The Military-Industrial Complex
Military–industrial complex (MIC), or Military–industrial-congressional complex (MICC) is a concept commonly used to refer to policy and monetary relationships between legislators, national armed forces, and the industrial sector that supports them. These relationships include political contributions, political approval for defense spending, lobbying to support bureaucracies, and beneficial legislation and oversight of the industry. It is a type of iron triangle.
The term is most often used in reference to the military of the United States, where it gained popularity after its use in the farewell address of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, though the term is applicable to any country with a similarly developed infrastructure.
The term is sometimes used more broadly to include the entire network of contracts and flows of money and resources among individuals as well as institutions of the defense contractors, The Pentagon, and the Congress and executive branch. This sector is intrinsically prone to principal-agent problem, moral hazard, and rent seeking. Cases of political corruption have also surfaced with regularity.
A similar thesis was originally expressed by Daniel Guérin, in his 1936 book Fascism and Big Business, about the fascist government support to heavy industry. It can be defined as, “an informal and changing coalition of groups with vested psychological, moral, and material interests in the continuous development and maintenance of high levels of weaponry, in preservation of colonial markets and in military-strategic conceptions of internal affairs.”
The Drone Surge
Today, Tomorrow, and 2047
By Nick Turse
Monday, January 25, 2010
One moment there was the hum of a motor in the sky above. The next, on a recent morning in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, a missile blasted a home, killing 13 people. Days later, the same increasingly familiar mechanical whine preceded a two-missile salvo that slammed into a compound in Degan village in the tribal North Waziristan district of Pakistan, killing three.
What were once unacknowledged, relatively infrequent targeted killings of suspected militants or terrorists in the Bush years have become commonplace under the Obama administration. And since a devastating December 30th suicide attack by a Jordanian double agent on a CIA forward operating base in Afghanistan, unmanned aerial drones have been hunting humans in the Af-Pak war zone at a record pace. In Pakistan, an “unprecedented number” of strikes — which have killed armed guerrillas and civilians alike — have led to more fear, anger, and outrage in the tribal areas, as the CIA, with help from the U.S. Air Force, wages the most public “secret” war of modern times.
In neighboring Afghanistan, unmanned aircraft, for years in short supply and tasked primarily with surveillance missions, have increasingly been used to assassinate suspected militants as part of an aerial surge that has significantly outpaced the highly publicized “surge” of ground forces now underway. And yet, unprecedented as it may be in size and scope, the present ramping up of the drone war is only the opening salvo in a planned 40-year Pentagon surge to create fleets of ultra-advanced, heavily-armed, increasingly autonomous, all-seeing, hypersonic unmanned aerial systems (UAS).
Drones are the hot weapons of the moment and the upcoming Quadrennial Defense Review — a soon-to-be-released four-year outline of Department of Defense strategies, capabilities, and priorities to fight current wars and counter future threats — is already known to reflect this focus. As the Washington Post recently reported, “The pilotless drones used for surveillance and attack missions in Afghanistan and Pakistan are a priority, with the goals of speeding up the purchase of new Reaper drones and expanding Predator and Reaper drone flights through 2013.”
The MQ-1 Predator — first used in Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s — and its newer, larger, and more deadly cousin, the MQ-9 Reaper, are now firing missiles and dropping bombs at an unprecedented pace. In 2008, there were reportedly between 27 and 36 U.S. drone attacks as part of the CIA’s covert war in Pakistan. In 2009, there were 45 to 53 such strikes. In the first 18 days of January 2010, there had already been 11 of them.
Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, the U.S. Air Force has instituted a much publicized decrease in piloted air strikes to cut down on civilian casualties as part of Afghan War commander General Stanley McChrystal’s counterinsurgency strategy. At the same time, however, UAS attacks have increased to record levels.
The Air Force has created an interconnected global command-and-control system to carry out its robot war in Afghanistan (and as Noah Shachtman of Wired’s Danger Room blog has reported, to assist the CIA in its drone strikes in Pakistan as well). Evidence of this can be found at high-tech U.S. bases around the world where drone pilots and other personnel control the planes themselves and the data streaming back from them. These sites include a converted medical warehouse at Al-Udeid Air Base, a billion-dollar facility in the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar where the Air Force secretly oversees its on-going drone wars; Kandahar and Jalalabad Air Fields in Afghanistan, where the drones are physically based; the global operations center at Nevada’s Creech Air Base, where the Air Force’s “pilots” fly drones by remote control from thousands of miles away; and — perhaps most importantly — at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, a 12-square-mile facility in Dayton, Ohio, named after the two local brothers who invented powered flight in 1903. This is where the bills for the current drone surge — as well as limited numbers of strikes in Yemen and Somalia — come due and are, quite literally, paid.
