On Jan 17, 1961, US President Dwight Eisenhower famously warned his nation against the potential hazard posed by the military-industrial complex. In this historic address, he said:
"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."
Sixty years after the warning, he must have turned in his grave when Joe Biden, the President-elect of the United State of America, embraced the military-industrial complex with open arms.
A lot of people on the left have previously called Biden a warmonger for his hawkish record on war, particularly for his support of the Iraq war. While some might think that the progressives have gone too far, Biden's cabinet picks do leave a lot to be desired.
For those in the dark, Joe Biden recently picked Lloyd Austin as his Secretary of Defence. Austin is a retired four-star military general and the former commander of the military operation in Iraq.
However, Austin's nomination may face a red tape because of the statutory seven-year rule. The rule suggests that a military person cannot be appointed as Defence Secretary within seven years after relief from active duty. But he will most likely receive a waiver from the US Congress just like Jim Mattis did four years ago during the Trump administration.
Firstly, because Democrats want to seize the opportunity to create history by nominating Lloyd Austin. If appointed, Austin will be the first Black person to assume the office of the Defence Secretary. Secondly, Joe Biden has first-hand experience of working with him. Biden holds him in high regard and considers him "uniquely capable" of doing the job.
While liberals and the so-called "corporate democrats" may feel ecstatic at the prospects of an African American defence secretary, there are too many red flags to be ignored.
For starters, the nomination of Lloyd Austin marks a deviation from the long-standing tradition of civilian control over the military, at least as far as Democrats are concerned.
More importantly, Lloyd Austin's close ties with the military-industrial complex will undoubtedly have pernicious ramifications for the rest of the world, particularly the Middle East.
Deviation from the long-held tradition of civilian control
Civilian control over the Pentagon has been a long-standing tradition in the US, at least up to 2016. The underlying reasoning behind this tradition is quite reasonable as well.
Firstly, the military is supposed to be a nonpartisan institution that represents the national interest, regardless of political squabbles. However, the Department of Defence and therefore, the Secretary of Defence are part of the political administration. Hence, if military personnel are casually allowed to segue into such inherently political positions, people may begin to lose faith in the military, a much-revered institution in the US. To be specific, the American citizens may begin to wonder whether the military and the Department of Defence are truly non-partisan institutions. In an increasingly polarised political landscape, as exposed by the recent attack on the Capitol, the US government cannot afford to reinforce such controversy.
Secondly, this nomination fortifies a worrying trend in US administration: gradual capitulation to military experience. That is, only military personnel with combat experience are well-equipped to run the Pentagon.
However, these concerns can be mitigated if Biden surrounds Austin with civilians in the Pentagon leadership who bring in differing views from the retired military person. On top of that, the military gaining more political power, or becoming partisan, is a much less serious problem than embracing the military-industrial complex.
Austin's affiliation with the military-industrial complex
Austin currently serves on the board of Raytheon. He is also on the board of Nucor, the largest steel producer in the US. Before that, he used to serve on the board of United Technologies. In April, Raytheon and United Technologies merged. Before the merger, Raytheon and United Technologies were the 4th and 6th largest defence contractors in the US, respectively, bringing in a total of $24.7 billion in military contracts in 2019.
Since 2016, Lloyd Austin has received $1.4 million from both United and Raytheon, according to the Project on Government Oversight. Evidence like these point to a potential conflict of interest between the prospective Secretary of Defence and the military contractors. Therefore, Austin's appointment will understandably raise some eyebrows, especially in the left-wing of the party.
Although the moderates may discard their concerns as nuisance, these concerns do have some merit. Here's why.
The military-industrial complex constitutes military contractors like Raytheon, United; arms and plane manufacturers like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and so on.
Interestingly enough, all of these companies are beneficiaries of increased military spending. These companies thrive as long as the Pentagon, as well as other foreign nations, keep buying arms from them and keep engaging in direct or proxy wars.
That essentially means, these companies can only survive as long as client countries engage in wars, or aid other countries with weapons. For example, The US assisted Saudi Arabia with weapons as well as fuel support for their fighter jets in their bloody proxy war against the Houthis in Yemen.
Raytheon is one of the key suppliers of explosives in the Saudi-led proxy war in Yemen and has aggressively lobbied to prevent any cutbacks on the arms sales to Saudi Arabia, despite repeated allegations of human rights violation.
While the very reliance of the US military on the military-industrial complex is controversial, the nomination of an executive from that same industry as Defence Secretary adds a new dimension to the problem.
Progressives fear that Austin will be vulnerable to the lobbyists from the military-industrial complex and might be influenced to pursue an aggressive interventionist strategy in the Middle East.
Biden's record on war is deplorable
As Vice President Biden oversaw wars in Yemen, Afghanistan and Libya, just to name a few. Back in 2002, Joe Biden was the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman. Despite his powerful position, he was one of the 77 senators who gave President George W. Bush the sweeping authority to invade Iraq, without any evidence of weapons of mass destruction.
Since then, the Iraq war has claimed the lives of thousands of US soldiers and countless innocent Iraqi civilians and to add salt to the wound, gave rise to the Islamic State. Mr Biden is yet to provide a satisfactory justification for his support behind the war.
Moreover, he even lied about throwing his weight behind the Iraq war while campaigning for the Democratic nomination. Biden famously claimed, "The moment it started, I came out against the war at that moment"- in reality, he remained a supporter of the war long after it began.
On top of that, his transition team consists of people who used to work for organisations, think tanks or companies that either receive money from the weapons industry or are part of them. For example, Kathleen Hicks (a former defence official under President Obama), Melissa Dalton and Andrew Hunter listed The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) as their most recent employment. CSIS is a hawkish foreign policy think tank that receives funding from General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman Corporation, Lockheed Martin and other military contractors.
According to an investigative report by the New York Times, CSIS lobbied for the expansion of drones sales without disclosing their financial affiliation with Lockheed Martin, a key contractor for the THAAD missile system in South Korea. They also received funding from the UAE and Saudi Arabia - countries currently waging an unjust war on Yemen.
Other members of Biden's Department of Defense agency review team include Ely Ratner and Susanna Blume who used to work for the Center for a New American Society - an agency funded by Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and a host of other corporations, including oil companies.
A barrage of similar evidence could be presented for a lot of Biden's pick for his administration. However, that would be redundant. Because at this point, it is beyond a foregone conclusion that Biden will continue the Obama and Trump era interventionist military strategies abroad and undoubtedly will not be a peacemaker.