The Military-Industrial Superhero Complex

 

I am the wife and mom and sister and daughter of military veterans, with a husband who is still active duty. This means I often feel as if I have no political party that stands for me.

Why? Because both sides have been heavily involved in military adventurism for multiple reasons. Start with the Democrats. It was the D party that sent us into World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam. These forays varied in “goodness” of their fights, but the party that often claims to be pro-peace very clearly is not.

The Republicans once limited their wars to smaller conflicts and military interventions, like Grenada and El Salvador. However, with the Bush presidencies, that changed – George H.W. Bush initiated Gulf War I, and his son invaded Iraq and Afghanistan in response to the 9/11 attacks, giving peaceniks an actual reason to blame Republicans for war.

But here’s the problem: the military has progressively been seen not as a force for protecting the United States and our interests, but rather as a tool for bringing about the Greater Good. This sounds and feels fuzzy and nice – who doesn’t want to be the Superman to bring peace, justice, and the American Way to those victimized by bullies? – but it allows for not-nice moral justifications.

With such an enormous budget, the military is ripe for profit by scrupulous and less-scrupulous companies. Now, I don’t have a thing against profit. I’m a capitalist, too, and a staunch supporter of free trade. I do have a problem with officers creating contracts with military vendors, then retiring to go work for the vendors as a high-level corporate officer, generally pulling down a generous six figures or more. This happens literally. All. The. Time. I’ve seen it myself multiple times, after seventeen years as a military spouse. There are plenty of other abuses, like lobbyist payoffs and contract cheating. And then there are just the companies that stand to make more profits from straight-up selling military equipment or supplies when the military is more active in war.

We take great care of our veterans, especially now that Trump has fixed the VA medical system. Incredible advances have been made in prosthetic technology because the government is willing to invest in helping vets with blown-off hands or arms or legs get as close to a normal life as possible. But I’m absolutely certain every permanently disabled vet would much prefer his or her own limbs back to great government support. These things happen in war, of course, and before recent advances in medical technology most of these vets would have simply died on the battlefield. But —

Being the Good Guy makes it easy to justify open-ended wars. This is perhaps the most disturbing development in war as of late: the idea that, because we have a War on Terror, it’s not a conflict with just Iraq or Iran or Afghanistan or the IS, but rather a war against all terrorists everywhere – and therefore, just as with the War on Drugs or the War on Crime, it’s going to be a never-ending conflict. This is a terrible idea. One should never go to war without a clear idea of one’s objectives, a clear idea of what you want to accomplish to end all wars. Killing All The Terrorists is not a clear idea; it’s akin to Batman’s eternal fight against Joker and the other bad guys who are forever escaping from Arkham Asylum to commit more atrocities. However, while Batman is never permanently injured, I see far too many young soldiers using prosthetics, and there are so very many others with wounds that cannot be easily seen! Batman doesn’t consider suicide. Young soldiers with PTSD do.

(Oh, and let’s not ignore the idiotic limited rules of engagement instituted with the Obama administration that prevented our young men and women from even firing back when under attack without the approval of the REMFs in the Pentagon – people so far removed from the conflict they can’t possibly know what’s going on. This is the idiocy that helped lead to the atrocious lack of response in Benghazi, and the idiocy that continues in American cities today whenever police are barred from using rubber bullets and tear gas to protect themselves and American citizens from rioting mobs. The current administration significantly relaxed military rules of engagement, so I guess the Democrats had to find someone else to micromanage. I just hope they are equally willing to take care of the PTSD these police officers are bound to suffer from in the future. That’s the price of being a Good Guy when you’re not the one on the front lines.)

So with open-ended wars, the idea that we can “fix” our wounded vets, and the idea that we are the Good Guys, it’s even easier for the military-industrial complex to justify more war, more fighting, and more profits. This makes it even easier to initiate wars with no clear idea of how to get out of them. (Or riots, for that matter.) Again, capitalist here – I don’t have a problem at all with profits – but no profit is going to bring back the dead or regrow a limb.

