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Study On The Military Industrial Complex History Essay

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

In contemporary period, it is undeniable to accept that among the leading powers, one of the great powers, the super power at the time, is none other than the United States. One of the most critical factors that shaped up the country’s strength and interests is its beneficial affiliation of its military and economy sectors through its domestic and international intervention of conflict resolutions. With the distinctive character of the United States and its underlying ideologies, it contributed to a relative success of military sector in terms of gaining dominance in the global stage as a super power. ‘Military Industrial Complex’ is known to be the notion of success. It is a process of distributing benefits to particular groups of people in society by means of cooperative collaboration of private corporations and state department, in specific, the Department of Defense. The interaction between these public (governmental) and private sectors are primarily to enhance quality and ability as well as to advance the militia personnel, strategies and equipments for the army. [1] The term was initially coined by one of the former US Republican presidents, Dwight Eisenhower who warned if the growth of this progress is allowed, this would yield to endanger situations for America. [2] Military Industrial Complex or MIC in short, is more than just a tight bond between military and economy. However, it involves many actors to run the progress; such as political actors; executive and legislative branch, economic actors like heavy industries; military industrial sectors – arms, weaponry, and other commercial actors like oil industries. [3] This is to ensure that effective training and war-equipments are granted to every militia sector; Army, Navy and Air force.

MIC was seen to be prominent and at its rapid growth at the end of the Second World War then progressed through the time of Cold War. After the war, the economic interests gradually shifted from military wartime industries to common good industries. The demand for peace progressively increased, while the demand for warfare was steadily decreased. In order to survive, the military industries including arms (weaponries), warfare equipments and vehicles then sought to find the way to compensate such a loss of interest. This was done through the restructuring of the industry. Government, in particular, played an important role in pioneering to shift the industries to the private sector. [4] However, the trend was seen to be coming since the 1800s in which the government wanted to produce the equipments on its own. It was disastrous and a complete failure. So, in the 1900s, the privatization ideal had then become popular again; leaving the industry in hands of individuals and corporations might be better than the government itself. From then on, the MIC kept on expanding that it was able to survive in a very large scale until present days. This somehow coincides with the warning of the former president Eisenhower that the MIC will manage itself to expand and this will affect America in terms of liberties to the people and its democratic framework. [5] Thus, in order to evaluate the importance and effects of the MIC, the focus should be centered on the growth of the complex. Other than the growth of MIC itself, it is also very crucial to look at the consequences, which had largely affected the United States and its peoples; in political, economic and social aspects.

By looking at the growth of the complex, its foundation was laid since the time of WWI and WWII. The US government saw that privatization of the military industry would yield more benefits, so they announced their sponsorship for individuals or private firms who could invent or enhance the military equipment. In response to this, they set up series of competition for this agenda. The very first one was the competition in building new aircrafts (B-10 and B-17). Then the progress of establishing ‘permanent armament industry’ was escalated during the Second World War. The rapid progress of MIC also came along with the enormous amounts of government funding spent on the armaments and war equipments, and in particular, the ‘atomic bombs.’ This somehow marked the significance of how the resources were used to support warfare; it became increasingly exceeded the initial limit and most likely to be entangled with other areas of development. The ever-increasing amount of resources was directly due to the fact that the US military had experienced the revolution in technical field of military hardware and equipment. So, with a growing burden in the budget due to the costly research and development, the government then sought for other alternative ways to compensate the large amount of funding that had been putting in. Significantly, at the end of WWII and its transition to Cold War, the US military made an alternative choice by choosing only the qualified and effective weapons as well as techniques for its army. This would cut the cost, not the weapons but the number of soldiers being assigned for a mission. So the US seemed to look for weaponry by its quality not quantity, as they want the equipment that could be used efficiently with small number of troops or even when encountering with larger opponent forces. In other words, the useful techniques and weapons are the ‘force multiplier’ of the US troops.

In terms of military power, the United States had made itself dominant not only on its continent but literally throughout the world. With the prompt and advanced technologies and equipments of the forces, the U.S. military could be said to be a world gigantic power. The U.S. military dominion and expansion at the time, especially during the Cold War, was apparently very enormous. This statement could be proven by its international intrusions in form of military operation such as peacemaking or peacekeeping. For example, the civil war between North and South Korea as well as the war of Independence of Vietnam. The army illustrated its competency to deal with situations in any place throughout the world with its advanced and efficient military troops. In a sense, it is obvious that military industry has changed from a state affair to that of firms’ affair. The government, instead of being a producer as it used to, evolved itself to be a dominant customer of numeral armaments firms who would be the main producers.

