Welcome To The Military-Industrial Pandemic: This is the time, above all others, you can see the special interests trumping national interests. | WHAT REALLY HAPPENED X-Frame-Options: DENY X-Frame-Options: SAMEORIGIN

Welcome To The Military-Industrial Pandemic: This is the time, above all others, you can see the special interests trumping national interests.

The parallels between the war in Afghanistan and the Vietnam War are striking. In the Afghanistan Papers that were acquired by the Washington Post, the senselessness of the war is laid bare by U.S. government officials. The papers are reminiscent of the Vietnam-era Pentagon Papers and show that for years, the U.S. government has known that the war in Afghanistan is a costly and deadly exercise in futility. Afghanistan’s terrain, tribal politics, and culture have long thwarted invaders. This is something that the British and the Soviets, to the delight of U.S. officials in 1979, learned the hard way.

Yet despite clear lessons from the past and what should have been some institutional memory, U.S. policymakers pursued financially and strategically ruinous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Estimated expenditures on these two wars and the larger open ended “war on terror” now exceed $6.5 trillion. Rather than having made the U.S. more secure, these wars, and the unchecked defense spending that they demand, make the U.S. more vulnerable to a host of internal and external threats.

America’s interventionist policies abroad and the cancerous growth of defense budgets, the most recent of which is nearly $800 billion, compromise Washington’s ability to grapple with threats like crumbling infrastructure, an educational system that fails to deliver, and true national preparedness for a crisis like the coronavirus. It is useful to think about what even a small portion of the $6.5 trillion spent on failed wars could have done had it been spent on infrastructure, world-class public education, accessible healthcare, and emergency preparedness. If it had been spent intelligently and strategically, it could have been transformative.

Instead, the U.S. public, as has so often been the case, continues to allow the military-industrial complex to exercise undue influence. The companies that make up the vast military-industrial complex in the U.S. spend millions lobbying Congress. These lobbying efforts probably have the highest return of any investment on the planet. In exchange for comparatively paltry campaign donations, members of Congress are persuaded to pass legislation that yields billions in revenue for these companies.

Those who stand up to the calls for increased defense spending are said to be “soft on defense” or even called “unpatriotic” by rival politicians and the platoon of retired colonels and generals who act as paid cheerleaders for defense contractors. In his 1961 Farewell Address, President Eisenhower presciently warned Americans about the power of the military-industrial complex.