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Military-Industrial Complex

Mohssen Massarrat | 14.02.2007 13:18 | Anti-militarism | World

The fusion of the new American patriotism with religious fundamentalism developed into the most powerful legitimation resource for continuing the MIC.. Stability and containing conflict in the Middle East are obviously not the goals of the neoconservatives.


Hegemonial Interests and Structural Chaos

By Mohssen Massarrat

[This article published in: graswurzel revolution 316 february 2007 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,
Mohssen Massarrat, born in Iran, is a professor of political science at the University of Osnabruck, Austria.]

“This combination of an enormous military establishment and a powerful arms industry is new in American history […]. In the departments of government, we must prevent the expansion whether active or passive of the unauthorized influence of the military-industrial complex. The potential for a disastrous increase of power in the wrong posts exists and will continue to exist. We may never allow this influential alliance to endanger our freedoms and democratic processes. We may consider nothing self-evident.” (US president Dwight D. Eisenhower, Farewell Speeches, January 17, 1961) (1)

In their farewells, US presidents speak and warn of dangers. Usually their successors cast the warnings to the winds.

In the meantime, nearly a half-century after Eisenhower’s insight, the military-industrial complex (MIC) has gained an even greater influence on the political system of the United States thanks to the Cold War era in the 1960s and 1970s. Today it seems inconceivable that a candidate seeking the office of the US president could wage an election campaign against the MIC. Waging such a campaign would make him a victim of its targeted vendettas.

The MIC is a gigantic network and includes the arms industry with five big concerns Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and General Dynamics who need not fear genuine competition on account of their dominance and direct influence on the Pentagon as the sole arms customer. These corporations divide up the market oligopolistically among themselves. In addition, there are 85,000 private subcontractors who work for the big five. Altogether around 3 million persons earn their daily bread in the arms industry.

The network also includes several think tanks, e.g. Rand Corporation and the Hoover Institute; it cooperates intensively with research institutions like MIT and Harvard University.

The MIC collaborates with 350 universities sponsored by the Pentagon for military research goals. With all its many military and civilian institutions inside and outside the US including the CIA and NASA, the Pentagon itself must be counted in the network of the MIC. (2)

Since the beginning of the Cold War, the network has been in the unique position of decisively influencing the role of the US in international politics even though it cannot rely on social allies in US society unlike auto- and oil corporations and brings no immediate material advantages to people but rather robs them of considerable tax funds. Despite the missing social base, it doesn’t need to worry about the permanently increasing defense spending of the US government.

For four decades, the communist scapegoat could always be mobilized as an effective legitimation resource for building military capacities. In the 1950-2002-time period, US military expenditures fluctuated between $300 and $500 billion. The deadly arms race with nuclear weapons in the 1960s and 1970s, the rearmament in the 1980s and the development of outer space nuclear weapon systems were characteristics of US security policy largely conceived by the MIC and implemented with the help of the respective US government.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the MIC threatened to lose its legitimation in society since America’s scapegoat, communism, was lost practically over night. Until then, that scapegoat had been a firm element of American ideology.

Nevertheless the United States succeeded in quickly replacing the lost communist danger with the new scapegoat Islam. Khomeini’s Islamic revolution in Iran and the subsequent kidnapping of US embassy personnel by the Islamic revolutionary guard in Teheran provided the foundation for the new bugbear.

Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations made an important contribution to spreading the new scapegoat Islam. With September 11, a new enemy took the stage of world politics: international terrorism against which George W. Bush immediately declared war.

The 2001 US war in Afghanistan stood entirely in the sign of the battle against international terrorism. The Iraq war was also connected with fighting terrorism. After overthrowing the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq in 2003, the US government discovered the new threat for the “international community” starting from Iran on account of proliferation of nuclear weapons and support of international terrorism. Since 2003, the Iranian nuclear program was the main target of US propaganda. The picture of new threats is rounded out: Islam, international terrorism and the spread of nuclear weapons.

