Why America's Military Capabilities Are Failing

12-09-2019 strategic-culture.org 29 min #161571

Eric Zuesse

On 17 January 1961, US President Dwight Eisenhower famously introduced the phrase  "military-industrial complex", referring to what he said might become a threat to American democracy a takeover of the US Government by a "complex," composed of generals and other national-security brass on the one side, and corporations such as Lockheed and their financiers, on the other. That warning turned out to have been prophetic. The revolving door, between the military top brass and the boardrooms of the arms-contractors and associated corporations and think tanks,  spins ever-faster now, and it controls the  news-media and the US Government ever-more, so as to produce more and more invasions, of countries that never had invaded, nor even threatened to invade, us. Such "aggressive wars" (unprovoked aggressions) are  international war crimes, but are never prosecuted when the US does them. The threat that Eisenhower talked of was real, and it has actually won out against, and defeated, democracy in America, and it has since become a catastrophe, taking up more and more of the US Government's resources, and delivering to the people of the United States, and especially to the world-at-large only more wars, and bloodshed, and poverty, and suffering, and less security, for everyone, but with increasing wealth for the few at America's top, who have invested in this permanent militarization of the United States.

The chief beneficiaries have been owners of the arms-makers (such as Lockheed Martin) and of the fossil-fuels extraction firms (such as ExxonMobil). Controlling those types of firms is to participate in controlling the US Government, because the US Government serves those firms. Also, high-tech, such as Amazon corporation ( whose cloud-computing for the US Government provides almost all of its profits), benefits enormously not only from the wars, but from the extension of the American empire. A threat by the US Government is a threat on behalf of those owners, and yet the owners who control those international corporations get none of the blame for those wars, which always serve their interests, by extending their empire even when the wars are lost.

How did this ongoing decades-long catastrophe happen?

It didn't even strengthen the US militarily. Look at the record, and consider not only the phenomenon itself, but its actual results a ceaseless string of military defeats:

Why did the US lose the war in Vietnam?

Why did the US lose the war in Afghanistan?

Why did the US lose the war in Iraq?

Why did the US lose the war in Libya?

Why did the US lose the war in  Syria?

What produces this doubly-bad habit actually badness squared of the American Government, during the past fifty years: aggressions that fail?

Could it be because the takeover of America's Government, by its arms-manufacturers and fuel-extraction firms and their lobbyists and other agents has been accompanied by soaring corruption? We'll deal with that question later here. But first, let's consider the shocking present condition of America's military:

On 19 August 2019, the US Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia a prime US ally in that part of the world headlined a lengthy study and report:  "AVERTING CRISIS: AMERICAN STRATEGY, MILITARY SPENDING AND COLLECTIVE DEFENCE IN THE INDO-PACIFIC". Its Executive Summary presented the following key points:

America no longer enjoys military primacy in the Indo-Pacific, and its capacity to uphold a favourable balance of power is increasingly uncertain....

Over the next decade, the US defence budget is unlikely to meet the needs of the National Defense Strategy owing to a combination of political, fiscal and internal pressures....

America has an atrophying force that is not sufficiently ready, equipped or postured for great power competition in the Indo-Pacific a challenge it is working hard to address....

A strategy of collective defence is fast becoming necessary as a way of offsetting shortfalls in America's regional military power and holding the line against rising Chinese strength.

But did China actually cause this "atrophying"? Clearly not.

The problem is internal to America itself. Casting the blame elsewhere is only for idiots to believe, but foreign 'enemies' (such as China) are needed in order for the military-industrial complex to thrive. Can you imagine the military-industrial complex growing and thriving if the public believe that domestic corruption is actually behind this consistent and constant record, of US military failures?

Did China cause America's defeat in Vietnam, or in Afghanistan, or in Iraq, or in Libya, or in Syria?

Let's be more general about this: Did North Korea cause it? During the four-day period of 24-27 August 2019, an Economist/YouGov poll of 1,500 adult US citizens asked them "Do you consider the countries listed below to be a friend or an enemy of the United States?" and listed 13 countries. The ones scoring highest for "Enemy" the most-commonly selected, as being an "Enemy" were: North Korea 53%, Iran 46%, Russia 35%, and China 21%. Did any of those nations cause this "atrophying"?

