A. Editorial Reviews
“Ismael Hossein-zadeh’s penetrating analysis of the role of the military-industrial complex in driving U.S. foreign policy and rearranging domestic priorities could not be more timely. With U.S. military spending at levels higher than the peak years of the Vietnam War, Hossein-zadeh provides the most cogent explanation yet of how we got to this point.”
–William D. Hartung, Director of the Arms and Security Initiative at the New America Foundation
“America has been overrun not by military force, but by the force of militarism. Using statistics, analysis and historical references, Hossein-zadeh reveals the troubling picture that America may have succumbed to militarism despite the warnings of Washington, Eisenhower and Butler. Hossein-zadeh reveals the true cost of Pentagon programs by adjusting the federal budget for Social Security and unmasking the insatiable, consuming maw of spending run amok. He reveals how budgetary militarism is defeating the New Deal, even as it musters a long term assault on the Bill of Rights and other foundations of American democracy. The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism is a must-read for patriots concerned about the future of the United States.”
–Grant F. Smith, Director of Research, Institute for Research, Middle Eastern Policy
“Writing in a scholarly but accessible manner, Ismael Hossein-zadeh provides an impressive overview of policy trends, their historical background and their political and economic influences. In examining the recent tendencies towards war and militaristic responses to foreign policy issues, the author looks past the now dominant neo-conservative justifications, focusing on the powerful interests that lie beneath.”
–David Gold, Associate Professor, International Affairs Program, The New School
“Ismael Hossein-zadeh has produced an original and powerful synthesis of previous explanations of contemporary U.S. militarism. He locates the relevant economic, political, and ideological forces within a power-elite military-industrial complex framework firmly grounded in a structural analysis of capital accumulation. By steering past the twin dangers of conspiracy theory and economic reductionism, this framework clearly reveals the parasitic, class-biased, and systemic character of the Bush administration’s unilateralism. Along the way, Hossein-zadeh provides a challenging analysis of the cyclical fluctuations of U.S. military spending since World War II.”
–Paul Burkett, Professor of Economics, Indiana State University
B. amazon.com Customer Reviews
A must reading for all Americans!, August 12, 2007
Professor Hossein-zadeh takes over where the late Seymour Melman left off, showing the absurdity & perils of military spending. Those of you familiar with Melman, who was a professor of industrial engineering at Columbia University know that time & time again in his many books, he demonstrated how ludicrous defense spending had become through numerous examples. The money spent on “overkill”, the cost overruns, the many unneeded military projects, expensive quality control problems coupled with system & hardware failures are just several he often reiterated.
Dr. Hossein-zadeh takes the subject a bit further & in a new direction. He is backed by irrefutable statistics, documents & history itself to prove his case against excessive & unwarranted military spending. All of it very comprehensible, even to someone with no background in economics & a minute knowledge post WW2 history. By reading this book, one can gain some insight into the modus operandi of the military-industrial complex & its the effect it has on the economy, political establishment & both domestic & foreign policy.
A study of the power of the US “defense” industry, April 3, 2007
Reviewer: L. E Lenius (Minneapolis, MN)
I loved it. It’s packed with explicit information on the tight relationship and revolving door between war profiteers and government officials–they’re often one and the same–naming names and providing dollar amounts and sources of information. When you study this book, you will gain an understanding of what motivates the neocons to start wars. Money makes the world go around: you will learn a great deal about why the current US administration bombed Afghanistan, then Iraq, and now appears to be aimed at Iran. Why would anyone want never-ending war?
Hossein-zadeh points out that it is the industrial part of the military-industrial complex that is most problematic because it is driven by the profit motive.
I happen to disagree with Hossein-zadeh in that I think the oil transnationals also want wars in the Middle East. (He says these entities prefer stability.) This difference in views detracts nothing, however, from his analysis of the military-industrial aspect of these conflicts.
I’m a writer and use this book as a reference.
I hope it comes out in paperback so more people can afford it.
Brings facts together in one place and gives cogent analysis, January 12, 2007
Reviewer: HH “H-man” (Austin, Tx USA)
This book brings together lots of individual facts, statistics, and citations that those with a concern about US militarism who attentively follow current events and recent US history will have come upon in disparate locations.
The genius of the book is that it puts all of this information in one place and presents it in a coherent structure. It is also very clearly written. The citations and bibliography are useful starting points for those wishing to delve more deeply into the economic underpinnings of the military-industrial complex.
handsome butcher, January 9, 2007
Reviewer: Shamir Sardar (ill-USA)
most comprehensive ,well-documented, well researched book, exposing the essence of our heartless government subservient to the demands of giant corporations sacrificing the ones it is elected to protect.
Empire’s Pricetag, December 19, 2006
Reviewer: Anne R. Richards (Fulbright Fellow, University of Sfax, Tunisia)
Ismael Hossein-zadeh’s The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism will greatly surprise readers who imagine that what lies between its covers is an abstruse economics argument or a rant against the war in Iraq. This accessible, lucid, and generously documented approach to the history of military engagement by the United States since World War II clearly is written with a mainstream audience in mind although its hardcover price of $80 is out of the average reader’s ballpark. Hopefully libraries will pick up the title since every taxpayer deserves the chance to consider Hossein-zadeh’s thesis. In short, he demonstrates that although the economic gains of imperialism might have supported required military outlays for a period, there comes a time in every empire’s life when further expansion no longer is cost-effective for the metropole and becomes a drain on the national economy. At this point, the war industry becomes “parasitic” as the dividends of empire fall more and more disproportionately into the laps of those associated with military efforts. Hossein-zadeh considers the current period in U.S. history such a time.
Readers may have heard this claim before. But few if any will have met such a persuasive presentation of it. The book is extremely helpful in how it identifies and then dismantles what Hossein-zadeh considers weak explanations for why the United States continues to engage in military intervention and expansion abroad. The first is the widespread theory among liberals that the neoconservative element of the U.S. political scene is attempting to take advantage of the absence of a comparable world power in order to spread American values and free market economics. The second is that George Bush is spearheading military adventurism as a result of the need to pose as a “war president” so as to mask the failings of his administration. The third is that America’s Zionist lobbyists are championing the war on Iraq in order to shore up U.S. support of Israel. The fourth (and Hossein-zadeh considers this the most widespread assumption of all) is that the United States is engaging, in the case of Iraq and other Middle Eastern adventures, in military action in order to better control the world’s oil resources. Hossein-zadeh acknowledges and discusses each of these theories, ultimately discarding them as the driving force behind continued U.S. military imperialism.
Instead, he suggests that the military imperialism we are witnessing today “can be seen largely as reflections of the metaphorical fights over allocation of the public finance at home, of a subtle or insidious strategy to redistribute national resources in favor of the wealthy, to cut public spending on socioeconomic infrastructures, and to reverse the New Deal reforms by expanding military spending.” Survival of the working man and woman aside, also at stake is the question of which cabal of capitalists will come out on top–the neoliberal multilateralists who favor globalization–that is, the expansion of free markets throughout the world in order to make way for the products of multinationals largely unconnected with war, or the unilateralists, who tend to be linked to the military industry and to other industries that are not competitive in the international marketplace.
In addition to providing engaging economic explanations and political commentary such as those already mentioned, Hossein-zadeh offers a number of other helpful analyses. He makes a distinction between the military bureaucracies of past empires–e.g., Rome–and America’s present-day military industry, which reflects the imperatives of an advanced capitalist economy. Bearing in mind this distinction, he suggests, unlike many who see the United States as declining in the mode of Rome, that decline of the United States more likely would follow that of the British Empire. He points out that multilateralists have in no way been eliminated by unilateralists; rather, leading capitalist countries tend to experience alternating periods characterized by resurgence and diminution of the importance of these two poles. He also acknowledges the benefits of the military industry on an economy such as that of the United States. Finally, as an Iranian-American he offers a unique perspective in terms of political economy on the issue of religious fundamentalism and the fraught relations between the West and the Muslim world. Ismael Hossein-zadeh’s The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism is a fascinating text and one that deserves to be as accessible to the average pocketbook as it is to the average reader.
A Critical Book For All Americans, October 10, 2006
Reviewer: Gabriel E. Travesser “gabeeugene” (northeastern New Mexico)
It is a difficult task to write a succinct review of a book such as Ismael Hossein-zadeh has produced, and do justice to its critical pertinence in the daily lives of every American. But its relevance even to each occupant of planet Earth cannot, and should not, be dismissed or underestimated, for to do so is an invitation to the disaster so eloquently implied and presaged by its content.
This immensely well documented and compiled work embodies a compendium of facts, brilliant writing and logical assumptions that will indeed lend credence to Chicken Little’s exclamation – but not, however, that the sky is falling; rather that it indeed already has.
The one misfortune of its publication is that it is priced at a level that seems to aim at academics with university expense accounts. If the publisher, Palgrave Macmillan, desires to best serve its readers beyond academia, they and the public would be very well served by its reprint in a paperback edition. To not do so would be akin to pricing smoke alarms beyond the budget of the average home owner.
In this work, Mr. Hossein-zadeh tracks the pre-WWII norm of antimilitarism that unofficially mandated the reduction of manpower to its prewar size after each conflict, to the emergence of current policy which established a doctrine supporting “1.5 million military personnel in 6,000 domestic bases and 702 bases in 130 countries.” Including “about a dozen carrier task forces in the oceans and seas of the world.” In this, he clearly describes the militarist’s economic principle that peace is a curse that must have the stake of war driven through its heart – and not just once, but on a regularly recurring basis. This is accomplished by maintaining the citizenry in a constant state of fear and anxiety over manufactured and imaginary threats to national security.
The author very adroitly sets forth a stunning array of damning (or encouraging – depending on your political/economic persuasion) data that clearly penetrates the mythology of America being a peaceful “democracy” – or its intention of spreading democracy peacefully.
Being driven by 85,000 private contracting firms, he covers how DoD has co-opted an appalling number of educational institutions (350 colleges and universities) for Pentagon research programs that one can logically assume are not focused on creating a better soufflé.
The author shows that, unlike war efforts of the past, with more clearly established justification, the current military behemoth “tends to undermine the economic base it is supposed to nurture. Furthermore, control of the massive amounts of national resources by the military-industrial complex tends to undermine democratic values, pervert republican principles, and curtail civil liberties [ala Guantanamo Bay, Extreme Rendition, et. al.]. It also tends to corrupt both policy and politics at home and abroad.”
For all of his impressive research and comprehensive documentation on a military industrial complex run amok, Mr. Hossein-zadeh presents a very flowing and remarkably readable treatment on the subject. What could very well have been a dry treatise by a university professor of economics, is in reality so packed with remarkable and historically documented data that no open-minded reader can but stand in awe at what this nation has perpetrated under the camouflage of “national security.” The author clearly presents, in a markedly unbiased manner, the inescapable reality that this professed lamb of alleged democracy speaks and acts as a dragon. His conclusions are eminently logical, and fortified with over 125 sources and 379 carefully documented citations.
This book should occupy several places in any academic or public library: Reference; History; Economics and an as-yet nonexistent section labeled “Wakeup Call.”
Mr. Hossein-zadeh documents:
– the penetration of the Pentagon into the deepest and highest levels of government and education.
– the nearly pervasive invasion of former high-ranking military officers and defense contractor executives into upper level policy making of the Bush and previous administrations.
