President Dwight D. Eisenhower gave his most powerful speech as he left office
in 1961. He warned the American people about an emerging military-industrial
complex, a complex that was already beginning to erode democratic rule in
America. Originally, Ike had Congress as a collaborator with and enabler of
that Complex, but he deleted the reference in the final version, apparently
deciding that by alienating Members of Congress, he’d only push them further
into the Complex’s corner.
The military-industrial complex, the Complex for short, has only grown in power
over the last half-century. Today, more than half of Federal discretionary funding
goes to it. With the post-9/11 addition of Homeland Security and more and more
intelligence agencies (seventeen of them at last count), the Complex continues
to grow like Topsy. It consumes roughly $750 billion each and every year, a
sum likely to grow whether Trump or Clinton wins the presidency. (Trump has
promised to rebuild an allegedly shattered military; Clinton, meanwhile, is
a steadfast supporter of the military as well as neo-con principles of aggressive
In the U.S. today, the Complex is almost unchallengeable. This is not only
because of its size and power. The Complex has worked to convince Americans
that war is inevitable and therefore endless (it’s never the fault of the Complex,
of course: it’s the terrorists, or the Russians, or the Chinese …), and also
that military service (and spending) is virtuous and therefore a boon to democracy.
America’s founders like James
Madison thought differently, knowing from bitter experience and deep learning
that incessant wars and standing militaries are an insidious threat to democracy.
Nowadays, however, Americans say they trust their military more than any other
societal institution, and mainstream society universally celebrates “our” troops
as selfless heroes, the very best of America. This moral, indeed metaphysical,
elevation of the US military serves to silence legitimate criticism of its failings
as well as its corrosive effect on democratic principles and values.
All of these topics I’ve written about before, but I wish to cite them again
by way of introducing an article by Maximilian C. Forte, an anthropologist who
writes at Zero Anthropology (I first
saw his work at Fabius
Maximus). The article Forte wrote is on Bernie Sanders and his limitations,
but what struck me most was his reference to C.
Wright Mills and his analysis of the nexus of interests and power between
US capitalism and militarism.
The following extended excerpt from Forte’s article shines much light into
the darker corners of America’s corridors of power: