Trump takes on the Military-Industrial Complex

 

U.S. President Trump’s goal of pulling troops from the Middle East threatens the established order that has dominated the American economy and foreign policy since the end of the Second World War.

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The term “military-industrial complex” was first used by another Republican president, Dwight D. Eisenhower. He warned that government policy was being dictated by the war industry, euphemistically called the “defense industry.”  In his farewell address in 1961, Eisenhower cautioned that the United States must “guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence…by the military-industrial complex.”

Eisenhower believed that the military-industrial complex was subverting national interests and promoting participation in the nuclear arms race.

The last time that the military-industrial complex was threatened was after the collapse of the USSR in 1991. General Colin Powell worried about running out of enemies: “Think hard about it. I’m running out of demons. I’m running out of villains.”  He was wondering out loud whether the U.S. needed such a large army after the fall of Soviet Russia. What’s the point of having the world’s greatest military power and no dark forces to fight?

Powell worried needlessly. America managed to find new enemies.

Like many of President Trump’s moves, this one is poorly thought out. He is both pushing and pulling U.S. military supremacy. He wants to pull troops out of the Middle East while at the same time promoting U.S.-manufactured goods.

Manufacture creates jobs at home and the U.S. military provides a base for corporate colonization of the world.

Ten per cent of the American economy is directed at making weapons –most of which are sold to the military. The United States still maintains nearly 800 military bases in more than 70 countries. In comparison, Britain, France and Russia, have 30 foreign bases combined.

The trouble with the business model is not the jobs it creates, it’s the endless war that America must fight in order to make sense of the manufacture of weapons for the “Defense” Department. If the weapons weren’t made to be used, what would be the point in making them?

The rationale of the military-industrial complex is wearing thin and withdrawal of troops has some sympathy. Public Affairs columnist Lawrence Martin says:

“It’s a timely reminder of the debacle created by Mr. Trump’s Republican predecessors. The Iraq disaster and its collateral calamities; American military intervention and nation building that proved futile; the never-ending war in Afghanistan; hundreds of billions spent and tens of thousands of deaths. For what? (Globe and Mail January 2, 2018).”

Derailing the military-industrial complex has long been a dream of global peace-lovers. But there is going to be a lot of push-back from American Generals who want to keep their jobs.

Perhaps President Trump’s next big idea will be to convert U.S.-made weapons into steel to build his Mexican wall. He’s already hinted at a new role for the military in his television address Tuesday to defend against the threat that bedraggled families from Central America pose. “This is an invasion of our Country and our Military is waiting for you!” he tweeted earlier.

President Trump’s quixotic tilt at military-industrial complex is likely to fail but in the meantime, peace-lovers can hope.

 

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Syria’s climate refugees

“The start of the revolution was water and land,” says Mustafa Abdul Hamid, a 30-year-old farmer from Aleppo, Syria.

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The Arab Spring — that promise of political reform, the failed revolution, ISIS, civilian bombing, the misery of refugees, all started forty years ago with an ambitious plan to make Syria self-sufficient in food. Until they ran out of water, Syria had been relatively stable despite the oppressive Assad family regime.

The source of Syrian grief is climate change. In the 1970s, drilling wells for irrigation water seemed like a good idea. Back then, the military regime of the current president’s father launched a program to increase crop yield. As politicians are inclined to do, he paid no attention to aquifers or climate change.

“Farmers made up for water shortages by drilling wells to tap the country’s underground water reserves. When water tables retreated, people dug deeper,” explains reports John Wendle in Scientific American (March, 2016).

Wendle went to Syria to talk to farmers and to listen to refugees. “Climatologists say Syria is a grim preview of what could be in store for the larger Middle East, the Mediterranean and other parts of the world. The drought, they maintain, was exacerbated by climate change. The Fertile Crescent—the birthplace of agriculture some 12,000 years ago—is drying out. Syria’s drought has destroyed crops, killed livestock and displaced as many as 1.5 million Syrian farmers,” reports Wendle.

Life was good before the drought, Hamid recalls. He and his family farmed three hectares of topsoil so rich it was the color of henna. They grew wheat, fava beans, tomatoes and potatoes. Hamid used to harvest three-quarters of a metric ton of wheat per hectare in the years before the drought. Then the rains failed, and his yields plunged to barely half that amount. “All I needed was water,” he says. “And I didn’t have water. So things got very bad. The government wouldn’t allow us to drill for water. You’d go to prison.”

By 2005, the problem of water shortage was so obvious that it couldn’t be ignored and Assad’s son, the new president, made it illegal to dig new wells without purchasing a license.

Syrians who had bags of cash to bribe official drilled ever deeper into the receding water table; until the money and/or the water ran out.

The drought, aggravated by climate change touched off social turmoil that burst into civil war. The source of climate change as the underpinning of Syria’s woes is confirmed not only by a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences but by the farmers themselves that Wendle spoke to in refugee camps. “That’s exactly what happened,” they told him.

“What’s happening globally—and particularly in the Middle East—is that groundwater is going down at an alarming rate,” Colin Kelley of the University of California, told Wendle. “It’s almost as if we’re driving as fast as we can toward a cliff.”