War as a Business Opportunity

A good friend passed along an article at Forbes from a month ago with the pregnant title, “U.S. Army Fears Major War Likely Within Five Years — But Lacks The Money To Prepare.” Basically, the article argues that war is possible — even likely — within five years with Russia or North Korea or Iran, or maybe all three, but that America’s army is short of money to prepare for these wars. This despite the fact that America spends roughly $700 billion each and every year on defense and overseas wars.

Now, the author’s agenda is quite clear, as he states at the end of his article: “Several of the Army’s equipment suppliers are contributors to my think tank and/or consulting clients.” He’s writing an alarmist article about the probability of future wars at the same time as he’s profiting from the sales of weaponry to the army.

As General Smedley Butler, twice awarded the Medal of Honor, said: War is a racket. Wars will persist as long as people see them as a “core product,” as a business opportunity. In capitalism, the profit motive is often amoral; greed is good, even when it feeds war. Meanwhile, the Pentagon is willing to play along. It always sees “vulnerabilities” and always wants more money.

But back to the Forbes article with its concerns about war(s) in five years with Russia or North Korea or Iran (or all three). For what vital national interest should America fight against Russia? North Korea? Iran? A few quick reminders:

#1: Don’t get involved in a land war in Asia or with Russia (Charles XII, Napoleon, and Hitler all learned that lesson the hard way).

#2: North Korea? It’s a puppet regime that can’t feed its own people. It might prefer war to distract the people from their parlous existence.

#3: Iran? A regional power, already contained, with a young population that’s sympathetic to America, at least to our culture of relative openness and tolerance. If the US Army thinks tackling Iran would be relatively easy, just consider all those recent “easy” wars and military interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria …

Of course, the business aspect of this is selling the idea the US Army isn’t prepared and therefore needs yet another new generation of expensive high-tech weaponry. It’s like convincing high-end consumers their three-year-old Audi or Lexus is obsolete so they must buy the latest model else lose face.

We see this all the time in the US military. It’s a version of planned or artificial obsolescence. Consider the Air Force. It could easily defeat its enemies with updated versions of A-10s, F-15s, and F-16s, but instead the Pentagon plans to spend as much as $1.4 trillion on the shiny new and under-performing F-35. The Army has an enormous surplus of tanks and other armored fighting vehicles, but the call goes forth for a “new generation.” No other navy comes close to the US Navy, yet the call goes out for a new generation of ships.

The Pentagon mantra is always for more and better, which often turns out to be for less and much more expensive, e.g. the F-35 fighter.

Wars are always profitable for a few, but they are ruining democracy in America. Sure, it’s a business opportunity: one that ends in national (and moral) bankruptcy.

William J. Astore is a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF). He taught history for fifteen years at military and civilian schools and blogs at Bracing Views. He can be reached at wastore@pct.edu. Reprinted from Bracing Views with the author’s permission.

31 thoughts on “War as a Business Opportunity”

  1. That is all true, but what do you do about it? Is there any profit motive more tempting than war profiteering?

    1. Nationalize the defense industry, dismantle the standing army and replace it with a democratically run civilian militia. Radical, right? Desperate times. Desperate solutions.

      1. Correct answer. Nationalization is the only solution. It is not desperation. Nationalization and prohibition on financing. All military spending must be paid out of current taxes.

      2. That is true but it doesn’t look likely. I’m looking for something that is voluntary where the war profiteers find something else more compelling than what they are doing now. They still get their 1 trillion dollar tribute payment, they keep their jobs and pay, but everything is used for something else instead of militarism. I don’t see them outside of possibly bankruptcy or annihilation giving up on militarism. The American people continue to have options that would curve American militarism but they keep rejecting them for those that will expand it.

        There is always sane options in righting the wrongs but the American people don’t go for it. The war profiteers are not going to unilaterally stop what they are doing. Is there nothing else that is a better scam than war for these people, and that is less harmful to everyone else?