The worst part is it’s BOTH parties who are sold on this. BOTH parties whose politicians are happy to work with war profiteers and others who benefit from war. There is no home for people who look at this and say, hey, there’s a problem here.

Or there wasn’t. President Trump has shown us a third way, though the media has hardly paid any attention to it. He has drawn down the wars in the Middle East, used financial and trade sanctions to punish our enemies, and even moved toward real peace in the Middle East with multiple Muslim nations signing peace treaties with Israel.

A strong military is critical to protecting our nation and our freedom. The problem comes when leaders get the mistaken idea that the strong military is wasted if not used. No, it’s there as a deterrent and emergency measure – just as a building sprinkler system or car alarm might be. When the military is used too much, it’s not prepared for the emergency that crops up, and it can cause damage to the very structure it’s designed to protect.

The Trump way of handling the military has given me hope that we can bring sanity to our ultimate foreign negotiating tool. Screw being the Good Guy – protect home and our interests, and let the rest of the world see us, as Reagan said, as a shining city on a hill. We don’t need to inflict freedom and justice on other nations; we need to trust their people to see what we have done and aspire to create their own version. Keep our strong emergency protection system at home or protecting the seaways, and give the rest of the world the freedom to make their own choices, wrong or right. Talk about peace and how to bring it about, but keep a firm grip on the club at your side.

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  1. 666 Inactive
    666
    @Pseudodionysius

    The worst part is it’s BOTH parties who are sold on this. BOTH parties whose politicians are happy to work with war profiteers and others who benefit from war. There is no home for people who look at this and say, hey, there’s a problem here.

    That’s how Washington works. Organized crime in suits and ties.

    • #1
  2. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnell
    @JimMcConnell

    A great post, from an informed point of view. Thank you.

    • #2
  3. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    No easy answers to the problems that you’ve mentioned.  I think some of the problems have been brought about by the continuing decrease in the number of veterans serving in the House and Senate.

    It used to be that military service was a key ticket to be punched before entering politics.  Around the end of the Vietnam War nearly 75% of our lawmakers (House & Senate) had served in the Military but today that number is less than 18%.

    That is not to say that military service is an automatic qualifier for entry into congress (as lack of service is not an automatic disqualifier).  Heavens knows that we’ve had our share of “war heros” who have been abysmal failures in the House and Senate (Randy “Duke” Cunningham and John Murtha come to mind; and, please, don’t mention “Da Nang Dick” Blumenthal).

    However, I’ve always believed that, for the most part, military veterans have a better feel for what goes on in the military.

    • #3
  4. PappyJim Coolidge
    PappyJim
    @PappyJim

    IIRC Cunningham was an actual jet jock stud.  Murtha was a tool, as an intel officer, he failed to detect an enemy division which played hell with the 7th Marine Rgt in Viet Nam.  For some reason, Murtha was considered a hot shot in the Corps and they kept him as a pet in Congress.  That the Congress favors the USMC is the  locus where the Corps’ life/existence is to be found.  But, those two are real examples of the double dipping type discussed.  

    But!!!

    All that aside, the Corps will be celebrating 245 years of service.  “If The Army or the Navy ever gaze on heaven’s scene — They will find the streets are guarded by United States Marines!!!!”

     

    • #4
  5. DonG (skeptic) Coolidge
    DonG (skeptic)
    @DonG

    Let’s not forget that Hillary toppled Libya just to pad her resume before running for president.   That county has not recovered and spoils the region.

    • #5
  6. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    I am a patriotic American, but I won’t let my company take government contracts.

    • #6
  7. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    DonG (skeptic) (View Comment):

    Let’s not forget that Hillary toppled Libya just to pad her resume before running for president. That county has not recovered and spoils the region.

    From what little I’ve read, all of Libya’s gold was never recovered.

    • #7
  8. Tocqueville Inactive
    Tocqueville
    @Tocqueville

    Thank you for a great post.

    Joe Rogan recently talked to Mat Best and Evan Hafer, founders of Black Rifle Coffee, about this and they said exactly what you said. 

