided it must be Christian compliant.
+1 # brux 2013-08-15 08:54
Until there is global peace and a global justice system that functions competently and transparently we will always have and we should always want the military we have.

If we get rid of it we will have a few years where we perhaps can pay off our debts, but soon as we lose power, influence and leverage in the world someone else will step forward to start to push countries around - at least that has been the history of the world. Expecting human being to behave any differently from how they have always behaved is illogical.

So, the trick is for the US to give up that global military burden to a real global system as fast as it can so Americans can not unilaterally pay the burden of defense and peace for the rest of the world.

We are stuck as a nation into a system that only pays off and is destabilizing to our own country, unaffordable and by its very nature anathema to the system of life we have aimed towards for over two centuries now.

The middle ground is for our country to continue being the policeman of the world while treating all Americans decently and getting buy-in or maybe being able to tax other countries for the military stability we provide. There is simply no other logical compromise course. Or we can keep bickering while the military industrial complex just ignores us - it ain't going away.
0 # RODNOX 2013-08-19 04:43
problem with the USA is we are the so called WORLD POLICE and the criminals too.....
+18 # wantrealdemocracy 2013-08-15 09:02
This article mentions all sorts of problems when our government is working on the sides of the rich and well connected. The long term special arrangements for these interests seem to be permanent. What is not mentioned in this sorry story is the loss of our democracy. For the first two hundred years of our republic steady steps were taken (after much pressure from the public) to expand democratic power to more of our citizens. This has all come to a stop and a reverse is taking place. Under our onerous two party system voters may only choose between two equally flawed candidates. The one with the most money for TV ads will win. The people of the United States must join together to demand a democracy where the elected representatives must vote as directed by their constituents. We must have public funding for the campaigns and not allow our government to be put up as sale to the highest bidder which is the system under which we suffer at this time.
+8 # RevOleson 2013-08-15 09:50
It's a three edged sword, Steve. Eisenhower originally wrote that we should beware of the congressional-m ilitary-complex , but he didn't want to offend his friends in congress so in his last draft he left that out...Rev. G
+26 # reiverpacific 2013-08-15 10:10
"but selling fuel to the military is not why they try to control the lion's share of the world's oil and natural gas. Nor do most people have the oil companies in mind when they talk of the military-indust rial complex."(quote).
Well I do and always have!
The connections are crystal-clear unless one's perspective has been blinkered by the jingoism and the US owner-media, sadly all too common.
The US military -utterly needlessly bigger than the next 20-odd countries combined last time I checked (not including the "Black" budget)- is THE single most destructive, extractive industry dominating (and not just oil), polluting, resource-gobbli ng and nature-endanger ing behemoth the planet has ever seen without even firing a shot!
It has caused several areas of "The homeland" to be turned into "National sacrifice areas" for the natural security state when materials like Uranium, and other stuff far better left undisturbed were discovered almost always in areas formerly unwanted where indigenous peoples and the poor were dumped, used the Hawaiian Island of Kaho'olawe as a bombing range and carry out undersea sonar tests which are killing and disorienting whales, dolphins and other sea creatures. And that's just a bit of it.
And now I read in the foreign press that military supplier Rayethon has declared global climate change as a potential boon to development and product sales.
But not a penny for Universal Health care, alternative energy and deteriorating infrastructure!
+19 # RMDC 2013-08-15 10:10
While I agree with much of this article, this is one statement I seriously disagree with --

"Current corporate states lack the radical nationalist and racist ideologies, maximum leaders, mass mobilizations,"

The US is a fascist state in the sense of the corporate control of the state. And it has all the racism of Nazism, in fact, much worse. It's nationalism is beyond anything known in history. American conservatives believe that God sent a special people, the Anglos, to a new country to create an empire that would be a shining city on a hill. US "exceptionalism " is a form of nationalism and racial supremacy. The attitude of the US toward the darker skinned people is the most racists attitude possible. It simply does not regard dark skinned peoeple as human. Obama is classic Uncle Tom or House Negro doing what the white masters tell him to do with a smile on his face. White racists always keep plenty of these around to show how benevolent they are. In the old south, the fine clothes and manners of the House Negro was a shining tribute to the "beautiful Patriarchal Institution" of southern aristocracy.

