Podcast: US election special #1 – the military-industrial complex
In the first part of ourVoice’s special series on the US election, we explore the influence of the military-industrial complex on the US economy.
ourVoices is a new podcast from openDemocracy's ourEconomy section which explores the crisis of our economic system – and promotes intelligent debate about what should replace it.
The podcast will bring together some of the most exciting thinkers from around the world, and give a voice to those who are putting new economic ideas into practice from the ground up.
In this first episode of ourVoice’s special series on the US election, we explore the influence of the military-industrial complex on the US economy, and how this is impacting the race to the White House.
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Freddie Stuart: The US government spends nearly $1 trillion on defense annually, more than the next eight countries combined.
This spending fuels a military industrial complex with a network of nearly 800 bases around the globe, while employing millions of workers domestically.
Accounting for more than 15% of the entire US federal budget, military spending forms a key part of the US economy. In spite of this, it is a subject that has traditionally been taboo in the American political discourse.
In this first episode of ourVoice’s special series on the US election, we explore the influence of the military industrial complex on the US economy and foreign policy.
Dwight D Eisenhower: Now this conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence—economic, political, even spiritual—is felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet, we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources, and livelihood are all involved. So is the very structure of our society. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. [source]
Aaron White: That was Dwight D. Eisenhower in his 1961 farewell address, warning of what he coined a growing ‘military industrial complex’.
The intimate connection between private contractors, the defense department, academic institutions, mainstream media, the culture industry and established politicians which has been deeply embedded within the US economy since WWII.
Tejasvi Nagaraja, an historian currently based at the New School in New York, tells us more:
Tejasvi Nagaraja: This nexus where military leaders, national security agencies as well as think tanks and advocates, corporations that have those contracts for procurement, as well as members of congress, reproduce that defence budget. So we have a budget that has gone up over president Trump, of over $700 billion, and that is embedded in thousands of counties across the US and the world. So very deliberately from the 40s and 30s they made sure that large businesses, small business, and working class people and middle class people are bound up in that.
It is estimated that the US armed forces is made up of 1.4 million active personnel. Yet this does not account for those who are employed directly by private contractors, such as supply chain industries like manufacturing and big tech.
To get a sense of the scale of the armaments industry – 10% of all factory input in the US goes to weapons sold to the Defense Department.
With the drive towards privatization and the influence of corporate lobbying, large portions of the security apparatus have been outsourced to corporate contractors. According to the Pentagon, its service contractor work force stands at over 641,000 people.
And as prominent whistleblowers such as Edward Snowden have exposed, these private contractors are pervasive beyond the hard power military budget – extending throughout the inconspicuous agencies within the national security state, such as the CIA and NSA.
As Snowden explains in an interview with Democracy Now!, these security agencies have implemented a “hard hiring cap” independent of the federal budget, which has effectively led to a system of a hybrid private employment within the national security state:
Edward Snowden: And so, over the years, over the decades, that have really arisen out of the post-World War II era, we have, in the government, created a kind of new system, a runaround for this, where they go, “Well, all this extra money that we want to put in people but we can’t bring on as formal government employees, what if we give that money to private companies, and the private companies lease us people, that, in all meaningful ways, are government employees?” They work in government facilities, as I did as a contractor. You’re at an NSA desk, working on an NSA system. You’re taking direction from an NSA government supervisor, working on government processes. But formally, legally, you work for Dell or Lockheed Martin or Booz Allen Hamilton or any one of these, really, thousands and thousands of private companies that have become, really, extensions of government. [source]
AW: Even companies that many regard as distinct from the “state and military apparatus” actually provide essential services and infrastructure for the defense department. Big tech firms such as Amazon provide substantial cloud services, and Microsoft – which recently won a $10 Billlion 10 year contract with the Defense Department for their Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure.
Academic institutions play a pivotal role in developing technology for the military apparatus. Johns Hopkins for example was awarded a $98 million contract by the defence department in 2016 for “engineering, development, and research capabilities.”
