In his farewell address (January 17, 1961) US President Dwight David Eisenhower warned of the dangers of the war-based economy that World War II had forced his nation to build: "...We have been compelled to create an armaments industry of vast proportions", Eisenhower said, ``...Now this conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in American experience. The total influence - economic, political, even spiritual - is felt in every city, every state house, every office in the federal government. ...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. ... We must stand 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 democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted."
This farsighted speech by Eisenhower deserves to be studied by everyone who is concerned about the future of human civilization and the biosphere. As the retiring president pointed out, the military-industrial complex is a threat both to peace and to democracy. It is not unique to the United States but exists in many countries. The world today spends roughly 2 trillion (i.e. 2 million million) US dollars each year on armaments. It is obvious that very many people make their living from war, and therefore it is correct to speak of war as a social, political and economic institution. The military-industrial complex is one of the main reasons why war persists, although everyone realizes that war is the cause of much of the suffering of humanity.
A military-industrial complex needs enemies. Without them it would wither. Thus at the end of the Second World War, this vast power complex was faced with a crisis, but it was saved by the discovery of a new enemy: communism. The United States emerged from the two global wars as the world's dominant industrial power, taking over the position that Britain had held during the 19th century. The economies of its rivals had been destroyed by the two wars, but no fighting had taken place on American soil. Because of its unique position as the only large country whose economy was completely intact in 1945, the United States found itself suddenly thrust, almost unwillingly, into the center of the world's political stage.
The new role as "leader of the free world" was accepted by the United States with a certain amount of nervousness. America's previous attitude had been isolationism, a wish to be "free from the wars and quarrels of Europe". After the Second World War, however, this was replaced by a much more active international role. Perhaps the new US interest in the rest of the world reflected the country's powerful and rapidly growing industrial economy and its need for raw materials and markets (the classical motive for empires). Publicly, however, it was the threat of Communism that was presented to American voters as the justification for interference in the internal affairs of other countries.
Today, after the end of the Cold War, it has become necessary to find another respectable motivation that can be used to justify foreign intervention, and the "Crusade Against Communism" has now been replaced by the "War on Terror".
Despite the fact that initiating a war is a violation of the United Nations Charter and the Nuremberg Principles, the United States now maintains roughly 1000 military bases in 150 countries, According to Iraklis Tsavdaridis, Secretary of the World Peace Council, "The establishment of US bases should not of course be seen simply in terms of direct military ends. They are always used to promote the economic and political goals of US capitalism. For example, US corporations and the US government have been eager for some time to build a secure corridor for US controlled oil and natural gas pipelines from the Caspian Sea in Central Asia through Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Arabian Sea. This region has more than 6 percent of the world's proven oil reserves, and almost 40 percent of its gas reserves. The war in Afghanistan and the creation of US military bases in Central Asia are viewed as a key opportunity to make such pipelines a reality."
Since World War II, the United States has interfered either militarily or covertly in the internal affairs of very many countries. These include China, 1945-49; Italy, 1947-48; Greece, 1947-49; Philippines, 1946-53; South Korea, 1945-53; Albania, 1949-53; Germany, 1950s; Iran, 1953; Guatemala, 1953-1990s; Middle East, 1956-58; Indonesia, 1957-58; British Guiana/Guyana, 1953-64; Vietnam, 1950-73; Cambodia, 1955-73; The Congo/Zaire, 1960-65; Brazil, 1961-64; Dominican Republic, 1963-66; Cuba, 1959-present; Indonesia, 1965; Chile, 1964-73; Greece, 1964-74; East Timor, 1975-present; Nicaragua, 1978- 89; Grenada, 1979-84; Libya, 1981-89; Panama, 1989; Iraq, 1990-present; Afghanistan 1979-92; El Salvador, 1980-92; Haiti, 1987-94; Yugoslavia, 1999;'and Afghanistan, 2001-present. Of the interventions just mentioned, the Vietnam War, the bombing of Cambodia and Laos, and the invasions of of Iraq and Afghanistan were particularly terrible, resulting in many millions of dead, maimed or displaced people, most of them civilians...
Today, the US government is taking actions that seem almost insane, risking a nuclear war with Russia and simultaneously alienating China. In the long run, such hubris cannot succeed. Overspending on war will lead to economic collapse, and the danger of nuclear war through accident or miscalculation is very real.