President George W. Bush launched the current wave of elective global war (with Senator Joe Biden’s help). President Obama expanded those wars. Under President Trump, war profiteers (James Mattis and Mark Esper) ran the Pentagon and the U.S. dropped a record amount of ordnance overseas. Under President Biden, another war profiteer — retired general and ex-Raytheon director Lloyd Austin — runs the Pentagon and the wars continue, including the recent bombing of Syria and Somalia, surprising some. But U.S. aggression is no shocker. Harming other countries is evidence of the military-industrial-congressional complex (MIC) functioning as designed — and it’s neither intended to, nor actually, improving American security.

The MIC is an insulated authority consisting of the U.S. military establishment, headquartered in the Pentagon; the war industry, the corporations that market and sell goods and services to the U.S. military and allied governments; and Capitol Hill, the elected representatives who fund the military and pass legislation abetting the war industry. This triad creates a permanent warfare state which helps cause our endless wars.

Few people inside the MIC recognize the gravity of the situation — that funneling so much money toward the permanent warfare state actually harms U.S. security by draining manpower and time, distorting research and development, and forestalling social care — but most fear the consequences of speaking up.

The Business of War

Expanding business in order to increase profit doesn’t just involve building new factories to produce more goods from which to multiply returns. War corporations also put money toward funding and lobbying politicians who then advocate for war and broad military deployments; awarding military officers who support enduring conflict overseas; recruiting retired military officers to leverage their knowledge for profit and placing industry executives into the Pentagon’s civilian offices to steer the ship; and funding media and think tanks to propagandize and generate pro-war narratives.  Yet, even a cursory look at two decades-worth of war state track record demonstrates that the resultant wars have actually proven counterproductive.

To make more money, ever more aspects of American life must be drawn into big business. This is why one sees everything in civilian life being commodified, including food, housing, land, and water. It’s also why corporations are taking over many military functions: such privatized business sectors of war now include, but are not limited to, propaganda and public relations; office work and program management; audit and finance; training and simulation; transportation of cargo and personnel; cataloging, maintaining, and guarding pre-positioned stock; anti-ballistic missiles and tracking; environmental cleanup; space (satellites, ground-based monitoring, launch vehicles and support, range operations); and information technology and telecommunications. And corporations contracted for military jobs inevitably squeeze a layer of profit for their services. To obtain that, corporations end up over-charging, cutting jobs, polluting, and harming unions.

Even otherwise baffling military activities seem rational seen through MIC-eyes. The U.S. government’s hundreds of overseas military installations are often considered unnecessary and superfluous — and may even increase the chance of new wars, thus increasing the risk to service members based there. But they are no such things for the MIC: these outposts are avenues and way stations through which corporations route goods and services. Incredible profits (e.g. base operations, ordnance, aircraft, construction, fuel, logistics, maintenance, IT, intelligence, and security) move through each military installation. Bases abroad also abet military actions that safeguard regional resource extraction and help threaten independent-minded governments.

When war is business, peace is your enemy. Military force becomes the go-to tool when approaching any group, issue, or conflict that could be handled diplomatically. The U.S. military and intelligence agencies regularly inflate threats to justify massive budgets, invasive legal authorities, and bloated bureaucracy, while the war industry hypes threats to sell goods and services. Military intervention harms populations and destabilizes countries around the world, and ultimately produces more “enemies” to fight — thereby generating more profitable conflicts.

The war industry has now accumulated a portfolio of conflicts as it surveys the global marketplace, parses demographics, shapes consumer tastes, and pursues profit maximization at all costs. Afghanistan, Pakistan, Colombia, Iraq, Iran, Korea, Libya, Mexico, Palestine, the Philippines, Somalia, Syria, the Sahel, Ukraine, Yemen — each hotspot has advantages and challenges for war-profiteers, with distinctive terrain and unique obstacles. The war industry’s products monitor, control, and destroy populations. Viewed from the corporate suite, conflict must endure. To achieve the infinite growth that big business demands, war corporations require endless, dispersed armed conflicts of varying intensities.  Profits, not national security, often drive policy.