Both the Pentagon and CIA work for US corporations. Remember Philip Agee -- CIA stands for Capitalism's Invisible Army. And even the dolt Thomas Friedman knew there could be no McDonalds hamburgers without McDonnel-Dougla s and its war machines.
-5 # brux 2013-08-16 13:33
>> The US is a fascist state ... And it has all the racism of Nazism, in fact, much worse.

Yeah, well, I'd have to disagree with that. You make a lot of good points, so why do you need to over-exaggerate like that.
+3 # RMDC 2013-08-17 08:38
Nazi racism was based on the 19-20 century of racial supremacy. It is the same in the US but worse. There are many "scholars" here who believe in genetic and racial supremacy and they work hard to try to prove it. How many 10s of millions of dark skinned people has the US killed because it thought they were inferior humans. Hell, just since 9-11 we are probably approaching 10 million.

You may not think that there's a racist component to the military industrial complex but I think it is the main driver. Obama's pivot to Asia is certainly about natural resources but it is more about the "yellow peril" that white supremacists scare themselves over day and night. The war against Vietnam was a racist war.
0 # brux 2013-09-03 03:54
> It is the same in the US but worse.

What can I say but if you think the US is worse in racism than NAZI Germany, there is nothing to say to you, you're pretty much hopeless idiot.

If you do not think China is a "yellow peril" as you put it ... maybe it is the Chinese that are worse than NAZI Germany since they are sending in their "master race" to Tibet to colonize and out-populate the indigenous people there. By the way - which the US opposes.

You mention Viet Nam, I don't know of many people these days in America who support Viet Nam, or who do not think it was a big mistake, even a crime. If you went against state policy like that in NAZI Germany you would be murdered ... if you go against it in China you risk prison - but not in the US ... in the US you have free speech ...

SO ... please, tell me again how the US is worse than NAZI Germany and China?
+9 # jojo5056 2013-08-15 10:19
" wantrealdemocra cy' has it some what right. Here is the simple solution.Sad it has not caught on or implemented in the Constitution: Term limits for all politicians 2 x 4 year max.And for leaders 4 year term. Look at America or any other country--Same old farts get in. Some stayed in for over 40 years--Likes of McCain and Joe Lieberman, Pelsoie ect. are good examples of rot in Washington. Both parties take turns every 8 year cycle.Except when A President talks of fairness in Palestine and bang--Jimmy Carter got the boot.How? Simple--Money men made sure interest rates 21% and oil/gas prices sky high. Jimmy lost to Reagan and Bush, then Bingo prices dropped to normal. Even Satan fears USA
Sad but true. Since 1776 USA has invaded countless countries,kille d millions and WWI WWII happen. No joke!
0 # futhark 2013-08-17 23:53
For a long time now, I've favored a limit of 12 years in any public office, from school board member to president. Incumbents, even the ones you like, need to be voted out when they have had enough time to learn the ropes, but perhaps not quite enough time to start thinking they own their positions.
0 # brux 2013-08-20 23:50
FDR was elected 4 times .... that's 16 years as President ... and the country would have benefitted from him serving out all of those terms and more if he had lived and been elected. I don't think terms limits are an answer.
-4 # MidwesTom 2013-08-15 10:55
The military buys from the lowest bidder. In the Middle East that is usually the Saudi refineries. Everybody bids on the contracts including the European refiners. The contracts are large for the Navy especially.
+9 # reiverpacific 2013-08-15 17:19
Quoting MidwesTom:
The military buys from the lowest bidder. In the Middle East that is usually the Saudi refineries. Everybody bids on the contracts including the European refiners. The contracts are large for the Navy especially.