FS: Since Eisenhower warned of the effects of this ‘complex’ in 1961, the US has been embroiled in a number of expensive and controversial foreign policy interventions
During the Cold War the US began to intervene both publicly and covertly in regions all over the world, from Vietnam, to backing coups in Latin America and the Middle East. This institutionalised what Naomi Klein has called the shock doctrine, the instigation of regime change for the benefit of disaster capitalists.
Naomi Klein: I’m talking about those particular economic holdings whose fortunes increase when things go bad. So oil and gas, bad things happen the price of oil goes up, this we know. Whether it’s a hurricane, a war, a fear of a war, whether it's Chavez and Ahmadinejad hugging, whatever it is. And the same is true for defense stocks, the same is true of homeland security stocks, the same is true for drug companies that are in the business of pandemics. So this is how I am broadly defining the disaster capitalism complex – which is bigger than the military industrial complex. The reason why Eisenhower gave that famous warning in his presidential address about the danger of the military industrial complex, is precisely because this is an industry that has an economic incentive for war. [source]
FS: These operations relied on both the backing of a hard military presence through the army, but also through the growing influence of ‘intelligence’ departments such as the CIA.
Following 9/11 and the largely bipartisan support for increased domestic surveillance and the authorization of interventionism abroad – the US military industrial economy entered its most recent iteration: the War on Terror.
George W Bush: States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world, by seeking Weapons of Mass Destruction. [source]
During the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, the Bush administration utilized terror rhetoric as the political justification for a vast expansion of US militarism, and with it the role of private contractors. From mercenary armies like Blackwater founded by individuals such as Eric Prince, to a comprehensive domestic surveillance program to collect data on US citizens.
Bush also legitimised the use of torture under the euphemism of ‘Enhanced Interrogation’, which took place in unidentified black sites around the world.
In the 2008 Presidential campaign, Barack Obama ran on a platform of Change:
Barack Obama: It’s been a long time coming. But tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment. Change has come to America. [source]
FS: Obama’s campaign spoke out against the war in Iraq, promised to close Guantanamo Bay, and looked to downgrade the US military presence abroad – yet in office his administration fundamentally failed to break with the legacy of Bush’s war on terror.
A key example of this is the failure of his administration to prosecute the main architects of the black site torture program – such as Gina Haspel.
In many ways, the Obama presidency actually expanded the military complex. A prime example of this is the administration’s increasing use of drones. Activist, writer, and human rights attorney, Noura Erakat explains further:
Noura Erakat: It was the Obama administration that increased and institutionalized the use of Drones and what they regard as targeted killing throughout not just the Middle East, but Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, the Philippines. We are talking about a full out expansion of drone warfare under the euphemisms of surgical strikes and targeted assassinations, which give the impression that somehow this is cleaner and better and more humane than other forms of warfare. When in fact, it kills a tremendous amount of civilian casualties. It is also targeting US citizens without due process, it is happening under expansive executive powers, without any kind of congressional oversight, and certainly no international oversight within the security council or otherwise.
Now the context of the Obama’s administration's adoption of drone warfare, happens right after the Bush administration introduces it. But the Obama administration in its first two years, initiated more drone attacks than the Bush administration had in eight years total.
FS: Both the failure to confront the legacy of US torture, and the expansion of drone warfare, demonstrate a broader lack of democratic accountability within the Obama administration.
Michael Brooks host of The Michael Brooks show, tells us more;
Michael Brooks: Barack Obama obviously campaigned in some ways clearly in a different way than he governed, and he was pretty strong when he was campaigning on closing Guantanamo and ending torture and so on. Frankly what I think happened to Obama was that on certain things he was just boxed in by the national security state, he didn’t have a team behind him or an ideological framework behind him to fight them and if you read some of these accounts when he first sits down and gets these CIA briefings, they have a very specific strategy of how they’re going to manipulate him, and anybody could be as individually as smart as they are, at the end of the day the guy’s a 40 something relative political newcomer who’s dealing with people who are literally trained manipulators and spin artists, that’s what they do. So he codifies a lot of these things, he makes things like the drone program registered and bureaucratised, and what’s interesting is that so much of it is predicated on, because it’s not democratically accountable and because it’s basically an illegal robot war across the globe, and the same goes for NSA surveillance, predicated on, but you can trust President Obama. And even if you accept that argument as a substitute for any type of institutional understanding. Well ok, what happens after President Obama?
