War is good for business

One of my favorite TV series was Rubicon, a short-lived venture into the secret shenanigans of national intelligence and security. It focused on the fictional American Policy Institute, a non-governmental entity that ostensibly served the interests of “the United States of America,” as some of the key persona often stated.

As it happens in the program, API principally serves a cabal of well-connected rich white men, one of whom runs API. Their twin task is to manufacture crises to financially exploit, while making sure that their actions and even existence remain undetectable. Ensuring the latter compels its own members to commit suicide should they endanger the group’s objectives or anonymity. The signal to self-destruct comes via a four-leaf clover, perhaps inserted between the pages of the morning newspaper by one of their own.

During one of their regular hush-hush meetings, the group discusses an ongoing situation in Africa. The API director reports that the institute is keeping things “fluid,” suggesting controlled conflict, an exploitable opportunity.

I have no way of knowing if there are real-life analogues to API. However, even former general Eisenhower acknowledged a “military-industrial complex” determined to enrich mostly white men through ever-increasing defense spending. Clearly there are corporations that benefit from war. It does not seem far fetched to imagine one or more API-like organizations working to foment trouble abroad, the kind of trouble leading to lots of weapons and death.

If we look at U.S. military spending over time, we see that it has steadily risen over the decades (from NIPA tables).

Defense spending 1920 to 2015

We quickly notice the blip that was WWII. But then comes the Cold War and the Eisenhower years. Fear reigned, with communists suspected of hiding under beds. The Vietnam War, launched under clearly false pretenses, kept the dollars flowing to Boeing, et al. Then came Reagan. Look at the steep escalation in defense spending. Clinton reduced the largesse before 9/11. G.W. Bush went crazy, as the graph demonstrates. Obama reversed the trend. Yet, total spending still exceeds $700 billion per annum, with conflicts all over the globe, the military-industrial complex’s wet dream.

To those who cry that America is weak because it cut defense spending or failed to spend even more, why haven’t all those trillions of dollars made the world safer? Oh, wait. That’s not the goal. Peace is for paupers.