Importantly, the focal point where the MIC has such a swift growth lies in the Pentagon, where the decision making takes place. The structure of decision making body is also entitled as ‘Iron Triangle.’ This ‘Iron Triangle’ consists of three sides, three main groups of people. The first side of triangle is that of ‘civilians’; these civilians are basically ‘agencies’ who set up the policy for this military entity such as “the Office of President, the National Security Council, the Senate, House Armed Service Committees” and other agencies from various institutions namely NASA, CIA and some others. ‘Military institutions’ make up the second side of the triangle, which consist of “the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the top level of the Air Force, Army, Marines and Navy – the powerful regional commands called ‘NICS.’ The last side of the Iron Triangle consists of numbers of private firm – as much as 85,000 firms, which made up the base of the triangle where the power and profits are generated the most. Such a comparison as a basement of the entity derives from the power that they had in control over the military industry in terms of government budget that could be seen to be in a constant skyrocketed level. [6] Needless to say, with the strong base and structure of the MIC, there is no doubt that the growth of MIC is in a very swift pace and larger scale.

The role of the MIC has been largely expanding its size in an unprecedented scale. Nonetheless, as mentioned in the previous paragraph, this was due to the strong basis of US military decision-making structure, or so called the ‘Iron Triangle,’ which made all the sectors intertwined and most likely to be very dependent on one another. This creates a picture of a feedback loop that was emerged from an intricate and intimate interrelation between state and private corporations. And it is this correlation that seems to create a feedback loop. The triangle’s base, which consists of vast number of private arsenal businesses, began the cycle through the lobbying of the policy makers on another side of triangle, the civilian agencies. Then these agencies establish policies that are in concurrence with the needs of private firms. The policies made then affect the last side of the triangle, the joint power of the head level of the U.S. military institutions – Army, Navy, Air Force. The cycle however affects the decision of the main and only contractor, the state and caused the military budget to exceed and expand in a very rapid manner. With a symbiotic relationship between the private businesses and the government, the cycle then tends to come back to its starting point again. The government would lend a hand for business lobbyists when they encounter harsh situation, for example, bailing out, helping them to get away with certain state laws and regulations. On the other hand, these private businesses, in exchange, would ensure the satisfactory of their products presented in terms of its quality and creativity. However, the factor that keeps the feedback loop going is the politicians who might be afraid that political sphere of power would be thrown away. So they managed to intervene to make sure that they would still hold their influence in the military field and gain certain amount of profits. Definitely, the feedback loop contributes to a balance of political equation by having all groups of the cycle acting as a system of checks and balances. This is likely to be advantageous for all sides of triangle and the complex itself. [7] 

The subsequence element aside from the growth of MIC that should be considered is the impact of MIC towards the US and its people. The first area of impact that will be examining in this paragraph is the effects on the U.S. politics and its components. It could be seen that the emergence and enlargement of the complex yield many effects in almost all areas of Americans’ lives. Evidently, Military Industrial Complex has always been rooting itself in American ideologies and way of thinking by indoctrinating militaristic ideals and beliefs; “unquestioning loyalty, adherence to faith and tradition and a strong sense of patriotism.” By using the nationalistic motives, MIC drove the American society towards “an uncanny readiness” to wage on wars. This was very obvious in the politics area shown in many campaigns of numbers of presidential candidate whose main focus was on militarism. These militaristic ideals were so intense that it created a competition among the candidates. It was as simple as who had a stronger commitment to militarism would win the election. The most prominent example would be in the year of 2004 with the famous two candidates; George W. Bush and John Kerry. [8] This would be a good explanation of why MIC has such strength and has been able to survive until present days. The desire to wage on war and strengthen the essence of MIC is reflected in numbers of policy put forth by the presidents and the leading politicians sitting the office of President, evidently both domestic and foreign policy. This could be clearly seen during the late 1940s to early 1950s under the presidency of Harry S. Truman. The MIC representatives were the ones behind the announcement of the ‘Truman Doctrine’ with the motives to drive their businesses for more profits. Truman Doctrine was a foreign policy that portrays a very militaristic approach through its engagement with the rest of the world under its justification under the name of military operation for conflict resolutions. It is a declaration of ideological war that was tacitly shown in the doctrine. The very important ideology that came from this doctrine would be ‘anti-communism’ by labeling communists as a threat to national security. The ‘Containment’ policy, another main element in the doctrine refers to an order to halt the spread and expansion of communism in any form of actions including the formation of union. It affected the legislature, notably a mandate from National Security Council no. 68, which gave full legitimacy of such an anti-communist ideal. This allowed a sweeping boost in the military budget [9] , which extended for the development of militarist industry from 5 percent of the GDP to that of 20 percent. Other obvious examples would be the foreign policy that was put into practice by the next presidency – by Eisenhower who opposed to the idea of arising MIC with his domino theory. The policy somehow encouraged the active engagement overseas to cease Communism. On the domestic policy, one of the most driving forces toward the unstoppable growth of the MIC was the ‘Red Scare.’ The Red Scare, especially in its 2nd stage, which most of all constructed the paranoid feelings of Americans against the Communist ideals. It implanted the idea of communism as being a threat to property, and wealth of people. Any persons who were suspicious to be a communist supporter would immediately be investigated by intelligent agencies like FBI and CIA. This meant that almost everyone had a chance and was opened to ‘accusation.’ This was followed by the emergence of ‘McCarthyism,’ which was initiated by a Republican Senator, Joseph McCarthy. This even intensified the situation by creating even more panic and paranoid to the citizens. This somehow illustrates how integral the complex is with others constituents in society, ranging from contractors legislative and executive bodies, capitals, labors and military sector. They expand hand in hand with one another.

