William McGaffin and Erwin Knoll
The Military-Industrial Complex
This is the first chapter of a book, Scandal in the Pentagon, that was published almost 40 years ago. It makes chilling reading. Nothing seems to have changed. At that time the Pentagon was using the supposed communist threat to demand massive funds for huge arms projects and was engaged in a war in Vietnam. Now the Pentagon is using the supposed terrorist threat to demand massive funds for huge arms projects and is engaged in a war in Iraq. In twenty-thirty years, if the Pentagon still exist, it is very likely that it will be using a new invented/magnified threat (may be from Mars) to demand massive funds for huge arms projects and it will be engaged in a new (may be intergalactic) war.
Out of all this comes spontaneously a question:
"Ai posteri l'ardua sentenza" (To the future generations the hard judgment). Alessandro Manzoni
"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 statehouse, 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 military-industrial 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." (Dwight Eisenhower, January, 17, 1961)
But to repeat that warning today, as it is repeated almost daily in the halls of Congress, is a redundancy and almost an evasion. The military-industrial complex is no longer a potential threat to America but a deeply entrenched reality. It had already acquired a dangerous degree of influence in the dozen Cold Wars years preceding Eisenhower's speech. Its power has grown and multiplied at a colossal rate in the decade of the 1960's.
Fuelled by huge and virtually uncontrolled appropriations that constitute the lion's share of the federal budget, defense contractors have assumed a dominant role in the nation's economy. Lured by almost limitless public subsidies, many of the country's best scientific minds have been persuaded to devote their time and talent to the development of new devices of death and destruction. Encouraged by the easy availability of government grants, universities have lent their faculties and facilities to programs of military research. Seduced by the expanding payrolls of defense-related industries, labor leaders have acquiesced willingly - cheerfully - in the headlong militarization of American society. Supported by a people searching frantically for "security" in an age of constant nuclear danger, the military have steadily extended their power within the Federal Government and their influence in the body politic, exercising increasing jurisdiction even in such traditionally civilian preserves as the formation of foreign and domestic policy.
As it enters the decade of the 1970s and approaches the bicentennial anniversary of its independence, the United States is a military-industrial complex - the most formidable the world has ever known. Its military budget exceeds the arms spending of every other nation - exceeds, in fact, the total Gross National Production of all but eight other countries. Its domestic institutions and its foreign relations have been profoundly and perhaps irrevocably altered by a system of priorities that subordinates all the other goals to the purpose of "defense."
"In many areas of the nation," Senator Stephen M. Young of Ohio has observed, "a situation has been created whereby the local economy would virtually collapse if major military or so-called defense procurement were to end. If the political and social attitudes of a community do not conform to the philosophy of the Defense Department, the community may suddenly find itself without defense contracts and with hundred of thousands of jobless men and women hitherto employed in corporations with government defense contracts, so-called. An excuse or reason seems always to be advanced by the Defense Department officials for their actions and decisions, frequently made without any preliminary warning.
"Slowly, imperceptibly, and unconsciously Americans are becoming conditioned to the acceptance of regimentation, wiretapping, and snooping by large defense-related investigative agencies. Slowly Americans are accepting as natural an invasion of their individual privacy that their forefathers would have rebelled against. Unfortunately security investigations, background reports, questioning of attitudes and opinions have become a part of our way of life.
"Every facet of public life from politics to elementary and secondary school education to what is shown on motion pictures screens is beginning more and more to be influenced by the growing power of the Pentagon. Our children are being subtly taught not to question the views of their military leaders but to accept them as gospel. The military has been glorified on television and in motion pictures to the point where it is considered subversive by many citizens to criticize the Pentagon or the action and statements of military leaders."
It is, as President Eisenhower noted, a new phenomenon in the American experience. From the earliest days of the Republic the people of the United States have harbored a healthy skepticism of military power. When the drafters of the Constitution proclaimed the purposes of the Federal Union in the preamble, they said it was their aim "to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, and," - last on the list - "to provide for the common defense."
