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Author Topic: Does military industry influence USA policy?
Tuukka
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It's pretty straightforward question, and I'm pretty ignorant about the issue.

It's one of the most popular conspiracies (or non-conspiracies) around. That the weapon industry has such big pull at Washington, that they make it more likely for the military spending to be sky-high, and even make it more likely for USA to participate in military operations around the world. And for the industry, it's of course all about making profit.

Is the assumption completely ridiculous? Or does is have a slightest bit of truth to it?

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Hobbes
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I think the jobs provided is a bigger pull than the lobbying effort (no one wants to be responsible for the whatever factory in their district closing down). But the full on conspiracy theories about Lockheed Martin being responsible for Kennedy's assassination and that kind of thing... that's all nonsense.

Hobbes [Smile]

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NobleHunter
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I'm interested in if there's any evidence the military-industrial complex encourages the US to get involved in bombing campaign such as in Libya. The more things the US blows up, the more missiles they have to buy...
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Lyrhawn
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Hobbes has it right. It's really more about jobs these days than anything. There are several great history books that trace the foundations of cities that grew up around major defense contractors like Lockheed. The late 1940s and 1950s is a fascinating time to look at the birth of the modern defense industry and the effect it had and still has on politics.

But it's not just jobs. Southern California, where a lot of defense contractors are located, is full of money. That money flows to local congressmen. Those congressmen then pass that money along to other congressmen to secure their votes on defense issues so those other congressmen can in turn get elected.

If the defense industry couldn't donate to congressional campaigns, military spending would be dramatically curtailed.

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Wingracer
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Yes of course, absolutely it does. Nothing involving that much money could not influence policy in some way.
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theamazeeaz
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Absolutely:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lobbying_in_the_United_States

There's a chart a ways down that shows the top groups. Guess who's #1 (no, not defense)?

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Lyrhawn
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Those numbers are three years old. Health care is by far the largest lobbying concern. But finance is pretty close behind it.
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Samprimary
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I like it when you have defense contractors and military builders-of-weapons spreading their manufacturing out among many states so as to keep some spoils and ties in it for each state's representatives in the federal government. It's intelligent.
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Lyrhawn
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quote:
Originally posted by Samprimary:
I like it when you have defense contractors and military builders-of-weapons spreading their manufacturing out among many states so as to keep some spoils and ties in it for each state's representatives in the federal government. It's intelligent.

Incredibly intelligent. As soon as they figured out they could leverage it as a jobs issue and also spread their wealth around, it was pretty much a no-brainer.

Dems were never able to fight back, even when they wanted to (which was admirably a lot of the time), because they could never sell the "government is not a jobs program" argument, despite the fact that the GOP had done it well for years.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Tuukka:

It's one of the most popular conspiracies (or non-conspiracies) around. That the weapon industry has such big pull at Washington, that they make it more likely for the military spending to be sky-high, and even make it more likely for USA to participate in military operations around the world. And for the industry, it's of course all about making profit.

This is so blindingly obvious as to constitute a conspiracy only for people ignorant of the basic functions of government and business.

Is it a conspiracy that credit card companies want you to spend money? A degree of criminality is assumed in such a question that belies the sheer bloodyminded force of market capitalism.

In answer to your question: yes, the arms industry does influence US foreign policy. Aside from the cases in which they, for all intents and purposes, openly conspire with politicians to do so, they also spend great deals of money lobbying and buying politicians who will vote for spending that affects them. It's an incredibly cozy relationship. Not a revelation, and nothing particularly new in politics or in America.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by NobleHunter:
The more things the US blows up, the more missiles they have to buy...

Not to the degree you'd probably expect. Military purchasing occurs at a level so far removed from the level of the materiel actually being used, that the people making these decisions (purchasing), are often ignorant of basic facts about what they're buying, and how much the military already has. It's often more a case of the missiles you don't use this year being replaced whether you use them or not.
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Tuukka
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quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
quote:
Originally posted by Tuukka:

It's one of the most popular conspiracies (or non-conspiracies) around. That the weapon industry has such big pull at Washington, that they make it more likely for the military spending to be sky-high, and even make it more likely for USA to participate in military operations around the world. And for the industry, it's of course all about making profit.

This is so blindingly obvious as to constitute a conspiracy only for people ignorant of the basic functions of government and business.

Is it a conspiracy that credit card companies want you to spend money? A degree of criminality is assumed in such a question that belies the sheer bloodyminded force of market capitalism.

