US Foreign Policy in a Nutshell

Delivered in 1961, Eisenhower’s warning has never been more pertinent then today when:

The American military budget currently exceeds the combined military budgets of the rest of the world.

The United States is the world’s leading supplier of weapons, both to developing countries and worldwide.

Since 2006, there have been over 6,000 publicly recorded defense contracts—amounting to an average of $1,653 for every US citizen.

Both Obama and McCain want to increase the military budget, and both have explicitly talked about an invasion of Pakistan and stepping up the current altercation with Iran. Both support the Bush Doctrine of unilateral preemptive strikes. Democrat or Republican, the US policy of militarism will continue unabated.

Hundreds of billions are spent on submarines and fighter jets even though our purported enemies in this war on terror have no navies and no air force, and occupy mostly landlocked territories.

The military-industrial-complex is the key to understanding US foreign policy. Our foreign policy has nothing to do with promoting democracy, preserving our freedom, or any of the other talking points politicians trot out on the television cameras (if they were that concerned with such issues, they might want to start at home). When you get right down to it, it doesn’t even have much to do with Islamic inspired terrorism.

Instead, it has to do with keeping a certain confluence of commercial, military, and political forces  alive and powerful in this country. It is only when this is understood that anything in the past eight to ten years makes sense. US foreign policy is completely beholden to the interests of the military-industrial complex, with no consideration given to the interests of Americans, the citizens of other countries, or even to good defensive strategy. It this corporate domination which is directly responsible for the diplomatic and strategic mess in the Middle East and elsewhere across the globe.

The current “war on terror” must be understood as an attempt at propping up the military-industrial-complex that developed during the Cold War. As long as the Soviet Union existed, billions of dollars worth of defense contracts were signed.  Once the USSR fell, however, a new enemy was needed to justify these expenses to the American people.

Enter al-Qaeda and Islamic terrorists. The buildup for this new foe had taken nearly a decade. Gulf War I representing a testing ground for the new foreign policy, and September 11 was its inauguration. While America and the rest of the world (including the Middle East) wept at the tragedy on that day, the defense contractors were celebrating. At long last, a new enemy had arrived. There would be espionage, proxy wars, new defense contracts—just like old times.

Of course, there were some difficulties. There is a tremendous difference in scale between a handful of scruffy jihadists (even jihadists whom we armed and trained decades ago) and an immense military and industrial power like the Soviet Union. It would hard to justify the same tactics and the same amount of spending. To cover up the difference, the threat would have to amplified. It should be painted in terms of a titanic struggle, a “clash of civilizations“. Words like “Islamofacism” would make a few extremists with box-cutters appear to be as well-organized and deadly as the Third Reich. And with America facing such a grave threat, it even becomes possible to rationalize the silencing of dissent. We can’t have anyone questioning the necessity of these defense contracts—so if they do, we’ll accuse them of being “unpatriotic”.

Of course, the problem with terrorists is that they are shadowy, illusive figures. It is difficult to deploy tanks and ships and planes against them when they are hiding in small pockets all across the world—assuming they even exist at all. Therefore, it may be helpful to fabricate ties to a nation-state known for its despotism (Iraq). And if this country happens to sit on top of large oil reserves, so much the better! Now we have a tangible, concrete target. Never mind the millions of lives this will destroy, they are simply so much collateral damage. Excuse it by saying “We’re fighting the terrorists over there so we don’t have to fight them at home.” Nobody at home will even notice the implicit argument is that an American life is worth more than an Iraqi life. We will go in, do some nation building, and come out as saviors.

Well, that was the idea. I think we all know how well that turned out. The trouble is, the military-industrial-complex doesn’t know and doesn’t care about much more than making sure the money keeps coming in. The people in charge don’t bother to engineer an exit strategy, or a game plan. They don’t even pay attention to conditions on the ground. All the high tech devices in the world are of little use when the biggest strategic challenge is knocking on people’s doors and gathering information. What is required for that is communication skills and a deep knowledge of the language and culture of the region. But you see, translators can’t justify a nearly trillion dollar defense budget. So we’ll fire our translators and spend that money on Virginia-Class Nuclear Submarines instead—never mind that Afghanistan is entirely landlocked and Iraq is nearly so. Our defense budget is designed for a war against an enemy that was defeated a decade ago. Yet we continue to spend this way not because we have to, but because it lines the pockets of the political and corporate elite.

Many people try to blame this current situation on the Bush administration or the Republican Party. And while it’s true that they are the one who have implemented this latest batch of foreign policy, the executive branch is not the only branch of government to blame. Our founding fathers gave Congress the “power of the purse” and the power to declare war—yet they have abdicated these rights. The Democrats, who have a majority in Congress, could have ended the war at any time. By refusing to finance the occupation, the President’s hand would be forced, and the troops would have come home—this is how Vietnam ended.

Yet the cowardly Democrats endorse war appropriations, bill after bill. Billions of dollars worth of funding because the Democrats have no spines and fulfill the promises they made when they were elected. With the exception of a few mavericks like Dennis Kucinich, the Democrats in Congress are as responsible for our foreign policy debacle as George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld. The Military-Industrial-Complex is bipartisan. As is the corporate domination of our government. If you doubt that, look at the top donors for Obama and the top donors for McCain and then look at how they voted in the recent bailout. It is a sad truth that the majority of our politicians represent not our interests, but the interests of a select group of corporations.

If we are truly interested in reclaiming democracy in this country, it is not enough to simply vote for the puppet on the left or the puppet on the right. We must attack the puppet-master itself: the military industrial complex. If things continue as they have, the day will soon come when we enjoy neither security nor liberty.

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~ by Kimchi on October 8, 2008.

2 Responses to “US Foreign Policy in a Nutshell”

  1. […] fighting for Goldman Sachs, or the credit card companies, or the health insurance companies, or the military-industrial complex, or the Patriot Act, or any of the other vested interests and programs that have done nothing but […]

  2. […] use in boondoggles like the $2.5 billion Virginia class subarmine. Thanks to the mentality of the military-industrial complex, defense budget is designed to combat an enemy who has quite literally ceased to exist. We can […]

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