Until recent years Americans held tenaciously to their antimilitary tradition. Although great military forces were amassed in times of war, they were swiftly demobilized with the advent of peace. The maintenance of huge standing armies was a practice alien to the American ideal, and peacetime conscription was unthinkable. There was no place for military men in the processes of civilian decision making, and the maxim that even war is too important to be left to generals was quoted often and with approbation.
All that has changed. The nation's ideals as well as its institutions have been subverted by a vast accretion of power to the military-industrial complex. But, as Senator Young pointed out, the transformation has been imperceptible to most Americans. In the name of "security" - and in the absence of facts with which to challenge the unverified and the unverifiable assertions of the secretive military establishment - the people of the United States have accepted and even encouraged the growth of the military behemoth. When Richard M. Nixon was asked during his 1968 presidential campaign to comment on Eisenhower's warning against "the acquisition of unwarranted influence" by the military-industrial complex, he was able to respond with this bland assertion: "I do not think it will happen as long as you have in positions of leadership in the United States men who are aware of the danger."
Combined with such assurances has been the use of fear, the "most important factor" in the growth of military power, according to Harvard economist John Kenneth Galbraith. "Anything which relates to war, and equally to nuclear weapons and nuclear conflict, touches a deeply sensitive public nerve," Galbraith testified to a joint congressional subcommittee on June 3, 1969. "This is easily played on. The technique is to say, in effect, 'Give us what we ask; do as we propose, or you will be in mortal danger of nuclear annihilation.'" (In this respect Galbraith added, "one must pause to pay tribute" to President Nixon's Secretary of Defense, Melvin R. Laird, who "has shown himself, on this matter, to have a very high learning skill.")
As President Eisenhower lay dying at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in the early months of 1969, his eight-year-old warning was finally beginning to receive the attention it deserved. It was cited prominently in the general's obituaries and became, at last, a topic for newspaper editorials. Disillusioned with the tragic and apparently endless military adventure in Vietnam, troubled by the shaky rationalizations offered in behalf of the antiballistic missile system and other new huge and costly proposed weapons programs, spurred by an incipient taxpayers' revolt, many members of Congress acquired for the first time in two decades the courage and determination to challenge the insatiable demands of the military. But even as a hopeful debate began on Capitol Hill, few Americans were aware of the extent to which the military-industrial complex had come to dominate their nation.
Few realized that about fifty-five cents of every dollar of appropriated federal expenditure was being allocated to current military costs; that spending for past and future wars (including veterans' benefits and interest payment on the war-incurred national debt) accounted for an additional twenty cents; that the per capita assessment on every man, woman, and child in the United States for military appropriations was more than $400, an increase of 60% in each citizen's bill over the previous five years.
"it is not until we look at what is left to take care of domestic needs that the full impact of military spending becomes apparent," Senator J. W. Fulbright of Arkansas, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, pointed out. "Education is an example of such a need. Schools from kindergarten to graduate school are overcrowded and underfinanced. nine billion dollars is authorized for the various programs of the Office of Education in the next fiscal year. Only about one-third of the amount authorized, $3.2 billion, is included in the budget."
Fulbright went on to note that the budget for fiscal 1970 proposed less for elementary and secondary education than it costs to assemble one attack carrier task force (the United States has fifteen); that more was budgeted for chemical and biological weapons than for vocational education; that more would be spent on the Safeguard antiballistic missile system (even under the Pentagon's suspiciously low estimates) than would be invested in higher education; that five times as much would be spent on a nuclear aircraft carrier as would be provided for libraries and other community services.
"This all adds up," Fulbright declared, "to the fact that less than $39 per capita is being invested by the Federal Government in the education and training of our citizens, about one-tenth the amount going to the military. I do not believe this is an accurate reflection of the real desires of the American people, but it does reflect the present distribution of power among the bureaucracies of Washington."
Whatever their real desires, Americans have consented to defense outlays totaling about $1,250,000,000,000 ($1.25 trillion) since the end of World war II. Military expenditures in the decade from 1959 to 1968 amounted to $551 billion - twic3e the total spent for new private and public housing in the United States during the same decade and nearly twice as much as federal, state, and local governments allocated to education.
