How It Threatens Our Economy and Security

Twenty years ago this January, Dwight D. Eisenhower warned America of the dangers of the "military-industrial complex." His concerns were prompted by a $50 billion military budget, which "Ike"--a Republican President who placed a high value on balance federal budgets--thought excessive. And yet, last year's military budget reached $160 billion, and Ronald Reagan, who claims to favor decreasing federal spending, has submitted a military budget of more than $220 billion. Why has the United States spent over $1 trillion on the military since 1945? Why will we spend another trillion just between now and 1985? And what are the consequences of this kind of spending, for our economy and for our security?

Eisenhower defined the military-industrial complex as the "conjunction of an immense military establishment with a large arms industry." In so doing, he singled out only two of the more significant factors responsible for ever increasing military spending. Senator William Proxmire was perhaps more to the point in positing "a military-industrial-bureaucratic-labor-intellectual- technical -academic complex."

The Pentagon is the most obvious proponent of high military spending. To a large extent, the Pentagon's acquisitiveness stems from its own organizational logic. Rivalries between the services encourage each--the Army, Navy, and Air Force--to push for programs that will strengthen their relative positions. One of the most unfortunate results of this inter-service rivalry was the development of multiple nuclear warheads for missiles or MIRVs.

The MIRV program was originally considered necessary to counter the extensive anti-ballistic missile systems (ABM) that the Soviet Union was supposedly building by saturating these systems with many bombs at once. Yet even after ABM systems were limited to two for each country in the SALT I treaty, and then one for each in the 1974 Vladivostok Accords, the MIRV program continues in full force. One author suggests that the real reason behind MIRV deployment was rivalry between the Navy and the Air Force, and the latter's desire to have the ability to win a nuclear war, by developing a first-strike capability.

Inter-service rivalries continually compel the upgrading of the strategic nuclear "triad" (bombers, land-based missiles, and submarine-launched missiles). Although the Navy already has a perfectly adequate Poseidon submarine force with more than 5000 virtually invulnerable nuclear warheads, this soon will be augmented by the astronomically expensive Trident submarines. (Each sub, without any missiles, is estimated to cost $1.2 billion.)


In turn, the Air Force must have its new program--the MX missile--and, in compensation for the cancelled B-1, will probably get a new strategic bomber as well. And the Army, which already controls "tactical" nuclear weapons in Europe, will take charge of the new Pershing II and cruise missiles slated for deployment by NATO. The three services' ability to institute their individual programs, regardless of necessity, lends credence to John Kenneth Galbraith's warning to "never doubt the extraordinary power of the bureaucracy of the military establishment."

The arms industry is a second major advocate of increased military spending. Arms manufacturers are paid on a cost-plus basis and make guaranteed profits on arms sales. Weapons procurement will provide arms producers with some $40 billion worth of business in 1981.

Arms manufacturers vigorously protect and pursue their business interests by lobbying for new military programs.

Lobbying is not the only means employed by the arms industry to encourage support for new weapons programs. There also exists a more direct connection to the military bureaucracy itself. Since weapons manufacturers frequently offer retired military officials lucrative positions after they leave the service, it is no wonder the Pentagon so willingly finds military needs to fit the latest industry proposals. The most prominent example of this cozy Pentagon-arms industry relationship is Secretary of State Alexander Haig, who on retiring as Supreme Commander of NATO became president of United Technologies Corporation, the nation's third-largest defense contractor.

The universities are a third major factor that support higher military budgets. A full 50% of U.S. scientists are employed in military-related research. This figure undoubtedly will rise as Reagan cuts back federal support of "nonessential" research. Since 1945 fully 80% of government funding for research and development has been spent on military, nuclear, and space programs. President Eisenhower, in the same speech cited above, specifically warned the American public of the "danger that public policy could become the captive of a scientific-technological elite," but these remarks have been quoted much less frequently than those concerning the "military-industrial complex." The government's continued emphasis on military research and development has resulted in "technological creep,"--a phenomenon in which the mere discovery of new weapons technologies necessitates their production and deployment.

A small but powerful sector of academics, including former Harvard professors Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brezinski, provide the intellectual justification for increased militarism. Many of these individuals are East European emigres who harbor particularly strong antagonistic feelings toward the Soviet Union.

Harvard Professor Richard Pipes, a Polish emigre and currently Ronald Reagan's principal advisor on Soviet affairs, is the most extreme of the ideologues. In a typically demonic characterization of the Soviet Union, Pipes once wrote that "the Soviet Union had indeed been organized by Lenin from the beginning for the waging of total war and it is to this end that the Soviet government has taken into its hands a monopoly of national powers and resources." Pipes further claims that the Soviets are willing to risk the consequences of a general nuclear war for the sake of political objectives. He stakes this claim on the fact that the Soviet Union suffered 20 million casualties during World War II, and thus "is not to be intimidated by the prospect of destruction." Pipe's contention is nowhere supported by evidence from the post-World War II Soviet Union, and in fact contradicts both common sense and the lessons of contemporary Soviet history. The Second World War left the Soviet Union with a profound sense of war's tragic consequences. Virtually every Soviet family suffered a loss during the war, and every Soviet city today maintains a prominent memorial to those millions who lost their lives between 1941-1945. The war has indeed marked the Soviet conscience very deeply, but not at all in the perverse and inhumane manner that would serve the purpose of Pipes' ideology.

Although Pipes is perhaps the most fanatical of the cold-war ideologues, he is only the cutting edge of the ideology that always expects a Soviet invasion of the Persian Gulf or of Western Europe, and blames the Soviets for every indigenous revolutionary movement anywhere in the world. Most of these ideas about the Soviet Union emanate more clearly from cold-war misperceptions of the 1950's than from the current reality of the Soviet Union. The conclusions that flow from these misperceptions ought to be analyzed more carefully before they are embodied in policies of increased American militarism.

The conjunction of cold-war ideologues, military researchers, huge defense contractors, and the Pentagon are exacerbated by two political forces. One is a strong belief in the coercive, political utility of nuclear weapons and the other is the frequent summoning of the "Soviet threat" to bolster electoral popularity.

At a time when the United States possesses over 30,000 nuclear warheads and the Soviet Union 20,000, the concept of "nuclear superiority" in a military sense is meaningless. When Robert S. McNamara was Secretary of Defense in 1968, he suggested that an adequate deterrent would be 400 nuclear warheads capable of surviving a surprise attack. As late as 1977, Jimmy Carter recommended 200 warheads as a sufficient deterrent.

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