Updated: Feb 7
Let us first talk about Iron Man. One of the most beloved superheroes of our generation- the embodiment of American technological supremacy and ideological morality-Iron Man. But what made Iron Man, Iron Man? He was not born that way. Tony Stark, the billionaire industrialist, observes a change of heart while on his trip to Afghanistan, where he almost gets close to being blown away into pieces by the missile that bore the name-Stark Industries. His own company.
On his return back to America, he is determined to change things. However, even for him, a multi-billionaire, the system seems too entrenched, too difficult to change. The stakes run high and other players are determined to maintain the status quo. In this piece, The Geostrata aims to explore the Military-Industrial Complex in all its significant aspects and understand its implications which reverberate far beyond, in the corridors of our lives.
As the name suggests, it refers to the broader industry with the militaries being the major client and corporations fine-tuned to invent and hand-deliver the required weapons as per their needs. Over the years, this model has been replicated and adopted by several nations. But, its originator, the United States of America, still dominates the global industry. With corporations like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon Company and many more attending not only to the needs of the US Military but clients across the globe, be it other sovereign nations, commercial interests and more.
Until the very onset of the Second world war, America relied upon civilian factories for its military needs. However, WWII was a different case altogether.
What started as President Roosevelt establishing the War Production Board in 1942 has now evolved into an industrial nexus worth billions or even trillions of dollars, depending upon which factors one considers.
‘Necessity is the mother of Invention’ is a time-tested aphorism. No doubt, the second world war required ever sophisticated weapon systems, but it was just the start of what was to arrive in the near future. Having met the danger of the Nazi regime, the US and USSR separated ways and what arrived was the long decades period of the Cold War. The two world hegemon undertook a massive arms race, the US relying on its corporations and USSR on its state apparatus. Many of our high-tech weaponry traces its roots to this very period.
Economics is a force that often outweighs morality. The military-industrial complex often gets a negative portrayal, for reasons we will explore a bit later, but can we deny their need? We cannot. Therefore, this industry has observed a positive correlation with time as it is projected to grow even more as the security apparatus needs ever-more 21st-century centricity.
US President Dwight D. Eisenhower famously gave compelling remarks during his farewell address regarding the potential downsides the Military-Industrial complex might possess if left unchecked. His words carried extra-weightage for him being the veteran army general during the Second World War, and he knew and understood precisely what he was talking about. He said:
“In the councils of the 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”.
Part of the reason why this complex threatens to cast a major influence over policy decisions is that it is a source of employment for a major chunk of population, considering this when a lot many Americans are losing out on white collar jobs to immigrates from other parts of the world. Policy makers are keen to secure jobs in their areas-which these corporations can provide, contributing towards creating stability and securing the political future of representatives. Therefore, some sort of influence is bound to arise.
Let us consider the nuances a bit more deeply. One of the most popular arguments propelled against the military-industrial complex, and to an extent rightly so, is that the concerned companies make profits only when they sell weapons.
Hence, they are often targeted as a strong reason or cause for the wars or military conflicts that have taken place over the years. What we need to ask ourselves is that while this argument might have some element of truth in it, can such a direct and linear correlation exists in reality, which is multidimensional.
While the corporations make profits during times of conflict, they occur for various reasons, historical apprehensions, geo-political tensions being some of them. And more or less, there is no tangible way to actually figure out how much corporations' actions affect the hostilities undertaken on the ground.
Consider the state of Israel, which exists on a thin strip of land in the Arab dominated 21st-century Middle East. No amount of pacifist tendencies are going to stop it from the arm itself to teeth. With the onset of the rise in the influence of terrorist organisations like ISIS, sovereign governments will keep pumping in money to secure the latest specs of armaments to increase their leverage over hostile enemies with bearing minimum human costs. The influence of the military-industrial complex over politics, realistically speaking, is hard to counter, but it is also hard to deny.
Therefore, one possible solution to prevent it from becoming too dominant would be increasing public transparency in terms of the dealings between corporations and governments.
Thus, the threat which President Eisenhower reflected always exists and if we aim to keep it under our control, constant and vigilant efforts are to be made by us by holding the stakeholders-government, the military, corporations and foremostly our representatives accountable.
MILITARY COMPLEX & ITS IMPACT ON OUR LIVES
We’re all aware of how this plays out in keeping the citizens safe at home. Well, that is the direct impact of it, several hidden but beneficiary implications exist as well. Let us consider one profound example. We’re all aware of how much of a boon NASA’s Hubble telescope has been for our humanity. From unearthing several secrets of the cosmos by providing a deep look into the vastness of the cosmic ocean-a glance across eons of time and space to help us better understand our place in the universe, Hubble does it all.
Celebrity Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson revealed on Joe Rogan’s Podcast that why NASA could efficiently build the Hubble telescope because the required technologies had already been perfected by the military for their secret programmes looking downwards. This is not a sole example. The Internet was the direct result of a military project undertaken by the US military, ARPANET, which started in the 60s.
Technological advance is not a straightforward graph, where advances are discovered for specific goals and objectives. Science is a collaborative effort and hence, advances made in one field, are actively tweaked and modified to be useful in others. This Military-Industrial complex has been one such field of progress, consider the GPS we use to navigate, a technology initially developed to better guide military’s missiles and aircraft.
BY PRATYAKSH KUMAR
CO-FOUNDER THE GEOSTRATA