Saturday, January 15, 2011

I am a Card Carrying Member of the Military-Industrial-Academic Complex

Yep, I get $$ from the Canadian Department of National Defence and from NATO.  So, forget everything I have ever said or will say since I am completely compromised by my role in the military-industrial-academic complex.

Ok.  Of course, the problem is that this concept, like globalization or "neo-liberalism" among many others has been abused so much that it loses much of its meaning.  This piece reviews a book about Eisenhower's speech that introduced the term.  Of course people have used it to justify their own beliefs, but Ike was not arguing that militaries are evil, that war is never necessary or that the complex causes war.  Nope, he just warned that too much power in the hands of the military-industrial complex might lead to too much spending (he liked programs that were cheap--bigger bang for the buck) and perhaps a garrison state where international threats justify an intrusive government.  Well, that latter dynamic can happen with or without a military-industrial complex as we had Red Scares after World War I, Adams and the Sedition act and so forth.  So, international threats can breed over-reactions without being cheer-led by General Dynamics and the generals in the five-sided building. 

To blame the military-industrial complex for anything is easy.  Because of their power, we sometimes buy armored fighting vehicles that do not work, planes that crash too often, ships that are entirely too expensive.  But did the military cause the US to invade Iraq?  Did the big defense industries?  No.  The causes of the Iraq war are both simple and complex.  Simple in that we had a group of individuals running the country who desired this war at a time where the usual checks and balances were not in play due to 9/11 (not that they caused 9/11 to have this effect--they were just, pardon the term, lucky).  Complex in that each of these actors had different reasons for wanting a war, and a lot of it had to do with dysfunctional cognitive processes like confirmation bias, wishful thinking, groupthink, analogical reasoning and so on.

To argue that somebody caused something because they benefited from it is a common fallacy.  I benefited from the Canada Research Chair program.  How did I cause it?  My research has benefited from the complexities of Afghanistan.  How did I cause that?  Obviously, it is easier to draw the connections when the people in power have ties to those who benefit, such as Cheney and Haliburton, but it is far easier to argue and demonstrate that Haliburton got good contracts because of its political connections than it got the war it wanted....

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