All these threats are connected from the US view while the real trouble spots in which US hegemonial power is entangled are in the Middle East altogether, the region that in many regards is existentially significant for the hegemonial system. (3)

The consciousness that the West under US leadership is in a pre-war state with the Islamic world – just like in the Cold War era with the communist world – generally prevails in the US public. US president George W. Bush often personally whitewashed the US “crusade” against tyranny and darkness. He frequently proclaimed America’s determination to bring “western freedom to the most remote realms of darkness.” On this background, the MIC can rely on a medium- and long-term readiness to keep the defense budget at a high level and even expand it. The fusion of the new US patriotism with religious fundamentalism developed into the most powerful legitimation resource for continuing the MIC. The US defense budget was actually raised from $290 billion in 1995 (the lowest level since 1960) to over $460 billion in 2005.

Since then, the special activity of the Pentagon has consisted in building US military bases worldwide. In 2001, the US had over 725 military bases in 153 countries with a value of $118 billion and personnel including family members of 531,277 persons. (4) In addition, there were several secret bases as for example Camp Bondsteel built in 1999 following the Kosovo war near Pristina that will be one of the largest US bases abroad with 5,675 military personnel. A dense network of electronic eavesdropping also exists worldwide. (5)

The US military bases were expanded considerably after September 11, above all in Central Asian states and Eastern Europe, in and around the Greater Middle East, near oil- and gas transportation routes from this region to Europe and the Indian Ocean.


The new scapegoat Islam, international terrorism and Iran’s nuclear bombs successfully anchored by the media in the consciousness of a large majority of Americans did not come from nowhere after September 11. They resulted from a policy of the US hegemonial power that was pursued for several decades in the Middle East and contributed substantially to the destabilization of the region. “For a half century, the US stood for political and economic freedom,” Emmanuel Todd wrote in the introduction of his “Obituary” to the US superpower. “But today,” Todd concludes, the US appears more and more as a factor of international disorder and promotes instability and conflicts where it can.” (6)

Bush only carried the US destabilization policy to the extreme prompting even neo-conservatives to criticism. In his column “The Triumph of Unrealism,” the star neoconservative columnist George Will reproached Bush for the breach with the classical realpolitik of past US presidents in the Middle East. “Bush views stability as the real problem in the Middle East,” he writes. “This problem has been solved.” (7)

The US intervention in the Iran/Iraq war in favor of Iraq in the 1980s deepened the conflicts in the Middle East, strengthened the Saddam regime and encouraged the use of chemical weapons of mass destruction in the Iraqi part of Kurdistan and in Iran.

This use of chemical weapons by its neighboring country tipped the balance for Iran. The US government now denounces the Iranian nuclear program with its uranium-enrichment capacities as a new threat. In the 1990s, the US carelessly missed the chances of non-military solutions in the Bosnian- and Kosovo conflict on the Balkan and gave clear preference to military interventions and clinging to NATO despite the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact with the simultaneous weakening of the OSZE (Organization for European Security and Cooperation). (8) The US’ handling of the Middle East conflict is quite momentous. Todd voices what many in Europe and other world regions think. They do not understand, Todd says, “why America does not settle the conflict between Israel and Palestine. They gradually ask whether Washington might want this constantly swelling conflict in the Middle East with Arab people showing growing hostility toward the western world.” (9)

US Middle East policy has strengthened the Islamic-fundamentalist currents in the Islamic world and given fertile ground for international terrorism.

Robert Dreyfuss even speaks of the game with the devil that the US has played systematically in the last 60 years in the Middle East by inventing, strengthening or goading political Islam itself, particularly the Afghan Mudjahedin, against the Soviet empire. (10)

The MIC and its powerful advocates in Washington cooperate closely with the followers of the idea of Greater Israel according to a well-researched study of US historian Joel Beinin from Stanford University. (11) According to this study, the scenario of the Iraq war is a product of the American Enterprise Institute in which powerful advocates of the MIC, the oil industry and the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) are represented. The interests of two groups of actors are obviously united here in a fatal way: the MIC in the US made indispensable for years by the continuous Middle East conflict and the militant Zionism a la Sharon, Olmert and other Israeli politicians who consistently reject a viable Palestinian state. (12)

The MIC and the US government risk a “creeping Israelization of American foreign policy and a Palestinization of the conflict in the Greater Middle East.” (13)

Could the military-industrial complex in the United States and Israel and the neoconservative hegemonial strategists in the Middle East forge an alliance with chaos and terror because they believe the status quo, the US hegemonial system in the world and Israel’s military hegemony in the region, could be secured that way and de-legitimation of the military-industrial complex postponed for many decades?