FS: Obama set the precedent that normalised this excessive use of executive power for future administrations. This normalisation is aided by the complicity of established mainstream media which often utilises an exceptionalist discourse to legitimise and glorify the use of military technology.
Here’s Brian Williams, a commentator for MSNBC, extolling the recent airstrikes against Syria:
Brian Williams: We see these beautiful pictures at night from the deck of these two US navy vessels in the Eastern Meditteranean. I am tempted to quote the great Leonard Cohen, “I am guided by the beauty of our weapons.” And they are beautiful pictures of fearsome armaments making for them what is a brief flight over to this airfield. [source]
FS: Whilst the US military has more than 800 bases around the world, the domestic mainstream media pays little attention to international news, even those that directly relate to US foreign policy. And even when certain stories do make headlines, the voices from those communities most directly impacted are often overlooked.
The recent negotiations between the Trump administration and the Israeli government is a prime example. Taking lines directly from the White House, the mainstream media referred to the proposals as an ‘Israel peace plan’, typically without any critical analysis of the facts.
NE: The fact that the Trump administration, when it appears only with Netanyahu, and members of the pro-Israel lobby, to reveal what they call ‘the deal of the century.” The fact that media is not running editorial headlines and news coverage that decries this as an imposition on the Palestinians is absolutely unacceptable. But instead frames it as a “peace process”, contemplates it, wonders what the next steps are going to be. It is the greatest evidence of how bereft the media is of playing a critical role in this issue, in fact how it is part of the problem.
By not featuring the voices of those most affected by US foreign policy decisions, the mainstream media fuels the exceptionalist logic of US supremacy. Politicians in DC often follow this narrative to accrue political capital.
Lobbyists from industries profiting from the military industrial complex have tremendous influence within Washington, which is further exaggerated by the revolving door that sees politicians leave office only to be offered lucrative lobbying or public speaking roles for private institutions.
Betsy Sweet, a Democratic primary candidate running for the Senate in Maine, explains the political ramifications of engaging with key foreign policy decisions
Betsy Sweet: I think that Congress and particularly the Senate, has basically given up their authority and participation in foreign policy since 9/11. With the Authorization of the Use of Military Force bill that came in right after 9/11, so basically giving this president and any president (Obama too), the ability to go into armed conflict without the approval of Congress is a huge mistake. I think they must immediately restore the War Power Act, that gives Congress its rightful role back in this. One thing that I think is very disturbing and speaks a lot to how our system is so broken, is when these things have been tried recently, many legislators do not want that power back because they think it’s politically untenable. They do not want to have to vote on armed conflict, whether to have to engage in war or not – because they are worried about the political fallout. And to me, that is a Senate without a spine, and that is a Senate without the good of the globe and the country in mind.
AW: Both inside and outside of Washington this exceptionalist consensus is beginning to shift. From the invasion of Iraq, to the war in Afghanistan where troops have now been on the ground for over 19 years, the general public are becoming more skeptical about military intervention abroad. This has created openings in both the Democratic and Republican party, for a critique of US imperialism.
For example, following the Trump administration’s assasination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, polling indicated that 63% of Republicans and 89% of Democrats disapproved of the strike.
Trump himself utilised the public's anti-interventionist reticence in the 2016 general election by frequently returning to Hilary Clinton’s support for the Iraq war.
Yet beyond Trump’s isolationist rhetoric, we’ve seen the rise of social movements that have demonstrated a genuine departure from the Washington consensus.