In answer to your question: yes, the arms industry does influence US foreign policy. Aside from the cases in which they, for all intents and purposes, openly conspire with politicians to do so, they also spend great deals of money lobbying and buying politicians who will vote for spending that affects them. It's an incredibly cozy relationship. Not a revelation, and nothing particularly new in politics or in America.

I called it conspiracy (or a non-conspiracy) mainly because I haven't really read many mainstream newspaper articles over the years, which would have explicitly said that one reason USA goes to wars is that the military industry has politicians in their pockets, and want's to profit from war.

It sounds like a fairly controversial thing to say, in mainstream media.

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Rakeesh
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If it were any other business or occupation, would you think it likely that those same people would, on a national and international level, take no steps to look after their own interests with the powers that be?

If so, arms manufacturers and militarists would be the first businesses and occupations in history to be so ethically disinvolved in trying to exert some influence on the laws, powers, and policies that govern and affect them. It's not as simple as 'they want to start a war to sell more guns/attain recognition and promotion'. There are all sorts of ways that given arms manufacturers and soldiers might seek to exert some influence without at all intending to start a war. Who would in fact he revolted to even consider the idea.

But our military is so large, complicated, expensive, and far flung set of institutions and infrastructures and organizations that it's difficult to really imagine how large and complex it is. Really grasp it, not just knowing the stats. In human history, it's not only the most well funded militaries ever to exist, if someone could create a list of human endeavors or projects ever undertaken by order of expense, our military now would surely show up near the higher elevations.

All of this for a military that spends most of its time and energy *nkt* fighting, but rather training and maintaining readiness. That's not a criticism, btw, just a statement of fact-it's been quite awhile since most of our military was directly engaged in fighting a war, declared or not. Even institutions without the depth of history and commitment that our and other militaries have will attempt to defend themselves and/or maintain their current level of wordly power.

So my question, asked in another way but asked here already, is this: is the military a thing which has bureaucracies, inertia, serious interests to protect, and does it have to compete for limited government support on an ongoing basis? If the answer is yes, and I think it is, then I think it goes without saying that militaries and arms manufacturers try the world over to influence policy.

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Tuukka
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I think it's an uncomfortable thought to many, and therefore not easily accepted.

Of course military industry isn't the only thing that affects the military decisions of USA, or even the most important thing, but regardless:

The idea that USA gets into wars because military industry wants to profit from making weapons is a rather unsettling thought. Sure, you could argue that many lobbying industries affect life and death decisions made by the government. The net loss of human lives might be even bigger in some other fields.

But the premise in here still somehow feels particularly immoral and disturbing. It doesn't go very well hand in hand with any values of patriotism, justice, or protecting America.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Tuukka:
I called it conspiracy (or a non-conspiracy) mainly because I haven't really read many mainstream newspaper articles over the years, which would have explicitly said that one reason USA goes to wars is that the military industry has politicians in their pockets, and want's to profit from war.

It sounds like a fairly controversial thing to say, in mainstream media.

It's not a controversial thing to state the obvious. But it doesn't need to be all one thing either. There are defense industry types who quite obviously and openly profit from war-mongering, and who are quite honest and open about supporting military buildups.

Conspiracy, in the sense that you mean, of a *criminal* nature, is not really a factor in these forces. They would be present no matter the situation. This is why I laugh when people talk about the invasion of Iraq being a conspiracy, or even 9/11 being an "inside job," to get rich off of X thing somebody would ostensibly gain. The rewards never being higher or less risky than the much easier tricks of insider trading and garden variety political corruptions. You don't need to engineer a war to be a war profiteer. There are always wars going on.

Though it's counterintuitive, conspiracy theorism is *comforting* because it assigns blander and more well defined and unmistakably human motivations to events that mainly have no specific progenitors. It's easier to think that 9/11 was an inside job than to ponder the notion that the US has such structural flaws as to cause it to react to a relatively minor terrorist threat (minor in the global sense), with an unprecedented military buildup, leading to the deaths of millions of people around the world, and having that be the dispassionately logical consequence of said flaws. And yet that happens. Far easier to assume that our mistakes are not mistakes, but the trickery of some greater force than ourselves. It's religion for people who think they don't go in for religion.

So again, the notion of the defense industry having someone "in their pocket," is somewhat irrelevant. Where there is a large amount of money to be spent, there are people who will do whatever they can to influence how that will be spent. Risk over reward: if it is illegal but you can get away with it, someone will do it. If it is legal and it is profitable, everyone will do it.


quote:
The idea that USA gets into wars because military industry wants to profit from making weapons is a rather unsettling thought.
Then rid your mind of this reductionism. That is not why the United states "gets into wars." Not even close.

quote:
But the premise in here still somehow feels particularly immoral and disturbing. It doesn't go very well hand in hand with any values of patriotism, justice, or protecting America.
There are no good guys. Not even you.
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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Rakeesh:
if someone could create a list of human endeavors or projects ever undertaken by order of expense, our military now would surely show up near the higher elevations.