        1. First you nationalize major industry. Then you hand those industries over to independent workers collectives. That way the government is doing business strictly with American workers, rather than lobbyists. It doesn’t fix everything but it’s a start.

          1. Well, maybe first YOU nationalize major industry. I sure as hell don’t. That would be like giving the fox the keys to the henhouse.

            The next time a state hands anything over to independent worker collectives will be the first time, and it will never happen. If such collectives can succeed — an open but interesting question — they will do so despite the state and ultimately by smashing it. They certainly won’t get any favors from it.

          2. A valid point. However Marshal Tito did nationalize Yugoslavia’s major industries and handed the factories over to workers collectives. The state did eventually reign many of these factories in but for a couple decades they worked successfully, helping to build Yugoslavia’s economy to the most successful in the communist world with relatively autonomous factories. The state eventually grew weary of the ideological independence these factories fostered and shut most of them down. However, some of them remained functional until NATO bombed them into dust in ’99.

            The lesson here, as I see it anyway, is that if you can convince the state to hand you the car keys, the first thing you should do is run the state over. The workers should have replaced the state with a Luxemburgian major strike. The State can be good but it’s only as good as the people who run it. Tito started out as a descent, even courageous, human being but as Mikhail Bakunin once mused-

            “If you took the most ardent revolutionary, vested him in absolute power, within a year he would be worse than the Tsar himself.”

            It took Tito a couple decades but absolute power ultimately made him worse than King Alexander I. The best way to destroy the state is to replace it with something stateless. That doesn’t mean however that the state can’t be used to destroy itself. If I were running for President that would be my goal.

        2. It’s ethical because the large majority of the American people demand it of their political leaders. Did you somehow think that Jill Stein and her 5% following is going to change things?

          All that needs to be changed is the headspace the propagandized lemmings are stuck in. When they say no more wars, the politicians will listen if it’s said loud enough.

      3. Good ideas comrade but only you and a few more americans want that to happen. That’s not the fault of the politicians, it’s the fault of the people. People who tell Clinton to continue to be a warmonger. That would be a little over half of voters by the looks of it..

        1. Not really a matter of choice on the part of the people. We live in a doomed empire. Which is inclusive of all empires, which gives us 5000 years of official histories of what happens around the time as described in “on the sands of far Samarkand” with the remains of a statue, being only the feet, ankles and the words ‘Ozymandius am I, King of kings! Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair!’

          I would think, other than the sheer evidence to the contrary, that since Imperialists always have such a huge fascination with history and always consider themselves expert in the field, that at least one person or faction of the Empire would recognize what the Hell (literally) their New Improved Empire is imposing on their subjects.

          The term Imperialism goes in and out of favor. We’ve had quite a bit of it in the US. The nickname of New York being “the Empire State” complete with the Building of the same name, worthy of contemplation.

          Right now it’s considered a Naughty Word. If it’s used to describe “our” Empire. But it’s realism in the extreme. Taxing the corporations who get so much of their wealth is a similar no-no to even speak. Much less trying to implement it.

          My brother, who supports his family and the Tax Base by unloading trucks. Lumping, it’s called. .. but he paid 11,000 last year and the same this year, than General Electric who have huge government contracts. They even run commercials boasting of it, one in particular is their contract to make turbines for fighter and bomber jets. And there’s less distinction between the two classes of aircraft every year.

          It’s worse even than having assets offshored to avoid taxation. And litigation. Like the (string of obscene language which I’ll merely think instead of speak or write, this time at least) persons whose parents might not have been married at the time of conception or birth… Who hired me through two proxie contractors one of which was Halliburton, Kellogg Brown and Root, and had us walking up and down a conveyor belt to get on and off the roof. While I was still in the hospital the direct contractor who made that god-awful stupid decision, the Labor Contractor (owned by Halliburton) and the Holding Company which owned the building (registered in the Bahamas) all flaked.

