Eisenhower and the US military-industrial complex — complexity world-wide

The US curtain

In Sputnik France April 6, 2016
Translated by Tom Winter April 7, 2016
Original title: The cumbersome legacy of Dwight Eisenhower to his heirs

We watch today as debates stir the American political class about the defense budget. This debate is a charade because economic realities have long since required just one choice for American politicians.

At the end of the Second World War, exports of the United States were doubled. In 1945, the USA had the 2/3 of the world’s gold reserves and ¾ of the capital invested in the world. 50% of consumer goods were produced by American industry. In addition, the Bretton Woods accords were establishing the dollar as the basis of a global monetary system with but a nominal attachment to gold.

The 44 allied countries signed these agreements, which included among others the creation of the World Bank in charge of financing reconstruction and the International Monetary Fund in charge of regulating the monetary policies of member countries. The arrival of Dwight Eisenhower to the US presidency in 1953 marked a real turning point in the arms industry. He declared the advent of a permanent ‘defense’ industry.

This had three major consequences:

– The increase in the federal budget for military spending

– The increase in the defense industry and military research

– The need to resume the export of weaponry

Under increasing pressure from the military industrial complex and the kindness of Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, diplomacy changed its approach from a policy of civilization (League of Nations – Wilson, UN – Roosevelt) to a policy of interests. The Korean War permitted absorbing the production but squandered the treasure accumulated during the Second World War. This situation could not continue.

The Marshall Plan having succeeded in securing European economies in the civil field and having allowed the introduction of ‘the american way of life,’ it was necessary to find military coverage over Europe and the rest of the world. 

For Europe it was Germany that was the vector of entry by allowing it to have its own army, while on the contrary Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin had wanted a pastoral (no industry) Europe, and to say nothing about the creation of West Germany. But they had to be concerned about securing outlets in the rest of the world. This was done through the overthrow of Mohammad Mossadegh in Iran and installing the Shah.

Iran contributed to the peak of US influence, lifting US arms exports 25% from 1975 to 1977. Nothing like setting up a puppet and then scaring him. The major interest of destabilizing a country is that it spurs the bordering or regional states to equip themselves militarily to defend themselves, and so to run up the exports of the US military-industrial complex.

Just look at the consequences of that date (1953) in the regions of Central America (Guatemala), Middle East (Iran), Great Lakes region of Africa (Congo-Lumumba). American ‘diplomacy’ had found in Allan Dulles, the CIA director and brother of the Secretary of State, an executor of the dirty work of government. Note the consistency in the solidarity of successive US governments, which also inspired some of our French policies, bringing forward today the famous “responsible but not guilty.” Under cover of fighting against communism and spreading democracy, US interests were indeed considered first.

Of course the matters that benefitted Communism benefitted the United States. However — and this is a very habitual American reflex — Eisenhower realized that the implementation of this military-industrial complex was damaging to democracy itself in the United States. By habitual reflex, I mean creating a monster, then once the disasters follow on, making an act of contrition as a facade fo doing it all over again. In his presidential farewell speech, he was concerned about the influence of the military-industrial complex on the liberties and on the American democratic process. To illustrate this usual reflex, I recall that under the Eisenhower presidency, nuclear weapons increased from 1,000 to 22,000 and before leaving, he signed the planning law allowing the creation of 30,000 additional nuclear weapons over 10 years. 

It’s enough to have a slight feeling of discomfort!

But let us get back to Eisenhower’s baby, namely the military industrial complex, and look at the state of it. Powered by different wars (Vietnam, Afghanistan, Gulf 1 and 2, Iraq, Libya, Syria and so on), it has evolved considerably both in its structure and performance. Its structure evolved in the Clinton years from a significant number of companies to a limited number of groups. The direct consequence was the reduction in the number of employees (nearly 800,000) but also a strengthening of their political power. So that these arms industry groups are in the same position as the major banks, ie “too big to fail.”

US governments of whatever stripe are now obliged to carry them. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the American groups represent 9 of the 10 largest companies for the supply of arms. Furthermore, the removal of many companies resulted in the removal of the de facto number of consultants which greatly penalizes creativity and also leads to a loss of experience. This phenomenon is amplified by the direction taken by these groups to move from military activities to civil-military activities, thus diluting the strength of research and development. Finally, competition is fierce in the market of world arms.

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The emergence of China in third place and Russia in first as exporters spurs the United States to take action to remedy this situation. This becomes all the more urgent as the main buyer is India. Considering the Indian market as weak for their product for political reasons (belonging to the BRICS and soon the Organisation for Cooperation of Shanghai), it becomes vital for the US to sell to their traditional clients. This means the Gulf countries and the NATO countries. Returning to the process experienced many times during the twentieth century and as in the maxim of Talleyrand “shaking the people before taking advantage of them,” the US creates and fuels instability to create a need for weapons.

It is no coincidence that according to SIPRI (Stockolm International Peace Research Institute) for 2010-2013, we find countries like the United Arab Emirates in 3rd place and Saudi Arabia in 5th place as buyers of US arms. These countries represent almost 10% of the total volume of arms purchases. For contrast, the US is placed in 7th position. 

The Islamic State and the Ukrainian disorders allow for creating zones of tension. In this idyllic picture, the ugly duckling is Russia, not only for the values it defends, but above all, Russia is bothersome because it is a competitor. France is of no concern even though it is in fourth place, thanks to the submission of its leaders — and a rather brutal clash; we are witnessing a dismantling, gentle though it be:

I remember the activity of a French former minister acting for Lockheed Martin during his American career to derail the sale of Dassault Rafales to Poland. 

The power of the American military-industrial complex is such that now the US government is a boardroom whose members are directors appointed by the shareholders of the armaments industry and the banks.

As for the president, his role is reduced to that of a contortionist and snake charmer.

In this context one can not possibly talk about politics, culture, or diplomacy but instead, market strategy. The US government is nothing but a syndicate of interests. The military-industrial complex has become since the 50’s a crazy machine whose over-revving has justified all the tactics, all the techniques since the end of the gold dollar convertibility, extending to the legality of torture through the lobotomization of peoples through media propaganda. 

If the essence of diplomacy is acquaintance and respect, if not empathy, for the people we dialogue with the purpose of establishing constructive relations, then it is clear that the first requirement for American diplomacy is to satisfy the interests of multinationals. It’s no longer the empire, the unipolar world, or global hegemony we’re talking about, but just grocer-accountants greedy for profit.

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