January 18, 2020

“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.
Now this conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence—economic, political, even spiritual—is felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet, we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources, and livelihood are all involved. So is the very structure of our society.”

General Dwight D Eisenhower
Farewell address 1961

Congress just passed a near trillion dollar military budget at a time when the United States faces no evident state threats at home or abroad. Ike was right.

Illustrating Ike’s prescient warning, Brown University’s respected Watson Institute just released a major study which found that the so-called ‘wars on terror’ in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Pakistan have cost US taxpayers $6.4 trillion since they began in 2001.

The extensive study found that over 800,000 people have died as a result of these military operations, a third of them civilians. An additional 21 million civilians have been displaced by US military operations. According to the Pentagon, these US wars have so far cost each American taxpayer $7,623 – and that’s a very conservative estimate.

Most of this money has been quietly added to the US national debt of over $23 trillion. Wars on credit hide the true cost and pain from the public.

As General Eisenhower warned, military spending has engulfed the nation. A trillion annual military budget represents just about half the world’s military expenditures. The Pentagon, which I’ve visited numerous times, is bustling with activity as if the nation was on a permanent war footing.

The combined US intelligence budget of some $80 billion is larger than Russia’s total military budget of $63 billion. US troops, warplanes and naval vessels are stationed around the globe, including, most lately, across Africa. And yet every day the media trumpets new ‘threats’ to the US. Trump is sending more troops to the Mideast while claiming he wants to reduce America’s powerful military footprint there. Our military is always in search of new missions. These operations generate promotions and pay raises, new equipment and a reason for being.

Back in the day, the Republican Party of General Eisenhower was a centrist conservative’s party with a broad world view, dedicated to lower taxes and somewhat smaller government. It was led by the Rockefellers and educated Easterners with a broad world view and respect for tradition.

Today’s Republican Party is a collection of rural interests from flyover country, handmaidens of the military industrial complex and, most important, militant evangelical Christians who see the world through the spectrum of the Old Testament. Israel’s far right has come to dominate American evangelists by selling them a bill of goods about the End of Days and the Messiah’s return. Many of these rubes see Trump as a quasi-religious figure.

Mix the religious cultists – about 25% of the US population – with the farm and Israel lobbies and the mighty military industrial complex and no wonder the United States has veered off into the deep waters of irrationality and crusading ardor. The US can still afford such bizarre behavior thanks to its riches, magic green dollar, endless supply of credit and a poorly educated, apathetic public too besotted by sports and TV sitcoms to understand what’s going on abroad.

All the war party needs is a steady supply of foreign villains (preferably Muslims) who can be occasionally bombed back to the early Islamic age. Americans have largely forgotten George W. Bush’s lurid claims that Iraqi drones of death were poised to shower poisons on the sleeping nation. Even the Soviets never ventured so deep into the sea of absurdity.

The military industrial complex does not care to endanger its gold-plated F-35 stealth aircraft and $13 billion apiece aircraft carriers in a real war against real powers. Instead, the war party likes little wars against weak opponents who can barely shoot back. State-run TV networks thrill to such minor scraps with fancy headlines and martial music. Think of the glorious little wars against Panama, Grenada, Somalia, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Libya. Iran looks next.

The more I listen to his words, the more I like Ike.

Copyright Eric S. Margolis 2020

This post is in: COLUMN ARCHIVES, Iran, Military and Security Affairs, USA

10 Responses to “IKE WAS RIGHT”

  1. peter s dalziel says:

    After being influenced by Eric M’s TV Ontario interview over a decade ago, I read ‘The American Ra’j and discovered this author’s assessment of the Afghan issue alined with that of Gwynne Dyer. Their viewpoint conflicted with Sally Armstrong who advocated in ‘Roots and Shoots’, Canadian military involvement in concert with our allies. I trust the judgement of Margolis and Dyer as their perspective is well informed, Eric especially as he speaks Arabic and has friends among the countries involved in the Afghan conflict. I am disappointed that so few of the folks I speak with about Afghanistan, have any knowledge of these authors. Add George Mombiot to those who understood the realities decades ago but were shunned by most media.

  2. snaidamast says:

    Ike was hardly a good guy. He did little as president to control the spending by the military and was just as deceitful as any other president by using Special Forces to engage in insidious activities around the world.

    And no, we are not going to war with Russia, China, or Iran. Each one could reign down catastrophic destruction to US Forces.

  3. Fantastic and accurate article.

    To make it even more accurate, make it less partisan. The War Party encompasses both sides of the aisle, not just Republicans. The most recent annual military budget was passed with near unanimity in both houses.

