Image credit: | Frances Smith - Photo: 2017

Donald Trump and the War Industry: Nothing Has Changed

Viewpoint by Marcelo Colussi *

GUATEMALA CITY (IDN) – During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump had the audacity (bravado? stupidity?, bad political calculation?) to ask himself if it was convenient to continue the war in Syria and tension with Russia.

The idea probably crossed his mind of putting the emphasis mainly on stimulating a sluggish domestic economy, which is gradually lowering the standard of living of ordinary American citizens.

His feverish promises to bring back industry – dislocated to other parts of the world with cheaper labour – do not appear to have gone in vain. Less than a year after his administration took over, it can be seen how U.S. foreign policy is still marked by the almighty military-industrial complex and wars continue unabated.

The main and cheerful defender is the president himself.

On January 27, a few days after his inauguration as president, Trump issued the “Presidential Memorandum on Rebuilding the U.S. Armed Forces”, a sign of clear determination to grant unlimited powers to the omnipotent military industry in his country.

Section 1 of this memorandum on “Policy” states that “to pursue peace through strength, it shall be the policy of the United States to rebuild the U.S. Armed Forces”. The message is clear. Almost immediately after the signing of that memorandum, the big war industry business moved into action.

Military engineering companies such as Lockheed Martin (the Pentagon’s largest contractor specialising in warplanes such as the F-16 and Black Hawk helicopters), Boeing (producer of B-52 bombers and Apache and Chinook helicopters), BAE Systems (aerospace vehicles, warships, ammunition, land warfare systems), Northrop Grumman (leading shipbuilder), Raytheon (manufacturer of Tomahawk missiles), General Dynamics (combat tanks and surveillance systems), Honeywell (space industry) and DynCorp (the giant company that provides logistics services and maintenance for military equipment) – all companies that recorded sales in 2016 of almost one billion dollars, an increase of 60 percent in profits compared with 2010 – exulted: the “infinite war” that had begun a few years earlier with the “battle against terrorism” seemed to know no end.

The perpetual need to renew equipment and all associated military paraphernalia promises huge profits. Everything indicates that this industrial sector continues to mark the pace of imperial policy.

There is no doubt that the strength of the U.S. economy today is not similar to that in the immediate post-Second World War era and those first years of overflowing triumphalism (until the oil crisis of the 70s), when it was the untouchable superpower.

This does not mean that the American empire is finished, but a slow decline has certainly begun.

Hence, an all-encompassing military presence in the world can ensure the maintenance of its supremacy as a hegemonic power with the appearance of new actors casting shadows – BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), European Union – while at the same time dynamise its own economy (3.5 percent of its gross domestic product is contributed by the military-industrial complex, generating huge amounts of jobs).

On February 23, a month after taking office in the White House, true to his style, Trump provocatively declared that the United States would be rebuilding its atomic arsenal, given that it had “fallen behind” with respect to Russia and that it would be “best of all” to ensure that it stands “at the top of the pack” of nuclear powers.

To make his high-sounding declarations operational, he proposed an increase of almost 17 percent in the budget of the armed forces. This could be done by sacrificing social budgets with drastic reductions in sectors such as education, the environment, investment in scientific research, culture and international cooperation.

The current budget for the armed forces is 639,000 million dollars, which represents nine percent more than the amount destined for military spending in the last fiscal year of former president Barack Obama. This huge figure is earmarked, basically, for the acquisition of new strategic weapons, thorough renewal of the navy and preparation of troops.

Parallel to this presence of the war industry in the strategic plans of the presidency, it is worth mentioning how certain military officers have been occupying key positions throughout the Trump administration.

His Chief of Staff is John Kelly, a retired U.S. Marine Corps general; the National Security Advisor is General Herbert McMaster, a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and highly respected within the Pentagon’s military hierarchy; the Secretary of Defence is General Jim Mattis, another former U.S. Marine Corps general known for his unfriendly nickname “Mad Dog”, controversial commander of sadly famous operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, including the 2004 Falluja massacre in Iraq.

Along with this decisive presence of the military caste, Donald Trump has opened the doors to the massive entry of senior military-industrial complex executives into key positions in his government. These include, for example, current Secretary of Education Betsy Devos, multi-millionaire and sister of former U.S. Navy SEAL officer Erik Prince who founded the Blackwater military contractor.

In other words: generals and manufacturers of death are those setting the geostrategy of the main world power. Pathetically, destruction is good business (for a few, of course).

Militarisation and the triumphant entry of the war industry is a key part of the policy of the current president of the United States. This can also be seen in the internal security strategy, with Trump rescinding an executive decree of the presidency of Barack Obama that prohibited the transfer of military equipment to local police. In this way, the military-industrial complex will be able to produce and sell high-calibre weapons, artillery vehicles and grenade launchers to police forces.

Business is, without a doubt, going from strength to strength.

If at any time it could have been thought that the arrival of Trump with his idea of revitalising the domestic economy would, to some extent, stop the U.S. role of hyper military agent and world gendarme pushed for by candidate Hillary Clinton, reality has turned out to be something different.

There have been two facts that showed, once and for all, who is really in command: the unnecessary bombing of an air base in Syria on April 7 (a purely propaganda military operation, with no real practical effect in terms of a war operation), and a few days later – on April 13 – the launch of the “mother of all bombs”, the GBU-43/B, the most powerful of all the non-nuclear explosives in the U.S. arsenal, in the territory of Afghanistan (alleged hiding place of the Islamic State, and also more a media than a military operation, without any real consequence in terms of military operations).

It is more than evident that in this phase of global capitalism and unbridled imperialism, the hyper militarist strategy guarantees the ruling class of the United States a life that the productive economy can no longer assure. New enemies are being invented, now that the Cold War and the ghost of communism has disappeared.

These, then, are the order of the day: “the fight against terrorism”, “the fight against drug trafficking”, and surely in the near future “the fight against organised crime”. As León Panetta, Secretary of Defence under the presidency of Barack Obama, said in 2014: “The war against terrorism will last no less than 30 years”.

The script is already written. It does not matter who occupies the White House: plans must be fulfilled.

The so-called Doomsday Clock maintained by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists of the United States has been brought forward by half a minute to indicate that we are two and a half minutes (in metaphorical terms) away from a possible thermonuclear holocaust if war continues being played.

The U.S. military-industrial complex feels omnipotent: it plays at being god, it plays with our lives, it plays with the world. But a small mistake can produce catastrophe.

In the name of survival of the human species and of planet Earth we must fight tenaciously against this insane policy. Which is to say, in short, fight against the capitalist system. It is evident that within its frameworks the extermination of all forms of life is easier than finding a solution to the ancestral problems of humanity.

* Born in Argentina, Marcelo Colussi studied psychology and philosophy and now lives in Guatemala, where he is a university professor and social researcher. He is a member of Utopia Rossa (Red Utopia), an international association working for the unity of revolutionary movements around the world in a new International: la Quinta (The Fifth). The full version of this article originally appeared in Spanish under the title ‘Donald Trump y la Industria de la Guerra: Nada Ha Cambiado’ in Utopia Rossa. Translated by Phil Harris. [IDN-InDepthNews – 31 October 2017]

Image credit: | Frances Smith

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate –

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