          The laws and especially Tort and Tax laws made it easy for them. The same tort and tax laws that have made trillions of dollars disappear just in the pursuit of the War. More than that on the infrastructure of the War economy. It’s not actually counted in the war costs.

          That the last time the U.S. congress actually declared war was in the week after Pearl Harbor, first on Japan and in the next days Germany, Italy, France (occupied) Netherlands, etc… see the notation about Vichy France … Declared war formally. And reciprocated by Congress.

          Without a formality like declaring war, the contractors get to rape the treasury with no penalty and for all practical purposes no taxation.

          The contractors who pay any amount of taxes get it back with huge interest. The absence of formal war within a de facto state of war is the Magic Pixie dust that makes it happen for them. And a direct, in-our-face immunity from any kind of civil or criminal prosecution.

          First, if it ever happens in time, force Congress to crap or get off the pot. Of course that was tried in the Korean and VietNam wars too. None of this is actually new. But get Congress to own up to their complicity in the crime, hmmm?

          That would just be a start. Declaring offshore banking illegal for war contractors. Oh, we’re still obligated to refer to it as “defense”. That would be the next hurdle, assuming the first part is ever cleared.

          Not really good odds. The part that’s really tragic, is the fall of the Empire is going to hurt We, the Peasants as well. It’s unlawful to advocate insurrection in America. So I won’t. It’s probably going to happen.

          There’s quite a bit more cause for a revolution now than the 1776 one.

          1. I agree Congress should be held responsible. What if Wendy McElroy is right and we don’t get another American Revolution but a French one instead because of class stratification?

            There is no carrot that is tastier than war for a war profiteer?

        2. Revolution is inevitable. Every empire is built to self-destruct. Capitalism simply isn’t sustainable. The best way to prepare for this is the creation of alternative markets that don’t depend on globalism. That and educating people on democratic alternatives like Georgism, syndicalism, mutualism and democratic confederalism.

          1. Try every avenue of redress. Even if it’s bound to fail, it might make it a little easier.

            There’s not much one can count upon when a revolution or conquest happens. People get suddenly dead in such scenes. Rich, poor, honest or truly vermin, natural leaders or followers… doesn’t much matter. Build a better future if you survive. Build coalitions of people who aren’t too lazy or dishonest to create a buffer from the depression or “famine” and learn how to do some really basic health care.

            Be prepared beyond what scouting might have taught you. Clean water will be more precious than gold.

            If you’re actually in North Carolina, perhaps take a couple of weeks, go to Watagua County and learn the Cherokee ways to accomplish that. I believe the Gi du yi tribe have an educational program for just that reason.

  2. why don’t you tell everbody you are a socialist shill operation funded by george soros….? you don’t even have to use the word shil. Just tell the truth. But, you won’t. THE BIG lie is what works best, right?

        1. O. I C. Because it’s somehow more macho to kneel down to uber-capitalists.

          I just wondered where all that money went, the minions of Wall Street and K Street keep whining about Soros and Buffett giving out lots of bread to anybody who opposes the Rulers.

          My condolences though, about your pet snark dying like that.

          1. i did not read your comment. i scolled past is….now i shall psssss on your socialist face. I own you…..and if you reply i will copy and paste the response, but you too fking fumb to be bothered with. And, I am not your brother……promise.

      1. scroll past your comments you fking bore…psssss on your socialist face. I own you….this message willhereinafter be copied and pasted by eorann . what a fkn moron you must be even off line….

        1. All that and a sense of humor too. So, who actually works for Soros? I get conflicting and conflicted reports.

          Makes me feel like folks are lyin’ to me. Hurts my feelings, that does.

  3. Russia couldn’t stand up to the US in a conventional war. If the US pushes Russia into a war then it will go nuclear. Fortunately the US doesn’t have the balls to do that. MAD will continue to save the world from the US war machine.

    Putin is not going to sell his country out to the US and that’s the only reason why Putin is demonized. The US war machine is on permanent hold until Putin passes his position on to a sellout. It’s not likely to ever happen.

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