Oh, I think measured in purely economic terms, the American military, under certain definitions, would be *the* most expensive and complicated single human endeavor ever undertaken.
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Tuukka
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Orincoro, I think this is unclear, so just to clarify: I'm not stating my own subjective opinions about the influence on the military industry on the government. I'm writing down opinions that seem to be fairly common, among *other* people but myself. Opinions found on internet.

In mainstream media, I have almost never heard anyone say aloud that the military industry would have direct influence over the military decisions of USA. Not total control, and they are not the primary factor. But it's fairly direct influence nonetheless.

This to me is interesting. While many people in this thread say that of course military industry has direct influence over military decisions of the USA government, it seems to be somewhat of a taboo in mainstream media (?).

I do follow American mainstream media regularly, and have done so for the last 15 years or so.

I do know for sure that a lot of regular Americans would immediately reject the premise of any kind of military industry influence on military decisions, and consider it (leftist) propaganda. The premise is so commonly rejected, that I actually doubted whether the premise is even true.

I hope that clears up things a little bit.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Tuukka:
In mainstream media, I have almost never heard anyone say aloud that the military industry would have direct influence over the military decisions of USA.

No, you are not understanding me. It is not a taboo subject for the "mainstream media." It is *obvious.* There's not going to be a story like "breaking news, the defense industry has an effect on public policy." This is an assumed fact. If it is mentioned at all in the media, it is either in passing, or as part of a story specifically about the effects of the defense industry on public policy.

Honestly, you're making this out to be something it isn't. It's not like the media is afraid to say this happens. It's just not *news.*

quote:
I do follow American mainstream media regularly, and have done so for the last 15 years or so.
15 years and you don't seem to know much about either the American media, or American politics in general.
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Aros
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Breaking news: The chocolate industry has influence over the Swiss government. Who would've thought?
- Also, the auto industry has influence over Detroit (or at least they used to)
- The Green industry has influence over California
- The tobacco industry has influence over the South.

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Aros
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All industries have influence over policy in the US. The more money is involved, the more influence.

Some things are in a good spot politically.
- Will a politician lose votes for creating jobs and "supporting the troops"? No? It's easy to fund defense.
- Will a politician lose votes for helping farmers? Of course not.

But, yes, there are some things that are less popular. Biotechnology is probably one at present.

Fact of the matter is, defense is one of our biggest industries, one of our biggest exports as well.

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Lyrhawn
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quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
quote:
Originally posted by Rakeesh:
if someone could create a list of human endeavors or projects ever undertaken by order of expense, our military now would surely show up near the higher elevations.

Oh, I think measured in purely economic terms, the American military, under certain definitions, would be *the* most expensive and complicated single human endeavor ever undertaken.
As a percentage of GDP I actually think we'd rank somewhere in the middle. Other countries have spent vast chunks of their personal fortunes and total wealth to produce mighty war machines. Ours, relatively, is fairly modest by that standard.
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kmbboots
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President Eisenhower 1961

Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.

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 State house, 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.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

http://coursesa.matrix.msu.edu/~hst306/documents/indust.html

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Lyrhawn
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A great speech that's too little quoted and too little remembered.

From a Republican general who masterminded our WW2 battle plan.

Obviously he's weak on defense.

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Elison R. Salazar
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quote:
Originally posted by Tuukka:
It's pretty straightforward question, and I'm pretty ignorant about the issue.

It's one of the most popular conspiracies (or non-conspiracies) around. That the weapon industry has such big pull at Washington, that they make it more likely for the military spending to be sky-high, and even make it more likely for USA to participate in military operations around the world. And for the industry, it's of course all about making profit.

Is the assumption completely ridiculous? Or does is have a slightest bit of truth to it?

In a word, yes, According to USMC Major General anyways
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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Lyrhawn:
quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
quote:
Originally posted by Rakeesh:
if someone could create a list of human endeavors or projects ever undertaken by order of expense, our military now would surely show up near the higher elevations.