The current Iraq policy of the US president that on account of its irrationality may considerably intensify the conflict in the whole region, not only in Iraq, is rejected but also gains an inner logic through this hypothesis. Against the proposals of the Baker commission, Bush followed the recommendations of the American Enterprise Institute and decided for 22,000 more soldiers and billions of dollars of increased military spending.

Instead of conducting negotiations with Iran, Bush emphasizes provoking Iran by sending another aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf and military actions at the Iraq-Iran border – not to mention opening a new war front in Somalia.

Stability and containing conflict in the Middle East are obviously not the goals of the neoconservatives closely joined with the MIC and the US hegemonial system but the exact opposite.

Mohssen Massarrat, geboren im Iran, ist Professor für Politikwissenschaft am Fachbereich Sozialwissenschaften der Universität Osnabrück. Bei diesem Artikel handelt es sich um einen für die GWR erweiterten und aktualisierten Auszug aus Kapitel III des neuen Buches des Autors, "Kapitalismus - Machtungleichheit - Nachhaltigkeit", das im November 2006 im VSA-Verlag, Hamburg, erschienen ist.
(1) Zitiert nach Johanson, Chalmers, 2004: Der Selbstmord der amerikanischen Demokratie, München, S. 57.
(2) Hossein-zadeh, Ismael, 2006: The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism, Basingstoke.
(3) Massarrat, Mohssen, 2006: Kapitalismus - Machtungleichheit - Nachhaltigkeit. Perspektiven Revolutionärer Reformen, Hamburg, siehe vor allem Kapitel III "Amerikas Hegemonialsystem und seine Grenzen".
(4) Johanson, Chalmers, 2004: Der Selbstmord der amerikanischen Demokratie, München, S. 210.
(5) Ebenda, S. 216.
(6) Todd, Emmanuel, 2003: Weltmacht USA. Ein Nachruf, München, S. 13.
(7) Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung vom 21. August 2006.
(8) Diese Einschätzung ist inzwischen in zahlreichen kritischen Beiträgen hinreichend belegt. Vgl. dazu u.a. Nielebock, Thomas, 1991: Die amerikanische Krisen- und Kriegspolitik im Lichte innenpolitischer Motive, in: Frankfurter Rundschau vom 26. Februar 1991; Lutz, Dieter S., 2001: Die Terroranschläge sind auch eine Warnung - vielleicht die letzte, in: Frankfurter Rundschau vom 22. September 2001; Birnbaum, Norman, 2001: Der Scheintod hat das politische Leben in den USA ereilt. Betrachtungen zur Lage einer Nation, in: Frankfurter Rundschau vom 3. November 2001. Und über die Kontinuität und Verbindungslinien der US-Interventionen der letzten zwei Jahrzehnte im eurasischen Raum vgl. Massarrat, Mohssen, 2003: Amerikas Weltordnung. Hegemonie und Kriege um Öl, Hamburg.
(9) Todd, 2003, S. 15.
(10) Dreyfuss, Robert, 2005: Devil's Game. How the United States helped unleash Fundamentalist Islam, New York, S. 1ff.
(11) Beinin, Joel, 2003: Bushs Außenhirn. Der Thinktank für Nahostpolitik, in: Le Monde diplomatique vom Juli 2003.
(12) Vgl. ausführlich Hartung, William/Ciarrocca, Michelle, 2003: The military-industrial-thinktank complex, in: Multinational Monitor 24, No 1 and 2 (January/February 2003); Hossein-zadeh, Ismael, 2006: The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism, Basingstoke.
(13) Pradetto, August, 2003: Der Irak, die USA und Europa, in: Blätter für deutsche und internationale Politik, Nr. 2/2003

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