A small article on page A12 of the January 29 issue of the New York Times is revealing with respect to the extent of the power of the military-industrial complex in American life. The article reports that the Army’s chief of staff, Gen. Peter Schoomaker, told the House Armed Services Committee that he is going to increase the size of U.S. forces by 30,000.
Did Congress authorize the increase? No. And when a few congressmen indicated to the general that they’d be pleased to have Congress authorize the increase, the general responded that Congress didn’t need to trouble themselves with providing such authority — that Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld had already authorized the temporary increase under his “emergency” power — and that the “emergency” would justify the increase for the next four years. In other words, “Don’t worry your pretty little heads, elected representatives of the people; the military bureaucracy has the situation well under control. Go back to your knitting.”
Combine that kind of military power (the power to increase military forces without congressional approval) with the enormous economic dependency on military bases of states and cities all over the country and with the Pentagon’s newly claimed power to arrest, jail, and punish American citizens without due process of law and a jury trial, and you might begin to understand what President Eisenhower meant when he warned the American people back in 1961,
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.
To gain an excellent understanding of the overwhelming power and influence of the military-industrial complex in American life — and the tremendous damage it has done to our nation — and the threat it poses to the freedom and well-being of the American people, I highly recommend The Sorrows of Empire by Chalmers Johnson, president of the Japan Policy Research Institute and professor emeritus at the University of California. Here’s what Johnson says in his introduction to this insightful book:
As militarism, the arrogance of power, and the euphemisms required to justify imperialism inevitably conflict with America’s democratic structure of government and distort its culture and basic values, I fear that we will lose our country. If I overstate the threat, I am sure to be forgiven because future generations will be so glad I was wrong. The danger I foresee is that the United States is embarked on a path not unlike that of the former Soviet Union during the 1980s. The USSR collapsed for three basic reasons — internal economic contradictions driven by ideological rigidity, imperial overstretch, and an inability to reform. Because the United States is far wealthier, it may take longer for similar afflictions to do their work. But the similarities are obvious and it is nowhere written that the United States, in its guise as an empire dominating the world, must go on forever.
Ted Galen Carpenter, vice president, Defense and Foreign Policy Studies, at the Cato Institute wrote, “Chalmers Johnson’s searing indictment of America’s flirtation with imperial foreign policy should be required reading for all concerned citizens. One need not agree with all of his arguments to conclude that The Sorrows of Empire is an extremely important and disturbing book.”
In fact, if you haven’t read Johnson’s previous book, Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire, I recommend purchasing it as well. In Blowback, which was published shortly before the September 11 attacks, Johnson explained how U.S. foreign policy was destined to produce major counterattacks against the United States.
Once the American people begin to appreciate the wisdom and foresight of the Founding Fathers in opposing an enormous standing military force in their midst as well as the wisdom and foresight of President Eisenhower, we will be able to begin the journey toward making America once again the model for the world in terms of liberty, peace, prosperity, and enjoyment of life.