Ever since 2001, Gallup has asked, almost annually, and always in February,  "What one country anywhere in the world do you consider to be the United States' greatest enemy today?" No countries were ever listed for that question; the respondent in these polls always just answered it however that person wanted. In February 2001, 2% said "North Korea." 6% said "Russia." 8% said "Iran." 14% said "China." And a whopping 38% said "Iraq." 4% said "Saudi Arabia." Those were the most-frequently mentioned countries, shortly before 9/11 struck. 0% said "Afghanistan." How accurately informed were Americans, by 'our'  'news'-media, then? In February 2001, the top "enemy," overwhelmingly (at 38%), was Iraq which had never posed any threat, at all, to America. It was no enemy, whatsoever, to Americans. But we invaded and destroyed it in 2003 after having long been strangulating its population, by means of an economic blockade, "sanctions," following Saddam Hussein's having invaded Iraq's neighboring country, Kuwait, in 1990, and trying to take it from its owner, Kuwait's royal Al-Sabah family. Americans then strangled Iraqis with sanctions for what their ruler Saddam Hussein had done to the Sabah clan, and then we invaded and destroyed Iraq altogether in 2003, for nothing but our Government's, and its 'news'-media's,  war-mongering lies the 'news'-media serving as mere stenographers for (instead of as investigators of) the Government's ceaseless lies about 'Saddam's WMD', etc.

Gallup's next poll on this question was 2005, and the top "Enemy"s at that time were 22% each for "North Korea" and for "Iraq," 14% for "Iran," 10% for "China," 3% for "Afghanistan," and 2% each for "Saudi Arabia," "Syria," and "the United States itself." How accurately informed were Americans, then? (Well: 2% got the answer right or, maybe, 4% did, if the correct answer was both "the United States itself" and "Saudi Arabia." That 2% or 4% was the highest percentage ever who got it right.)

By 2012, 10% said "North Korea." 2% said "Russia." 32% said "Iran." 23% said "China." 5% said "Iraq." 7% said "Afghanistan." How accurately informed were Americans, then?

In 2018 (the latest such poll), 51% said "North Korea." 19% said "Russia." 7% said "Iran." 11% said "China." 2% said "Iraq." 0% said "Afghanistan. How accurately informed were Americans, then?

Isn't it remarkable how malleable changing over time Americas' opinions are, of which nations are 'enemies'? The designation of which ones are 'enemies', at any given time, is controlled by the Government and its stenographic press the 'news'-media and by the billionaires' think tanks (such as  Brookings Institution) that provide many of the 'experts', which the 'news'-media cite and interview in order to validate the lies.

None of those countries had ever attacked America (except America's own Deep State had, if that's what was being referred to as "the United States itself"). Nonetheless, the US Government has threatened each one of those other countries many times, and has actually invaded some of them, but did even a single one of those countries ever commit aggression against the United States? Not even Afghanistan did, though the  US-and-Saud-created Taliban had protected the Saudi aristocrat Osama bin Laden leading up to the 9/11 attacks. However, the Afghan Government afterward never invaded America. Not only was the invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003 unprovoked aggression, but (though less clearly) the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan also was. And yet, for some reason, Americans don't view the US Government as a global criminal outlaw. Instead, Americans view the targeted foreign governments as if they were that. This is the consequence of a ceaselessly propagandistic national press, which protects itself and its masters (never revealing the truth about either itself or its masters the regime's propaganda that supplants truth), and fools its public to hate and fear those masters' targeted 'enemies' instead of to loathe those masters and their press (which have actually engendered such malleable mass-hatreds and the resulting unprovoked invasions by the US).

Is it the case that Americans' fear and hatred of foreign governments varies according to what the owners of America's major news-media have had their reporters report during the year before, and that the latter is, in turn, unskeptical stenographic reporting from whatever the US Government had just told them during the year before, and that it's always full of lies, and none of it should be uncritically believed, and the American public are merely fools who are constantly being manipulated by the owners of the military-industrial complex, which actually controls not only the President, but the Congress, in both Parties, as well as their deceiving media? If that's the case, then the generals and the armaments and extraction firms could be making lots of money, from manipulating the public, in this carefully coordinated way, by the controlling owners, the big stockholders America's 607 billionaires. It's sometimes called "the Deep State." But it's not aiming for any actual victory by a military that actually represents the interests of the American people; it is instead merely aiming to generate sales of weapons and spreading of fear, and a continual succession of wars, so as to feed the controlling owners' bloody greed to sell more weapons, oil, and gas. It's safe for them to do, because international laws aren't ever enforced against them, nor even against their top agents (such as America's President, members of Congress, the CEOs of Lockheed Martin and of CNN, and all other agents of the billionaires). They're all immune, no matter how many times they have deceived their public into supporting the perpetration of international war-crimes, on the basis of lies about their 'humanitarian' concern to spread 'democracy' and 'human rights'.