Following the killings of unarmed black men by police forces all over the country, the Black Lives Matter movement took center stage during the Obama administration. The protests in Ferguson, Missouri which followed the police shooting of an unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, marked a substantial turning point both within the Black Lives Matter movement, but also in demonstrating how militarism abroad has led to draconian securitization at home.
Juan Gonzalez: Well, now a broad coalition associated with the Black Lives Matter movement has released a platform of its own, demanding reparations and an “end to the wars against Black people.” The list of demands from the Movement for Black Lives platform also includes the abolition of the death penalty, legislation to recognize the impacts of slavery, as well as investments in education initiatives, mental health services and employment programs. The publication comes just a week before the second anniversary of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, which sparked months of protests and catalyzed a national conversation about police killings of unarmed African-American men. [source]
AW: Both the “War on Drugs” and the “War on Terror”, have led to local police forces all around the country looking increasingly like military forces abroad – with full scale battlefield hardware. This technology pioneered against brown and black communities abroad is being used on these communities domestically.
Local police forces all around the nation have been stockpiling drones, tanks, helicopters, many designed and used in wars in the Middle East. The tanks in Ferguson were given to the local police forces by the Pentagon, previously used in Iraq.
A prominent iteration of this domestic militarism has been the role of Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) – which started gathering up families under the Obama administration and whose role has been exacerbated under the Trump administration in kicking out so called “illegal aliens.”
This militarization by local police has come to light during nearly every major political mobilization within the last decade – from Occupy Wall Street, the protests in Ferguson Missouri, to the fight over the Dakota Access Pipeline.
This militarised domestic policing has triggered a growing hostility to the military industrial complex more broadly.
As Tejasvi Nagaraja explains, the Movement for Black Lives and the fight over the Keystone Access Pipeline, is not only calling for justice for black and brown communities at home, but critiquing US militarism:
TN: We had this new upsurge in the popular imagination of youth led Native American sovereignty movements coming up against the Dakota Access Pipeline as well as the Keystone Pipeline and facing a very repressive response. These are pipelines that are prepared by the army corp of engineers and are bound up with big fossil fuel companies. And it’s a really important education for people, to see militarism and the military industrial complex as it affects us, even in the continental US – and we can use that to project a wider solidarity towards Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia. The Black LIves Matter movement, in this Ferguson and Baltimore flashpoint moment, where there is a discussion of the way that excess military equipment is supplied to local police departments in the US and you have the imagination of tanks and flash grenades being used in the streets against poor black Americans in Ferguson, Missouri. And that sort of vision and sense of solidarity, so youth activists in Ferguson talk about how they went on social media and got solidarity from Palestinian young people saying this is how you deal with tear gas, this is how you deal with these forms of repression. It’s very important for creating a sense of popular solidarity. And even as we route for these progressive politicians that sense of people to people solidarity will continue to be important.
AW: These movements have propelled a new wave of insurgent politicians who are willing to criticise the US military complex. Importantly, many of these politicians are refusing to take corporate money, and are therefore refusing to be influenced by private lobbyists.
One of the most prominent of this new wave of politicians is Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. Noura Erakat tells us more:
NE: When it comes to how they challenge US imperialism, I think Omar has been much more explicit about having an anti-imperial critique than any of the other members of Congress.
Ilhan Omar: I am beyond honored and excited for a president who will fight against Western imperialism and fight for a just world. [source]
NE: I think that reflects her own personal history of being a refugee of actually living in war, of being part a refugee community upon arrival in the US at a young age, so that’s why we see her in the beginning of her tenure be very forthright and assertive when it came to her questioning of Elliot Abrams for his role in mass killings sponsored by the US
IO: Yes or no, do you think that massacre was a fabulous achievement that happened under our watch?
Elliott Abrams: That is a ridiculous question and I will not answer it.
IO: Yes or no?
EA: No, I am not going to respond to that kind of personal attack which is not a question.