– how, unlike world military empires past and over 150 years of American history, the present US martial adventurism is not stimulated by the military sector, but rather by market-driven forces on the business side of the Military/Industrial Complex – an economic calculus of death for money.
– that the “Blood for Oil” myth is essentially a red herring created by the neocons to the intent of diverting public attention from the genuine purposes of the current war, i.e., the exsanguination of the American taxpayers bloodstream into the pockets of the enormous beast of industrial militarism.
– that peace is anathema to the ideals of current American policy simply because militaristic proponents believe there is more money and economic growth in war.
The above and very many more findings are clearly not extracted, whole-cloth, from the author’s imagination. Each is fortified with either direct quotes from the principals, or extensive documentation from official and/or credible sources. Liberally scattered amongst those well-ordered and factual citations are many logically deduced and thought provoking conclusions such as, “…not all militarists don military uniform. In fact, business and ideological beneficiaries and promoters of war, who do not have to face direct combat and death, tend to be more jingoistic and trigger-happy than professional military personnel who will have to face the horrors of warfare.” And “Despite its apparent complexity, reducing international acts of terrorism and fostering global peace and stability would not be very difficult in the absence of this perverse dynamics of the business of war.”
In other words, take the profits out of war, and peace is the default.
The author quite agilely connects the dots in an almost incomprehensibly interconnected web of neoconservative, military/industrial and militant Zionist players, all of which are virtually household names for anyone tuning in to mainstream media news. But he takes these players and vividly portrays the incestuous components of American militarism in a way that brings to sharp focus their pernicious, inbred, self-referencing purposes – intents that have literally sacrificed America on the alter of its own cannibalistic consumerism.
This book could be a wakeup call, but it appears to be such that would awaken one to a burning house in which all the exits are blocked. It illustrates that the military-industrial complex has become not so much a case of the tail wagging the dog, as the tail bludgeoning the dog into oblivion.
Oh, and if I haven’t already mentioned this: PUBLISHER, you must make this work available in paperback at a price those who really need to read it can afford.
Review of THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OF U.S. MILITARISM, September 16, 2006
Reviewer: Frank J. Messmann, Ph.D. [ret.], State University of New York, (Falmouth, MA)
In “The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism,” Professor Hossein-zadeh of Drake University makes a compelling case that the military-industrial complex combined with the territorial ambitions of the Likud Party drive our aggressive, imperialistic foreign policy. It is not, as is often claimed by anti-Zionists, that this policy has been taken over by Israel with the help of its lobby, the America Israel Political Action Committee [AIPAC], but rather that the goals of the Likud Party happen to dovetail with the needs of our military-industrial complex.
Because of deliberate secrecy by our government, most Americans are unaware of our nearly one thousand overseas bases and military expenses that consume over 41% of the federal budget. No other country comes close to matching our quantities of unwelcome soldiers patrolling foreign lands. Whole sectors of our economy have come to rely on the military for sales. Since 85,000 private companies profit from these expenditures, and since the companies are to be found throughout the U.S., even Congressmen who want to downsize the military are hesitant to demand a reduction in spending. Furthermore, unlike in the past when arms production was dictated by war requirements, these companies are driven by the need to show profit. They MUST keep turning out tanks and fighter planes, and this inevitably means that the U.S. constantly needs to find more Mideast military engagements, more regimes to change.
Meanwhile the Likud Party, inspired by visionary Zionists, continues to dream of a Greater Israel, and this requires the maintenance of constant conflict in the Middle East. Peace would be an impediment to their expansionist dreams. It would mean the end of the territorial breathing space that they have enjoyed and returning to pre-1967 borders–that is, relinquishing Gaza and the West Bank. So while Israel doesn’t control our policy — it needs to form a perfect and seemingly eternal mesh with the needs of our military-industrial complex. No, it is not Big Oil that has co-opted our policy, since a stable Middle East would actually be in the best interests of these companies, nor is it a cabal of neo-cons who supposedly have staged a veritable coup etat –but rather the military-industrial-Likud complex that is responsible. The neoconservatives simply represent this unspoken de facto alliance.
Despite the claims of many Democrats, President Bush didn’t originate our aggressive military policy–Prof. Hossein-zadeh shows how it was formulated back in the 1990’s largely by Dick Cheney; Bush has essentially expanded and implemented this earlier plan. By keeping the U.S. in a state of fear with an enemy du jour, he furthers these goals. In fact, for Bush and Cheney, 9/11 was not an unmitigated disaster but rather a perfect opportunity to carry out imperial policies. When Bush talks of a “war against terror” and prattles on endlessly about how “the world is hearing the voice of freedom from the center of the Middle East,” and that we must have an American-style jihad against “Islamic fascism,” the reality is that he has done everything in his power to see that the Iraqies do not get a “free and fair election.” Given our imperial aspirations, why should we be surprised that in Baghdad such figures as the Paul Bremer, John Negroponte, Zalmay Khalilzad and a cohort of our generals at the the pro-Israel American Enterprise Institute should have produced chaos and civil war? It turns out that our policies actually promote a war FOR terrorism; our intrusion and aggression fuel it. The answer, Professor Hossein-zadeh seems to say, is to keep out of Arab territory. Terrorists are over here primarily because we are over there.
Will this military-industrial-Likud complex with its ever wasteful and cost-inefficient policies collapse as did the Roman Empire? For a variety of reasons its demise is likely to be different. There will not be an inevitable collapse of capitalism, for example. Rather, our present situation is like that of England in 1906, before Britain over the next half-century gradually sank under the weight of maintaining its far-flung empire. We seem headed for a gradual degeneration, not from a colonial empire but because our foreign ventures will prove so astronomically costly that no one will lend us more money for our imperialism.
Professor Hossein-zadeh’s scholarly yet eminently readable text truly is a “must-read” for anyone who wants a convincing explanation for the wide gap that has arisen between America and much of the world and why our present imperial foreign policy relentlessly seeks to impose American-style capitalism on the rest of the world.
A Review of The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism, August 1, 2006,
Reviewer: Kamran Nayeri, Survey Research Center, University of California, Berkeley
What are the driving forces behind the Bush administration’s tendency to war and militarism in general and the invasion of Iraq in particular? And why are Americans let to die, Hossein-zadeh asks, “not only because of horrendous lies, but even more appallingly, after those lies have been effectively exposed?”
To answer these questions, Hossein-zadeh goes beyond some of the most widely-held explanations: the ascendance to power of the neoconservative forces, the influence of the Israeli lobby, and the U.S. designs to gain access to more and cheaper sources of energy. Without denying the contributory roles of these factors, he points to a “more crucial force” behind the drive to war and militarism: the powerful beneficiaries of arms industries and related influential interests that are vested in the business of war and military expansion. In The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism, Hossein-zadeh argues for the vindication of President Eisenhower’s prescient warning that the military-industrial-complex would cause the Pentagon spending to be driven not by “national interests” or “security needs” but by a network of “weapons makers, lobbyists and elected officials.”
A salient feature of The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism is that it goes beyond the criticism of the unilateral policies of the Bush administration. It suggests the views that tend to blame the Bush administration for all the recently heightened militaristic tendencies need to be tempered against the evidence that the major components of the neoconservative agenda were designed long before George W. Bush arrived in the White House.
Another distinct feature of Hossein-zadeh’s book is that, unlike most similar titles, it cautions against attributing all the power and influence of the neoconservative forces to pure ideology. Instead, it focuses on real special interests that lie behind the front and the rhetoric of the cabal of neoconservatives.
A major advantage of The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism is that it shows that the economic costs of the recent unilateral wars of choice go beyond the unprecedented budget gaps they have created. More importantly, the escalating military spending at the expense of non-military public spending is steadily undermining the long-term national objectives of infrastructure or public capital formation, both physical and human. Furthermore, Hossein-zadeh shows how the rising Pentagon budget is used as a regulatory mechanism to redistribute national income or resources in favor of the wealthy. He also shows that unilateral wars of aggression are costing non-military U.S. transnational capital external sales markets and investment outlets as a result of various economic blowbacks, especially consumer backlashes, abroad.
The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism offers much food for thought for anyone concerned with the destructive bent of U.S. foreign policy. Although it appears as an academic book, it is equally appealing and accessible to informed general public interested in learning about the forces behind the militarization of U.S. foreign policy.
An Economic Interpretation of U.S. Militarism, July 29, 2006,
Reviewer: James L. Romig “Albee Professor, Drake University” (Des Moines, Iowa)
Ismael Hossein-zadeh is a university economics professor and a self-described “Kurd from the mountains.” So, when I began to read his The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism, I expected an esoteric, perhaps one-sided discussion of the current Middle East conflict. Instead, I found a readable yet penetrating and sophisticated, well-rounded analysis of the causes and consequences of U.S. military policy.
I was immediately reminded of Charles Beard’s classic work, An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States. Beard showed us, nearly 100 years ago, that the economic concerns of farmers helped lead 18th century Americans to develop a federal Constitution. Hossein-zadeh reminds us today that, as anticipated by President Dwight Eisenhower, economic concerns of the military-industrial complex are directing major foreign and domestic policies of the United States.
Hossein-zadeh considers the role of neoconservatism, the possible intellectual shortcomings of George W. Bush, the influence of militant Zionism, and the need for Middle East oil as contributing but secondary factors behind the rise of U.S. militarism. He points to the economics of war (or “war dividends” as he puts it) as the primary factor behind a rising tendency toward war and militarism. He makes a distinction between “classical economic imperialism” intended to expand the nation’s wealth and “parasitic military imperialism” intended to “appropriate the lion’s share of the existing wealth and treasure for the military establishment.” Whereas military force in classical imperialism is a means for economic, territorial, or geopolitical gain, under parasitic imperialism militarism becomes an end in itself.
And I am reminded of Alfred Sloan’s contention that “what’s good for General Motors is good for the country.” The automobile industry and road building became ends in themselves, despite the overuse of fossil fuels and harm to the environment. Let us hope that’s what’s good for the military-industrial complex has not become what’s good for the country.
Hossein-zadeh offers us an economic interpretation of militarism that should be added to our national debate.
A comprehensive and thorough analysis . . ., July 23, 2006
Reviewer: Jason Boothe (New Orleans, LA)
The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism is an excellent choice for your next reading. I highly recommend it to students and academics of politics and economics as well as informed citizens who wish to learn more about the historical, political, and economic context that serves as the driving force for much of American foreign policy.
In his book, Hossein-zadeh provides the reader with a careful and thorough analysis of the nature and causes of the development of the present-day U.S. military posture. He does this by examining the interconnections between the American political and economic spheres and essentially arguing that there are many factors at play that lead the U.S. to make poor foreign policy decisions that are ultimately not carried out with the best interests of the U.S. in mind. One of those many factors that receives particular attention is the Congressionally-authorized budget of the Department of Defense, which continues to grow as it supports the development of expensive offensive weapons systems and covers up waste and corruption.
While the author does come across as being critical of the current Bush administration, such criticism exists within a broader indictment of U.S. foreign policy. Therefore, I think this book would appeal to people with a broad range of political viewpoints, as the neoconservatism that is under particular scrutiny in parts of this book is really not “conservative” at all – nor is the idea of big government spending.
Ultimately, during this period of anxiety and concern about U.S. military involvement around the world, the future of our foreign policy, and the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, Hossein-zadeh’s book is very timely and helpful in understanding how we got to where we are today and in focusing on problem areas within our own political-economic-military system that need to be changed if we hope to have a more secure and prosperous future.
