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Business News/ Opinion / Columns/  The US military-industrial complex has no end in sight

The US military-industrial complex has no end in sight


The money in war is one reason it has been engaged in armed conflict for 200 years without a break


The Congressional Research Service (CRS) is the think-tank of the United States Congress, what we call Parliament in India. CRS has about 600 employees—lawyers, economists, reference librarians and scientists. Its mandate is to provide independent research and information to public officials. “Non-confidential" reports are accessible on the CRS website.

In March this year, CRS made public one such report, titled ‘Instances of Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-2022’. It catalogues 469 US military interventions that have been acknowledged by the Congress. Since 1991, when the Soviet Union broke up and the Cold War officially ended, the US has launched at least 251 military interventions.

These are conservative estimates. The list does not include “covert actions or numerous occurrences in which US forces have been stationed abroad since World War II in occupation forces or for participation in mutual security organizations, base agreements, or routine military assistance or training operations". Nor “the continual use of US military units in the exploration, settlement, and pacification of the western part of the United States"—an euphemism for the genocide of native Americans.

Simply put, the US seems to have been at war somewhere or the other almost every day for the last 200 years. But the US government has formally declared war only 11 times, in just five separate wars, which includes the two World Wars of the 20th century.

It is also interesting that America has been sending more soldiers into combat in the last 30 years, after it claimed to have established “a new world order" free of Communism. The Military Intervention Project at Tufts University’s Centre for Strategic Studies states: “The US has undertaken over 500 international military interventions since 1776, with nearly 60% undertaken between 1950 and 2017…Over one-third of these missions occurred after 1999."

The Tufts researchers go on to say: “With the end of the Cold War era, we would expect the US to decrease its military interventions abroad, assuming lower threats and interests at stake. But these patterns reveal the opposite—the US has increased its military involvements abroad."

Last fortnight, the TV show host Bill Maher, an authentic liberal voice amid all the din of wokeism and “social justice", spoke about the Tom Cruise film Top Gun: Maverick, Hollywood’s biggest box office hit this year. He called it “a two-hour propaganda ad for defence contractors, militaristic jingoism and bombing foreigners". He called out film critics “who find every movie somehow lacking in woke credentials". “Every other movie that comes out, all of which are made by liberals for liberals, with ardent liberal intent, fall short," he said. “If the movie is about poverty, the director didn’t grow poor enough to understand it. If it’s about being gay, it’s not gay enough. Don’t even try sidelining White-washing, colourism, White saviourism. No amount of virtuous signalling is ever virtuous enough, but somehow 96% of film critics love Top Gun like a Catholic priest loves sleepaway camp."

“If you’re a film critic and you’ve been making your life’s mission to root out the insufficiently liberal in cinema, did you not notice that Top Gun is a lot about making warmongering sexy?" he asked. “(If the US military were a country), its fuel usage alone would make it the 47th largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world. Our military is the world’s single-largest consumer of petroleum."

And who exactly is the enemy that Cruise is fighting? “We don’t name them; we never see their faces; we don’t hear them talk. Who are they? That’s not important," Maher said. “We don’t know who we’re bombing and we don’t care. We’re bombing someone. Awesome! Whose [posterior] we’re kicking is on a need-to-know basis. God bless America and death to, to whom it may concern."

As the war in Ukraine continues with no end in sight, about the only people who are happy is the American military-industrial complex. More than a hundred thousand human beings—soldiers and civilians—have been killed, millions have lost their homes, inflation has skyrocketed in the West, which is also staring at a winter without Russian gas to keep homes and offices warm. Governments in Europe—supposedly the ‘developed world’—are asking people to resort to firewood to stave off the cold. People across the world are facing a serious threat to supplies of food and other essentials. But the makers of arms and weapons are laughing their way to the bank. They are having the time of their lives.

There is an obvious question here. America is an imperialist power, and human history is replete with imperialist stories. But is America unique in the sense that it has to keep fighting wars all over the globe to fuel its ambitions? The British certainly were not at war all the time to retain their empire. The US seems to march to its own drumbeat of virility that needs to meddle constantly in faraway nations. It will not put its own countrymen at risk of life by sending soldiers to Ukraine, but it will keep the war going at least partly because there is money to be made. The common American citizen will not see that money. Only a few will be enriched even more—companies and people who were hunting hungrily for a new war after the US left Afghanistan last year. And the world is paying the price.

Sandipan Deb is a former editor of ‘Financial Express’, and founder-editor of ‘Open’ and ‘Swarajya’ magazines

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