IO: Yes or no, would you support an armed faction within Venezuela that engages in war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide if you believe they were serving US interests, as you did in Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua?
EA: I’m not going to respond to that question, I’m sorry. [source]
NE: I think it’s that ability for Omar to be able to articulate a critique of the US – its militarist role abroad – beyond the Middle East. It’s the Middle East; it’s the African continent; it’s Central America; it’s the Pacific; that really does set her apart and makes her unlike others who can come off sounding as American exceptionalist.
AW: Representative Omar’s critique of US imperialism fundamentally challenges the traditional exceptionalism that has dominated in both major parties for decades. It is representative of a shifting foreign policy discourse both in Washington DC, and across the US.
FS: Caught in the midst of this shifting discourse has been the 2020 presidential election.
As the Commander-in-Chief under Article II of the Constitution, the President of the United States plays a singularly important role as the arbiter of US foreign policy. Under the 1973 War Powers Act passed in the wake of the conflict in Vietnam, the President must receive congressional approval before committing troops to war, except in the instance of emergency situations such as an attack upon the US, its territories, possessions, or armed forces.
In practice however, the President often exercises a relatively free-hand when it comes to foreign interventions.
The last time the US Congress officially declared war was in 1942, against Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania – yet Presidents engaged in clear acts of foreign aggression throughout the second half of the 20th century. For instance Bill Clinton’s 1999 NATO bombing campaign in Kosovo, undertaken without any prior consent of Congress.
Bill Clinton: The Kosovars have been victims of terrible atrocities. Their only hope is that the world would not turn away in the face of ethnic cleansing and killing. That the world would take a stand, we did for 78 days. Because we did, the Kosovars will go home.
FS: The power of the President has been increased particularly in the wake of 9/11.
In 2001, Congress signed an Authorization for Use of Military Force against those responsible for the September 11th attacks.
This declaration has been used by subsequent presidents as a legal justification to embark on a range of foreign exploits; such as the execution of Soleimani.
The scale of the US military industrial complex, and the powerful role of the President in executing foreign policy, means that attitudes toward the military economy should be a fundamental part of any presidential election.
AW: Despite the shifting discourse critiquing US interventionism, many of the Democratic candidates in the 2020 cycle followed the traditional line on foreign policy and the military economy.
At the South Carolina debate, former Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg, detailed how his prospective foreign policy platform remained wedded to a traditional strategy of US interventionism.
Norah O'Donnell: Mayor Bloomberg, voters have not heard much about your foreign policy view, would you pull all combat troops out of the Middle East?
Michael Bloomberg: No. You want to cut it back as much as you can, but I think if we learnt something from 9/11, people plan things overseas and execute them here. We have to be able to stop terrorism. There’s no guarantees that you’re going to be able to do it, but we have to have some troops in places where terrorists congregate, and to not do so is just irresponsible. [source]
AW: Whilst less explicit, other candidates in the 2020 Democratic primary were no less embedded in the historical discourse of American exceptionalism.
Before he dropped out of the race, former Mayor of South Bend Indiana Pete Buttigieg repeatedly stressed his experience in the military as a qualification for the presidency.
Pete Buttigieg: The first time I ever set foot in South Carolina it was stepping off the bus that brought me to combat training near Fort Jackson. Where I saw that one of the things that kept me safe, just as sure as my body armor, was that the flag on my shoulder was known to keep its word; our allies, and our adversaries knew it. [source]
AW: In doing so, Buttigieg sought to play on the culturally embedded image of America as a leading force for democracy and liberation on the world stage.
Fellow “moderate” Joe Biden, uses similar rhetoric. Biden focuses on America as the country that can keep all others in line, leading by example and pressuring other nations.
Here’s the former Vice President talking tough about how, under his presidency, America would stand up to dictators like China’s Xi Jinping.