Very accessible and enlightening!
Daryl Northrop (email@example.com), A reviewer, July 27, 2006,
Ismael Hossein-zadeh’s book is a finely written historical critique of US militarism, focusing on its roots, its growth, and its current manifestations. One of the primary hurdles that observers of history and political participants must overcome is historical amnesia. Often current policies are thought to have sprung up as fully formed, articulated, and accepted. This book makes great strides in showing the historical roots of militarism in the US, taking shape largely during the perpetual arms race of the cold war era, and continuing with the escalation of the Pentagon spending after the fall of the Soviet Union.
One of the book’s great strengths is showing how policy and public perception in the United States are often shaped by the powerful special interests that wish to continue military buildup in order to appropriate an ever-increasing share of our tax dollars. Viewed in this light, militaristic tendencies to wars abroad can be seen, according to Hossein-zadeh, as reflections of the metaphorical fights over allocation of the public finance at home, of a subtle or insidious strategy to redistribute national resources in favor of the wealthy, to cut public spending on socio-economic infrastructure, and to reverse the New Deal and other social safety net programs by expanding military spending.
Another valuable insight of Hossein-zadeh’s book is the recounting of the rise of the military-industrial complex. While a topic already well researched, Hossein-zadeh clearly shows some dubious but unmistakable connections between the military industrial complex, the Israeli lobby, the neo-conservative political think-tanks, and the rising militarization of U.S. foreign policy. The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism provides a valuable tool in analyzing the distinctly American brand of imperialism.
C. Academic Reviews
Reviewer: Professor J. P. Smaldone, Georgetown University (Economics)
Reviewed in: CHOICE (magazine of the American Library Association), March 2007.
This broadside critique of American foreign policy since the 1940s is a blend of old and new thinking. Hossein-zadeh (economics, Drake Univ.) seeks to account for persistent US militarism primarily in terms of forces emanating from the military-industrial complex, military spending patterns, and market imperatives. He acknowledges other explanations of US behavior but considers economic factors to be supreme. In trying to connect lots of dots, he may be seeing more than meets the eye, but his efforts at synthesis are provocative. There is no shortage of books exposing the dark side of US military power and the beneficiaries of militarism, but this one is a unique mixture of history, political economy, policy analysis, and topical issues such as militant Islam and terrorism. The author is pessimistic about the prospects for any fundamental alteration in the workings of the American brand of capitalism and militarism. Written in an accessible style to appeal to nonspecialist audiences, this book is a useful addition to collections specializing in US security, foreign policy, and international studies. Summing Up: Recommended. Academic collections, upper-division undergraduate and up, and large public libraries.
Reviewer: Professor Jerry Harris, DeVry University
Reviewed in: Science & Society, Vol. 71, No. 4 (2007), pp. 506-508
Hossein-zadeh has written an essential book on US imperialism and the influence of the military/industrial complex. His effort produces two unique insights on the economic importance of military funding and divisions within the US ruling class over the strategic direction of imperialism.
On political economy Hossein-zadeh argues against the common view that the war in Iraq is mainly about oil. Instead his focus is on the economic base of the military/industrial complex itself and the need for profits via government funding. The author points to the continual pressure of the market and the need for greater accumulation as the basis for the development of militarism in US society. As he states; “The combination of private ownership and the market-driven character of the United States’ arms industries has drastically modified the conventional relationship between war and the means of warfare: it is now often the supply or profit imperatives of weapons production that drive the demand for arms, hence the need for war.” (p. 200)
Hossein-zadeh defines this as militaristic or parasitic imperialism, an advance stage of development in which a permanent large military creates its own dynamic for self perpetuation. This differs from earlier stages of imperialism in which expansion abroad is driven mainly by the need for new markets, resources or territory. Although the author argues that military spending can boost the overall economy, he points to the drastic cuts in public spending on social needs as the main victim of militarism. An essential part of the book’s analysis is a careful look at the size and nature of military spending, its influence in government as well as its cultural impact. Beyond the Pentagon and military establishment are the 85,000 firms that profit from contracts and employs millions of workers.
Hossein-zadeh integrates his analysis of economic militarism to an examination of splits within the US ruling class. Here he leads the reader on a historic investigation of strategic debates between transnational capitalists and political representatives of the military/industrial complex. Beginning in the 1970s with policy differences between the Trilateral Commission and unilateralist Committee on the Present Danger, the author traces this conflict to the Council on Foreign Relations and the emergence of neoconservative influence with their close ties to the Likud Party in Israel. This is more than a political rendition of policy positions. The author carries out a careful investigation of the many economic ties between advocates of military unilateralism and the military/industrial base.
The author also sees a clear split between the globalist and unilateralist wings of US imperialism. As he says; “there have been two rival theories of imperialism: …free trade imperialism versus aggressive, colonial-type, or unilateral militarism. While benign or liberal imperialism usually relies on market efficiency and free trade to gain international economic advantage, heavy-handed military imperialism relies on military power to achieve global dominance.” (p. 148) The military/industrial complex is clearly based among corporations such as Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman. But Hossein-zadeh argues globalists “represent the interests of civilian or nonmilitary international capital, that is, of major banks and corporations with investment, production and sales on a global level.” (p.62)
The political conflict between globalists and unilateralists has a firm basis in economic realities. As the book points out the military devours a huge share of national resources and creates an unstable international environment that drives up energy costs and undercuts global investments. While most of the burden for militarism are shouldered by the general population, eventually the costs affect civilian capitalist interests forcing globalists to attempt to impose limits on military spending.
While the book presents a convincing argument on the importance of the market in driving militarist policies it tends to discount the importance of military victory and geopolitical dominance. For example the author states; “Their primary concern, and their measure of success is the mere act or continuation of war…success for war profiteers…is based more on market imperatives than on the conventional military success on the battle field.” (p.176) From this viewpoint defeat in Iraq seems of secondary importance as long as profits keep rolling in. Yet military defeat has enormous political implications for the role of the US in the world and lost of political control by the military/industrial hegemonic bloc. Budgetary questions can not be set aside from military outcomes when analyzing imperialist strategy. This point also goes to the importance of oil. Although Hossein-zadeh shows us that the oil industry did not promote the occupation of Iraq, the Bush White House still saw oil as a key factor in this war. As Vice-President Cheney’s National Energy Policy Development Group stated in the first months of the Bush administration; the US must “make energy security policy a priority of our trade and foreign policy.”
Imperialism is a complex system rarely with one overriding or singular economic force driving its logic. Although militarism may drive the need for war the military/industrial complex is part of a hegemonic bloc that includes various political forces each with their own particular political and economic imperatives. While war profits are an essential element to understand we need to be cautious in privileging economics in political economy. Nevertheless, Hossein-zadeh has produced an insightful and important analysis that is a must read for anyone interested in militarism, its influence in the US and the character of US imperialism in today’s world.
Reviewer: Dr. Anthony A. Gabb, Professor of Economics, St. John’s University, New York
Review of Radical Political Economics (forthcoming)
The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism is a timely and provocative radical analysis of the increased militarism of the foreign policy of the United States. This compelling analysis brings transparency to what otherwise appears to be, to most, a situation that “abounds in metaphysical subtleties.” Hossein-zadeh argues that the military-industrial complex and related war-induced businesses and enterprises have highjacked both the country’s treasury and its foreign policy. Allocation of public resources and the production of armaments are dictated not so much by genuine national interests or security concerns as they are by profit motives of large corporations, which include not only the traditional manufacturers of armaments but also the fast growing service contractors around the Pentagon and other “security” agencies of the U.S. government.
Through a nimble historical overview of the evolution of U.S. militarism, the author shows how this is a departure from the old (pre-WW II) ways, when U.S. policy makers shunned the idea of maintaining large standing armies during peace times out of concerns that such armies could have repressive, corrupting, and destabilizing consequences. Today, U.S. military force is no longer simply “a means to meet certain ends: to maintain national security or to gain economic, territorial, or geopolitical advantages.” perhaps more importantly, it has evolved into a “bureaucratized permanent military establishment as an end in itself,” an imperial power in its own right. Accordingly, under the sway of this imperial military power, “military adventures abroad are often prompted not so much by territorial or economic gains for the imperium or the nation as a whole but by a desire to appropriate the lion’s share of the existing wealth and treasure for the military establishment” (27-28).
Today’s beneficiaries of war and militarism, like the late nineteenth century robber barons, “…perceived from the first that wars [are] for the shrewd to profit from and the poor to die in” (Boyer and Morais 1955: 19). However, this is where any further similarities between today’s military-industrial complex and the late nineteenth century robber barons cease. The powerful interests vested in the military-industrial complex are modern day robber barons on steroids that make their late nineteenth century predecessors look like school children at play. For, Hossein-zadeh argues, not only do the Pentagon contractors and other beneficiaries of the military capital engage in war profiteering, as did their predecessors of earlier times, but more importantly, they can also create the necessary conditions (war and international tensions) for war profiteering and the appropriation of an ever greater share of public resources. “Viewed in this light,” he further argues, “militaristic tendencies to war abroad can be seen largely as reflections of the metaphorical fights over allocation of the public finance at home, of a subtle or insidious strategy to redistribute national resources . . ., and to reverse the New Deal reforms by expanding military spending” (4).
The author argues that the most dangerous feature of today’s military-industrial complex is “…the extent to which war has become big business” (18). In this context, market imperatives drive wars and generate international conflicts. The next war is a function of the inventory (supply) of arms and the invention or instigation of conflicts across the globe is a major source of profitability. When private citizens set foreign policy, capitalism is transformed from a rent-a-car to a rent-a-tank economy. Mercenaries are emboldened to overthrow national governments for personal gain and power (Pelton 2006).
Peace and diplomacy are antithetical to this environment. Indeed, Hossein-zadeh shows (Chapter 4) that, under the influence of the military-industrial complex, the United States has since the end of World War II converted peace dividends to “war dividends” on a number of occasions. For example, the military-industrial complex and its unilateralist allies successfully aborted the ephemeral discussions about “peace dividends” following the collapse of the Soviet Union. In fact, they quickly replaced USSR with new boogeyman: rogue states, global terrorism, axis of evil, and radical Islam.
Although many books have been written on various aspects of war and militarism in recent years, a number of unique features distinguish this book from the rest.
Fro one thing, it challenges the dominant view among war critiques that attributes the recent rise in the U.S. wars of choice mainly to oil interests. While acknowledging that oil companies would certainly welcome the spoils of war (in the form of oil price hikes), and that the United States has used military force in the past for energy purposes, the author argues that, nevertheless, these facts and precedents fail to explain the recent rise of U.S. military operations abroad. “There is strong evidence that, in fact, oil companies did not welcome the war [on Iraq] because they prefer stability and predictability to periodic oil spikes that follow war and political convulsion” (136). The problem with the view that the U.S. invaded Iraq in order to control the flow of oil is that that access to oil no longer requires outright control of oil fields and/or producers. Buying, selling, and the price of oil, like those of many other commodities, are nowadays determined by global market forces.
