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The U.S. military "establishment": the armed forces and the companies and politicians that depend on them

The military-industrial complex (MIC) is an informal alliance between a nation's military and the defense industry that supplies it, seen together as a vested interest which influences public policy. A driving factor behind this relationship between the government and defense-minded corporations is that both sides benefit—one side from obtaining war weapons, and the other from being paid to supply them. The term is most often used in reference to the system behind the military of the United States, where it is most prevalent and gained popularity after its use in the farewell address of President Dwight D. Eisenhower on 17 January 1961. In 2011, the United States spent more (in absolute numbers) on its military than the next 13 nations combined.


Military-Industrial Complex
Records and tallies publicly-reported contracts between corporations and agencies of the U.S. Department of Defense


The Bill of Rights: Antipathy to Militarism, by Jacob G. Hornberger, Freedom Daily, Sep 2004
After quoting the text of the Third Amendment, discusses standing armies in the historical context and in modern times
Many decades ago, President Dwight Eisenhower warned us about the growing power of the military-industrial complex in American life. Unfortunately, the American people failed to heed his warning. The result has been an ever-growing military cancer that is bringing death, ruin, shame, and economic disaster ... The resulting blow-back in terms of terrorist attacks, such as those on the World Trade Center in 1993 and 2001, have been used as the excuse for waging more wars ... All that ... has provided the excuse for more foreign interventions, ever-increasing military budgets, ... and massive infringements on the civil liberties ...
Eisenhower Was Right, by Jacob G. Hornberger, 16 Feb 2004
Comments on the announcement of a 30,000 person increase in U.S. military, not authorized by Congress, but under "emergency" power by the Secretary of Defense and reflects on the wisdom of Eisenhower's 1961 warning about the military-industrial complex
Eisenhower ... warned the American people back in 1961, "In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex ..." To gain an excellent understanding of the overwhelming power and influence of the military-industrial complex in American life — and the tremendous damage it has done to our nation — and the threat it poses to the freedom and well-being of the American people, I highly recommend The Sorrows of Empire by Chalmers Johnson, ... professor emeritus at the University of California.
Foreign Policy Failure Everywhere, by Sheldon Richman, 17 Feb 2015
Examines the results of several decades of American intervention in the Middle East, Europe and elsewhere
Turmoil furnishes the "threats" that then can be called on to justify the very policies that manufactured those threats in the first place. How clever! We'll hear no more talk of a "peace dividend," that dangerous idea — dangerous, that is, to Pentagon and intelligence budgets and government-contractor bottom lines — that nearly ran amok when the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact alliance imploded, 1989–1991. That was indeed a close one. Imagine the world's only superpower without an enemy. People might wonder what's the point of it all. Thank goodness there were years of intervention in the Muslim world ...
Harry Elmer Barnes as Revisionist of the Cold War, by Murray N. Rothbard, Harry Elmer Barnes: Learned Crusader, 1968
Contrasts Court Intellectuals with revisionists and the narrow with the broad revisionists, and then discusses Harry Elmer Barnes' contributions as a broad revisionist of the Cold War
Barnes finds an acceleration of the Orwellian trend in American life, and he cites C. Wright Mills' The Power Elite as providing "the best description of the progress made toward a Nineteen Eighty-Four social order in the United States." He notes also the warning directed by President Eisenhower at the end of his term against the military-industrial complex consisting of the coalescing of power in "corporation executives, Pentagon chiefs and top defense executives, leading military technicians and scientists, and advertising moguls" all increasingly running our society.
A Hit Man Confesses, by Christopher Westley, Mises Daily, 12 Dec 2006
Comments and criticizes John Perkins' Confessions of an Economic Hit Man (2004)
According to Perkins, the EHMs [economic hit men] are simply the first level of interaction with the foreign leaders, who often stand to benefit personally and politically if they go along with the deal that the EHMs offer them. But occasionally they don't go along, which often necessitates the intervention of "jackals" to remove non-cooperating leaders. And if this doesn't work, well, how many times have US military forces been deployed to non-threatening countries in the fringes of empire?
How Much More Harm Can Bush Do?, by Paul Craig Roberts, 7 Mar 2006
Discusses the casualties resulting from the 2003 Iraq invasion, the changed world opinion of the United States and the lobbies that benefit from the continuation of hostilities
It has recently come to light that the U.S. government has imposed an oil deal on the puppet Iraqi government that turns Iraqi oil over to U.S. and British firms for exploitation. Bush-Cheney have not brought Iraqis democracy, but they have stolen their oil revenues. The profits of the military-industrial complex are soaring, and higher military budgets are being appropriated. The value of Cheney's Halliburton stock options has not merely doubled or tripled but multiplied by a factor of 32.
Is Capitalism Why We Fight?, by Gregory Bresiger, Mises Daily, 6 Apr 2006