    I had no idea of the extent military industrial complex.

    As an ex-lefty, who was against all those recent wars, I always sensed a lack of concrete objectives.

    I also want to add that I never ever, not in my most fanatical moment, disparaged the sacrifice of the soldiers or their families. I did think of them as hardworking and courageous people ready to make the ultimate sacrifice but whose lives and health were wasted on badly organised conflicts choreographed by opportunistic politicians from all sides. I thought that as an idiot college student and honestly, knowing what I know now,  I think I was right.

    • #8
  9. Gazpacho Grande' Coolidge
    Gazpacho Grande'
    @ChrisCampion

    I’ve worked at a big DoD contractor, as a cost estimator (mostly for guns systems, M61 for aircraft (vulcan on the F18 and F15), GAU-19, M2, M40 grenade launcher.  Who wouldn’t enjoy launching grenades at bad people?).  

    The spending on contracts falls prey to the same incentives that apply to all federal spending – there are no incentives to spend less, for politicians.  The only upside is to spend more.  Because new product lines, programs, are all driven in part by political requirements, not actual technical or military requirements, you wind up with some platforms with significant problems (F35 in some regard, certainly the Littoral class of warships has run into problems, just a couple of examples).

    Politicians want work in their states or districts.  Politicians want minority or female-owner businesses to have a mandated percentage of all contracts.  Politicians want a feature or capability that ensures or assists in overseas weapons sales, now or in the future.  Politicians want.

    What do they want?  To be re-elected.  I’m not quite so sure they want much more than that, which leads to the problems in the OP.

    As a side note, despite the size of most contracts, the actual profit margins on them are pretty thin, and that margin is negotiated at the time of the contract.  General Dynamic’s overall margin is 9%.  That’s not a huge return on capital investment, especially as compared to, say, software companies.

    Which doesn’t change any of the above, but the margins are generally small.

    • #9
  10. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    Outstanding.  Frankly it wasn’t easy to sort it out before the end of the cold war, but not now.  It’s driven by bureaucratic interests, military, civilian, and private sector interests as well, the only real struggles are among those who want a bigger share.  There’s simply too much wealth to be had.

    We have to be strong as China is real, and we have to push research and build new military stuff, but even more important is to reduce  Chinese influence in our economy and politics and convince the rest of the world of their danger, as we did with the Soviet Union.  The widespread notion that they support Trump is an example of their power.  They know which interests to support toward what.

    • #10
  11. Chris Hutchinson Coolidge
    Chris Hutchinson
    @chrishutch13

    Gazpacho Grande' (View Comment):
    As a side note, despite the size of most contracts, the actual profit margins on them are pretty thin, and that margin is negotiated at the time of the contract. General Dynamic’s overall margin is 9%. That’s not a huge return on capital investment, especially as compared to, say, software companies.

    Good comment. The problems associated with the “military industrial complex” tend to be more about how the government works and politician’s priorities. There are plenty of scumbags in the defense industry, but in my opinion the great majority of the people I come in contact with in the defense industry, live their lives as if their work is an extension of their prior military service.  

    • #11
  12. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    I’m not military wife, but I live in a military town and I see a lot of what you’re talking about, Jamie, both the war injuries and the DoD contract abuse. In my brief engineering career I worked for a DoD contractor and was always impressed by the number of executives who exchanged military uniforms for three-piece business uniforms. Not all bad, but surely some incompetents (promoted to the level of) and some misbegotten projects. 

    I could forgive a lot about the first election of Barack Obama, given the “historic” nature of the man — black, clean, articulate — to paraphrase Joe Biden. But, the betrayal of our military men and women by the election of a lefty community organizer incompetent? I’ve never gotten over that. And I lost even more respect for American voters in 2012 when his anti-Americanism and unsuitability to lead the country not only militarily, but socially (worsening race relations, policies hounding religious believers and conservatives), foolish international appeasement (Russian Reset, Iran deal, . . .), and economically (interminable slow burn “recovery”). Biden might not be as bad for our military, but he’s no Trump. 