Second, the book challenges most of the traditional theories of imperialism in the context of the recent rise of U.S. militarism. It argues that, despite its critical importance, many critics of war seem to have given short shrift to the crucial role of the military-industrial complex as a major driving force behind war and militarism. A major reason for this oversight is that, Hossein-zadeh argues, critics of war and militarism tend to view the U.S. military force as primarily a means for imperialist gains—oil or otherwise. Yet, the fact is that, he further argues, as the U.S. military establishment has grown in size, it has also evolved in quality and character: it is no longer simply a means but, perhaps more importantly, an end in itself. Accordingly, rising militarization of U.S. foreign policy in recent years is driven not so much by some general/abstract national interests, or by the interests of big oil and other non-military transnational capitals, as it is by the powerful special interests that are vested in the military capital (27-28). The author calls this “parasitic” or “military imperialism”—parasitic, because not only does it exploits defenseless peoples and their resources abroad, as did imperial powers of the past, but also U.S. citizens and their resources at home.
Third, unlike most critics, Hossein-zadeh cautions against attributing the power and influence of the neoconservative militarists to “pure ideology, political persona, or the role of individual politicians. . . .” Instead, he focuses on the more critical but less visible forces of war and militarism: “the powerful institutional and politico-economic interests that lie behind the façade of the cabal of neoconservative figures.” There is evidence that, for example, “32 major administration appointees…are former executives with, consultants for, or significant shareholders of top defense contractors” (4, 128-33).
Fourth, the book also challenges the widely-held economic theory of the so-called crowding out effects of military spending. According to this theory, the opportunity cost of military spending in terms of economic growth, employment generation, and technological advancement is too high relative to the same effects of non-military private investment that gets crowded out as a result of military spending. After a relatively detailed examination, the author concludes that the long standing debate over this hypothesis is virtually inconclusive: “Research results of econometric studies of the relationship between military spending and economic performance . . . are at best mixed: there are as many studies that tend to reject this hypothesis as those that tend to support it” (217). He further concludes that “what gets crowded out, or forgone, by military spending is often not private-sector investment spending but nonmilitary government spending” on public capital formation, both human and physical capital, which is crucial for the long-term socio-economic growth and development of a country (220).
Fifth, the author also questions other attempts to explain the limits of U.S. militarism and offers one of his own. First, there’s no reason to believe that imperial U.S. would collapse for the same reasons that resulted in the collapse of imperial Rome, as a number of writers have claimed in recent years, because the laws of motion of capitalism are different from those of imperial Rome. Second, the theory of “permanent arms economy” makes an “unrealistic” assumption that there are no limits to military spending, which redirects resources away from the civilian sector. Finally, he argues that, in the absence of critical pressure from below, threats to U.S. capitalism that result from rampant militarism and escalating military expenditures would be checked by the ruling elite “as part of the overall national socioeconomic control and management.” The limits of “military imperialism” depend, ultimately, on the “balance of social forces and the outcome of class struggle” (255). In the absence of revolt, expanding militarism is limited by the struggle over the distribution of resources. Until then, domestic policy, like foreign policy, travels along the same ominous road.
In addition, the book also provides a rich and robust discussion of the factors that might have provoked the heinous attacks of 9/11/01. The author takes on and rejects explanations such as “the clash of civilizations,” “the hate of our freedom,” “good versus evil,” or “Islamic incompatibility with the modern world.” He then begins to examine recent developments in the Middle East in order to explain why political opposition to external influences or interferences has morphed into a religious form. Along the way, he reminds us that Muslim countries do not have a monopoly on resistance to change and that capitalist development is replete with such instances (Chapter 6).
Hossein-zadeh’s book is a compelling examination of current U.S. foreign policy and a valuable economic interpretation of its rampant militarism that needs to be added to our national debate. It offers a unique and penetrating alternative approach that will engage and inform its readers. It demystifies the behavior of the ruling elite and suggests that we live in dangerous times. It is an illuminating interdisciplinary convergence of history, politics, economics and philosophy in an attempt to explain the recent behavior of the ruling elite in the U.S.
The book is easy to read and because the subject matter makes it hard to put down, it should appeal to a wide audience. Ironically, the one drawback is that accessibility may be restricted by the high price of the book. A paper back edition at a lower price would be a welcome and smart step on the part of the publisher.
Boyer, Richard O., and Herbert M. Morais. 1955. Labor’s Untold Story. New York: Cameron Associates.
Josephson, Matthew. 1962. The Robber Barons. New York: A Harvest Book, Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc.
Pelton, Robert Young. 2006. License to Kill: Hired Guns in the War on Terrorism. New York: Crown.
Reviewer: Professor Gernot Ruzicka
Reviewed in: Zeit-Fragen Journal (Switzerland).
After being published in Zeit-Fragen, the review was translated from German into English by David Veeder, Associate Professor Emeritus of German, Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa, and published in Middle East Online (November 30, 2007): http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=23309
“Every gun that is made, every war ship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, from those who are cold and are not clothed” – (Dwight D. Eisenhower).
In his famous farewell speech in January 1961, US President Eisenhower had warned of a possible takeover or unlawful influence of the military-industrial complex in the U.S., a force which already then had reached fearsome scale. In his recently published book, The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism (New York: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2006), Kurdish-American professor of economics Ismael Hossein-zadeh takes on the task of shedding light on the antecedents to the increasingly aggressive and expansionist war policies of the USA.
Supported by numerous figures, dates and documents he succeeds in demonstrating that in the United States, for the first time in human history, an empire has arisen in which not the “logic” of waging of war determines weapons production, but rather the opposite: a gigantic weapons industry – the military-industrial complex– requires, and thus brings about, a permanent state of war to sustain weapons sales and profit. Here it is only secondarily a matter of economic, territorial or geopolitical advantage gained through war; rather, military power has succumbed to becoming an “end in itself” under the influence of a “parasitic military imperialism.” According to statements by the Pentagon in its annual “Base Structure Report,” the US has currently stationed one and one-half million military personnel in 6000 domestic and over 700 foreign bases in 130 countries.
Already before the Iraq War there were more than a quarter million uniformed personnel in place outside the USA. In addition, there is an equally high number of civil servants, technical personnel, agents, etc. Because many of the bases established since the last wars are either not mentioned or are kept secret in the Pentagon Report, observers assume now a minimum of 1000 overseas bases.
Culture of Militarism
Besides the Office of the President, the Office of National Security, the military committees of the Senate and of the House of Representatives, as well as the Secret Service, the Joint Chiefs of Staff are naturally also involved in the military decisions process. But there is yet a third power behind this so-called “iron triangle”: approximately 85,000 private firms which profit from armament contracts with the Pentagon. Surrounding this core of the military-industrial complex are attached powerful research, advisory and lobbying organizations, such as the Rand Corporation and the Hoover Institution. Moreover, the Association of American Universities reported as recently as 2002 that nearly 350 colleges and universities conduct research financed by the Pentagon and that the universities receive more than 60 percent of their grants for defense-related research. The third largest sponsor involved in this is the Pentagon itself. Hossein-zadeh also describes how American culture has meanwhile been drenched by a spirit of militarism. This is however not evidence of a sudden development, but much more a product of a systematic influence on civilian life through the cultivation of militarism. In this process the military establishment has used the news media and the entertainment industry “to justify wars and to sanitize as well as glorify them.”
War as “big business”
Of the national tax revenue of the USA, according to Hossein-zadeh, the share allotted to the Pentagon has grown to 41.6 %. This veritable war economy, which in size far overshadows Germany’s rearmament during the Third Reich, leads to a dependence of millions of workers and a competition among politicians of all parties for armaments contracts. Hossein-zadeh writes: “The control over huge amounts of national resources tends to lead to an undermining of democratic values, a perversion of republican principles and a reduction of civil freedoms, as well as to political corruption at home and abroad.” As an example he mentions that five of the six donors to the Armed Services Committee of the House of Representatives in 2001 were atomic weapons and rocket defense manufacturers.
The industrial dimensions of this complex have led to war having grown into ‘big business.’ “The constant need for international conflicts makes the military imperialism of the U.S. more dangerous than the imperial powers of the past.” Essentially, any kind of peace would mean “stagnation of sales” for the huge weapons manufacturers. The waging of wars is necessary “not only for expansionism but, in fact, for the survival of this empire.” In this connection Hossein-zadeh presents documents which prove that the occupation of Iraq was intentionally extended and the early elections, which were originally supported by General Jay Garner, were delayed by the civilian militarists in the Bush Administration to a date in the distant future. Garner was replaced by Paul Bremmer, who had previously worked for Kissinger Associates and “better [understood] the corporate culture.” Hossein-zadeh quotes the lobbyist Grover Norquist, who had worked on the so-called “Economy Plan” for the “new” Iraq which was prepared ahead of the war: “The right to trade, property rights, these things are not to be determined by some democratic election.” The extending of the occupation and the state of war was an extremely lucrative business for the weapons manufacturers and the firms contracted by the Pentagon for reconstruction.
Unilateralists versus Multilateralists
In the third chapter of the book, Hossein-zadeh describes the emergence of the powerful Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). Established in 1918 in New York as a dinner club, the CFR laid the groundwork, through its geopolitical memoranda and recommendations for rearmament in the early stages of the Second World War, leading to the later dominance and military supremacy of the United States in the western hemisphere. It is interesting to note that institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, which were essential for the achievement of these goals, had been planned long before the end of the war. Also the war against Japan, for which Pearl Harbor was a welcome pretext, served this hegemonic policy in the Asiatic and Pacific spheres. A member of the CFR wrote just a week after the U.S. entry into the war: “The measure of our victory will be the measure of our dominance after the victory.”
Of great interest is the description of the discussions which occurred after the 70’s in the U.S. It had been shown that the German and Japanese economies, with their small military expenditures, fared essentially better than that of the United States. Representatives of non-military transnational capital (the Vietnam War still lay in the recent past) began an initiative to drastically reduce unilateral militarism. They called their plan “The 1980s Project.” From within the circles of the CFR the Trilateral Commission was established. Behind this lay the idea to set up a huge economic sphere (the USA, Japan, and European Community) for this global capital. Among the leading creators of the Commission were David Rockefeller as informal chairman and Zbigniew Brzezinski as director. The majority of the participants were also members of the CFR. Hossein-zadeh emphasizes that this group in no way stood for lasting peace and equality of nations. It gave more emphasis to liberal market forces than to military power. A document of the Commission from 1974 states that “The Trilateral countries increasingly need the developing countries as sources of raw materials, as export markets, and . . . as constructive partners in the creation of a workable world order.” The election of Jimmy Carter for President in 1976 can be traced back to the Commission’s initiative.
But very soon there emerged stiff resistance from the side of powerful political rivals in the ruling elite. The representatives of the military-industrial complex feared a cut-back in military spending and a stagnation of their own profits. What followed was an intensive propaganda battle which went down in history as a Second Cold War. After there had earlier been clear signs of easing of tensions and efforts at disarmament, the unilateral militarists, through the use of blatant exaggeration and patently false claims, raised the specter of the “communist threat” in order to justify their expanded armaments programs. Dubious think tanks, like the Committee on the Present Danger (CPD), manipulated or revised the findings of the Secret Service concerning the actual threat – a process which is starkly reminiscent of the doctored intelligence reports from the office of Vice President Dick Cheney before the Iraq war.
President Ronald Reagan in the 80’s set into motion all of the wishes of the armaments lobby, leading to a “fantastic increase of the Pentagon budget.” The collapse of the Soviet Union presented the unilateral militarists at the end of the 80’s with the problem how future enormous military expenditures could be justified. As early as 1988, that is, before the demise of the Soviet Union, a group of experts, including Henry Kissinger, Albert Wohlstetter, Zbigniew Brzezinski and Samuel Huntington, presented a report in which they pointed to an alleged threat to America’s vital interests in the Persian Gulf, the Mediterranean and the Western Pacific regions emanating from conflicts in the Third World. On the basis of this, they deduced a recommendation for an effective policy of military deterrence. The concept of a war at minor or moderate intensity gained entry into the vocabulary of the Pentagon.
