How President Eisenhower’s Worst Nightmare Came True

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As tensions on the Russian-Ukrainian border continue to escalate, the possibility of an open conflict between the two countries involving the US-led NATO is now putting the world on edge. On February 11, the White House warned that a Russian “invasion” of Ukraine could be imminent, despite repeated assurances from the Kremlin that it has no such plans.

In fact, US President Joe Biden’s administration has actively stoked tensions in the region, first by sending some $650 million worth of weapons and military equipment to Ukraine over the past year. . Last week, the Pentagon announced the deployment of 3,000 additional troops to Poland, which borders Belarus, a close Russian ally. This decision adds more uncertainty to an already tense and volatile situation, which, if not handled carefully, could lead to another world war.

Yet one of the clear winners from the threat of war, as former US Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard recently argued, is the gargantuan US defense industry, which has profited enormously in times of crisis. During an interview with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, Gabbard said the military-industrial complex, which “clearly controls the Biden administration” and has intentionally “exacerbated these tensions,” stands to make a lot more money than it does. didn’t do it during the war. on the years of terror.

Gabbard, a Democrat from Hawaii, pointed out that Democrats and Republicans, as well as the mainstream media, are all in the pocket of the hugely powerful defense industry, which wields enormous influence over Washington’s foreign policy. .

“And rather than looking for what is in the best interest of the American people, our national security, our country – they see dollar signs when they look at Ukraine. They see how they can line their pockets, how they can look tough, how they can position themselves in a position where they benefit personally, politically or financially rather than thinking about the costs and consequences of those actions and who pays the price,” she said.

Early days

In his 1961 farewell address, US President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned the nation of the growing military-industrial complex and the danger it posed to American society as well as its political system. .

“We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex,” Eisenhower said. “The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

US President Dwight Eisenhower delivers his farewell address to the nation on a television broadcast three days before the end of his term in Washington, DC, US, January 17, 1961. /AP

US President Dwight Eisenhower delivers his farewell address to the nation on a television broadcast three days before the end of his term in Washington, DC, US, January 17, 1961. /AP

Until World War II, arms manufacturing was primarily a task of the US government, which retained its own factories and shipyards. As the United States became involved in the war, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the War Production Board to coordinate civilian industries in wartime production.

At the time, military procurement was subject to rigid government guidelines as well as legal procedures, and as a result few wanted military ventures with the Roosevelt government. When Fortune magazine polled business executives in October 1940, it found that 77% had reservations about rearmament work because of their “belief that the present administration in Washington is strongly anti-business”, in particular on cooperation in rearmament.

However, conditions changed dramatically between 1940 and 1941. As arms production soared to more than 40% of the country’s annual GNP from just 1% before the war, private contractors such as Boeing and General Motors dramatically expanded their arms business, which quickly became a booming business. industry of its own.

During his two terms, Eisenhower witnessed an era of military expansion unprecedented in American history. When the Korean War ended in 1953, the U.S. Army retained a large standing army and maintained a high level of Cold War readiness against the Soviet Union.

Perhaps because of his own wartime experience, Eisenhower was wary of the uncontrolled growth of the military. Despite its efforts to rein in military spending, the selfish complex was already a formidable force in Washington. In a death race for military superiority, US defense contractors began producing increasingly sophisticated weapons while charging the Pentagon exorbitant bills.

As a result, the Cold War turned out to be incredibly costly. Between 1948 and 1991, the government spent more than $13.1 trillion on national defense, and much of the money was funneled to defense contractors and their suppliers. These transactions proved not only very lucrative but also low risk, according to a study conducted by the American economic historian Robert Higgs who looked at the profitability of defense contracts.

Gradually, a stable and mutually beneficial relationship between the private and public sectors solidified in what evolved into the MICC – Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex.

Invented enemies

Today, the MICC has inserted itself into the heart of the American political economy, sucking more and more of the federal budget every year. Even though the Biden administration has finished withdrawing the United States from the last of its foreign military campaigns in Afghanistan, the decision has not translated into savings for the American people.

A member of the US Army‘s 82nd Airborne Division undergoes a temperature check as part of COVID-19 screenings, as soldiers prepare to deploy to Poland from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, US, on February 14, 2022. /AP

A member of the US Army’s 82nd Airborne Division undergoes a temperature check as part of COVID-19 screenings, as soldiers prepare to deploy to Poland from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, US, on February 14, 2022. /AP

Instead, the money is funneled directly into programs to counter China and Russia, which have been Washington’s enemy of choice. Last year, the US Congress approved near-record spending of $778 billion for the Pentagon and related work on nuclear warheads at the Department of Energy.

All this despite the fact that the United States already spends more than the next 11 countries combined, and this trend is expected to continue in the years to come. According to the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate, the Pentagon is looking to burn an additional $7.3 trillion over the next decade.

Since the end of World War II, the United States has engaged in more than a dozen major military operations overseas, from the jungles of South America and Vietnam to the deserts of Iraq and Syria. , the list is long. Each time at a significant cost in economic resources and human lives, both for the American military and for the local populations.

But as long as the threat of war is maintained, the MICC and everyone involved – corporations, military authorities and members of the US Congress – would keep the war party going and benefit immensely along the way.

As one of the great architects of American foreign policy during the Cold War, George Kennan once observed: “If the Soviet Union were to sink under the waters of the ocean tomorrow, the American military-industrial complex would have to remain, virtually unchanged, until another opponent could be invented. Anything else would be an unacceptable shock to the US economy.

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