War and The Military-Industrial Complex

We … declare that God is grieved by war and that he will hold subject to the eternal punishments of his will those who wage it unrighteously.

We affirm that all international controversies may be settled by [peaceful] means if nations will but deal unselfishly and righteously one with another. We appeal to the leaders of all nations and to the people themselves thus to mend and adjust their differences, lest the vials of God’s wrath be poured out upon the earth, for he has said he will visit his wrath upon the wicked without measure.
-Message from the First Presidency, in Conference Report, Oct. 1939, 8; read by President Heber J. Grant.

God is not pleased either with war, or with the wickedness which always heralds it. … To all the nations, we say adjust your differences by peaceful means. This is the Lord’s way.
-Statement by the First Presidency, in Conference Report, Oct. 1940, 6; read by President David O. McKay; paragraphing altered.

Renounce war and proclaim peace.
-D&C 98:16

One thing I cannot understand is our willingness as Americans to jump into so many conflicts. Why are we so quick to do so?

If the Lord is grieved by war, as President Grant indicates, why do we not do more in our power to avoid it as much as possible? Why do we not put more effort into adjusting our problems through peaceful means?

There are many reasons why we are not more of a peace-loving people. I invite you to share your feelings below.

One reason is the military-industrial complex. Before the Cold War, though there was a standing army, and they obviously required armaments, private companies would have their production diverted by the government for military purposes. For instance, at the foundry I work at now, they made pipe for battleships during WWII. After the war, they went back to what we normally did.

The military-industrial complex (instituted at the beginning of the Cold War) changed that dynamic considerably. Instead of peaceful, private companies being temporarily changed during wartime, and then converted back afterwards, there was a permanent infrastructure in place of companies that did only or primarily government contracted defense work. Examples of these companies include Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon. There are other companies that do defense-related work combined with private-sector work. Examples include Honeywell, Boeing, and GE.

Having a permanent infrastructure in place of privately-owned companies making weaponry for the government was a dangerous mixture. President Eisenhower was aware of this problem when he warned of the military-industrial complex in his farewell speech. Said he:

In the councils of government, 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.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

Remember that President Eisenhower was General Eisenhower during WWII. He knew of what he spoke. I wonder how “alert and knowledgeable” we as a citizenry have been with respect to the military-industrial complex. On the political right, I hear almost no dissent or even concern for its growth. Establishments democrats often try to distance themselves from the cries of the so-called “Far left” who express any concern. Why is that?

One reason is that Democrats do not want to appear weak on defense. And so there is a constant desire to keep up with the Republicans, so to speak, in terms of national defense. If they even support a budget cut, we hear cries of “weak on defense.” The Democrats appear paralyzed by such fears, and so go along with the defense spending.

Another reason is the arrangement made in Congress. Democrats, generally speaking, support policies which lead to a welfare state. Republicans less so, but they support movements toward a warfare state. The compromise is not neither (what Americans really want) but both (twice the spending: why not?). So the political art of compromise leads to increases in domestic and defense spending.

There are other political pressures. For instance, campaign contributions from defense contractors, and promised support. Hence, Senators Obama and Clinton will not speak out against the military-industrial complex. Simply put, they need to support for their campaign. People like Ron Paul will speak against it, because they put principle first.

Another strong pressure point is the fact that defense contractors are spread all over the U.S., in various states and cities. Any Congressman speaking out against defense spending is likely to have a public outcry about job loss as a result of his policies. This should be a weak argument, as in a free market, employment is readily available, and there is a perpetual shortage of labor. But of course, this is not a free market. So labor and wages are a scarce resource. And jobs in the military-industrial complex often pay well.

The military-industrial complex operates much differently than the rest of the economy. Their customers don’t operate off of profit-and-loss sheets, like most private sector companies (and individuals) do. They operate based on government spending. The bigger the defense budget, the more money keeps rolling in. To me, it seems folly to assume that this is a negligible factor in our foreign policy. These are very strong, powerful economic factors. Why wouldn’t we want to sell armaments to different countries around the world? That’s more money.  Translation: more jobs and profit. There’s always a plenitude of security risks around (so we are told), and therefore always a healthy need for things like fighter jets, missiles, tanks, artillery shells, antiaircraft guns, etc., no matter which country you are. Israeli military operations are, quite simply, good for business from the military-industrial complex perspective. So are military operations from many other countries.

There are all sorts of ethical issues related to the military-industrial complex. There are also all sorts of financial issues. After all, perpetual increases in defense spending are not sustainable, especially with the debt and perpetual deficit spending we have gotten ourselves into. This is a very complicated web, and until millions of people see differently, and are determined to work their way out (or at least cut it back) we are stuck in it.

Simply put, we have not been vigilant in guarding against the growth of the military-industrial complex, and have been ignorant of this incentive for armed global conflict.  I hope we may change our ways.

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1 Comment

Filed under Austrian Economics, fiscal policy, foreign policy, Libertarian, Mormonism, politics, role of government, Ron Paul

One response to “War and The Military-Industrial Complex

  1. Just found your blog – keep up the good work, guys. I’ll add you to my RSS to keep tabs, looks like you’ve got some great content here.

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