Oh, I think measured in purely economic terms, the American military, under certain definitions, would be *the* most expensive and complicated single human endeavor ever undertaken.
As a percentage of GDP I actually think we'd rank somewhere in the middle. Other countries have spent vast chunks of their personal fortunes and total wealth to produce mighty war machines. Ours, relatively, is fairly modest by that standard.
But not in an objective sense.
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Mucus
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The US isn't all that "middle" even in spending per capita. It ranks about 9 or 10 (depending on how you count ties) out of 154.

The only particularly notable ones above or at the US threshold would be Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Russia (tied).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_military_expenditures#SIPRI_military_expenditure_database

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Tuukka
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quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
quote:
Originally posted by Tuukka:
[qb] In mainstream media, I have almost never heard anyone say aloud that the military industry would have direct influence over the military decisions of USA.

No, you are not understanding me. It is not a taboo subject for the "mainstream media." It is *obvious.* There's not going to be a story like "breaking news, the defense industry has an effect on public policy." This is an assumed fact.
As a single example, I was thinking of articles like this:

http://watchdog.org/104692/senators-backing-war-in-syria-are-flush-with-defense-industry-cash/

I just found that with Google, when I looked for any articles about defense industry possibly having a pro-war effect on government.

I'm not a regular on that site and I don't know their political agenda, if they have any. Because of the biased political agendas on many sites, I thought Hatrack would be a nice place to ask about this. At least I know where people in here come from, politically. I did read the talkback on that article, and there seems to be some valid criticism of cherrypicking results. But anyway:

Is that article accurate?

If it is, are those kind of articles reported often, do they get visibility in media?

Is that information something that is generally considered obvious, and not really worth mentioning, by most Americans and American media?

These are the kind of things I'm interested in knowing. It's kind of hard to just Google around and find the answers I'm looking for. Sure you CAN do it, but it can take dozens of hours, if you don't know exactly what you are looking for.

quote:

If it is mentioned at all in the media, it is either in passing, or as part of a story specifically about the effects of the defense industry on public policy.

I've been trying to google articles about this. Does anyone have any links?

quote:

Honestly, you're making this out to be something it isn't. It's not like the media is afraid to say this happens. It's just not *news.*

I didn't assume that they were "afraid". I don't think the American media is afraid about much of anything, except for maybe losing ad money.

quote:
[QUOTE]15 years and you don't seem to know much about either the American media, or American politics in general.
Didn't you just say that the mainstream American media generally does *not* mention it, because it's assumed to be obvious to all Americans.

It's hard to notice something which isn't there. I don't live in America, so it's rather likely I'm not fully knowledgeable about many things that might be considered "obvious" by many American people.

Even if you, Orincoro, would follow regularly the news of my native country, Finland, it's extremely likely that there would be quite a few things you wouldn't know about Finland. Even if they would be obvious to anyone who would be Finnish.

That's just how it goes.

I did work in L.A for 9 months, and I did read newspapers pretty regularly (Mostly L.A times). I don't recall any articles about the topic of this thread, It was mostly just liberal and leftists people I knew, who talked about the defense industry having a pro-war effect on government (They didn't like it, and some thought of it as a bit of a conspiracy). Most conservative and right-winger people didn't talk about it. Maybe they thought it was a good thing, or maybe they thought it was such an obvious issue that it was not worth talking about.

When I spent a couple of weeks in Texas with some strongly conservative, right-winger people, they were very pro-war themselves. This was in 2008. They felt that the war in Iraq was crucial, in order to get all the terrorists (!). The defense industry didn't come up in any other way, except for their adoration of guns. Those people really, really loved their guns.

Anyway, that's was my experiences when I worked in the States. Of course it's a limited perspective.

And obviously, I haven't personally researched the topic of this tread. If I would have, I wouldn't have needed to start a thread here at Hatrack, asking the question in the thread title.

[ January 29, 2014, 12:00 PM: Message edited by: Tuukka ]

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Tuukka
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quote:
Originally posted by Aros:
Breaking news: The chocolate industry has influence over the Swiss government. Who would've thought?
- Also, the auto industry has influence over Detroit (or at least they used to)
- The Green industry has influence over California
- The tobacco industry has influence over the South.

In all honesty, I had no idea that in the South they grow a lot of tobacco. I doubt many people know it outside of USA. It's not something that would be covered in news in other countries, like, ever. I would make a guess, that even in the USA, it's rarely covered in news nationwide.

I would harbor a guess that people outside Finland rarely know that up until 2011-2012, mobile phone industry had - by Finnish standards - massive influence over government. And that the influence is pretty dead by now.

They don't know, because most people assume that Nokia is a Japanese, or Korean company. When in fact it was the biggest Finnish company of all time.

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