Such astronomical military expenditures might be justifiable, or at least more acceptable, if they had done what they were suppose to do: purchase "security" for the people of the United States. Obviously they have done no such thing. Although it has been estimated that the United States and the Soviet Union have accumulated the equivalent of fifteen tons of high explosives for every human being on the face of the earth, though each of the superpowers now possesses the nuclear potential to obliterate its rival several times over, the goal of "security" is as elusive as it was at the outset of the frantic arms race. In fact the persistent neglect of urgent domestic problems that has been caused, or at least rationalized, by the extravagant expenditures on defense, has contributed substantially to a new threat to security at home. "I believe that the turmoil on the campuses, the unrest in the cities, and the signs of a taxpayer revolt are not unrelated to the distortion in our national values that seeks world peace and tranquility through the force of arms," Senator Fulbright says.
What then have we purchased with our lavish military appropriations? We have bought standing military forces totaling about 3.5 million men - almost half of them stationed overseas. Even at the peak of American military involvement in Vietnam when 540,000 U.S. troops were engaged in the war, about twice that number were stationed at other foreign posts - 320,000 in Western Europe and Great Britain; 21,000 aboard the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean; 55,000 in Korea; 40,000 in Japan; 30,000 in Latin America; 30,000 in the Philippines; 45,000 in Thailand; 40,000 in Okinawa; and many thousands more at others of the 429 "major military installations or activities outside the United States" maintained by the Pentagon. In all, the "military presence" of the United States makes itself felt in at least sixty-eight foreign countries by means of fullblown Army, Navy, or Air Force bases as well as military assistance advisory groups (MAAGs) that range from a four-man contingent in Tunisia to 116 men in Brazil. For "the Middle East and Africa" the Defense Department list 10,000 servicemen, although some sources report that there are at least 30,000 in Ethiopia, Turkey, and Iran alone, some out of uniform and on assignments that could be described as "delicate." In fact, the official accounting of the American military role abroad can safely be assumed to represent only a minimum of actual U.S. involvement; the American buildup in Thailand had been under way many months before the Congress and the public received even the first inkling of it from official sources.
At home military forces are deployed at thousands of major and minor installations within the borders of the United States. Defense is easily the nation's largest employer, accounting for one job in every nine. When the armed forces are added to the 1.3 million civilians employed by the Defense Department and 3.8 million on the payrolls of the 100,000 firms that contribute to defense production, and when the wives, children, and other dependents of all these people are taken into account, almost one fifth of the total population of the United States depends on the military establishment for its livelihood. In 1968 the defense budget of more than $78 billion accounted for almost 10 percent of the Gross National Product. More than half of the total went into ten states - California, Texas, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, Massachusetts, Georgia, and Missouri. Military dollars constituted more than 20 percent pf total personal income in Connecticut and almost 30 percent in Alaska.
Among the 100,000 companies that share in the defense procurement business, a very few have a very large part of the pie. In 1968, 100 major corporations had more than two-thirds of all defense business and the top two of these, General Dynamics and Lockheed, had more than the smallest fifty. From 1961 through 1967 each of thirty-eight companies was awarded a contract amounting to more than $1 billion. Lockheed which headed the list with $10.62 billion, relied on the military for all but 12 percent of its sale. A dozen firms specializing almost completely in military business, together with General Electric and American Telephone and Telegraph, had a third of all defense contracts in 1968.
"We should not be surprised that these corporations are interested in expanded defense spending any more than we should be shocked by the fact that most successful manufacturing firms conduct vigorous marketing programs," Senator George McGovern, the South Dakota Democrat, has pointed out. "Certainly it is not the role of defense contractors to make value judgments on national priorities. They are in business to sell, and they do. Members of Congress are asked to intercede when difficulties in negotiating contracts are encountered. Retired military officers are employed by defense contractors in order to maintain contact with the right people in the Pentagon."