Invention of New Threats
For Hossein-zadeh this marks the beginning of the “unilateral militarists’ strategy of justifying increased military spending in the post-Cold War world: search and discovery of new ‘threats to our national security’ in place of the ‘communist threat’ of the Cold War era.” In the fourth chapter, Hossein-zadeh focuses on the question concerning the real threat existing after the Second World War, and he comes to the conclusion that the growth of this gigantic military-industrial complex had essentially more to do with the establishment of a U.S.-led world order and the expansion of America’s economic system than with any actual dangers.
It was clear to everyone that, after the collapse of the bi-polar world order, such a state of threat no longer existed. The times seemed ripe for a lasting peace. Various figures in the multilateral group suggested drastic savings in the military budget. Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense during the Viet Nam War, even proposed a reduction in the neighborhood of 50 percent. The protagonists of the military-industrial complex observed this development with the greatest concern. Very soon from their circle came allusions to an ostensibly new threat situation. Generals, among them the then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell, took a position against such a demobilization.
Shortly after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, Dick Cheney, then-Secretary of Defense, actually recommended an increase of the Pentagon budget. At the same time the U.S. began to treat the United Nations as superfluous and obsolete, since it was now possible for the military might of the sole world power to settle all conflicts. Although in the 1990s, President Bill Clinton, a representative of the multilateralists and of neo-liberalism was in power, the United States was, according to data from the Federation of American Scientists, nonetheless engaged in 134 military operations in the period between 1989 and 1999! According to Bill Christison, former CIA advisor, many of these crises and conflicts were actually instigated through intentional provocations, humiliation, sanctions and support of armed insurrections.
Long before September 11, 2001, neoconservative ideologues, who already during Reagan’s presidency had occupied high government positions and later assumed executive functions in the armaments industry, had offered drastic plans for a total restructuring of the Middle East. Thus the tragedy of September 11 appeared to them as “manna from heaven” (Chalmers Johnson). The basis for subsequent political policy had already been prepared by the labeling of a number of states as “rogue states”, “terrorist states”, or “Supporters of Terrorists”. The plans already on the drawing boards in the 90’s were modified. Since 2001, military expenditures for the U.S. have climbed by about 50 percent. Terrorism, according to a study by the U.S. Congress, has increased by 35 percent—hence the positive correlation between the two!
“Clash of Civilizations” as Camouflage for International Crimes
In Chapter 5 Hossein-zadeh analyzes Samuel Huntington’s theory of the “clash of civilizations.” He sees there a similar thrust as found in the theory of de-contextualization proposed by Richard Perle, a Likud advisor and prominent representative of the neo-conservative militarists. According to Perle, for example, the resistance of the Palestinians against illegal occupation must be de-contextualized, i.e. must be viewed away from the context of historical, legal or other issues. In this way, any legitimate resistance against injustice or international crimes can be classified as “terrorist activity.” Huntington’s theory and its practical application through the neo-conservatives is, in the final analysis, intended to lead to a perception of the Islamic peoples collectively as a threatening and hostile horde.
Hossein-zadeh subsequently explains that fundamentalist tendencies are in no way limited to Islam; rather, a dangerous corresponding phenomenon is evident in Zionist circles in Israel and in the evangelical movement in America. Thus, as an example, for radical Israeli settlers the abandonment of a single illegal settlement in Palestine is already a casus belli, a reason for war. This type of radical view would be supported unconditionally above all by the large numbers of born-again Christians in America, primarily because they anticipate that the creation of Greater Israel will bring about the end of the world and their own ascension to heaven. The chapter concludes with a short historical summary of the arrogant and humiliating relationship of the American superpower with Muslim and other countries (e.g., with Nasser in Egypt and Mossadeq in Iran).
The “Military-Industrial-Likud Alliance”
In Chapter 6 Hossein-zadeh addresses the reasons for the invasion of Iraq. He distinguishes here the secondary reasons, such as American domestic politics, the ideology of the neo-conservatives and oil policy, from the major motives, which he sees as based in the aspirations of the “military-industrial-Likud-alliance.” In his opinion, the reduction of the problem, for example, to a Jacobinic ideology of the neo-conservatives hinders an understanding of the entire context. Their rise to power must be assessed not as a “political coup d’état” but rather as a “military coup d’état.” In this connection, he names 32 high-ranking government officials who all held leading positions in essential businesses within the armaments industry.
Also the slogan “War for Oil” does not go to the heart of the problem. It is possible that allusions made, for instance, by Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Defense Secretary in the Pentagon, concerning the cheap oil in Iraq served only as camouflage of the more important reasons. There are in fact clear indications that significant representatives in the American oil industry criticized harshly the resulting chaos in the Near East. An advisor for large oil firms stated, for example: “The big oil companies were not enthusiastic about the Iraqi war. Corporations like Exxon-Mobil and Chevron-Texaco want stability, and this is not what Bush is providing in Iraq and the Gulf region.”
Using as example the sanctioning law of 1995 against Iran and Libya, Hossein-zadeh shows that oil companies exerted strong resistance against political or military restrictions on their business. The chief instigator behind this law, which had been pushed through Congress and the White House, was the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) which is an indication of how even the influence of the oil giants pales next to this lobby. According to Hossein-zadeh the “military-industrial-Likud alliance” employs in their official announcements talk of oil as a “national interest” in order to conceal quite different objectives. It also makes no sense economically to take five dollars from the federal budget for defense expenditures to ensure the “steady” flow of oil worth one dollar! While the oil companies demanded from Clinton, and later from Bush, a change in this aggressive policy of war and sanctions, it was precisely this policy which was strongly supported by the lobbying institutions of the military-industrial-Likud alliance: besides AIPAC, Hossein-zadeh identifies the American Enterprise Institute, the Project for the New American Century and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.
The war alliance consists, on the one hand, of the military-industrial complex and, on the other, of the Zionist hardliners whose aim is a Greater Israel. Both parties have a convergent interest in war and convulsive tension in the Near East. What is involved is an intrigue of closely allied individuals who have firmly established themselves in the Pentagon and exercise their influence by means of lobby groups, think tanks, advisory institutes and media. Hossein-zadeh follows up such statements by naming specific individuals and those institutions associated with them. He also does not neglect to track down indications of war planning which reach back as far as the early 90’s. As an example, the version of the strategy papers Defense Planning Guide, which was published after September 11, 2001, is nearly identical with that of 1992; the only significant difference is that, instead of Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld signed the newer version. Most important was the addition of the threat of preemptive strikes with new nuclear weapons such as bunker-busting bombs.
The Mediator Role of the Neo-conservatives
In addition, Hossein-zadeh looks at how the Oslo Peace Process between Israel and the Palestinians, following the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the Oslo Peace Accord of 1993, was successively undermined and interfered with by militant Likud forces. Already in March of 1988 Ariel Sharon had declared war with Arab neighbors in the event of continued Palestinian uprisings. A significant roadblock to this plan, namely the Soviet Union, was eliminated two years later. Subsequently the Likud plans coincided with the interests of the military-industrial complex. As early as the Iran-Contra Affair, Israel had played an important role in weapons sales for the military-industrial complex to states where, by law, America was prohibited to sell arms. With the presidency of the younger Bush and the events of September 11, however, there arose the opportunity for both sides of the alliance to alter their far-reaching war plans.
The neo-conservatives, with their overlapping interests and lobbies, played here a decisive mediating role. They control, for example, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) as well as the Center for Security Policy (CSP). They are in the midst of “the close links among (. . .) right-wing politicians, arms merchants, military men, Jewish billionaires, and Republican administrations.” In connection with this, Hossein-zadeh explicitly opposes theories which are based on a Jewish world-wide conspiracy. However, it would be completely nonsensical to dismiss as anti-Semitic the identification of the Zionist Likud lobby as a powerful motivating force in war policy. In other words, the representatives of the military-industrial complex would agree to the desires of the radical Zionist lobby only as long as it served their own interests and the business of war.
War Profiteering Must Cease
After September 11, the neo-conservatives began to publicize World War IV. The Cold War had been their World War III. For example, former CIA Director James Woolsey declared in April 2003 that “the United States is engaged in World War IV, and it could continue for years. (. . .) This fourth world war, I think, will last considerably longer than either World Wars I or II did for us.” With his purposely chosen biblical terminology (axis of evil, good versus evil, day of reckoning, etc.), President Bush succeeded in winning over the sizeable membership of the Christian Right for this war, a war which was extolled as a crusade for the liberation of a land possessed by evil. According to Hossein-zadeh, there is great danger here that Bush, similar to Hitler, could assume a role whose dynamics would be virtually unstoppable. Bush’ adjurations of a final victory in the war against terrorism, in any case, bring up unpleasant associations. His distorted perception of reality hardly gives one reason to feel secure. Hitler’s decisions also became ever more detached from reality. In spite of that, he ordered the attack on the Soviet Union to go to its catastrophic end after his plan to conquer England had failed.
Seen in this light, a failure in Iraq hardly assures that there will not be further wars, for example against Iran. Besides, from the standpoint of war profiteers military success or failure is secondary. The only thing that counts is the continuation of a bloody war for its promise of mounting military expenditures and war dividends. Militarily the war in Iraq is a fiasco, but from the viewpoint of the war profiteers it is a boon. For this reason, the mechanism must be challenged which has enabled the military industry to become a gigantic business with permanent war as its goal. Profit-making must be taken out of waging war.
War Is a Menace to Democracy
In chapter seven, Hossein-zadeh identifies the personal entanglements between political committees and the huge armaments contractors such as Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics and others. Michelle Ciarocca of Arms Trade Resource Center wrote in September 2002: “The whole mind set of military spending changed on Sept. 11. The most fundamental thing about defense spending is that threats drive defense spending. It’s now going to be easier to fund almost anything.” Hossein-zadeh also investigates the role of private military firms and mentions that they operate with their mercenaries and war machinery in more than forty countries, often on a contract basis with the U.S. government. “It is this built-in propensity to war,” writes Hossein-zadeh, “that makes the U.S. military-industrial complex a menace to world peace and stability, a force of death and destruction.”
In chapter eight, Hossein-zadeh enumerates the devastating consequences of a permanent war economy for the civilian economy and the social sphere, above all in the areas of education, health, nutrition and infrastructure. But he also mentions many signs and examples of budding resistance to this economic system. As an example, almost 700 large and small businesses have merged in the antimilitarist alliance USA*ENGAGE and are accomplishing truly constructive work in the civilian economic sector. Increasingly, larger non-military businesses and combines are renouncing war policies for fear of profit losses overseas. But concerning the question why the representatives of the non-military interests do not stand up against the party of war, Hossein-zadeh is of the opinion that there are actually areas of agreement between these parties. For the ruling elite an atmosphere of threat, of war and heated-up patriotism is useful for apportioning national resources to the favor of capital and against labor. Restricting civil rights eases the exercise of power by the ruling class.