Another area that is affected largely by the Military Industrial Complex is the economic area remarkably during the World Wars, inter-war and the Cold War period. There were obviously two demographic groups who did earn benefits and lost benefits. Those who did gain benefits were mainly the armament, weapon and military-related firms including oil, automobiles, technological inventors and many others who the state chose to sign contract with. These corporations prospered, while many others perished – two third of companies collapsed, mostly the small businesses. Those firms who managed to survive were able to because these corporations were not just serving the military sector of their nation but every single one that could benefit them including the oppositions of their country and the world. One amongst the succeeded was one of the largest companies that gained a lot of profits from warfare on both American and opposite side was IBM. IBM began a series of contracts with the Third Reich, during the rise of Nazi’s power. They served the Nazi party with many kinds of goods and services including the “running railroads, organizing of concentration camps, and most notably and shockingly, the invention of punch card machines. Even though, during the time, there was no advanced technology such as computers, but IBM succeeded in inventing the closest thing that was seen very advanced. These punching card machines were used to identify the Jews from both German and European roots as well as the Gypsy and communists. The identification could be traced from the specific set of codes or numbers that would then determine the fate of the particular person. If individuals were found to be Jews, Gypsies or communists, they would be taken and given labels. Different labels would definitely give different kinds of treatment, ranging from being enslaved, shot or put in the gas chambers. Nevertheless, it was not only IBM who prospered and survived during the war time, there were some others firms that managed to survived out of such downturn economy, particularly for the heavy industries, for instance, arsenal, armament and large vehicle manufacturers. Another firm that gained many benefits from the war-time period was the General Motor. The General Motor or GM in short managed to supply the vehicles to the Nazi Regimes, which many of them were actually used in the Nazi’s campaign for conquering of territories for their ‘living space.’ Other than that, the GM also involved in Hitler’s project of planting gasoline in which they had 25 percent of share in the project, while Standard Oil and I.G. Farben had 25 and the remaining 50 percent respectively. I.G. Farben, one of the largest German’s global chemical manufacturers, had been notably receiving subsidies from Americans due to significant number of people who were on its board namely Paul Warburg, Carl Bosch, Edsel Ford, H.A. Metz, C.E. Mitchell, Herman Schmitz and Walter Teagle who had their position in big corporations; Ford Motors, Bank of Manhattan (today is known as Chase Bank) and the director of Federal Reserve Bank of New Year and National City Bank, a committee on board of the Deutsche Bank as well as a director of FRB and New Jersey’s Standard Oil. Moreover, other firms that were seen to have a tight bond with this large German corporation were Standard Oil of New Jersey, DuPont and Dow Chemical. This included other Standard Oil’s branches such as ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Chevron, BP Amoco, Marathon Oil and Royal Dutch Shell which were under the Rockefeller’s family business, many of which joined with other foreign firms. As we can see that only few companies managed to survive and prosper on the suffering of others due to their giving of supply and support to military industry complex both within their country, the United States and others like Germany. [10] 