    This, alone, would lead any true patriot to vote for Trump in my opinion, no matter how much he dislikes Trump’s personality. Can you imagine Kamala as Commander in Chief? Heaven forbid!!

     

    • #12
  13. Gazpacho Grande' Coolidge
    Gazpacho Grande'
    @ChrisCampion

    Chris Hutchinson (View Comment):

    Gazpacho Grande’ (View Comment):
    As a side note, despite the size of most contracts, the actual profit margins on them are pretty thin, and that margin is negotiated at the time of the contract. General Dynamic’s overall margin is 9%. That’s not a huge return on capital investment, especially as compared to, say, software companies.

    Good comment. The problems associated with the “military industrial complex” tend to be more about how the government works and politician’s priorities. There are plenty of scumbags in the defense industry, but in my opinion the great majority of the people I come in contact with in the defense industry, live their lives as if their work is an extension of their prior military service.

    Accurate.  I’m not a veteran, but many of the folks I worked with were, and are as uninterested in wasting what amounts to taxpayer (meaning, their own) money and time as anyone else -more so, in many cases, as handing out a crap tool to someone who is going to rely on it in combat seems to run counter to the very fiber of their beings.

    Mine too.  

    • #13
  14. Gazpacho Grande' Coolidge
    Gazpacho Grande'
    @ChrisCampion

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):

     

    This, alone, would lead any true patriot to vote for Trump in my opinion, no matter how much he dislikes Trump’s personality. Can you imagine Kamala as Commander in Chief? Heaven forbid!!

     

    Sure!  We’ve already had a coward for president, what’s one more?  Meaning she’s just as likely freeze in military situations, unable to determine the best political choice, as Barry did, with OBL.

    Image result for barack obama

    • #14
  15. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    Gazpacho Grande' (View Comment):

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):

     

    This, alone, would lead any true patriot to vote for Trump in my opinion, no matter how much he dislikes Trump’s personality. Can you imagine Kamala as Commander in Chief? Heaven forbid!!

     

    Sure! We’ve already had a coward for president, what’s one more? Meaning she’s just as likely freeze in military situations, unable to determine the best political choice, as Barry did, with OBL.

    Image result for barack obama

    I think if it’s possible to have even worse judgement than Obama, Harris has it. Also cares even less about military, police, first responders. . . if that’s possible. 

    • #15
  16. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    PappyJim (View Comment):

    IIRC Cunningham was an actual jet jock stud. Murtha was a tool, as an intel officer, he failed to detect an enemy division which played hell with the 7th Marine Rgt in Viet Nam. For some reason, Murtha was considered a hot shot in the Corps and they kept him as a pet in Congress. That the Congress favors the USMC is the locus where the Corps’ life/existence is to be found. But, those two are real examples of the double dipping type discussed.

    But!!!

    All that aside, the Corps will be celebrating 245 years of service. “If The Army or the Navy ever gaze on heaven’s scene — They will find the streets are guarded by United States Marines!!!!”

     

    No doubt that Duke Cunningham was a genuine Top Gun before the term was even invented.  His dogfight with Colonel Toon (even if it was embellished) is the stuff from which legends are created.  However, his tenure in the House of Representatives was a disaster.  “Double Dipping”?  I believe that convictions for bribery, fraud, and tax evasion go a bit further.

    As for Murtha, his invective against the Marines who fought at Haditha would make me wonder if he will be one of those who will be “guarding the streets” anywhere…

    • #16
  17. Gazpacho Grande' Coolidge
    Gazpacho Grande'
    @ChrisCampion

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):

    Gazpacho Grande’ (View Comment):

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):

     

    This, alone, would lead any true patriot to vote for Trump in my opinion, no matter how much he dislikes Trump’s personality. Can you imagine Kamala as Commander in Chief? Heaven forbid!!

     

    Sure! We’ve already had a coward for president, what’s one more? Meaning she’s just as likely freeze in military situations, unable to determine the best political choice, as Barry did, with OBL.