At the conclusion of the book Hossein-zadeh enumerates some factors which, in his opinion, could serve as limits or constraints to the continued military buildup: the capacity or tolerance of the Americans to absorb the costs of war in terms of social safety net programs and blood of their young; the huge national debt which at any time could lead to a collapse of the dollar; the tax burden of non-military enterprises; the reaction of global markets to the war politics of the U.S.; recruiting difficulties for the armed forces personnel; and, not least, the decisive pressure from below—the ultimate limit to military buildup, that is, a grassroots’ rebellion against the destructive effects of war and militarism on their lives and liberties, as well as on world peace and stability. However, Hossein-zadeh firmly concludes: “The opponents of war and militarism cannot (and should not) limit their antiwar demands to an equitable distribution of the burden or costs of war. More importantly, they have the mighty reservoir of moral force to draw upon in the face of unjust and unjustifiable wars of aggression.”
Summation: Europe Must Find Its Own Way
Hossein-zadeh’s book, even though not all of its economic theses are entirely convincing, provides a well-done comprehensive view of the political and economic developments surrounding the military-industrial complex. The readiness to continually invent new dangers, to employ ever-more terrifying weapons and to wage war for its own sake is a current threat to the future of humankind. For us Europeans there is, intertwined with our responsibility to work for peace, a huge challenge to avoid getting entangled in the destructive machinery of the military-industrial complex and the Likud politics contrary to international law. Above all, the greatest cause for concern results from announcements by German Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel concerning an unlimited alliance of loyalty with the Americans and German support of Israeli politics of war, not only with deceitful references to Israel’s right to existence but also with weaponry. Not to be forgotten are the harsh demands of then-American Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on the occasion of this year’s Security Conference in Munich in which he directed the NATO Member States to drastically increase their military expenditures. Investigating the extent of effect of armament and of military expenditures on the civilian economies in the NATO States, and particularly in Germany, would be worthy of intensive study in its own right. For the sake of the enormous number of victims of the war, all resources of civilian society are required to stop the activities of these merchants of death.
[Translated from German into English by David Veeder]
The book is available at Amazon.com
1. Hossein-zadeh is a professor at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. He is considered, among other areas of knowledge, to be an expert on military expenditures, Third World debt, and the Near East conflict.
2.The central theses of this book are to be found also in Hossein-zadeh’s article “Behind the plan to bomb Iran.” (Source http://www.globalresearch.ca, September 2006). Those who prefer readings in German may be referred to Chalmers Johnson, emeritus professor of political science and author referenced frequently by Hossein-zadeh: Ein Imperium verfaellt. Wann endet das amerikanische Jahrhundert? (2000) and Der Selbstmord der amerikanischen Demokratie (2003).
3. Bremmer’s tactic of delay in Iraq and the resulting chaos are covered in detail in a book by the renowned military experts Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor: Cobra II. The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq (2006).
4. Unilateralism and multilateralism appear to be two sides of the same coin. While the former emphasizes a superior position of power by the U.S. in the international system, the latter strives toward dominance in the world with the help of and within this system.
5. In his book How the Jihad came to Europe. Holy Warriors and Secret Services in the Balkans (2005), Juergen Elsaesser shows how entire units of fanatic Jihad fighters, with the support of the U.S. secret services, were installed in the Balkan wars. The Muslim “terrorists” stood on the payroll of the CIA. Some of them were involved a little later in the attacks of 11 September.
6. Meanwhile, a number of scientists and researchers have presented evidence and circumstantial proof that unmask as deception the report of the official 9/11 Investigative Commission as well as statements from the Administration and, further, suggest a clandestine operation. Mentioned are: 9/11 and American Empire: Intellectuals Speak Out, published by David Ray Griffin and Peter Dale Scott (2006); Michel Chossudovsky’s America’s War on Terrorism (2005) [possibly already available in German]; and Thierry Meyssan’s Der inszenierte Terrorismus. Auftakt zum Weltenbrand? (2002).
7. The subject of the USA’s frightening new atomic weapons arsenal and its connections with the military-industrial complex is presented brilliantly in Helen Caldicott’s book Atomgefahr USA. Die nukleare Aufruestung der Supermacht (2003). The devastating consequences of uranium weapons used in recent wars are also described here.
8. Quoted from Jason Vest in The Nation, September 2, 2002.
9. Hossein-zadeh makes reference to the publication The Politics of Anti-Semitism (2003) published by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, in which the deceitful accusation of anti-Semitism used to intimidate political opponents is condemned even by well-known Jewish authors.
10. A complete discussion of these entanglements can be found in Jeffrey St. Clair’s book Grand Theft Pentagon. Tales of Corruption and Profiteering in the War on Terror (Monroe, Maine, 2005).
11. The peace movement should keep an eye on this fact in the event of a change in power.
12. For the legal aspects of offensive war contrary to international law and of the politics of military deterrence see Francis A. Boyle’s Destroying World Order. U.S. Imperialism in the Middle East Before and After September 11 (2004) and The Criminality of Nuclear Deterrence (2002).
Reviewer: Fred Adams, Emeritus Professor of History, Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa
Reviewed in Arab Studies Quarterly, Vol. 29, No. 3 & 4 (summer & fall 2007)
In a well-written and very readable book, Ismael Hossein-zadeh seeks to provide answers to two questions. One is why have U.S. citizens been unable to receive any “peace dividends,” especially once the Cold War came to an end. The other is why have American leaders been so inclined to resort to the use of military force (and plenty of it, as their fondness for the “shock and awe” approach attests) to settle international disputes. His answers are inspired by the earlier work of Sidney Lens on the military-industry complex and of Ernest Mandel on the periodization of capitalism.
Professor Hossein-zadeh presents two lines of argument, ones that co-exist a little uneasily. The first, and dominant, theme is that in the latter part of the 20th Century, the U.S. entered a new era of capitalist development in which parasitic imperialism replaced benign imperialism. Whereas in the earlier era leaders of capitalist nations used military force only after concluding that they could obtain economic benefits by doing so, in the new era they used force as a way to guarantee that the military-industrial complex could claim a larger share of the public treasury. The application of military power no longer was a means to an end: it had become the end itself.
The growing power of the military-industrial complex is the reason why the new form of imperialism appeared. With its base in the military industry, Pentagon, and Congress, this bloc became powerful enough by the late 1970s that it could control American foreign policy. Interestingly enough, the major opponent of the military group were international capitalists who wanted to reduce military spending and create a world economy based on free trade. The militarists consistently outmaneuvered them, however, primarily because of their ability to manufacture foreign threats at just the right moment.
Another aspect of the argument is that the capitalist nature of the military-industrial bloc makes it exceedingly dangerous. In countries where the government controls the munitions industry, military spending somewhat corresponds to perceived threats; but the U.S. munitions industry is privately owned and driven by the profit motive. The industry has an insatiable drive to increase profits, and historically wars have done wonders for the industry’s bottom line. In the author’s words: “imperial wars and demand for arms are nowadays precipitated more by sales or profit prerequisites than the other way around, as was the case with imperial powers of the past. It is this built-in propensity to war that makes the U.S. military-industrial complex a menace to world peace and stability, a force of death and destruction” (200). Consistent with this position is his view that the present war in Iraq is neither over oil nor because of the geopolitical designs of the neo-conservatives and pro-Zionists. It is due to the strength of the military-industrial complex.
The other (and secondary) line of argument that Mr. Hossein-zadeh develops to explain the militarist orientation of America’s policy differs from the prior one. Rather than making the military-industrial complex the main actor, he focuses upon the ways in which conservatives have used military spending to further their overall domestic agenda. In other words, he looks at military spending as part of a broader battle over the structure of the country’s political economy, with the main issue being the legacy of the New Deal. Ever since the early years of the Cold War, conservatives have used military expenditures as a way to contain the New Deal and then to repeal it. By raising the Pentagon’s budget while simultaneously cutting taxes, conservatives have reduced the amount of money available for many social programs.
What should we make of these arguments, ones that the author presents in a very skillful and forceful manner? It is hard to quarrel with his desire to try to explain why U.S. foreign policy has become so heavily militarized in recent years. This is one of the most serious problems that Americans, to say nothing of people throughout the world, face. Nonetheless, his insistence that the military-industrial complex is able to cause wars largely to enhance its segment of public spending seems to me to overstate the case and to make this bloc, admittedly a very powerful coalition, more decisive than it is. If we look at the wars the U.S. has fought since 1945, it is hard to detect the hand of munitions makes and their allies behind either the Korean or the Vietnamese Wars. Admittedly Professor Hossein-zadeh could counter that these conflicts took place before the military-industrial complex reached maturity. When we switch our attention to the period after 1980, however, I still am not persuaded that the military-industrial complex was the decisive factor leading to the two Gulf Wars.
What we never should forget is the fact that within the American political framework, the president is the decisive player in foreign affairs. He (maybe someday it will be a she) selects the top advisers and decides which recommendations to listen to and which to reject. Under the Constitution, moreover, the president, as commander-in-chief, decides when to send in the troops. Although only Congress has the formal right to declare war, American presidents never have allowed this Constitutional nicety to stand in their way. Thus somehow Professor Hossein-zadeh has to demonstrate that presidents now advocate wars in order to enhance the profit margins of the military-industrial complex. This is a tall order.
There is another issue to consider. In this account, the major players (benign imperialists and parasitic imperialists) are two factions of the dominant class. But what of the other classes? Because of their overwhelming numerical superiority, they are the decisive political force: they are the ones who elect presidents. Why are large segments of these classes inclined to support policies that, as Professor Hossein–zadeh correctly notes, serve to harm their interests? Therefore, it seems to me that any attempt to account for a political economy of militarism has to examine the process by which an appropriate political carrier emerged. Only at the very end of the book does the author mention that the future of “U.S. imperial military power, ultimately boils down to the balance of social forces and the outcome of the class struggle” (255). I wish that he had paid more attention to this question throughout the manuscript. This is the reason why I believe that his secondary argument about militarism as a means to repeal the New Deal is potentially more persuasive than is his primary argument.
Nevertheless this is a very compelling and timely work that deserves a wide readership. It is controversial and will force people to think carefully about the direction of American foreign policy. Because of its accessibility, instructors should consider adopting it for classroom use. The book will generate a lot of debate.
Reviewer: Walter C. Uhler, President of the Russian-American International Studies Association (RAISA)
Reviewed in The Huffington Post (19 March 2008), http://www.huffingtonpost.com/walter-c-uhler/iraq-bushs-godembolden_b_43806.html
Had Ismael Hossein-zadeh written nothing more than his seven-page snapshot of the God-emboldened narcissism of President George W. Bush, his recent book, The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism, would still be worth its steep purchase price. But, in fact, his larger argument is much more compelling. In essence, the professor of economics at Drake University claims that the United States is currently led by a dangerous narcissistic twit, who’s been duped into accelerating the degeneration of post-World War II U.S. militarism into a “parasitic militarism,” which might lead to the demise of the republic.
Readers of pages 170-76 will understand immediately how the God-emboldened narcissism of George W. Bush was manipulated to initiate mass murder in Iraq. Many Americans are complicit in his mass murder. After all, it required the votes of some woefully ignorant Americans, affluent Republicans (who know on which side their bread is buttered) and partisan Supreme Court justices to put Bush in office.
Behaving as if their country was a banana republic, they put into the office an unread, ill-traveled, inarticulate, crude, callous, mean-spirited, trouble-making, revenge-seeking, Vietnam-evading, incompetent, loud-mouthed, cheap-shot, but consistently-bailed-out narcissist — largely because Bush and his propagandists proclaimed he had found God.
