The Military Industrial Complex
Eisenhower, in his farewell speech in 1961 cautioned the US about the growing might of the Military Industrial Complex. As a distinguished military leader turned successful president he was in a position to know.
Scroll forward to 2014 and you will be left in no doubt of the significance of his warning. William Blum, in ‘Killing Hope’, described over fifty major wars that the USA has prosecuted since WWII. In the last chapter he asks a troubling question, “Is the United States against terrorism?” It is easy to answer that question: obviously ‘the United States’ is against terrorism. This applies equally to Britain and all other nations on earth. It is difficult to imagine any ordinary person to be in favour of terrorism.
One, therefore, has to be more specific: are the intelligence and military industries against terrorism? Here, there is more room for doubt. Millions of people are employed in weapons production. The industry is highly significant to the US and Europeans economies but the same applies, possibly less so, to all permanent members of the UN Security Council, and others besides such as Israel. Even the manufacture of small weapons, so useful in civil wars and little wars, is itself a huge business to many economies; as reported by the BBC for instance. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/6294242.stm)
Vast Military and Intelligence Industries
The heavy weapons industry is vast and powerful with annual sales amounting to over $400 billion. The top 100 companies enjoy annual sales of well over $600 million each. SIPRI (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute) produces yearly reports that leave little doubt about the might of the Military Industrial Complex.
The intelligence industry is similarly big and powerful. In the US there is a network of 17 major outfits costing a staggering $68 billion annually. (http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175901/tomgram%3A_engelhardt%2C_entering_the_intelligence_labyrinth/#more )
Astonishingly, these vast intelligence organisations failed to anticipate the appearance and growth of the latest enemy of the US in Iraq and Syria (ISIL, ISIS, IS) until it occupied major parts of both countries. The Islamic State, it turns out, had advanced weapons, owned and operated many oil wells and refineries and managed to produce, sell, and be paid for the oil! One has to be very gullible to swallow the fiction that this was going on in secret and without the knowledge of the intelligence agencies. But this has been accepted and there is now a huge coalition put together to fight the new menace that emerged out of the blue.
Benefits from Insecurity and War
So let us go back to the question posed by Blum but amended to apply to the military and intelligence industries. Are they harmed by the new menace that we are required to believe they failed to detect? To answer that question one must imagine a world where peace prevailed everywhere. No more mad mullahs, no more aggressive dictators, and no more jihadists plotting day and night against the West. There would be a glut of weapons and the market would collapse. The economic consequences to some countries could be substantial. To that one must add the effect on shareholders and on the personal wealth of a number of individuals who occupy the top of the military industrial and intelligence hierarchies. Peace might be viewed as a wonderful state by most, but certainly not by all people. An alternative must be found.
On the one hand, war within the industrialised countries is not an option these days. What is left? Incidental wars in distant lands for a start, but that is not enough as conflicts should have a reasonable chance of consuming weapons at a high rate. Civil wars are useful but they do not normally require heavy weapons in adequate quantities. Two variants have been found useful: a short but one-sided intensive war as exemplified by the 1990/1991 Gulf War and the 2003 war on Iraq, or an interminable war as seen in the Iran-Iraq war during the 1980s and the unending war in Afghanistan.
Fertile Environment for Manufactured Conflict
In all the above cases a ‘baddy’ is needed; preferably one who is hot-headed enough to knowingly or unknowingly participate in the carefully choreographed creation of enemies. Islamic connections these days offer added public relations advantages. Third world countries offer a fertile environment: they have minimal governance structures, an uneasy mix of ethnic and religious fissures that could be exploited, and an abundance of ‘strong men’ with hardly any education or experience who could be easily manipulated this way or that. The rest, as they say, is history of the Middle East and North Africa to name just one region.
The New Internationalist magazine published a well-documented article in issue 426, ‘Our Terrorists’ (October 2009) that recounted the dispatch of Osama bin Laden to Afghanistan in 1979 with generous funding by the CIA and others in the Gulf. The article went on to recall how he later created al-Qaeda with the knowledge of the CIA! (http://newint.org/features/2009/10/01/blowback-extended-version/)
The views put forward in the article seem astonishing in the light of what went on later, from the dreadful tragedy of 9/11 to the assassination of bin Laden by American forces in his hideout in Pakistan. Truth in the military and intelligence world is sometimes stranger, and less believable, than fiction.
Islamic State in Afghanistan in 1992 and in Iraq/Syria in 2014
The meteoric rise of the fearful ISIL, and its later transformation into ISIS and now IS provided the latest enemy to keep the military and intelligence business ticking over at an acceptable pace. It has certainly provided much excitement. The world, including the ever-vigilant media, seems to have forgotten that an Islamic State was declared in Afghanistan in 1992. It served the same purpose as its latest progeny in Iraq and Syria. At the time, Pakistan, Iran and Gulf states swung into action to fight that entity. The USA was never far away from their efforts. That agitation continued until 2001 when Operation Enduring Freedom launched US overt military operations in Afghanistan. The conflict, which has gone on to present times and involved Taliban and al-Qaeda, has been a bonanza for the Military Industrial Complex and intelligence agencies.
The search never stops for other venues and Iraq was always an obvious candidate. The Iran-Iraq war (1980 to 1988) cost about $400 billion in weapons. As Heikal, Egyptian political commentator, recounted, “whenever one side seemed in sight of victory Washington would begin helping its opponent.” That was not enough.
The Gulf War (1990/1991) was an all American affair. It followed Saddam’s forces move into Kuwait. In 1994, Kapstein writing in ‘Foreign Affairs’ described the one hundred hours of bombing by US forces as “the greatest arms sale show on earth.” That was not enough either. The 2003 war on Iraq continued the business cycle. And that was not enough.
By accident or design, the civil war in Syria offered further opportunities. Volunteers were trained, funded, armed, and transported through Turkey and Iraq. Overnight, a ramshackle group of several hundred fighters turned into a fearsome well-trained and well-equipped force of twenty thousand or more seasoned warriors!
Future Rests on Young Shoulders
So the Middle East is now eager to welcome US and European military presence to overcome this formidable enemy. Obama said this would take many years. Good news for some. That was dully echoed by the British PM. In short we are witnessing the Afghanisation of large parts of the Middle East. Many, on both sides will be killed or maimed but business is business. As Fortune magazine reported on 13 September 2014, “The war on ISIS already has a winner: The Defense industry.”
The Middle East and North Africa can only plan for the post-conflict era. Western governments do not offer a solution. They are themselves hidebound by their defence and intelligence industries. Domestic solutions will have to be found in the form of better governance, less autocratic governments, focus on health and education, and serious efforts to seek ethnic and religious reconciliation and tolerance. A tall order but that is the only way forward: human history tells us that in no uncertain terms.
Don’t expect quick results but a stuttering beginning has been made by changes brought about by younger people who came together to demand better conditions during the Arab Spring. The older generation is too exhausted and too indoctrinated to make much difference. Hope must rest on young shoulders: it has always been that way through the ages.
Now we are told by Jo Biden US Vice President that countries in the Middle East funded al-Qaeda, Nusra, and other ‘Islamic Jihadist’ groups. He also questioned whether there is a ‘middle’ group in Syria that could be relied on to fight the Assad government. It is of course difficult to believe that all that was going on without the knowledge of US authorities. See:
But then that was said months ago. See: http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/mass-murder-in-the-middle-east-is-funded-by-our-friends-the-saudis-8990736.html