Ukraine new battlefield for US MIC to profit
Dangerous tendencies in the evolution of US political-military relations
Published: Apr 27, 2022 06:54 PM
Milking the crisis Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Milking the crisis Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visited Kiev on Sunday, pledging new aid worth $713 million for Ukraine and 15 countries. After the US Department of Defense hosted leaders from eight major US weapons manufacturers to discuss arms assistance to Ukraine on April 13, the new pledge once again recalls the history of "sharing the spoils" of the US military-industrial complex (MIC). 

After the end of World War II, the US put forward the hegemonic concept of "Pax Americana" (Latin for "American Peace") based on its superiority over Europe which was still in ruins. By using the Marshall Plan to deeply influence and reshape the European economy while taking advantage of the Cold War to build a NATO-centered system of military intelligence and security, the US enveloped the entire Western world under its nuclear umbrella, thus opening the curtain of a "permanent war economy."

The "permanent war economy" means that after WWII, the US military was deeply integrated with US industrial and financial forces, while the "revolving door" enabled the free flow among elites and forming alliances of interest. The economic boom of major Western countries after WWII is more or less related to the local wars launched by the US. 

The frequent wars waged by the US military in the 21st century are more obviously economic in nature and reflect a dangerous tendency in the evolution of US political-military relations, namely the "oligarchy-dominated praetorianism." US political scientist Samuel Huntington uses the term "Praetorianism" to designate social orders in which political participation is highly relative to their political institutionalization. 

Well versed in American political checks and balances, Huntington was concerned the US civil official groups and the financial oligarchy controlling military power might move toward militarism for the sake of power expansion or capital monopoly. In other words, once the collusion of the interests between the industrial or financial oligarchy becomes tight and complex, the US military, as a super-powerful but also super-destructive force, will turn into the "sword of Damocles" of human rights hanging over everyone's head. 

Although some major research projects of the US military objectively promote innovation, the direct integration of military power with US political and economic power set the precedent of the military oligarchization of the US industrial economy. Although market economic behaviors tend to generate a large number of non-classical activities and then profits through commercialization, this market approach is not effective for classical innovations. 

US economist John Kenneth GalbraithKen Galbraith noted in a 1967 book The New Industrial State that at that time, the US economic system was divided into two parts: about 1,000 multinational companies and millions of small and medium-sized enterprises. The governance mechanism of the former was the "planning system" similar to those in the socialist countries while that of the latter was the "market system." For the US economic lifeline and strategy, the former was clearly the base - the arms giants and financial oligarchs controlled the advanced manufacturing and modern service, creating the appearance of a free market economy and innovation to allure the world. However, this economic form and political system have been a far cry from the US' self-proclaimed free competitive market economy and the democratic system. 

Secondly, the US military's ability to innovate doesn't necessarily stem from huge investments and clear minds, but is often the result of breaking free from the moral and ethical "shackles" of human rights, such as obtaining human experimentation data at all costs. From incorporating Nazi Germany's bioweapon expert Erich Traub and Japan's Unit 731, to the recent files of US military's biolab on "using migratory birds to spread virus" exposed during the Russia-Ukraine conflict, it can be seen that the severely "praetorianized" oligarchs have gone to great lengths to turn the US military into a war profiteering machine.  

Finally, the US military is not an isolated system, but a huge organization highly intertwined with the US industrial and financial, political and judicial, and media and intelligence systems. With US military bases around the world, the US military has constantly launched wars and trampled on human rights of survival and development. 

With the rise of emerging market economies and the deepening of the multipolar international order in the post-Cold War era, the profiteering efficiency of the US military cooperating with oligarchs is declining, and it's gradually becoming a tool for money laundering. The 20-year war in Afghanistan cost US taxpayers a whopping $2.261 trillion. The Biden administration's withdrawal from Afghanistan was ostensibly to get rid of this financial burden, but the outbreak of the Ukraine crisis has led many to suspect that the US military-industrial complex is simply changing the battlefield to continue to make profits. 

The author is an associate professor of the School of Marxism Studies at Harbin Institute of Technology, Shenzhen. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn