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<html>
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<title>D.8 What causes militarism and what are its effects?
</title>
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<p>
<H1>D.8 What causes militarism and what are its effects?</H1>
<p>
There are two main causes of capitalist militarism. Firstly, there is
the need to contain the domestic enemy - the oppressed and exploited
sections of the population. The other, as noted in the section on
imperialism, is that a strong military is necessary in order for a 
ruling class to pursue an aggressive and expansionist foreign policy. 
For most developed capitalist nations, this kind of foreign policy 
becomes more and more important because of economic forces, i.e. in order 
to provide outlets for its goods and to prevent the system from collapsing 
by expanding the market continually outward. This outward expansion of, 
and so competition between, capital needs military force to protect its
interests (particularly those invested in other countries) and give it 
added clout in the economic jungle of the world market.
<p>
Capitalist militarism also serves several other purposes and has a number
of effects. First, it promotes the development of a specially favoured group
of companies involved in the production of armaments or armament related
products ("defence" contractors), who have a direct interest in the
maximum expansion of military production. Since this group is particularly
wealthy, it exerts great pressure on government to pursue the type of
state intervention and, often, the aggressive foreign policies it wants.
<p>
This "special relationship" between state and Big Business also has the
advantage that it allows the ordinary citizen to pay for industrial
Research and Development. Government subsidies provide an important way
for companies to fund their research and development at taxpayer expense,
which often yields "spin-offs" with great commercial potential as consumer
products (e.g. computers). Needless to say, all the profits go to the
defence contractors and to the commercial companies who buy licences to
patented technologies from them, rather than being shared with the public
which funded the R&D that made the profits possible.
<p>
It is necessary to provide some details to indicate the size and impact of 
military spending on the US economy:
<p><blockquote>
<i>"Since 1945. . . there have been new industries sparking investment and
employment . . In most of them, basic research and technological progress
were closely linked to the expanding military sector. The major innovation
in the 1950s was electronics . . . [which] increased its output 15 percent
per year. It was of critical importance in workplace automation, with the
federal government providing the bulk of the research and development
(R&D) dollars for military-orientated purposes. Infrared instrumentation,
pressure and temperature measuring equipment, medical electronics, and
thermoelectric energy conversion all benefited from military R&D. By 
the 1960s indirect and direct military demand accounted for as much as
70 percent of the total output of the electronics industry. Feedbacks also 
developed between electronics and aircraft, the second growth industry of 
the 1950s. By 1960 . . . [i]ts annual investment outlays were 5.3 times 
larger than their 1947-49 level, and over 90 percent of its output went 
to the military. Synthetics (plastics and fibers) was another growth industry 
owning much of its development to military-related projects. Throughout the 
1950s and 1960s, military-related R&D, including space, accounted for 40 
to 50 percent of total public and private R&D spending and at least 85% 
of federal government share."</i> [Richard B. Du Boff, <b>Accumulation and 
Power</b>, pp. 103-4]
</blockquote><p>
Not only this, government spending on road building (initially justified
using defence concerns) also gave a massive boost to private capital 
(and, in the process, totally transformed America into a land fit for
car and oil corporations). The cumulative impact of the 1944, 1956 and 1968
Federal Highway Acts <i>"allowed $70 billion to be spent on the interstates
without [the money] passing through the congressional appropriations 
board."</i> The 1956 Act <i>"[i]n effect wrote into law the 1932 National
Highway Users Conference strategy of G[eneral] M[otors] chairman 
Alfred P. Sloan to channel gasoline and other motor vehicle-related
excise taxes into highway construction."</i> GM also illegally bought-up 
and effectively destroyed public transit companies across America, so
reducing competition against private car ownership. The net effect of
this state intervention was that by 1963-66 <i>"one in every six business
enterprise was directly dependent on the manufacture, distribution,
servicing, and the use of motor vehicles."</i> The impact of this process
is still evident today -- both in terms of ecological destruction
and in the fact that automobile and oil companies are still dominate
the top twenty of the Fortune 500. [<b>Op. Cit.</b>, p. 102]
<p>
This system, which can be called military Keynesianism, has three advantages
over socially-based state intervention. Firstly, unlike social programmes, 
military intervention does not improve the situation (and thus, hopes) 
of the majority, who can continue to be marginalised by the system, 
suffer the discipline of the labour market and feel the threat of
unemployment. Secondly, it acts likes welfare for the rich, ensuring 
that while the many are subject to market forces, the few can escape 
that fate - while singing the praises of the "free market". And, thirdly,
it does not compete with private capital.
<p>
Because of the connection between militarism and imperialism, it was
natural after World War II that America should become the world's leading
military state at the same time that it was becoming the world's leading
economic power, and that strong ties developed between government,
business, and the armed forces. American "military capitalism" is
described in detail below, but the remarks also apply to a number of
other "advanced" capitalist states.
