The Military-Industrial Complex 54 Years After Eisenhower
Arnie wrote this for the NH Peace Action Newsletter.
Congressman Buck McKeon’s list of campaign contributors looks like a “Who’s Who” – or perhaps a “What’s What” – of companies that sell weapons to the Pentagon. The top five on his all-time list: Lockheed-Martin, Northrup Grumman, General Atomics, General Dynamics, and Boeing, which between them donated almost $700,000 to his campaigns from 1991 to 2014, the years tracked by the Center for Responsive Politics.
Representative McKeon, whose southern California district included several military bases and numerous manufacturing facilities for the weapons contractors, was a champion for ever higher levels of military spending and for armed intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq. From 2011 t0 2015, he chaired the House Armed Services Committee, whose decisions set priorities for military spending. It’s no surprise that the corporations that take in billions each year from the Pentagon were his best buddies.
The cozy relationship between corporations that profit from militarism and the lawmakers who authorize funds for US warmaking is a prominent feature of what President Dwight Eisenhower famously called the “military industrial complex.”
Eisenhower introduced the term into the political vocabulary in a 1961 speech in which he described the rise of “a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions.”
“This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience,” declared the former five-star general. “The total influence – economic, political, even spiritual – is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government.”
The president went on to warn, “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.”
Fifty-four years later, the “conjunction” between arms and politics is no longer new, but Eisenhower’s warning rings truer than ever.
“Governing Under the Influence”
That’s why the American Friends Service Committee is calling attention to “Governing Under the Influence,” or GUI. By activating volunteers to raise issues with the would-be presidents roaming around New Hampshire and Iowa, AFSC hopes to drive concerns about excessive corporate influence over government policy – for which the military-industrial-complex continues to be a stark example – into the heart of the country’s political discourse. Already AFSC has trained hundreds of volunteers to be “bird dogs,” citizen activists who will put candidates on the spot with well-crafted questions that also raise awareness and get attention from reporters covering the campaign. The GUI project has another branch at AFSC’s office in Des Moines, Iowa, and a dynamic website that keeps up-to-date calendars of candidate appearances, publishes reports of encounters with candidates, and provides ongoing analysis of the GUI syndrome.
Military policy analyst William Hartung, who visited New Hampshire on a 4-day speaking tour sponsored by AFSC, NH Peace Action, and other groups, used Rep. McKeon’s campaign fundraising as an example of GUI. In the post-Citizens United era of Super PACs and clandestine gifts to political groups, some of the techniques military contractors use to reward their political friends are “almost quaint,” Hartung said. But there’s a lot more to it than campaign cash, he explained at talks in Durham, Henniker, Keene, Concord, Canterbury, and Manchester.
To read the rest: The Military Industrial Complex 54 Years After Eisenhower