  4. I agree with Alister that Iran will fire back, but I think more easily at our “allies”, Saudi Arabia and Israel. But I don’t think the idiots in the MIC have really given much thought to that. They all think about bottom line of their portfolio.

  5. oldcanuck says:

    Might Xi’s China and Putin’s Russia say no to an US – Israeli attack on Iran? Has Shia Iran made a peep about China’s pogrom against Xinjiang’s Sunni Muslim Uighurs and Kazakh majorities? Has Russia? Has Turkey?

    If China wants Iranian Oil, a silken Tanker Route from the Gulf of Hormuz to the South China Sea might be more important than a Silk Road? What if China and Russia quietly support Iran succeeding in it’s thinly veiled war against American control of Iraqi oil and trade? Have not Putin and Xi proven capable of pragmatic mutual accommodation?

    Superpower status can be based on borrowed money? Forget worry that the lender might call the loan, what if the lender just stops lending? Can any thinking human not like Ike’s warning? Funny how draft dodger chicken hawks mock Ike’s warning. These are Dangerous days.

  6. I agree that the US will probably not launch a war against Iran, but not for the same reasons that you give. It’s my impression that Vladimir Putin has intervened in this potential conflict and has quietly warned Trump not to attack Iran and has also persuaded the Iranian authorities to back away from further strikes on US bases in Iraq and other targets in that region. Remember when, last September 2019, Trump ordered an air attack against Iran in response to the latter’s alleged strike against Saudi Aramco’s oil refineries at Abqaiq and Khurais in eastern Saudi Arabia? (The Houthis in Yemen claimed responsibility for these attacks, but they might have been supported by Iran.) Trump called off the strike at the last minute, claiming to be concerned about the potential Iranian civilian casualties from such an action, but that excuse never passed the giggle test with me or many others. In that case, I think that Putin warned Trump to call off the attack and the US president heeded him, likely because the Russian president is holding a figurative damocles sword of some kind over Trump’s neck.

    • While I mostly agree with Eric’s assessment of the US military-industrial complex and why so much money is spent to support it, there is another major factor. The same companies that make the planes for the US Air Force, the ships for the US Navy, and various other armaments for the country’s armed forces, manufacture almost all of their goods within the US. They collectively have huge numbers of people on their payrolls and pay their employees quite well. Together with the large US armed forces, that complex constitutes a strong support for the US economy as a whole and it played a significant role in preventing the USA from sliding into an outright depression following the financial crisis of 2008-2009. Then US president Obama almost certainly realized this when he took office in Jan. 2009 and did not diminish the overall size of the military-industrial complex (and, of course, he was almost certainly aware of the reasons behind the Kennedy assassination). Back in the 1930s, the US had a fairly small military-industrial complex as it slid into the Great Depression; so, to prevent an economic disaster like that from ever again ravaging the US economy, the large military-industrial complex that ballooned during World War II was not only maintained after that conflict, but was allowed and encouraged to grow to the extent that it now costs the US over $1 trillion to support it. No US President, neither Trump nor any of his successors, will do anything to reduce the size of that military-industrial complex, because it is has so much influence with most US politicians and plays a huge role in supporting the US economy through both good and bad times.

  7. I can see why you are not liked in some circles… Truth is really ugly sometimes. To make matters worse, there is no mechanism in place to correct it. It will not likely improve.
    I don’t know what will happen to the American financial ‘house of cards’, but, if there is a day of reckoning… it will likely be ugly, too.

  8. Joe from Canada says:

    Thank you, again, Mr. Margolis.

    Here, in Canada, we quietly slide in a similar direction, perhaps because our leader is afraid to step out of line with the Reich. Trudeau was severely spanked for mere hints of disagreement with Trump.

    Amidst outpourings of broader views, our government has cut back on Foreign Aid, ignored health concerns on Native Lands and increased military spending.

    I believe that America currently has an excellent opportunity to turn this ship around.

    It is high time that conscientious voices in the media turn greater attention to the prophets in their midst. Example: my sources tell me that Bernie is now leading in the polls. Mainstream press ignores that. Four years ago, mainstream press ignored poll after poll showing Sanders beating Trump.

    Then there is AOC and gang.

    Perhaps a new regime in Washington would allow Trudeau to peep out of the foxhole. Again.

    There is hope.

  9. Well said — but as to Iran being the next target, I’m not so sure about that; as you put it: “the war party likes little wars against weak opponents who can barely shoot back”; though Iran is poor and certainly weak, but they will shoot back and far beyond the Persian Gulf region, much closer to the US Homeland – and that’s perhaps what’s holding the war party back, at least for now !

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