Joe Biden: You can cooperate and you can also dictate exactly what they are. When in fact they said they’re going to set up a no fly zone, you can’t fly through our zone, he said - what are you going to do about it? - I said we’re going to fly right through, we flew B1 bombers through it. We’ve got to make it clear, they must play by the rules. Period. Period. Period. [source]
AW: More often than not, when questioned on foreign policy, Biden seeks to position himself as the antithesis to the incumbent president. He typically uses Trump as a bar against which he can measure success, while not engaging with the growing movement of people pushing for a more extensive, systemic critique of the US military industry.
JB: We believe in freedom of religion, that’s why I’ll end the muslim ban. We believe in the power of free press, that’s why I’ll return immediately to daily press briefings in the White House. I’ll reverse Trump’s detrimental asylum policies. The Biden administration will immediately end the horrific practice of separating families at our borders. [source]
AW: Biden stresses foreign policy as a cornerstone of his run for office; emphasising his dealings with world leaders during his time as Vice President to Barack Obama.
But his foreign policy whilst in the Senate has increasingly come under scrutiny. Just as Obama and then Trump criticised Clinton’s ‘hawkish’ interventionism, Biden has been repeatedly criticised over his support for the Iraq War by his rivals on the 2020 debate stage.
Bernie Sanders: The war in Iraq turned out to be the worst foreign policy blunder the history of this country. As Joe well knows, we lost 4500 brave troops, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died, we have spent trillions of dollars on that endless war. Money which should go into healthcare, education, and infrastructure in this country. Joe and I listened to what Dick Cheney and George Bush and Rumsfeld had to say, I thought they were lying, I didn’t believe them for a moment, I took to the floor, I did everything I could to prevent that war. Joe saw it differently.
AW: Bernie Sanders and until recently, Elizabeth Warren made up the progressive contingent running to be the Democratic candidate in 2020.
Like much of her platform, Warren’s foreign policy sought to shine a light on special interests groups and their lobbying power in Washington. Warren made an explicit connection between American foreign policy and the domestic economy:
Elizabeth Warren: We need to refocus our international economic policies so that they benefit all Americans, not just wealthy elites. And at the same time, we must refocus our security policies by reigning in unsustainable and ill advised military commitments and adapt our strategies overseas for the new challenges we see in this coming century. And we need to end the fiction that our domestic and our foreign policies are somehow separate from each other, and recognize that policies that undermine working families in this country also erode America’s strength in the world. In other words, it is time to create a foreign policy that works for all Americans not just for the rich and powerful. [source]
AW: This rhetoric is not necessarily one of non-interventionism, but better interventionism. This focus on “American strength” and a foreign policy that works for “all Americans” does not mark a fundamental break with traditional exceptionalist rhetoric.
In contrast, Senator Bernie Sanders is running a grassroots campaign which challenges the established narrative of the US’ role in the world.
BS: Occasionally it might be a good idea to be honest about American foreign policy. And that includes that America has overthrown governments all over the world in Chile, in Guatemala, in Iran and when dictatorships whether it is the Chinese or the Cubans do something good, you acknowledge that.
FS: This articulates a radical break with the status quo discourse on American foreign policy. Sanders’ critique challenges a historical assumption core to bipartisan American politics – that exceptionalist rhetoric is necessary for political survival.
BS: I’ll tell you what the answer is, and I gotta say this, you know. It is politicians, a president gets up there and says, “We’re going to be tough. And these are evil guys. And we’re going to war.” Wow. And your poll ratings go up. And then people say, wait a minute, what are the unintended consequences of that? How many people are going to die? How much is it going to cost us? Ohh, candidate X or congressmen X is soft on terror – 30 second ad. Congressmen X doesn’t want to protect America. And I really get very angry at that approach. Because we sit in the Congress, in our beautiful rooms, in our beautiful studio over here, and we do not know what war is about. [source]
FS: We asked campaign co-chair Ro Khanna, and State Senator from Ohio and campaign surrogate Nina Turner, what a Sanders foreign policy might look like:
Nina Turner: Senator Sanders understands that you have to bring the world leaders together, that we rise or fall not internally as a nation but as citizens of the world.