The result of these efforts has been a genial partnership between Pentagon procurement officers - some 5,500 military and civilian personnel are employed in procurement - and their suppliers. It is a partnership in which no one except the taxpayer gets hurt. In hearings conducted by the Joint Economic Subcommittee on Economy in Government headed by Senator William Proxmire, Wisconsin Democrat, expert witnesses have produced evidence that major defense contractors earn profits about 70 per cent higher than the average for firms engaged primarily in nondefense work. A. W. Bueskin, a former Pentagon official, told the subcommittee that the $8 billion Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile program returned a 43 per cent before-tax profit based on net worth to the prime contractor, the Boeing Company. After taxes, he added, the profits on Minuteman would have been about 21 percent on net worth, about double the going rate in nondefense industries.
Proxmire called this record "appalling," but his subcommittee went on to prove that it was by no means exceptional. Although the Pentagon acknowledges that price competition in contract awards reduces costs by an average of 25 per cent, the volume of competitive bidding has been declining steadily, now accounting for less than 12 percent of the contracts awarded. About a third of the Pentagon's purchases are based on "competitive negotiated contracts" in which price may or may not be a factor, and more than half, including most of the largest contracts, involve no competition of any kind.
Official regulations governing defense procurement declare that price competition should be the rule, but there are exceptions - seventeen kind of them by latest count - and they are generously invoked. One exception is "urgent need," and it covers most situations not encompassed by the other sixteen. The contract watchdog agency, the Renegotiation Board, is governed by exceptions too, including one that automatically exempts from scrutiny all companies that transact less than $1 million in defense business a year. Lawrence E. Hartwig, the chairman of the Renegotiation Board, has estimated that "if all the exemptions were lifted, we would have jurisdiction to check for excess profits on at least another $8 billion or $9 billion in government purchases, and it could go as high as $10 billion."
Despite the rising reaction in Congress and the country against mismanagement and waste, the multibillion dollar corporations that thrive on defense business are projecting still greater earnings in their business forecasts. "Our future planning is based on visible contracts. One must believe in the long-term threat," says James J. Ling, who presides over the $ 3.2 billion Ling-Temco-Vought conglomerate, the nation's eight-largest defense contractor. On the basis of that belief LTV Aerospace Corporation, Ling's prime defense subsidiary, predicts total sales of $ 1.3 billion in 1973, compared with $ 530 million in 1968. Its cheery forecast reflects industry-wide expectations. In a study of "The Post-Vietnam Defense and Space Market Environment," the Electronics Industries Association concluded in 1968 that arms control agreements "during the next decade are unlikely," that the "likelihood of limited war will increase," and that "thus fir the electronics firms the outlook is good in spite of [the end of hostilities in] Vietnam."
To those Americans who cherish the concept of a free, competitive marketplace, the concentration of tremendous economic power in an ever-shrinking list of ever-growing defense-oriented corporations should be a matter of concern and consternation. That it is not reflects, in part, the widespread assumption that our huge military expenditures are an essential component in the nation's prosperity. Yet economists across a broad ideological spectrum agree that this is not the case - that the growth of the military-industrial complex is, in fact, retarding the nation's economic growth over the long run.
John Kenneth Galbraith, the foremost economist of the Liberal Establishment, has asserted that "the common belief that all business benefits from weapons orders is quite wrong. For a few it is a rewarding source of business; the great multitude of business firms pay" - pay because bloated military budgets force up the prices of labor and material, as well as taxes. A leading conservative economist, Arthur F. Burns, who serves as President Nixon's closest adviser on domestic affairs, has pointed out that "if the defense sector has stimulated economic development in some directions, it has retarded growth in others. Many civilian-oriented laboratories of business firms have found it difficult to match the salaries or the equipment that subsidized defense firms offer to scientists and engineers. Research processes for the civilian economy has therefore been handicapped. Small firms have derived little benefit from military or space contracts." The military-industrial complex, Burns added in a lecture at New York University, has drained needed manpower from the nation's work force and has led to the rise of a "new class of business executives … men whose understanding of marketing and cost controls is often deficient, but who know how to negotiate effectively with government officials." Burns' most important point was this: Unlike investments in education or new factories, expenditures for weapons "add nothing to the nation's capacity to produce."