<p>
In his farewell address, President Eisenhower warned of the danger posed to
individual liberties and democratic processes by the <i><b>"military-industrial
complex,"</i></b> which might, he cautioned, seek to keep the economy in a 
state of continual war-readiness simply because it is good business. This echoed
the warning which had been made earlier by sociologist C. Wright Mills (in
<b>The Power Elite</b>, 1956), who pointed out that since the end of World War
II the military had become enlarged and decisive to the shape of the
entire American economy, and that US capitalism had in fact become a
military capitalism. This situation has not substantially changed since
Mills wrote, for it is still the case that all US military officers have
grown up in the atmosphere of the post-war military-industrial alliance and
have been explicitly educated and trained to carry it on. So, despite
recent cuts in the US defence budget, American capitalism remains
military capitalism, with a huge armaments industry and defence
contractors still among the most powerful of political entities.
<p>
<a name="secd81"><h2>D.8.1 Will militarism change with the apparent end of the Cold War?</h2>
<p>
Many politicians seemed to think so in the early nineties, asserting that a
<i>"peace dividend"</i> was at hand. Since the Gulf War, however, Americans have
heard little more about it. Although it's true that some fat was trimmed
from the defence budget, both economic and political pressures have tended
to keep the basic military-industrial complex intact, insuring a state of
global war-readiness and continuing production of ever more advanced
weapons systems into the foreseeable future.
<p>
Since it's having more and more trouble dominating the world economically,
America now claims superpower status largely on the basis of its military
superiority. Therefore the US won't be likely to renounce this
superiority willingly-- especially since the prospect of recapturing world
economic superiority appears to depend in part on her ability to bully
other nations into granting economic concessions and privileges, as in the
past. Hence the US public is being bombarded with propaganda designed to
show that an ongoing US military presence is necessary in every corner of
the planet.
<p>
For example, after the Gulf War the draft of a government White Paper was
released in which it was argued that the US must maintain its status as
the world's strongest military power and not hesitate to act unilaterally
if UN approval for future military actions is not forthcoming. Although
then President Bush, under election-year political pressures, denied that
he personally held such views, the document reflected the thinking of
powerful authoritarian forces in government -- thinking that has a way of
becoming public policy through secret National Security Directives (see
section D.9.2 -- <a href="secD9.html#secd92">What is "Invisible government"?</a>).
<p>
For these reasons it would not be wise to bet on a deep and sustained
American demilitarisation. It is true that troop strength is being cut
back in response to Soviet withdrawals from Eastern Europe; but these
cutbacks are also prompted by the development of automated weapons systems
which reduce the number of soldiers needed to win battles, as demonstrated
in the Persian Gulf.
<p>
Although there may appear to be no urgent need for huge military budgets
now that the Soviet threat is gone, the US has found it impossible to kick
its forty-year addiction to militarism. As Noam Chomsky points out in
many of his works, the <i><b>"Pentagon System,"</i></b> in which the public is forced to
subsidise research and development of high tech industry through subsidies
to defence contractors, is a covert substitute in the US for the overt
industrial planning policies of other "advanced" capitalist nations, like
Germany and Japan. US defence businesses, which are among the biggest
lobbyists, cannot afford to lose this "corporate welfare." Moreover,
continued corporate downsizing and high levels of unemployment will
produce strong pressure to maintain defence industries simply in order to
keep people working.
<p>
Despite some recent modest trimming of defence budgets, the demands of US
military capitalism still take priority over the needs of the people. For
example, Holly Sklar points out that Washington, Detroit, and Philadelphia
have higher infant death rates than Jamaica or Costa Rica and that Black
America as a whole has a higher infant mortality rate than Nigeria; yet
the US still spends less public funds on education than on the military,
and more on military bands than on the National Endowment for the Arts
[<i>"Brave New World Order,"</i> in Cynthia Peters, ed., <b>Collateral Damage</b>,
1992, pp. 3-46]. But of course, politicians continue to maintain that
education and social services must be cut back even further because there
is "no money" to fund them.
<p>
A serious problem at this point, however, is that the collapse of the
Soviet Union leaves the Pentagon in desperate need of a sufficiently
dangerous and demonic enemy to justify continued military spending in the
style to which it's accustomed. Saddam Hussein was temporarily helpful,
but he's not enough of a menace to warrant the robust defence budgets of
yore now that his military machine has been smashed. There are some
indications, however, that the US government has its sights on Iran.
<p>
The main point in favour of targeting Iran is that the American public
still craves revenge for the 1979 hostage humiliation, the Lebanon
bombing, the Iran-Contra scandal, and other outrages, and can thus be
relied on to support a war of retribution. Hence it would not be
surprising to hear much more in the future about a possible Iranian
nuclear threat and about the dangers of Iranian influence in the Moslem
republics of the ex-Soviet empire.
<p>
In the wake of the Persian Gulf War, the United States has quietly been
building a network of defence alliances reminiscent of the Eisenhower years
after World War II, so that America may now be called upon to police
disturbances all over the Arab World. Sending troops to Somalia appears
to have been designed to help accustom Americans to such a role.
<p>
Besides Iran, unfriendly regimes in North Korea, Cuba, and Libya, as well
as communist guerrilla groups in various South American nations, also hold
great promise as future testing grounds for new weapons systems. And of
course there is the recent troop deployments to Haiti and Bosnia, which
provide the Pentagon with more arguments for continued high levels of
defence spending. In a nutshell, then, the trend toward increasing
militarism is not likely to be checked by the present military
"downsizing," which will merely produce a leaner and more efficient
fighting machine.
<p>
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