Quoting from Hugh Urban, a professor of comparative religion, Mr. Hossein-zadeh agrees: “The narrative that Bush and his biographers tell is clearly modeled on the prodigal son – the young man who fritters away his early life on alcohol [if not cocaine] and sin, only to find God and return to his rightful place in his father’s former occupation.” [p. 170]
And although this narrative duped a minority among the electorate, especially evangelical Christians, there is little evidence — except for giving up the alcohol — to indicate that finding God actually improved Bush’s character. Simply recall how he and the equally flawed and evil Dick Cheney engaged in crude psychological projection in September 2000, while slandering Adam Clymer: Bush said, “There’s Adam Clymer – major league asshole – from the New York Times.” Cheney responded, “Yeah, big time.” [Jake Tapper, Salon.com, Sept. 04, 2000]
Or simply recall that, in a supposedly private moment just before his national address announcing that war with Iraq had begun, “a camera caught Bush pumping his fist as though instead of initiating a war he had kicked a winning field goal or hit a home run. ‘Feels good,’ he said.” [Paul Waldman, Fraud p. 8] Could he have been more callous?
Arguably, finding God further warped his character. Instead of remaining an unread, ill-traveled, inarticulate, crude, callous, mean-spirited, trouble-making, revenge-seeking, Vietnam-evading, incompetent, loud-mouthed, cheap-shot, but consistenly-bailed-out narcissist, Bush became a narcissist emboldened by the belief that God had called upon him – him! — to lead the United States.
Moreover, if Bush was narcissistic enough to claim: “I feel like God wants me to run for President. I can’t explain it, but I sense my country is going to need me,” [p. 171] simply imagine the extent to which his fatally flawed narcissism metastasized after he “won” the White House (and, subsequently, reelection). As Aesop once observed: “The smaller the mind the greater the conceit.” [p. 172]
According to Hossein-zadeh, America’s neoconservatives manipulated Bush’s Manichaean certitudes about good and evil by presenting the September 11 atrocities as a “lightning bolt” and, thus, a sign indicating Bush’s God-given destiny to destroy the evil of terrorism. [p. 172, borrowing from Stephen Sniegoski, “The War on Iraq: Conceived in Israel]
Moreover, “having helped define the president’s mission, the military-industrial-Likud-Christian Right interests, working largely through the neoconservative militarists, have taken the most advantage of the thus energized president. By deliberately couching their nefarious objectives in missionary terms, and repeatedly defining their enemies, real or imaginary, in biblical language (‘axis of evil, evildoers, good versus evil, day of reckoning,’ and the like), they have had no difficulty getting the president to carry out their agenda, including the plan to recast the geopolitical map of the Middle East, starting with the invasion of Iraq.” [p. 172]
Did it work? Simply recall candidate Bush’s suspicion that God wanted him to be president. Then recall that, on June 4, 2003, President George W. Bush confided to Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas: “God told me to strike at Al Qaeda and I struck them, and then He instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did.” [Dilip Hiro, Secrets and Lies, p. 1]
Which raises two questions: (1) Given all the mistakes and failures attending Bush’s heinous invasion and, now, unwinnable war, why didn’t the same God, who told Bush to “strike at Saddam,” also tell him how to achieve certain victory in Iraq? (2) And why shouldn’t Americans suspect that Bush’s latest plan, the “surge,” is nothing more than another neocon manipulation of his God-emboldened narcissism? Republican party operatives and right-wing media pimps might sign on, if only to delay defeat in Iraq until after their President leaves office
After all, as esteemed analyst Anthony Cordesman has observed: “The minimal requirement for a successful U.S. strategy is a relatively stable and secure Iraq, not temporary U.S. military control of Baghdad.” Why? Because “the U.S. needs a strategy for all of Iraq, not a single city – particularly when a focus on control of Baghdad could mean leaving most of the country to divide on sectarian and ethnic lines.” [“The New Strategy in Iraq: Uncertain Progress Towards an Unknown Goal,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, March 14, 2007, p. 4]
Yet, as Professor Hossein-zadeh warns, the greatest immediate danger to the U.S. and the world does not come from yet another flawed strategy in Iraq, but from the fact that the U.S. still is led by a God-emboldened narcissist, who is divorced from reality and subject to manipulation, especially by Vice President Cheney and the neocons. Thus, he quotes Paul Craig Roberts, who has written: “People with power in their hands who are detached from reality are the most dangerous people of all. The delusional quality of their rantings disarms people from taking them seriously: ‘Oh, they couldn’t mean that.’ But they do.” [Pp. 175-76]
Detached from reality? Consider these lies and delusions: Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. Saddam’s ties to al Qaeda. We will be greeted as liberators. A “Coalition of the Willing.” Shock and awe. A liberation, not an occupation. “Dead enders,” not an insurgency. Bringing democracy to the Middle East. Mission accomplished. Sectarian violence, not civil war. The “surge” is working.
When the American electorate finally came to its senses in November 2006 and registered its opposition to the war in Iraq by evicting the complicit Republican-controlled Congress that practiced stay-the-course bootlicking rather than critical oversight of Bush’s war, delusional Bush responded with his neocon-inspired “surge,” an escalation of his war in Iraq. Similarly, when the Iraq Study Group recommended a diplomatic offensive, to include Iran and Syria, as well as “a change in the primary mission of U.S. forces in Iraq that will allow the United States to move forces out responsibly” [“Iraq Study Group: Change Iraq strategy now,” CNN, Dec. 6, 2006], delusional Bush responded with his “surge.”
Thus, there’s abundant external evidence to substantiate Professor Hossein-zadeh’s exposure of the unique and immediate dangers posed to the United States, Iraq, Iran and much of the rest of the world, due to the delusions of America’s God-emboldened narcissistic President, George W. Bush. Quoting Lew Rockwell, Hossein-zadeh agrees: “Bush is alarming, the kind of president who seems capable of blowing up the world and calling it good.” [p. 174]
Lest that sound over the top, consider Zbigniew Brzezinski’s testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as recently as February 1, 2007: “Practically no country in the world – no country in the world – shares the Manichaean delusions that the administration so passionately articulates.”
Watch out, Iran! For as Brzezinski also warned: “Indeed, a mythical historical narrative to justify the case for such a protracted and expanding war is already being articulated.”
Yet, Professor Hossein-zadeh has still bigger fish to fry. In his view, “The moral priority is�to dismantle�the warfare state, or the socioeconomic structure that cultivates and elevates the likes of George W. Bush [and Dick Cheney] to positions of power.” [p. 178] His examination of the dangers posed by that warfare state will be the subject of Part Two of this article.
Walter C. Uhler is an independent scholar and freelance writer whose work has been published in numerous publications, including The Nation, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Journal of Military History, the Moscow Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. He also is President of the Russian-American International Studies Association (RAISA).
Reviewer: Walter C. Uhler, President of the Russian-American International Studies Association (RAISA)
Reviewed in The Huffington Post (28 March 2008), http://www.huffingtonpost.com/walter-c-uhler/part-two-iraq-bushs-go_b_44481.html
One day after posting Part One of this article, which focused on seven pages found in Ismael Hossein-zadeh’s recent book, The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism, I ran across Chris Floyd’s article: “Doomsday Book: Bush Literary Lunch Foretells Horrors Ahead,” which linked to Glenn Greenwald’s article at salon.com (“The president receives ‘lessons’ from his neoconservative tutors“).
Messrs. Floyd and Greenwald discussed the literary luncheon that Bush attended on February 28, 2007. It was at this luncheon, and with the full support of the few neoconservative and conservative ideologues in attendance, that Bush rationalized away his widespread unpopularity in the United States and much of the world’s hatred of him by asserting: “I want to have my conscience clear with Him. Then it doesn’t matter so much what the others think.” [Greenwald]
True, but what if the person clearing his conscience with “Him” is a narcissistic psychopath? Remember, Bush is the same fellow, whose early narcissism produced an ill-bred wastrel and who, soon after “finding God,” possessed the narcissistic chutzpa to think, “I feel like God wants me to run for President. I can’t explain it, but I sense my country is going to need me.” More significantly, he’s the same God-emboldened narcissist, who initiated the greatest (and most immoral) strategic blunder in U.S. history – naked aggression against Iraq – because, as he said, God “instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did.”
Readers of Ian Kershaw’s biography Hitler: 1889-1936: Hubris — especially his description of Hitler’s hospitalization in Pasewalk in October 1918 — will see similar God-emboldened narcissism at work. Hitler “told a variety of associates that as he lay blinded in Pasewalk he received a type of vision, message, or inspiration to liberate the German people and make Germany great again. This highly unlikely, quasi-religious experience was part of the mystification of his own person which Hitler encouraged as a key component of the Fuhrer myth that was already embryonically present among many of his followers in the two years leading up to the putsch attempt.” [p. 103]
But, regardless of whether it was the narcissism of God-emboldened psychopath or the deliberate “mystification of his own person” that manifested itself at that literary luncheon, Bush’s recent behavior provides more evidence to justify Professor Hossein-zadeh’s fear that he’s the type of person “capable of blowing up the world and calling it good.”
But, as I also mentioned in Part One of this article, Professor Hossein-zadeh believes that the United States suffers from a more enduring affliction, “parasitic militarism” — which might cause the ultimate collapse of America’s empire. Moreover, he thinks parasitic militarism is more responsible for the war in Iraq than four other factors commonly cited: (1) the influence of America’s neoconservative militarists, (2) President Bush’s “intellectual inadequacies,” (3) the influence of the Zionist lobby or (4) the need to “gain access to more and cheaper sources of gas and oil.” [p. 3]
Parasitic militarism is the extreme militarism that afflicts a country, usually after “a prolonged reliance on military power for economic, territorial, or geopolitical gains.” Such extended reliance “gradually creates a dynamic out of which evolves a large standing military apparatus that tends to perpetuate itself – and develop into a bureaucratic empire.” [p. 3] It’s commonly known as the military-industrial complex, but it also includes the U.S. Congress, the mainstream news media and major research universities.
What makes the U. S. militarism unique, asserts Hossein-zadeh, is its unprecedented reliance on the predatory market forces and profit incentives that drive commercial defense contractors. Earlier empires were forced to rely largely upon arms supplied by comparatively benign state-run arsenals.
Thus, in past military empires, “arms production was dictated by war requirements, not the market or profit imperatives of arms manufacturers.” [p. 18] Today, U.S. defense contractors not only market their newly proposed weapons, they also market (if not invent) the threat that their newly proposed weapons will combat. They also make political contributions (bribes) to congressmen who vote for their weapons programs, fund militaristic think tanks and employ workers, most of whom have a vested interest — and, thus, vote accordingly — in the job security that even unnecessary arms production provides them.
Believe it or not, prior to World War II and the subsequent, almost immediate, rearmament to wage Cold War, the United States cherished two proud traditions: (1) mistrust of standing armies and (2) rapid post-war demobilization. George Washington believed that a large peace-time military “hath ever been considered dangerous to the liberties of a country.” In June 1784, Congress asserted, “standing armies in time of peace are inconsistent with the principles of republican governments, dangerous to the liberties of a free people, and generally converted into destructive engines for establishing despotism.” [pp. 11-12]
Unfortunately, by January 1961, no less a personage than President Dwight D. Eisenhower felt compelled to warn his fellow countrymen: “The conjunction of an immense military establishment and a huge arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence – economic, political, and even spiritual – is felt in every city, every state house, and every office of the federal government�.In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.” [p. 11]
But, some forty-six years later, today’s parasitic militarists have succeeded in creating a force that “currently deploys nearly 1.5 million military personnel in 6,000 domestic bases and 702 overseas bases in 130 countries�and about a dozen carrier task forces in the oceans and seas of the world.” [p. 12] (Consider for a moment: Why don’t other countries have overseas bases in the United States?)