The bloated military budget is a major cause - some economists say the only cause - of the spiraling inflation that has plagued the United States in recent years. Louis Stone, an economist for the New York securities firm of Hayden, Stone Inc., explains the effect this way: " When money is spent for productive purposes, theoretically there is just as much supply created as demand; when money is spent for war … no marketable supply is created to offset the demand side of the equation, and the result is a bidding up of prices." The Wall Street Journal has described the process thus: "Mr. Jones who builds washing machines and Mr. Smith who build bombs for the Air Force both earn $200 a week. But neither uses his income to buy bombs and both need washing machines. Result: Washing machine prices are bid up as the supply of funds available to buy washers grows much more rapidly than the supply of machines."
In interesting contrast to Senator Fulbright's suggestion that the nation's preoccupation with military matters has compounded its domestic problems is this comment from the 1969 policy statement of the U.S. Air Force Association: "Taken together, the military industrial team, which protects our national interest against foreign enemies, constitutes at the same time a vital national resource that contributes on an ever-increasing scale to solution for many of our domestic ills." There can be no doubt that military influence has extended into civilian matters to a degree that would be unthinkable only a few years ago.
An example of the subtle shifts taking place within the Federal Government is the transformation of the Office of Emergency Preparedness (OEP), which describes itself as "the nation's chief nonmilitary emergency plans agency charged with overseeing contingency planning at all levels of government to ensure that the nation can meet any crisis." The director of the OEP sits on the National Security Council, designated to represent civilian needs and interests in its deliberations. As late as 1968 no military men held policy-making positions in the OEP. By the summer of 1969 seven of nine key officials of the agency were from the armed services. The executive director of OEP was a retired Army general. His executive assistant was a lieutenant colonel still on active duty with the Regular Army, although detached to the OEP. The chief of the Plans and Programs Branch of the Emergency Operations Office, which handles much of the classified work for the OEP was a retired Air Force colonel. Its Office for the Special Assistant for Planning, which "provides staff support to the director on National Security Council matters, and is charged with an overview and coordinating function with respect tom other OEP planning," was firmly under military control. It was headed by a colonel recently retired after twenty-seven years with the Regular Army and staffed by two Army lieutenant colonels and a Navy lieutenant, all on active duty.
"These appointments," Senator Proxmire charged, "flaunt the basic purpose of the OEP. All of these men are very well trained, highly competent, and dedicated. But the problem remains that they have spent most of their formative years in the military and have been sensitized to military rather than civilian needs."
Men sensitized to military rather than civilian needs are actively being sought out by other branches of the government. "The war against organized crime now is getting help from the Pentagon," an Associated Press dispatch reported on May 29, 1969. "Charles H. Rogovin, head of the Justice Department's law enforcement assistance administration, said two intelligence-gathering divisions of the Defense Department are providing technical assistance for an 'automated organized crime intelligence system.'" No details have been disclosed on the precise nature of the Pentagon's "technical assistance," but anyone familiar with the workings of military justice can gauge the likely impact on the traditional safeguards of due process.
In the fall of 1968 Secretary of Defense Clark M. Clifford decreed for the Pentagon an aggressive role in attacking the nation's domestic ills, declaring that the department "has a deep obligation to contribute far more than it has ever contributed before to the social needs of our country." Clifford's plan, which envisaged broad military programs in such areas as housing, health care, education, and employment, has been endorsed by his successor, Secretary Laird, who has appointed a Domestic Action Council intended to guide the military in making "a significant contribution in helping to solve some of the problems that afflict our urban areas." The kind of social consciousness that is likely to guide such Pentagon projects can be deduced from the department's energetic efforts to undermine the nationwide grape boycott mounted by California pickers in an effort to attain a living wage. In the face of the boycott the Pentagon increased its grape purchases for U.S. forces in Vietnam by 350 percent in 1968, explaining that it had suddenly discovered an acute craving for grapes among the troops.
More worrisome than any of these indications of encroachment into traditionally civilian preserves are the growing indications of military preparations to deal with internal insurrection within the United States - preparations that would be instantly recognizable in many foreign countries as preliminaries for the establishment of a garrison state. By the summer of 1969 the Army was boasting that almost 700,000 of its men had received training for domestic riot duty and that it stood to cope with racial outbreaks in twenty-five cities at one time. One brigade (3,500 men) on the East Coast and one on the West stood constantly ready to move into combat against Americans, with other units poised to follow.