Critical review of the theses presented in the 2005 documentary Why We Fight, also inquirying about topics omitted from the film
The United States, the producers of this work believe, is an empire in which an imperial presidency, backed by a military industrial complex, decides just about everything of consequence ... They eulogize Dwight Eisenhower, who spoke of the military industry complex in his farewell speech of January 17, 1961. "In the councils of government," he warned, "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 ..."
Know When to Fold 'Em, by Sheldon Richman, 19 Feb 2007
Discusses the attitudes of Sen. John McCain and other war hawks who opposed a non-binding resolution against a troop "surge" in Iraq
Since the end of World War II the U.S. power elite have pursued a program of world dominance based on the doctrine that only America's leaders were enlightened enough to bring order to the benighted masses — by force if necessary. Not coincidentally, this program was also good for major corporate interests. President Eisenhower called the arrangement the military-industrial complex. It has not been good for the world. Nor has it been good for Americans, since it has put them at risk from the people their government has wronged ... A defeat for [Bush, McCain, and the other hawks] would be the real victory for America.
Related Topics: Iraq War, United States
Memorializing the Horrors of War with 10 Must-See War Films, by John W. Whitehead, 27 May 2016
Comments on the events of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and on more recent wars, then suggests ten films that focus on "the nasty business of war"; ends by contrasting Obama's and Martin Luther King's Nobel Peace Prize speeches
America has long had a penchant for endless wars that empty our national coffers while fattening those of the military industrial complex ... Even now, the war drums are sounding as Obama prepares to deploy U.S. troops on a long-term mission to Libya and continues to police the rest of the world with more than 1.3 million U.S. troops being stationed at roughly 1000 military bases in over 150 countries ... War drives the American police state. The military-industrial complex is the world's largest employer.
The Myth of War Prosperity, Part 2, by Anthony Gregory, Freedom Daily, Jan 2007
Main part of the review of Depression, War, and Cold War: Studies in Political Economy (2006) by Robert Higgs
In chapter 2, "Private Profit, Public Risk," Higgs chronicles the entrenchment of what has become a permanent sector of the American economy, an enormous corporate apparatus with twisted incentives and all its operational costs socialized to taxpayers. He shows in particular how, despite conventional wisdom, "the essential foundations of the modern military-industrial complex were laid out during the defense period preceding the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor"—that is, in a time of relative peace, and all thanks to Franklin Roosevelt.
Pentagon Conduits, by Sheldon Richman, 25 Apr 2008
Discusses the revelations by The New York Times about TV military analysts, appearing to be independent observers, but briefed by the Pentagon and connected as lobbyists, executives or consultants of sundry military contractors
Where did they get their inside information? From briefings with some of the most senior officials of the Bush administration ... And what would guarantee that the talking points would be faithfully delivered? The threat of loss of access to the officials. That's a pretty darn good guarantee. A retired general representing or wishing to represent a military contractor has no better credential than access to insider briefings about current operations ... Thus the Pentagon's plan worked. Disguised as objective analysts, the Defense Department's mouthpieces faithfully delivered the administration's propaganda.
Q & A with Karen Kwiatkowski, by Karen Kwiatkowski, Brian Lamb, Q&A, 2 Apr 2006
Video and transcript of the C-SPAN program; Lamb interviews Kwiatkowski about the 2003 invasion of Iraq and her participation in the 2005 film Why We Fight
There's one big industry that we still produce a lot of, and that is our defense industry, and we still do very, very well at that. We don't outsource too many ... in a democracy, Congress needs to get re-elected, and they have constituents, and those constituents need jobs, and our shifting towards this has given a militaristic foreign policy and a pro-military ... this emphasis, this need, it's kind of connected. It's like you said, it's the military industrial, and [Eisenhower] wanted to say Congressional complex, because there's kind of self-fulfilling prophecy, in a way. I mean, we need the jobs.
Rings of War, by Charley Reese, 1 Jan 2007
Reflects on war as concentric rings with soldiers in the center and the general public in the outer circle, criticizing George W. Bush and Congress for not ending the 2003 Iraq War and suggesting a general tax for future wars as incentive to end them
Think of a war as ... concentric rings ... In the third ring ... are the politicians who started the war ... The sixth ring includes the arms industry, which, wisely, keeps a low profile. Arms merchants, after all, view the war as a permanent holiday sale. The longer it lasts, the more profits they make. There is a distinct advantage in products that self-destruct with one-time use, such as bullets, missiles, bombs and artillery rounds. Even the big-ticket items like vehicles don't last too long ... Congress, of course, could stop the war by cutting off the funds.
Related Topics: George W. Bush, Taxation, War
The Threat of Militarism, by Karen Kwiatkowski, 9 Jul 2006