“For FY 2008, the Bush administration has requested $647.3 billion to cover the costs of national defense and war. This includes the Defense Department budget ($483 billion), some smaller defense-related accounts ($22.6 billion), and the projected FY 2008 cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and counter-terror operations ($141.7 billion). However, it does not include non-DOD expenditures for homeland security ($36.4 billion) or the Veteran’s Affairs budget (84.4 billion). Nor does it include the request for supplemental funds for outstanding FY 2007 war costs ($93.4 billion). [Carl Conetta, “America speaks out: Is the United States spending too much on defense?” Project on Defense Alternatives Briefing Memo # 41, 26 March 2007]
Not only does the U.S. defense budget constitute 50 percent of the world’s total annual defense spending, the Defense Department cannot account for $1.1 trillion lost over the years. Yet, while most of the world rolled its collective eyes in stark disbelief, by early 2003 a majority of Americans ignorantly swallowed the alarmist propaganda by the Bush administration, which alleged that a weakened, brittle regime in Iraq, already subjected to economic sanctions and two no-fly zones — and, which, in 2001, spent a comparatively measly $1.4 billion on defense — posed a grave and growing threat to the United States.
Professor Hossein-zadeh believes he knows why: “Arms industries need occasional wars not only to draw down their stockpiles of armaments, and make room for more production, but also to display the ‘wonders’ of what they produce: the ‘shock and awe’ inducing properties of their products.” Thus, he was not surprised to see that “the military side of the Pentagon was not as eager to wage war in Iraq as the civilian side, which is primarily a front for powerful corporate interests, especially those vested in war industries.” [p. 19] After all, at one point the Bush administration employed 32 major policy makers, who had significant ties to the defense industry. [p. 17]
Moreover, “from the viewpoint of the beneficiaries of war dividends – the major force behind President Bush’s policies of war and militarism – military success or failure, as well as death and destruction, are of secondary concern.” Or, more to the point, while “the war on Iraq has been a fiasco” from a military point of view, “from the standpoint of the beneficiaries of war dividends it has been a boon.” [p. 176]
From his perspective as a professor of economics, Mr. Hossein-zadeh sees two powerful groups of U.S. political elites jousting for power, the parasitic militarists and the neoliberals, who primarily represent the interests of nonmilitary transnational capital. “In essence, it is a conflict between parasitic military imperialism, which relies on war and international political tension in order to justify the colossal existence of an overextended military-industrial complex, and free trade imperialism, which relies on free trade and technological superiority for international economic gains.” [pp. 236-37]
Although militarism usually prevails, both sets of elites have “diligently made it certain that increases in the Pentagon budget would not divert investable resources away from the nonmilitary private sector.” In fact, “increases in U.S. military spending since the early 1980s have been accompanied by decreases in taxes on corporate profits and higher earnings.” [p. 215]
Thus, in essence, parasitic militarism grows at the expense of social or nonmilitary public spending. It’s a case of guns and butter. The growth of parasitic militarism “crowds out” spending for both human capital (health care, education, nutrition and housing) and physical capital (roads, bridges, mass transit, schools, drinking water, wastewater, dams, solid waste, hazardous waste, navigable waterways and energy). Thus, while the Bush administration spent much of 2001 pushing to build an enormously expensive (and still unworkable) boondoggle that is near and dear to the hearts of many defense contractors, national missile defense, the 2001 “Report Card for America’s Infrastructure” issued by the American Society of Civil Engineers gave a grade of D+ to the 11 infrastructure categories listed above, plus aviation. [p. 222]
According to Professor Hossein-zadeh, sustained increases in defense spending are “financed primarily by sustained cuts in nonmilitary public spending.” And he observes: “Opponents of social spending tend to justify these policies in terms of market mechanism: that all they want is to keep ‘government’s hands out of people’s pocket[s], and to let the ‘invisible hand of the market mechanism’ regulate the economy. Yet, the twin policy of tax break[s] for the wealthy and the lion’s share of public money for military industries seems more akin to an iron fist that is designed to redistribute national resources to favor the wealthy than the invisible hand of market mechanism.” [p. 226]
Unfortunately, absent popular pressure to tax the rich and adequately fund social programs, [p. 256] Hossein-zadeh can offer only this weak admonition: “A disproportionately large and escalating military apparatus tends to undermine the socioeconomic and political base that is supposed to sustain the apparatus.” [p. 203]
Because his focus is on the political economy of U.S. militarism, Professor Hossein-zadeh might be forgiven for the slight attention he pays to parasitic militarism’s assaults on individual liberty. But he might have summarized them by quoting from John Quincy Adams’s speech of July 4, 1821: America “goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own�She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication�The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force�.She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit.” And so she isn’t!
Finally, Professor Hossein-zadeh’s book probably would have gained depth and context had he familiarized himself with Paul A. C. Koistinen’s prodigious four-volume history, The Political Economy of American Warfare, (covering the period 1606-1945), as well as the following indispensable studies: The Pursuit of Power (Willam H. McNeill), The Dominion of War (Fred Anderson and Andrew Clayton), Innovation and the Arms Race (Matthew Evangelista) and In the Shadow of War (Michael Sherry).
Nevertheless, The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism is a timely and provocative study, which merits far more readers than it probably will receive.
Walter C. Uhler is an independent scholar and freelance writer whose work has been published in numerous publications, including The Nation, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Journal of Military History, the Moscow Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. He also is President of the Russian-American International Studies Association (RAISA).
Reviewer: Kirk W. Tofte, ex-businessman turned scholar, author of Be Principled and Grow Rich: Your Guide to Investing Successfully in Both Bull and Bear Markets
An Iranian Kurd Hearts Paul Craig Roberts
When a person lives in Iowa, as I do, one seldom gets the opportunity to meet with a leading anti-war intellectual. But on August 31, 2009 I had just such an opportunity over lunch with Ismael Hossein-zadeh, the author of The Political Economy and U.S. Militarism.
Hossein-zadeh is a profile in courage. He is a sixty-three year old native of a Kurdish village in the mountains of Iran with less than four hundred residents. One of six children, he miraculously graduated from Tehran University and ventured to New York City to do his graduate work with less than one hundred dollars in his pocket.
Hossein-zadeh received his doctorate degree from the New School for Social Research. He has taught economics at Drake University in Des Moines for over two decades.
His most recent book, now available in paperback, is both courageous and profound. By his own admission, Hossein-zadeh knows little about the Austrian School of economics and even less about this website. In fact, much of the economic analysis in his book runs along Keynesian and even Marxist-Leninist lines.
Yet, like all great anti-war intellectuals, Hossein-zadeh’s approach to the subjects he discusses is inter-disciplinary with a heavy emphasis on historical facts. Also, his book is full of quotes from names lewrockwell.com readers will readily recognize: Chalmers Johnson, Smedley Butler, Michael Scheuer, William Hartung, James Mann, Patrick Buchanan, Robert Higgs and Lew Rockwell. Hossein-zadeh also quotes Paul Craig Roberts several times in his book and during our lunch he expressed his total admiration for Roberts’ work—thus, the title of this article.
When Hossein-zadeh discusses American militarism, he talks less about a military-industrial complex than he does a military-industrial parasite. Furthermore, the military-industrial establishment in the United States isn’t even that complex an entity. It consists of an “iron triangle” made up of civilian governors (the president, the congressional oversight committees and so forth), professional personnel serving in the military and the 85,000 private contractors who arm the military machine and who profit mightily from their contributions to the overall effort.
Looking back through history, Hossein-zadeh notes that the Roman Empire used its military to achieve economic, territorial and other ends. After Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon, however, the military establishment undermined republican principles of civilian governance and ultimately created a Roman military empire. Rome was transformed from a classic economic empire into the first military-parasitic empire.
The British Empire, like its Roman predecessor, started out as an economic empire that used its military to conquer territories and force the transfer of the resultant colonies’ resources to England. But Britain’s mercantilist policies were expensive ones. Once these policies (which included protectionism) helped England achieve international economic superiority, Britain’s colonial-administrative forces became a very costly redundancy. The primary role of England’s military became, after the last Corn Laws were passed in 1848, to merely keep foreign lands and markets open for free trade.
But Britain’s colonial military-administrative establishment—which was huge—did not go quietly into the night. It took less than fifty years after 1848 for France, Germany and the United States to threaten England’s temporary economic superiority. Britain’s colonial military-administrative forces reasserted themselves as England returned to its policies of protectionism, militarism and colonialism. Military conflicts inevitably ensued (e.g., the Boer War) which ultimately led to World War I.
For the first 150 years of its existence, the United States used the military to defend itself, protect its internal markets and to expand its territory. Many wars were fought and the United States military was expanded in each case to fight them. But unlike Rome and Britain, prior to 1940 the United States always reduced its military to its pre-war size.
At this point in his narrative, Hossein-zadech tells the fascinating story of how the ruling elites in America worked through the Council on Foreign Relations to convince Franklin Roosevelt and, subsequently, Harry Truman that the United States must create a permanent military-economic establishment to help plan for the future of the United States and the international community after World War II. In this fascinating chapter, Hossein-zadeh shares many facts such as the following:
1. FDR agreed on November 28, 1941 to inform congress and the American people that “if Japan attacked Singapore or the East Indies, the security of the United States would be endangered and war might result.” At the time, a vast majority of Americans were not at all likely to believe such a claim. On December 7, 1941 the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor took care of this problem for FDR.
2. By mid-1941, before America entered World War II, FDR’s outside brain trust concluded that Germany could not possibly win the war after Hitler’s foolish invasion of Russia. They began to draw up the plans for a new economic-military-diplomatic order before the United States entered the war. These plans were later announced and adopted at Bretton Woods after the war.
3. In adherence to these plans, Harry Truman remobilized the U.S. military beginning in 1950—in part to ward off a possible recession. As Hossein-Zadeh puts it, “Military spending rose—in constant (2002) dollar–from $150 billion in 1950 (the last year of ephemeral postwar demobilization) to $500 billion in 1953.”
Hossein-zadeh next traces the rise of parasitic-militarism through this period up through the 1970s when the post-World War II consensus among the nation’s elites began to unravel. This part of the story includes the “Nixon shocks” (e.g., his unilateral moves to abandon the gold standard and impose new tariffs), to Jimmy Carter’s transformation from a Trilateralist to a militarist and Ronald Reagan’s “second Cold War.”
But it is the phase after the fall of the Berlin Wall that gets the most frightful in Hossein-zadeh’s telling. At that time, former defense secretary Robert McNamara said the defense budget should be cut in half. The Secretary of Defense at the time, Dick Cheney, said it should be increased after the fall of the Soviet Union. Obviously, Cheney and the military-industrial parasites have easily won the battle over defense spending. The United States will probably spend at least one trillion dollars a year on our military during the foreseeable future.
Ismael Hosssein-zadeh has written a must read book. His chapter on the real reasons for the Iraq War—which have nothing to do with oil–are worth the price of the book all by itself. He and Paul Craig Roberts come from completely different direction philosophically. But they reach the same conclusion: “Enough is enough.”