In a new, $2.7 million operation center under the Pentagon's mall parking lot, round-the-clock teams surrounded by computers, switchboards, teletypes, and maps maintain surveillance on the nation's cities and constantly update dossiers containing information on assembly areas for troops, transportation facilities, concentration of Negro and other low-income residents, known "troublemakers," and sites that could be pressed into use as detention centers when conventional jails have been filled. The man in charge of the Pentagon's Civil Disturbance Planning and Operations Office is Lieutenant General Richard G. Stilwell, fresh from a tour of duty as commander of the 24th Corps in Vietnam.
The distortion of national priorities, the neglect of pressing social needs, the concentration of corporate power, the growing dependency of millions of Americans on the military-industrial complex, the erosion of liberty, the intrusion of the military into areas that have been and should be under civilian control - all these might be regarded as part of the price America must pay for survival in a dangerous age; they have, indeed, been routinely rationalized on just those terms by the supporters of the military establishment. Yet one need look no farther than to that dedicated champion of the military, Defense Secretary Laird, for persuasive testimony that vast arms expenditures have failed to produce security.
"Never have the challenges to our national security exceeded in number and gravity those which we found on taking office," Laird declared in his first "posture statement" to the Senate Armed Services Committee. Few corners of the world were omitted from his grim recitation of potential disasters. In Laos, he warned, 40,000 North Vietnamese troops stood poised to march "right up to the border of Thailand." In Korea, "peace hangs by a slender thread." Malaysia and Singapore represented "a potential security problem." Looming large over all of Asia was China's "vast army and relatively large air and naval force … on the verge of being supplemented by an operational nuclear capability." In the Middle East, Laird reported, "the Arab-Israeli conflict verges on an active state of war … complicated by the continuous flow of Soviet arms to their Arab clients." In Europe he found the North Atlantic Treaty Organization "beset with both military and political problems of no small magnitude." The Soviet Union confronted the United States with "a marked increase in … strategic weapons capability, both offensive and defensive, a challenge that is of serious import. There has been a distinct buildup in Soviet general purpose forces … At the same time the Russian research and development effort is still going forward at a vigorous pace." From Wisconsin Secretary Laird's mother telephoned to say, "Melvin, you're scaring people."
It was, indeed, a frightening catalogue, and one might suppose that it would prompt the nation's chief defense official to undertake a basic reappraisal of the policy assumption that had brought the United States - and the world - to such a perilous position. One would be wrong; Laird's prescription was for more of the same - more weapons, more expenditures, more reliance on military solutions. It was a consistent position for Laird to take. As a Congressman he had for years expressed abiding faith in the inevitability (and desirability) of a continuing Cold War; uncompromising rejection of the notion of nuclear parity between the United States and the Soviet Union in favor of "American nuclear superiority"; eagerness to assign the top national priority to arms procurement; and contempt for the feeble efforts mounted by former Secretary Robert S. McNamara to apply a measure of "cost effectiveness" restraint to swollen military budgets.
As the civilian director of the military establishment, Laird had a marked weakness for the workings of the military mind. In his 1962 book, A House Divided: America's Strategy Gap (remembered chiefly for its ardent advocacy of an American 2first-strike capability" against the Soviet Union), Laird complained about the tendency to exclude the "highly intelligent citizens" in the military from the making of political policy. Had the "meaningful recommendations" of the brass been followed, laird wrote, "the chances are that accelerated efforts in many areas where we later tried frantically to make up for lost time would have been undertaken when they should have been - years ago."
Americans have had ample opportunity in recent years to learn about the nature of the military's "meaningful recommendations." In his memoir of the Cuban missile crisis, Thirteen Days, the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy recalled how "one member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for example, argued that we could use nuclear weapons on the basis that our adversaries would use theirs against us in an attack. I thought, as I listened, of the many times that I had heard the military take positions which, if wrong, had the advantage that no one would be around at the end to know."