In the waning days of December 2009, in fact, the Pentagon cut two sizeable checks to ensure that unmanned operations involving the MQ-1 Predator and the MQ-9 Reaper will continue full-speed ahead in 2010. The 703rd Aeronautical Systems Squadron based at Wright-Patterson signed a $38 million contract with defense giant Raytheon for logistics support for the targeting systems of both drones. At the same time, the squadron inked a deal worth $266 million with mega-defense contractor General Atomics, which makes the Predator and Reaper drones, to provide management services, logistics support, repairs, software maintenance, and other functions for both drone programs. Both deals essentially ensure that, in the years ahead, the stunning increase in drone operations will continue.
These contracts, however, only initial down payments on an enduring drone surge designed to carry U.S. unmanned aerial operations forward, ultimately for decades.
Nick Turse is the associate editor of TomDispatch.com and the winner of a 2009 Ridenhour Prize for Reportorial Distinction as well as a James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Nation, In These Times, and regularly at TomDispatch. Turse is currently a fellow at New York University’s Center for the United States and the Cold War. He is the author of The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives (Metropolitan Books). His website is NickTurse.com.
[This article first appeared on Tomdispatch.com, a weblog of the Nation Institute, which offers a steady flow of alternate sources, news, and opinion from Tom Engelhardt, long time editor in publishing, co-founder of the American Empire Project, author of The End of Victory Culture, and editor of The World According to Tomdispatch: America in the New Age of Empire.]
To read the full article, click here: http://www.zcommunications.org/the-drone-surge-by-nick-turse
Killer Drones Take the Place of War
By Doug Noble
Sunday, June 12, 2011
With my involvement in ongoing protests at Hancock Field near Syracuse, a base for Reaper drones remotely “piloted” over Afghanistan and Pakistan, I have been trying to achieve greater clarity about my objections to weaponized (“killer”) drones. A new children’s book on Predator Drones explains their significance, “The US military is always looking for ways to reduce risks for soldiers and to keep pilots safe. This is why unmanned drones are important.” This seems reasonable, but consider that, due to overwhelming US air power superiority, there hasn’t been a US Air Force plane lost in combat in nearly 40 years, and so there is negligible difference in risk between piloting a drone aircraft and flying a fighter jet. Add to this the fact that killer (Predator or Reaper) drones are used most frequently in sovereign nations – Pakistan, Yemen, Libya – with which the US is neither at war nor has any official boots on the ground. So there are no US soldiers to keep safe in these places. It seems that neither US pilots nor soldiers are made safer by most drone deployments. And still their use has skyrocketed.
What is different about this latest weapon of war that we oppose so strenuously? True, they are remotely controlled by a risk-free videogame mentality that makes killing easy, even fun, with the trigger as far away our very backyard here in Upstate New York. But anyone who has viewed the Wikileaks footage of young helicopter gunship pilots picking off unarmed civilians, following orders issued in real time from afar, will recognize that this is not unique to drone pilots. Many of us cry out about the horrendous “collateral damage” of drones – the devastating civilian casualties and misidentified targets and technical disasters resulting in countless (because uncounted) innocent deaths. The targeted killing of Al Qaeda leader Baitullah Mehsud, for example, took 16 missile strikes over 14 months, with well over 200 mistaken deaths.
But if the drones were made more precise and effective, with fewer casualties and more accurate target identification, would we then find them more acceptable? Would drones simply be seen as another weapon of war, whose casualties are not inherently different from such deaths caused by other horrendous weapons of war? Why do we focus on drones as somehow uniquely diabolical?
The answer is this: Killer drones are not primarily weapons of war, as usually defined, but instead are automated technologies designed for convenient, targeted killing or assassination outside of war zones. As mentioned, the usual targets are in countries we aren’t at war with, far from usual areas of armed conflict. And killer drones in these countries are not even operated by the US military, but rather by the CIA and its private contractors like Blackwater, acting covertly, without uniforms or legal code and beyond any accountability. The US military has its drones, too, of course, for surveillance and some bombing in Afghanistan, but the real show, now and in the future, is the covert use of killer drones for large-scale extrajudicial assassination and targeted killing, under the cover of a global war on terror.
To read the full article, click here: http://www.zcommunications.org/killer-drones-take-the-place-of-war-by-doug-noble