So what?
It's still the biggest, obscenely over-funded "lowest bidder" bully in the world, dedicated to the black art of destruction.
And what about the "No bid" contracts awarded to Dickie Cheyn-gang's cosy cousins KBR, Haliburton and Co, the resultant shoddy work even killing a couple of soldiers who were merely having showers in an ungrounded room?
As the article states, they have to work hard at keeping the somnambulistic population drugged by commercialism into believing their propagandistic fear of "the other", scaring up conflicts and threats of conflicts here and everywhere on the planet that they infest and seemingly delight in polluting!
If the US put even a tithe of the funding that is poured into the gulping, insatiable throat of the death machine it calls the "defense" department plus it's Black Budget, into infrastructure renovation, universal health care, public education and renewable energy development, it might be able to call itself a "civilized" not just "industrialized " country: even a Democracy eventually.
It's always been a vicious circle of "invade and plunder", for the feeding trough of it's own maintenance, like the UK before it, as Maj-Gen' Smedley Butler describes so well in "War is Just a Racket".
+18 # m... 2013-08-15 10:57
The biggest scam ever is the Privatization of Government-- sold to us like snake oil under the umbrella Corporate Conservative Flim Flam Talkingpoint known as 'Smaller Government'
Somehow, we always need Less Government.
No one debates the reality of what thats come to mean as if its political suicide to do so.
Who examines the BIG PICTURE after 30 years of obsessively dismantling government or the shifting of tax revenue into a river flowing into Corporate coffers?
After 30 years of Privatization, government is more expensive than ever while delivering far less in public service to the greater good.
Why do voters keep going along with it?
Conservatives talk in matter of fact tones as if we are supposed to hate and tear apart this thing called 'government.'
Voters are relentlessly told by conservatives and their media empire that its the pathway to greater freedom, liberty and prosperity for all.
BUT, at this point, what is our Government actually comprised of as a 'System' and what drives it? Its still called 'Government' even though so much of it has been tightly woven into the Global Corporate For-Profit Fabric. Its a government by lobby, the functions of which are evermore operated by Corporations whose agenda is to increase SHAREHOLDER wealth before all else.
We the People have been deregulated out of it.
Compare that system to one where Civil Servants work directly for us under a government of, by and for us.
-6 # cordleycoit 2013-08-15 10:58
The left stands hopelessly by as their allies the Muslim Brotherhood get whipped by the generals who are doing someones' bidding. There is little or no democracy in the Middle East never has been. The Muslim Brotherhood seeks to kill the last leftist left in Egypt in very unpleasant ways. We get to pay for it no matter who slaughters whom.
+11 # James Marcus 2013-08-15 11:21
Ike warned us. I watched that speech on TV. Afterwards, Everyone was responding...'H uh? What's he mean?'
Now we know, and it is VERY 'Late-In-The-Da y'.
That 'Power', is now very consolidated; 'Owning' the Presidency, and Majority of the both houses of Congress, and 'The' Court! (and much of the World's Economy).
Re-Think? ....will fall Far Short of a Dollar, and Late of
'A Day'.
+4 # Michael Lee Bugg 2013-08-15 12:40
Ignorance,greed , shortsightednes s, and stupidity are far worse threats than most of what we talk about because they are the mother of all the other problems we face!
+10 # Sweet Pea 2013-08-15 13:17
Why would our elected politicians bite the corporate hand that personally feeds them?
+6 # Regina 2013-08-15 14:41
And who arranged the system by which it takes corporate megabucks to fund the only methods of campaigning for American elections -- (1) Tee-vee, at oodles of bucks per ad. And constant fund-raising, beginning the day after an election for the next one. (2) The web -- Every political e-mail message ends in a plea for bucks.
+3 # Argonne18 2013-08-15 14:10
The absence of the Israel Lobby from Mr. Weissman's discourse telling. The Israel Lobby dominates our foreign policy. It is the elephant in the room. We would be much the better if it did not exist.
0 # Innocent Victim 2013-08-15 16:55
Dwight Eisenhower may have been a good general for WWII in Europe, but he was a disaster as a president. We may credit him with the overthrow of democracies in Guatemala and Iran, failure to fight McCarthyism, starting the Vietnam "insurgency", and much more. He deserves no credit for awakening the US to the military-indust rial-congressio nal complex - he deleted "congressional" from his warning. That alarm was first sounded by C.Wright Mills in his book, "The Power Elite" (1956). In his two terms, DDE did nothing to curb the growing militarism of our country. Only in the last few days of his presidency did he mention it. Far too little and far too late.
+5 # 666 2013-08-15 17:28
"From Big Pharma to the new digital giants, many, if not most, of our major industries have their own hyphenated relationship with various parts of Big Government."