Ro Khanna: Under Bernie Sanders we will have no more unconstitutional wars, he and I have worked together to help stop the war in Yemen. We passed an amendment to stop any funding for a war in Iran. He has led on opposing support for military regimes in Latin America. Bernie Sanders will have a foreign policy based on restraint and human rights, and engagement to tackle climate change.
FS: The same themes are evident throughout Sanders’ political career; whether it’s his unpopular vote against the Iraq War:
BS: Giving the President authority to wage a unilateral war a preemptive war against Iraq would be a terrible mistake. [source]
FS: His work to prevent the Saudi led bombing in Yemen:
BS: Today we in the Senate have the opportunity to take a major step forward in ending the horrific war in Yemen. [source]
FS: Or his condemnation of the Israeli government’s occupation of Palestine:
BS: But what I happen to believe, sadly, tragically, in Israel, through Bibi Netanyahu, you have a reactionary racist who is now running that country. And I happen to believe that what our foreign policy in the MIddle East should be about is absolutely protecting the independence and security of Israel. But you cannot ignore the suffering of the Palestinian people.
FS: These are tangible examples of how Sanders has challenged the dominant narrative which upholds a for-profit military industrial complex relient on interventionism.
Sanders is campaigning on a platform that not only seeks to cut back on military expenditure and reign in the role of private contractors, but redeploy those resources elsewhere.
Tejasvi Nagaraja outlines why he believes that a structural readjustment of the economy is necessary for a prosperous future.
TN: When we come up against the annual budget, and when we come up against budgeting against congress. It is necessary both for dollars and cents as well as shifting the ideological paradigm to make cuts in the defence budget in order to expand funding for the types of things that we would like to see like Medicare for All, like a Green New Deal. So they will have to face those guns versus butter logic that we have that says, that I'm not endangering national security by advocating these healthcare expansions or these jobs expansions. But at the same time, it's necessary to make these cuts. That we are offensively, intentionally transitioning the US economy for prosperity. And we see these discussions around climate. We have to shift the narrative, and with the Green New Deal activists are trying to shift that narrative to not say you know ‘we are moralists who want to get rid of coal and oil because we know smart things and you’ll have to deal with it and we look forward to eliminating jobs.’ But that we have a vision that this is not the future. And some of those advocates are invoking FDR’s drive to WWII and saying that the Green New Deal has to have that urgency; we face an existential crisis; climate change is like fascism, and is bound up in rising authoritarianism, we have to get ahead of this and transform the economy for the good.
FS: Nagaraja believes that it’s not just important to focus on where material resources should be allocated, but how we discuss and plan this ‘just transition’ – focusing on guaranteeing a quality standard of living for those workers currently dependent on this complex.
TN: What progressive politicians and left politicians will have to do is come up with models where they build trust with local communities, with local elected officials, with local business, with local voters and workers, who work in military industrial entities, who work in companies contracted with the Pentagon, whose paychecks are subsidized by the NDAA, and with the military itself, with military bases and service members, and base communities. Where not only service members but many other people are employed adjacent to those base communities. And build trust, and say, this is not the future, your economy is not the future. Sectors of the economy collapse all of the time. It happens for market reasons, and we let that happen. We’re going to also make some political decisions to have sectors of the economy decline because they’re not sustainable. And we will transition those to other things. And that can be a tremendous alternative if it is bound up in something like this Green New Deal agenda.
FS: Faced with an impending climate catastrophe, many believe that this Green New Deal economy provides the perfect object around which to orient this refocusing of resources.
On the second part of our series on the US election, we speak to leading figures at the forefront of the movement demanding bold climate policy in the context of the 2020 election.
Laura Basu Thank you for listening to this ourVoices podcast from openDemocracy. If you enjoyed this podcast, and would encourage others to listen, head to iTunes, subscribe and leave us a review.
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