The 2016 US Presidential Election and the Military Industrial Complex


This article reflects my personal opinion.

With the first presidential debate on Monday, the 2016 race to the White House has entered its final phase after what has already been an extraordinary shrill and eventful election year. Many observers are puzzled by the fact that a blunt, populist ex-reality star faces a realistic chance to become the most powerful man in the world. They do not understand it for the same reason they have not understood Brexit. And while every US American voter with a shred of rationality left should suck it up and vote for four more years of the same in Hillary Clinton over a narcissistic madman spreading nothing but hate and dangerous half-truths,  there is one issue that most likely will not change and those who have to bear it have no say in the matter anyway, as they do not live in the United States. Regardless of whether the next commander-in-chief will be called Clinton or Trump, the US will continue to forcefully protect their interests by means of the world’s dominant military force and intelligence network and the support of shady allies around the globe. Even if the candidates wanted to, they would not have the power to stop the military industrial complex that has taken on a life of its own.

The United States need nothing short of a redefinition of their national identity to break the perpetual cycle of violence that they are stuck in. And yet both of this year’s candidates show no signs of remorse for or reconsideration of their country’s violent foreign policies. Neither is the problematic political influence of the military industrial complex, fueled by an annual military spending of almost $ 600 billion (more than the next seven countries combined), even a topic in any of the debates. Clinton has played a vital role in the United States’ self-declared War on Terror and does not plan to tame the beast the military industrial complex has become. On Monday, she suggested that her plan to fight ISIS is more of the same old medicine: bombings, an approach that has worked so well in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Somalia, Libya and Yemen, to just name the most recent success stories. And while some like to portray Donald Trump as a more isolationist alternative, on his website he declares in his famous modesty and notorious attention to detail, “I will make our Military so big, powerful and strong that no one will mess with us”. And his proposal to kill terrorists’ families, a claim supported by a former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, is not exactly what would bring the United States back into compliance with international law. It is highly unlikely that he is backed by prominent retired military figures because he wants to curtail the military complex’s power.

Regretfully, the world is not a completely peaceful place and countries have to protect their sovereignty to protect its citizens’ freedom. And especially for Europeans it is not seldom hypocritical to accuse the United States of its militarism when the US military is the sole reason they have been able to grow up in countries free of fascist or communist regimes and is a welcome ally to do the dirty work that European governments do not want to impose on their electorate. But the United States have lost their claim to be the impeccable leader of the free world long ago. They have led an aggressive war against international law in Iraq, killing thousands and permanently destabilising an entire region. They sell weapons in enormous amounts to violent states such as Saudi Arabia. Their war on terror is based on unlawful killings around the globe. Allegedly protecting human rights, their intelligence agencies violate the right to privacy of millions, inside and outside their borders, and incarcerate terrorist suspects in secret prisons that never see a lawyer but have seen torture. A lot of this is only known to the public because of brave individuals like Snowden and Manning who are treated as public enemies while the men who are really responsible for thousands of dead US Americans can relax and practice their painting skills. All of this is done with the complicity and support of their ally Western governments.

The United States have developed a military industrial complex whose sheer size and political influence makes it all but impossible to change the country’s war-waging ways. Neither of the candidates have the willingness, let alone the courage, to face this powerful enemy. Additionally, in a debate that can already be described as post-factual, the media has failed to make this issue a topic. The military industrial complex will further strive, supported by deals like the $ 38 billion agreement that enables Israel to buy US weapon systems with US tax money for the next ten years.

This is not the result of an accidental development and neither has it not been warned of. In 1961, more than 55 years ago, US president Dwight D. Eisenhower, a former five-star general and the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during the Second World War, made a warning of the growing influence of the military industrial complex  the key-note of his farewell address.


“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

More than half a century later, his words have not become less important, quite the contrary. And yet, US citizens choose not to be “alert and knowledgable” but to close their eyes instead. And who is to blame them, considering their lack of a political alternative? And while change does not seem to come from within, there is no sign of it coming from outside. European countries need US intelligence to protect their citizens from Islamist terror that the US have helped to create and rely on their military to protect them from Russian aggression and hence do not dare to seriously confront their protector on foreign policy issues. While their governments criticise US interventionism from time to time to please their electorate, they host US airbases used to coordinate drone strikes, supply their air force with intelligence for their bombings and partake in the great selling of weaponry to whomever is the current ally. And with a combined $ 328 billion, the European military industrial complex dwarfs that of countries such as Russia or Saudi Arabia. However, it does not yet hold the same power as it does in the United States and there is still hope for its taming. Eisenhower’s prophetic words should be a warning for every European voter as well.

Unlike some black-and-white thinkers might have you believe, stating all this does not neglect the fact that other countries such as Russia also cause unspeakable suffering with their aggressive foreign policies and criticising the United States is not synonymous with a change of loyalty. However, in its role as the only real global power left, the United States have been particularly able to fundamentally manipulate the narrative of their violent interventionism. Hopefully, in time, there will be a reckoning and especially the role of the United States in recent decades will be looked at in a different light. For the time being, the US military industrial complex hides in the shadows that are cast by two unappealing presidential candidates in the headlights of the election spectacle.

Cultural References

Music – Johnny Wright- Hello Vietnam, Rage Against The Machine – Testify

Film – Apocalypse Now

Reading – The Intercept – The Drone Papers

Written by Jonas


Author: Jonas Send

I share my creative writing - currently working on a novel. I analyse current topics that interest me in opinion pieces and share my research in economic articles.

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