Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Don't Forget We Need the Military-Industrial Complex

Yes, the massive Pentagon bureaucracy is as bad as any other government bureaucracy. Duh. I'd never claim that the Defense Department uniquely resists that weakness of large government. So yeah, I'd be happier if the Department of Defense was operated better--as I would be for all the rest of the government's bureaucracy.

But what gets me about Zakaria commenting on this (other than my general view that he'd have trouble locating his own buttocks with both hands and a GPS signal) is his lazy reference to Eisenhower's warning about the "military-industrial" complex (which Zakaria has complained about before).

One, that was back when defense was about the only really huge federal responsibility. We have many hyphenated complexes that have captured government and waste taxpayer money. Defense is merely the first to go this route and has had longer to perfect it.

But more important, that quote about Eisenhower's warning ignores the rest of the speech, which reminds us that even as we must control it, we have an "imperative need" for it:

A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction. Our military organization today bears little relation to that known of any of my predecessors in peacetime, or, indeed, by the fighting men of World War II or Korea.

Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense. We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions.

So which of the wars that the president is fighting don't need the weapons and equipment our defense industry supplies?

And the modern expert Zakaria cites who says our warfighters have suffered from this military-industrial complex (it's been an "absolute disaster" he quotes) ignores the technological edge this complex has provided our military over the last half century. Has it been wasteful? No doubt. Has it been ineffective? Get real

Hey, as long as we are into policy-by-bumper-sticker-sized slogans, I'm already against the next Zakaria column.

UPDATE: Thanks to Learning Curve for the link (and for the reference to my basic training saga).