Since taking office in 2009, Obama has made 42 arms deals with Saudi Arabia, worth a staggering $115 billion.
The defense industry sponsors “think tanks” that obligingly issue alarming reports warning of increasing peril everywhere. Many are run by former diplomats or military commanders and are aimed at persuading Americans and foreign governments to spend more billions of dollars on weaponry.
“We must respond to the rise of ISIS terrorism, Russian aggression on NATO’s doorstep, provocative moves by Iran and North Korea, and an increasingly powerful China,” the Aerospace Industry Association recently declared.
The misnamed United States Institute for Peace, for example, is run by Stephen Hadley, a former national security adviser who also earns hundreds of thousands of dollars each year for his service on the board of Raytheon, a leading arms maker. Another arms maker, Lockheed Martin, which has just sold Poland an air-to-surface missile system and wants to sell more, has given the institute $1 million. It’s been a good investment. Hadley has urged that the United States “raise the cost for what Russia is doing in Ukraine” because “even President [Vladimir] Putin is sensitive to body bags.” The Institute of Peace wants European countries to double their military spending and also favors sending more weapons into the Ukraine powder keg.
The US Committee on NATO was founded by a former Lockheed executive and pushed successfully to expand the NATO alliance onto Russia’s doorstep. That sharply increased tension in Europe, which produces a handsome profit for the arms industry.
Another influential think tank, the Atlantic Council, is funded by Raytheon and Lockheed. It faithfully produces articles with headlines like “Why Peace is Impossible With Putin,” and urges the United States and European countries to “commit to greater defense spending” and confront “a revanchist Russia.”
Critics of wasteful military spending have bitterly denounced the trillion-dollar project to produce a new fighter jet, the F-35, arguing that it is already obsolete in the age of drone warfare. Nonsense, replied the director of the Lexington Institute. In a recent article he called the F-35 “a revolutionary platform” with “capabilities that far exceed any current Western fighter.” Left unspoken was the fact that the Lexington Institute is another front for the arms industry, supported by contributions from Lockheed — the manufacturer of the F-35 — and from Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and other “defense” contractors.
Think tanks are only part of the matrix that promotes the American weapons industry. The roughly 50 companies that make up the industry shower members of Congress with millions of dollars in campaign contributions. They also parcel out contracts across the country, in order to employ people in as many congressional districts as possible. Components for the F-35, for example, are being made in 46 states. This practice is fiendishly effective in assuring that members of Congress continue to support new weapons projects, no matter how ill conceived.