Is there any alternative explanation for these catastrophic continual results?

The US military is so profoundly corrupt that there are  "Trillions of Dollars in US Military Spending Unaccounted For", and yet  the US military remains, by far, the most-trusted and highest-approved, of all institutions in America, respected above the Presidency, above the Congress, above the courts, above the schools, above any, at all, year after year, for decades. And the public accept this  even when the US public themselves disapprove of the Government's wars. So: there is total impunity for the mega-profiteers from all of these international war-crimes that are so routinely perpetrated by the US In fact, there is  sound reason to believe that the corruption is so enormous that not only is the military-industrial complex the most corrupt part of the American nation, but this nation itself is actually,  according to the most-reliable measures, the world's most corrupt at its very top, and perhaps even below the very top. Perversely, the military is not only the most respected, but it's also  the most corrupt, of America's institutions: it is corruption on top of corruption, the peak of corruption. And this is the reason why it's  the only federal department that is and has always been unauditable.

This is how  the country that actually (though not in the official figures) spends around half of the world's entire military budget can lose war after war after war and its military still retain the highest respect from its public the highest of all of the nation's institutions regardless of its astounding longstanding record of failure and ongoing global catastrophes, producing benefits virtually only for the nation's billionaires and their top agents, while mass-murdering millions abroad, for no other real purpose than to keep the profits flowing. Like Barack Obama (the invader of Libya and Syria on the basis of lies) repeatedly bragged,  "The United States is and remains the one indispensable nation", meaning that all others are "dispensable." Those others serve their purpose, as 'allies' to buy US-made weapons, or else as 'enemies' for those weapons to be used against. Even if the wars are lost, the weapons were sold, and the 'enemies' had served as target-practice, to keep the juices flowing, for America's owners people like  this, and  these. Such a nation used to be called an "Empire," but now it's called "hegemony", in the wake of WW II. Perhaps it's now called "the one indispensable nation," and "hegemony," because FDR had been opposed to empires, so they can't call it an empire. Opposition to empires was FDR's guiding principle in international relations, and this conviction he held was a major reason behind his plan for the UN to become the basis of an international democracy to emerge no empires, at all. Today's America is the reverse of that, more like a posthumous victory of fascism, which is based upon empire: this fascist victory after World War II is the burial of FDR's plan and dream for the world. His dream has been buried by America's own fascists.

The German intelligence-analyst who blogs anonymously as "Moon of Alabama," and whose predictions, which I have closely watched for five years and found to be stunningly accurate,  wrote, on September 5th, that, "The US military and its weapons are regularly hyped in 'western' media. But it has long been clear to (non-US) experts that US military technology is not superior to that of other countries. In several important fields Russian, Chinese and even Indian build weapons have much better capabilities. The reason is simple. US weapons are not developed or built with a real strategic need in mind. They don't get developed for achieving the most effect in an existential war against a capable enemy, but to create profit."

Given that America spends around half of the entire world's military budget, and yet gets very bad military results, there can be no reasonable doubt that the reason is massive corruption. One prominent example is James Comey, who served President Clinton 1996-2001, President Bush 2002-2005, and President Obama 2013-2017; and he was Lockheed Martin's second-or third-highest-paid executive, and then the chief lawyer for Lockheed Martin's second-biggest owner, during the interim period 2005-2013, between Presidents Bush and Obama.

As I  wrote in March of this year:

The liberal Republican James Comey became the  Senior Vice President and General Counsel of Lockheed Martin Corporation during 2005-2010, where his 2009 pay was  $6,113,797. During that time, he also was a Director of the US Chamber of Commerce's National Chamber Litigation Center, which works to support business interests in the courts, especially the interests of US-based international corporations, including Lockheed Martin. Furthermore, as of 12 March 2010, Comey also had been granted  162,482 free shares of stock in Lockheed Martin, which number was higher than that of anyone except the Chairman, the CEO President, and an Executive Vice President; so, Comey was among the very top people at Lockheed Martin. Lockheed Martin's largest foreign customer was the Saudi Government, which is 100% owned by the Saud family. Today, those Comey shares are worth $47,119,780 after his five years with the company, plus nearly nine years of growth in that stock, from the war-producing policies that Comey had helped to initiate.