Presentation to Global Scholar seminar, Washington and Lee University, Lexington, Virginia; discusses "the nature of modern United States foreign policy" while reflecting on what Eisenhower, Smedley Butler and Mark Twain said and wrote
[I] rediscovered President's Eisenhower's farewell speech ... it is generally known as the "Military Industrial Complex" speech ... He says that forces of technology and industry that were rightly defending us from nuclear destruction had also become powerful forces for change in their own ... Ike advised us to be citizens who rise above our slothful, greedy, prideful, and angry tendencies. He also named a part of government and society — the military industrial complex — that would need to be watched for these same tendencies. These same sins afflict the military industrial complex — after all, it still just people.
The Troops Don't Defend Our Freedoms, by Jacob G. Hornberger, 21 Oct 2005
Examines whether foreign invasion, terrorists taking over the government and the federal government, through the President and its orders to a "loyal and obedient" standing army, are plausible threats to the freedom and well-being of Americans
There is one — and only one — solution to this threat to our freedoms and well-being: for the American people to heed the warning of our Founding Fathers against standing armies ... and to ... dismantle the U.S. military empire, close all overseas bases, and bring all the troops home, discharging them into the private sector, where they would ... become "citizen-soldiers" ... And for the ... people to heed the warning of ... Eisenhower against the military-industrial complex, by shutting down the Pentagon's enormous domestic military empire, closing domestic bases, and discharging those troops into the private sector.
Vote Harder: The Barack Obama Story, by Kevin Carson, 19 Aug 2013
Examines the results of progressives voting in 2008 for "the most anti-war, anti-police state Democrat in decades": Barack Obama
The lobbyists of the military-industrial complex, security-industrial complex, and other corporate interests will always have more time and money for influencing policy than their opponents. The internal influence of the "permanent government" of the military and security bureaucracies will always have more influence on government policy than the public. Trying to outcompete these interests and stage a hostile takeover of the commanding heights of the state is as foolish as it would have been for Heinz Guderian to attempt a head-on assault on the Maginot Line in 1940.
Related Topics: Barack Obama, Voting
War Is Peace and Other Things the Government Wants You to Believe [PDF], by Sheldon Richman, 8 Jun 2008
Transcript of speech given at The Future of Freedom Foundation's 2008 conference, “Restoring the Republic: Foreign Policy & Civil Liberties”, including audience questions
[Retired military people] sold this access ... You go to a defense contractor and say, "I'll lobby for you. Not only do I know a lot of Congressmen because I've been around Washington and I can get into their offices and make your case to them for why your weapon ought to be bought, ... you ought to get the contract, but also I'm getting regular briefings every month ... from Rumsfeld and Cheney and all these other people." And if you're in the ... defense lobbying business, that's a pretty good card to play if you want to get business rather than someone else who doesn't have that access.
What's to Lose?, by Sheldon Richman, 20 Apr 2007
Explains the benefits to most Americans if the U.S. government would admit defeat and withdraw its troops from Iraq, contrary to George W. Bush's claims
What would an American defeat in Iraq mean? ... in what sense would "we" lose? ... Other losers will be the government contractors who have made out like bandits in this war. While wars are not typically fought primarily for the profit of contractors, that economic consideration is an ever-present ingredient in the mix. Nor should we overlook the oil motive. U.S. policy in the Middle East has always had oil security as a major objective. It's appropriate to regard the military budget as partly a subsidy to the oil industry, since some of its costs are socialized through the tax system.
Related Topics: George W. Bush, Iraq War, Terrorism
Why We Fight, by Justin Raimondo, 1 Feb 2006
Detailed review of the 2005 documentary Why We Fight
Joseph Cirincione, a foreign policy analyst at the Carnegie Endowment, takes us back to the Eisenhower era, when, he says, the American Empire had come to maturity and the military-industrial complex began to dominate our political culture and our foreign policy ... Speaking of Santa Claus, this is precisely the role the U.S. government plays in relation to military contractors. These guys are the active element that keeps the military-industrial complex (MIC) running like a well-oiled treadmill ... the MIC has become an enormous edifice, one that relentlessly and quite profitably perpetuates itself ...
Will 2016 Be a Good Year for the Corporate State?, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 13 Dec 2013
Considers the prospective 2016 U.S. presidential contenders preferred by "Wall Streeters", Hillary Clinton and Chris Christie, and how they line up with the aims of the corporate state, and further comments about South Africa under Mandela
If you share my belief that the major obstacle to the free society is the national-security/corporate state, 2016 is shaping up to be a year of apprehension ... In [Hillary] Clinton, then, we have a friend of the bankers and a friend of the military-industrial complex, since as secretary of state she was an advocate of a muscular foreign policy, including intervention in Libya. (When she was in the Senate she voted to give George W. Bush a blank check to invade Iraq, and when she was first lady, she pushed Bill Clinton to drop bombs on the Balkans)