Steve, I think if you would actually read or listen to Ike's speech, you'll find that he warned of a second and equal threat called the scientific-tech nological elite which was a triumvirate of technological development between the govt, the universities and private industry. It's not Ike's fault that journalists and others have focused on the sexier MIC (although the pentagon did attempt a coup during the cuban missile crisis); besides technology is "cool" especially when it can destroy the earth... Ike gave us the warning as plain as day. did he warn us about capitalism? not directly, but he did warn about the dangers of money in the halls of power.
+2 # Innocent Victim 2013-08-15 18:32
He was a five-star general, a war hero, he was admired throughout the country. Why did he do nothing about his concerns while president? Did he open his eyes to the dangers just days before JFK's inauguration? What in hxll was he doing for the previous eight years?
+1 # brux 2013-08-16 13:35
Being a general.
+2 # 2013-08-15 18:21
What he is saying is "CAPITALISM HAS FAILED" because of minority higher education for a greed motives is in play everywhere, particularly in USA.

He is also saying "DEMOCRACY HAS FAILED" because that minority can buy people & whatever power is elected by the 16% who do vote. What they can't buy they persecute. This Minority rule the majority easily and still by creating NSA style surveillance and CIA renditions DEMOCRACY CAN NEVER FUNCTION AGAIN.
+1 # 2013-08-15 18:41
Weissman said "Eisenhower warned his fellow Americans about the dangers of the military-indust rial complex,... he made it possible for ordinary citizens to challenge the Pentagon's growing power in so many aspects of our economy & foreign policy." next paragraph "to justify massive spending and - as we now see - massive surveillance"

He fails to mention the people then elected Governments to so curtail that public ability to know or "challenge" them ~ Between NSA invasion of privacy & Courts ability to prevent & intimidate the whistle-blowers exposing the sins of administrators, what chance Eisenhower's foresight wisdom can ever be realised in today's America?
0 # CandH 2013-08-15 19:59
"The Unspeakable is not far away. It is not somewhere out there, identical with a government that became foreign to us. The emptiness of the void, the vacuum of responsibility and compassion, is in ourselves. Our citizen denial provides the ground for the government's doctrine of "plausible deniability." JFK's assassination is rooted in our denial of our nation's crimes in WWII that began the Cold War and the nuclear arms race. As a growing precedent to JFK's assassination by his own national security state, we US citizens supported our government when it destroyed whole cities Hamburg, Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, when it protected our Cold War security by world-destructi ve weapons, and when it carried out the covert murders of foreign leaders with "plausible deniability" in a way that was obvious to critical observers. By avoiding our responsibility for the escalating crimes of state done for our security, we who failed to confront the Unspeakable opened the door to JFK's assassination and its cover-up. The Unspeakable is not far away." (James W. Douglass, "JFK & the Unspeakable, Why He Died & Why It Matters," 2008, p. xvii)
+6 # CandH 2013-08-15 20:00
"On Dec 22, 1963, one month to the day after JFK's assassination, Former President Truman published a very carefully worded article in the Washington Post warning the American people about the danger of the CIA taking over the government. He wrote:

'I think it has become necessary to take another look at the purple and operations of our Central Intelligence Agency--CIA…

'For some time I have been disturbed by the way the CIA has been diverted from its original assignment. It has become an operational and at times a policy-making arm of the Government. This has led to trouble and may have compounded our difficulties in several explosive areas.

'We have grown up as a nation, respected for our free institutions and for our ability to maintain a free and open society. There is something about the way the CIA has been functioning that is acting a shadow over our historic position and I feel that we need to correct it.'" (Ibid., p. 331)
+1 # jstick 2013-08-16 14:13
Douglass' book, from Maryknoll Press, is possibly the most important book for Americans published so far in the 21st century. It is a clear warning to President Obama. JFK had taken several steps toward world peace and decided to reduce our military presence in Vietnam when he was eliminated.
If MIC control of the US government tightened at that moment in Dallas, it was finally consolidated with the election of Bush & Cheney, puppets of the military-indust rial (including oil)-intelligen ce complex. It is totally in charge now, hollowing out our America to feed the insatiable Pentagon budget.
"The unspeakable is not far away."
0 # wrknight 2013-08-19 00:11
"Ike's warning also takes our eye off Wall Street and the CIA, both of which exercise enormous influence on U.S. foreign policy." I don't worry nearly as much about the CIA as I do the State Dept.

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