Then, Comey  bought a $3M mansion in Connecticut and became the General Counsel and a Member of the Executive Committee at the gigantic hedge Fund, Ray Dalio's Bridgewater Associates, in Connecticut, where Comey's only publicly known pay was $6,632,616 in 2012. Dalio and Comey became very close  Dalio called Comey his "hero." But Obama then hired the liberal Republican Comey as FBI Director in 2013, replacing the liberal Republican Mueller in that role, from which Obama's successor President Trump fired Comey, and congressional Democrats then succeeded in getting Mueller assigned to become the Special Counsel who would supposedly investigate the legitimacy of that firing.

On 21 May 2013, Marketwatch bannered  "Bridgewater Associates' trades for Q2" and reported that

"After a number of tech companies including those we've mentioned [Microsoft, Oracle, and Intel] and EMC the largest single-stock holding in the fund's portfolio was its roughly 220,000 shares of Lockheed Martin LMT, +1.93%. The company recently reported an increase in earnings compared with the first quarter of 2012, but revenue was down slightly and there is a good deal of speculation that the business will be impacted by cuts in US military spending.... Billionaire Ken Griffin's Citadel Investment Group reported a position of 1.2 million shares at the end of December."

Lockheed Martin is by far the largest US 'defense' contractor, taking 8.3% of all US Government purchases during 2015, as compared to #2 Boeing's 3.8%, and #3 General Dynamics's 3.1%.

That's where the big money is being made: not in Government-service, but in the private-sector side of the revolving door between Government-service and the private sector. Phrased in a different way, and using a different metaphor: Government-service is the career's entré, but the private sector is its dessert, in America's corrupt system. Outright bribes aren't necessary, in this system the aristocratic system where what matters is not what you know, but whom you know; not what skills you have, but whom your friends are. It doesn't produce efficiency, but it does produce supercharged wealth at the very top, amongst the richest and most powerful few.

And it produces gargantuan and longstanding military failure.

On August 29th, the US Department of Justice's Office of the Inspector General issued its "Report of Investigation of Former Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey's Disclosure of Sensitive Investigative Information and Handling of Certain Memoranda", which identified US criminal statutes that Comey had personally violated in order to precipitate the Obama Administration's Russiagate investigations against then-candidate Donald Trump. It noted that "Comey's closest advisors used the words 'surprised,' 'stunned,' 'shocked,' and [expressed] 'disappointment' to describe their reactions to learning what Comey had done." And it stated, not just once but a number of times, the terse phrase that "After reviewing the matter, the [Justice] Department [now under Trump] declined prosecution." Ironically, some of the very same criminal statutes that they said Comey had violated had been the same ones on which Comey had earlier refused to recommend prosecution of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that the documents were his (her) personal property, and not the property of his (her) employer, the US Government. The I.G.'s report stated unequivocally, in his own case, "We conclude that the Memos were official FBI records, rather than Comey's personal documents." Perhaps Comey had felt free to do this because he had earlier refused to recommend prosecution of her for having done it. Perhaps he felt that his actions, as FBI Director, had, in her case, established a legal precedent, which superseded the congressionally passed and Presidentially signed-into-law criminal statutes that he was actually oath-bound to enforce and possessed no legal authority to either override or ignore. Perhaps that's why he did it perhaps he had persuaded himself that he wasn't a criminal who was at the top. Perhaps he had deceived himself about that.

At the top, in the United States, corruption is not only massive; it is entirely bipartisan.  There's no way around it.

On 10 September 2019, the independent investigative journalist Sarah Carter headlined  "Flynn Hearing Reveals Existence of Bombshell DOJ Memo Exonerating Michael Flynn", and revealed evidence that Michael Flynn's guilty plea in the Russiagate-Trump case had been based on Comey's having hidden from Flynn exculpatory evidence, and that therefore the plea-agreement might be ruled invalid. Furthermore: "the existence of a Justice Department memo from Jan. 30, 2017 exonerating Flynn of any collusion with Russia," and the document continues to be hidden from the public, but might soon be released. Yet the resulting war-mongering lies have shaped the public's attitudes, and those attitudes could last for years and continue to shape American politics even long after the fraud has been exposed.

And that's just one person's case, Comey. The entire military-industrial complex operates this way, and long has been doing so, very successfully for America's billionaires and their foreign allies, such as for the Sauds, and for the billionaires who control Israel. (Israel is the largest recipient of US foreign aid, and virtually all of that aid from US taxpayers pays for Israel's purchases of weapons from Lockheed Martin and other US weapons-firms.)

That's the "swamp," and Trump is part of it, like all recent US Presidents have been. There is no accountability, at the top. And this is why America's military capabilities are failing.

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