    Image result for barack obama

    I think if it’s possible to have even worse judgement than Obama, Harris has it. Also cares even less about military, police, first responders. . . if that’s possible.

    In Barry’s defense, everyone’s in 2nd and continually descending place, behind Barry.  The Bear-man!  Barry-dog-daddy-o!  BARRY!

    See the source image

    • #17
  18. PappyJim Coolidge
    PappyJim
    @PappyJim

    CACrabtree (View Comment):

    PappyJim (View Comment):

    IIRC Cunningham was an actual jet jock stud. Murtha was a tool, as an intel officer, he failed to detect an enemy division which played hell with the 7th Marine Rgt in Viet Nam. For some reason, Murtha was considered a hot shot in the Corps and they kept him as a pet in Congress. That the Congress favors the USMC is the locus where the Corps’ life/existence is to be found. But, those two are real examples of the double dipping type discussed.

    But!!!

    All that aside, the Corps will be celebrating 245 years of service. “If The Army or the Navy ever gaze on heaven’s scene — They will find the streets are guarded by United States Marines!!!!”

     

    No doubt that Duke Cunningham was a genuine Top Gun before the term was even invented. His dogfight with Colonel Toon (even if it was embellished) is the stuff from which legends are created. However, his tenure in the House of Representatives was a disaster. “Double Dipping”? I believe that convictions for bribery, fraud, and tax evasion go a bit further.

    As for Murtha, his invective against the Marines who fought at Haditha would make me wonder if he will be one of those who will be “guarding the streets” anywhere…

    Murtha is a curse among those who saw his attack.  Obama’s SecNav named a fighting ship after him IIRC.  

    • #18
  19. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    PappyJim (View Comment):

    CACrabtree (View Comment):

    PappyJim (View Comment):

    IIRC Cunningham was an actual jet jock stud. Murtha was a tool, as an intel officer, he failed to detect an enemy division which played hell with the 7th Marine Rgt in Viet Nam. For some reason, Murtha was considered a hot shot in the Corps and they kept him as a pet in Congress. That the Congress favors the USMC is the locus where the Corps’ life/existence is to be found. But, those two are real examples of the double dipping type discussed.

    But!!!

    All that aside, the Corps will be celebrating 245 years of service. “If The Army or the Navy ever gaze on heaven’s scene — They will find the streets are guarded by United States Marines!!!!”

     

    No doubt that Duke Cunningham was a genuine Top Gun before the term was even invented. His dogfight with Colonel Toon (even if it was embellished) is the stuff from which legends are created. However, his tenure in the House of Representatives was a disaster. “Double Dipping”? I believe that convictions for bribery, fraud, and tax evasion go a bit further.

    As for Murtha, his invective against the Marines who fought at Haditha would make me wonder if he will be one of those who will be “guarding the streets” anywhere…

    Murtha is a curse among those who saw his attack. Obama’s SecNav named a fighting ship after him IIRC.

    Along with the U.S.S. Harvey Milk.  Murtha’s in good company…

    • #19
  20. CarolJoy, Thread Hijacker Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Thread Hijacker
    @CarolJoy

    Tocqueville (View Comment):

    Thank you for a great post.

    Joe Rogan recently talked to Mat Best and Evan Hafer, founders of Black Rifle Coffee, about this and they said exactly what you said.

    I had no idea of the extent military industrial complex.

    As an ex-lefty, who was against all those recent wars, I always sensed a lack of concrete objectives.

    I also want to add that I never ever, not in my most fanatical moment, disparaged the sacrifice of the soldiers or their families. I did think of them as hardworking and courageous people ready to make the ultimate sacrifice but whose lives and health were wasted on badly organised conflicts choreographed by opportunistic politicians from all sides. I thought that as an idiot college student and honestly, knowing what I know now, I think I was right.

    As a former Lefty, I agree with your statements.

    I also have believed for a long time that if there is a true rationale for a war, then we should do as Israel does and announce that everyone must participate.

    We would not have decades long wars that are not winnable if every American lost a great deal to keep such a  war going.

    • #20
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