The Joint Chiefs, Kennedy reported, "were unanimous in calling for immediate military action" in the Cuban crisis and one member, General Curtis E. Le May, the Air Force Chief of Staff, "argued strongly with the President that a military attack was essential" and insisted there would be no Soviet response to such an attack. The military, Kennedy added, "seemed always to assume that the Russians and the Cubans would not respond or, if they did, that a war was in our national interest [emphasis added]. One of the Joint Chiefs of Staff once said to me he believed in a preventive attack against the Soviet Union. On that fateful Sunday morning when the Russians answered they were withdrawing their missiles, it was suggested by one high military adviser that we attack on Monday in any case. Another felt that we had in some way been betrayed."
That military men should have profound faith in the use of military means is understandable. Waging war, is, after all, the trade to which they are trained and for which they are hired, and the one that leads to recognition and advancement in their chosen field. General David M. Shoup, the retired commandant of the Marine Corps, has pointed out that "civilians can scarcely understand or even believe that many ambitious military professionals truly yearn for wars and the opportunities for glory and distinction afforded only in combat. A career of peacetime duty is a dull and frustrating prospect for the normal regular officer to contemplate."
When such motivation is augmented by the powerful spur of primitive patriotism, the fear of real or imagined Communist aggression, the competitiveness of interservice rivalries, the blandishments of contract-hungry corporations, and the active or passive support of a heavily propagandized public, the result is a reckless momentum of increasing militarism - one whose purposes are rapidly transformed from the maintenance of defense to the advocacy of armed initiative and even preventive war in order to impose American hegemony on the rest of the world. "America," says General Shoup, "has become a militaristic and aggressive nation."
A generation of retired Air Force generals, among them Nathan F. Twining, Thomas S. Power and Curtis E. Le May, has given us embittered memoirs deploring the reluctance of the United States to make full use of air power, including its capacity to wage nuclear war, in order to create a pax Americana. Their cosmic vision of unbridled military might has its counterpart in the other services and among the military's civilian sycophants. A typical comment came early in 1969 from Marine Corps Reserve Major General Charles F. Duchein, the president of the Navy League of the United States (which describes itself as "the civilian arm of the Navy"): "All of the great land mass of planet Earth can now be dominated from the sea. An oceanic doctrine, a maritime concept, is the crux of capitalizing on the oceans of the world."
There is but little comfort in the fact that the most extreme doctrines fancied by the military have not yet been translated into national policy or practice. The influence of these doctrines has steadily increased. In its determination to play the role of policeman to the world, the United States has in recent years mounted a disastrous invasion of Cuba, a "successful" incursion into the Dominican Republic, and a catastrophic intervention in Vietnam. At the same time it has, by deploying its forces around the globe and entering into "commitments" to scores of nations, created the potential for many more Vietnams. it is a paradox of American "security" planning that it contributes constantly to insecurity by creating new U.S. "interests" to be threatened and defended.
Now the United States stands on the brink of a new, costly, and dangerous round of escalation in the arms race. On one hand, the military plan to deploy an anti-ballistic missile system that represents the latest manifestation of an old dream, the dream of an "absolute defense" against foreign attack. On the other, the multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle (MIRV) is being developed as the absolute offensive weapon. Unless the trend against which President Eisenhower warned in 1961 can be reversed, a world already confronted with the danger of instant annihilation will be moved still closer to the edge of the precipice.
"We are caught up in a sequence of technology developments without any logical end," Dr. Herbert York who served for three years as the Pentagon's director of defense research and engineering told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on July 16, 1969. "The first step in this sequence was the ballistic missile. The second step is the antiballistic missile. The third is the anti-antiballistic missile or MIRV as we usually call it. In this sequence each step is more pointless and more treacherous than the one before it. If we continue to put all our faith in seeking security through military technology, we shall soon discover what the fourth step is, but we shall be still further from achieving genuine national security."
This is the great peril posed by the military-industrial complex in America: not that it is diverting the United States from its historic path; not that it is both costly and wasteful; not that it stifles democracy and distorts the economy. The great peril is that it points us toward destruction.