Starting a Brush Fire for Freedom: An interview with US Rep. Ron Paul, by Ron Paul, John W. Whitehead, oldSpeak, 9 Feb 2004
Topics include: being a lone wolf in Congress, the Patriot Act and related legislation, George W. Bush, the Iraq War, conservatives and neo-cons, the federal debt, education and the Constitution
It is true that the military/industrial complex has a tremendous influence over our country. ... But this is not new. ... Democrats are always bashing the Republicans for having ties with Wall Street and the military/industrial complex. However, if you look closely at the Democrats, you will see that they are very well connected as well to Wall Street and the military/industrial complex. Thus, they are part of the process as well. ... If we, as a Congress, would not do things that are unconstitutional, there would be no incentive and no benefits to the military/industrial complex.

Cartoons and Comic Strips

Long War, Inc., by Mark Fiore, 1 Mar 2006
Related Topic: War


The Spirit of '43, by Walt Disney (producer), 7 Jan 1943
World War II propaganda cartoon showing how the United States military industrial complex needs income taxation to subsist; starring Donald Duck as the average American worker on payday
Narrator: For it is your taxes, my taxes, our taxes that run the factories. American factories, working day and night. Factories making guns, machine guns, anti-tank guns, long-range guns, guns, guns, all kinds of guns, to blast the agressors from the seas ... American factories working full blast making planes, bombers, dive bombers, flying fortresses ... Taxes, taxes for ships, battleships, battle cruisers ... Taxes to beat to earth the evil destroyer of freedom and peace. This is our fight, the fight for freedom, freedom of speech, of worship, freedom from want and fear. Taxes will keep democracy on the march!
Related Topic: Taxation

The introductory paragraph uses material from the Wikipedia article "Military–industrial complex" as of 19 Oct 2018, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.