How Do You Win a War? You Profit from It

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By Wilmer Berg

COMMONLY KNOWN AS “the father of modern linguistics”, Noam Chomsky is also an avid critic of American foreign policy. Being vocal since the Vietnam War about his dislike of US foreign policies, he has produced several memorable quotes. One quote, in particular, focuses on the Military Industrial Complex, expressed as follows “In the US, there is basically one party – the business party. It has two factions, called Democrats and Republicans, which are somewhat different but carry out variations on the same policies”. Such an assertion would concern all parts of government. Building upon this quote, I want to argue for how economic interests affect war. The specific actors being arms manufacturers, who through financial gains and the ability to avoid general repercussions in war can wholly benefit from conflicts.

During the presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower, the US had multiple clashes with communist powers. The Cold war with the Soviet Union was inherited from the earlier president Harry S. Truman, and one of its main patterns was the arms race that required both nations to invest immensely in their respective armies. The ramifications of this were that Eisenhower left behind a powerful military. He himself understood the importance of a mighty military although affirming the risks it could pose. In his presidential farewell address, he acknowledged the risks that the newly created “Military Industrial Complex” could create if not handled correctly. He is quoted as saying “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”.

In December of 2022, the American congress approved a $858 billion defense bill. Of that sum, $30 billion was awarded to Lockheed Martin for 398 F-35 Lightning II aircrafts, and $32 billion to General Dynamics for 11 battle force ships. A further $3 billion was also allocated for the Ukrainian army as funding to buy equipment, arms, and ammunition strictly from American defense contractors. Although serving a noble cause, such an allocation of funds makes it no surprise that four of the world’s biggest arms manufacturers operate in the USA.

The logical question that can be asked is how such excessive disbursements can be given to the military in a time of rising inequality and social erosion. The domestic wealth of the US is increasingly concentrated towards the top 1% of earners, with the remnants of the 2008 economic crash and the economic shock of the Covid-19 pandemic still prevalent. Simply put, the excessive sum can be credited to lobbying. Often understandably compared with corruption and bribery, lobbying is the lawful act of influencing a government official to act in a certain way. Weapon manufacturers are one of the most prominent users of this ethically questionable activity. In the last two decades, weapon companies have spent more than $2,5 billion lobbying for “hawkish” political stances, while furthermore spending more than $250 million supporting individual politicians’ campaigns.

John Rutherford, a Republican member of the United States House of Representation is a prime example of how lobbyists can influence domestic and international policies. Since his political entry in 2015, Rutherford’s political career has been highly financed by weapon manufacturers. Amongst his top donors, you can find Total Military Management with donations exceeding $69,500 dollars, Northrop Grumman donating $35,000, and Lockheed Martin with $33,000. Such a significant amount of donations are poised to have an influence on a politician’s decisions. This has certainly been the case for John Rutherford, who has consistently and unwaveringly voted for military expansion. He voted against ending military assistance to Saudi Arabia in their war against Yemen, opposed ceasing US arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and voted against a bill that would hinder Trump from initiating military action against Iran.

John Rutherford however wasn’t satisfied with the gains attained by the financial donations from weapon lobbyists. On the day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Rutherford bought Raytheon stocks for an approximate sum of $15,000. Thus, another vested interest is created and Rutherford further drenches himself in the expansion of the Military Industrial Complex. Politicians investing heavily into war isn’t solely a republican phenomenon, it can in fact be traced to numerous politicians of both party blocks. An investigation by the American newspaper Business Insider saw that more than 15 Congress politicians had
personal investments in the branch.

Keeping the amount of lobbying present in the United States in mind, its appeals for peace seem insincere. A country actually sincere in its intentions for the establishment and preservation of peace wouldn’t allow arms lobbyists to affect politicians in its highest legislative body. Yet, this is the situation that the USA finds itself in, a situation to which it seems to be indifferent. Given the US’s apparent disinterest in actually establishing peace, one would be wise to not blindly trust its claims and proposals for such.

By: Wilmer Berg

Photography: Somchai Kongkamsri

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