Many other areas of economy were actually hurt by a rapid expanding and ever-increasing in budget of the military sector. This led to the reduction in the resources, specifically the capital that were initially meant to put in other areas of development. This was mainly due to the over-spending on the military expenditures that could be seen to increasing year by year. In terms of how the United States was spending on its militarism including that of the other global nations seemed to have its low pace and decrease from 1988 to 1996 and 1998 (its lowest possible level) then climbed up to the higher level in 1999 until 2009. However, the data that was taken from the graph in the reference site could be said to be most influenced by the trend of spending of the US military that it made up as large percentage as 46.5 of the total military spending on the global level. [11] This indicates the increasing and expanding of military sector in terms of its budget and actions that were put in place. Somehow, as previously mentioned, it also had a chain effects to other sphere of interest, most notably, social area, which would be discussing in the following paragraph.

Military Industrial Complex also had its vast social effects on American society. This was evident in theoretical and practical aspects. In theoretical framework, the complex could be seen to have altered the fundamental American ideologies that were laid by the founders of the country, the Founding Fathers. One of the vital ideologies that seems to be weakened and faded from American’s thoughts was the ideal of ‘antimilitarism.’ It was until WWII that this ideology, preferring of peaceful environment was washed away by the US engagement in warfare. However, the acceptance of international intervention was justified by the public opinion, which was swayed by the US foreign policies that were set out to strengthen the US imperialist power in pursue of other ideal like the Manifest Destiny. Other than that, the MIC also directly had impacts on all levels of socio-economic population as a chain effect from the affected area of economy. This was done the government cutting of resources that were meant to invest on other areas of development and putting them in the militarism instead. One of the apparent examples would be a social program called the ‘Great Society,’ which was introduced by President Lyndon B. Johnson, who encouraged the making of guns, while speaking of peace. This Great Society program’s objectives were to ‘kill the poverty’ as well as to ‘eliminate social, in particular, racial discrimination’ in society. The program includes the state’s tasks in providing medical care, education, better housing, infrastructure and civil rights to the people. The program somehow turned out to be a failure due to its lack of funding; as all resources, the budget set forth for this program was taken to fill in that of military budget. [12] The consequence of this was not just a collapse of the program, but the increase in discontentment among the citizens, especially those who encountered racial discrimination. The discontentment then resulted as a series of racial unrest mostly called for their civil rights. Aside from such social uprising and growing of discontent, the Military Industrial Complex also had its effects on the social values of people. The militaristic values had been embedded into American’s minds after the rise of the complex by its specific terminologies and expressions that were reflected on the state agenda, domestic as well as foreign policies. For instance, the use of everyday language that was derived from military values; ‘fighting’ (for particular objective, program or agenda), ‘target’ (on someone or something), ‘campaign’ (to accomplish a mission), ‘war’ (conducting war or waging war on e.g. poverty by LBJ Great Society) and many more. These values and expressions were seen much through the media and entertainment channels, which always have been had strong influences on public opinion. The military sector and its constituents then sought way to control the media in order to control public view and perspective. [13] This somehow implants a moral justification of war and militarism and made it seem fine for supporting such an idea or campaign.

All in all, Military Industry seems to be granted its success through series of war, from the beginning of the establishment of the nation until present days. However, as it progressed along the path, we could trace and find the success to be different in terms of its objectives as well as the achievements. The series of war, ranging from the Revolutionary War for independence to the civil war of 1800s, was seen to have a different objective than the numbers of war conducted in the latter time like the Spanish Civil war, WWI and II as well as the Korean and Vietnam War. The early wars indicate the desire of the nation to thrive for its own autonomy and independence that reflected the good for the country itself. However, for the latter period of warfare, much focus was on the imperialistic values of the country, the pursuit for expanding the power and control over the rest of the continent and eventually, throughout the world. Somehow, with the success that has been seen to the victory over numbers of war might be the underlying and unwitting values of American ideologies and interests that shaped up what America is today. The progress of the Military Industrial Complex is very evident to be interdependent with the other areas of the nation affairs; politics, economy and society to a certain extent. More or less, this may or may not be the reason why the MIC is very complex and so integral to America in all of its aspects. The MIC benefits the government and other sectors of the nation and at the same time, it also gains much benefit from whom it has given. So this might elucidate why the MIC seems to be indispensible to be a part of America and its people’s core values. At the same time, it might perhaps explain why American MIC stays on top of all, in the global stage.

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