Moral Outrage
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The extraordinary prestige of the military-industrial-congressional complex or Iron Triangle

Fifty years ago, President Eisenhower warned of the danger of the “military-industrial complex”. The huge budget and reach of America’s modern defense industry has proved him correct.

Adjusted for inflation, US national security spending has more than doubled since Eisenhower left office. Year after year, the defence budget seems to rise – irrespective of whether the country is actually fighting major wars, regardless of the fact that the Soviet Union, the country’s former global adversary, has ceased to be, and no matter which party controls the White House and Congress.

A common thread exists: as Eisenhower himself described it in a draft of his speech that was later amended, “the military-industrial-congressional complex”. Others have referred to the beast as the “Iron Triangle”.

In one corner of the triangle stands the arms industry. The second is constituted by the government, or more precisely the Pentagon, the end-consumer of the industry’s output. In a totalitarian state, such as the Soviet Union, that combination would be sufficient.

The US however is a “democracy”, and a third corner is required – an elected legislature to vote funds to pay for the arms. This is Congress, made up of members who rely on the defense industry for many jobs in their states and districts, and for money to help finance their every more expensive re-election campaigns.

Today, more than ever, a fourth element underpins the military-industrial complex. It is the extraordinary prestige, verging on veneration, Americans accord their armed forces. Whatever the country’s soldiers need, the general public broadly believes, they should have.

[The Independent]

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