Why is the U.S. refusing to call a halt to the Ukraine madness? Why can’t an era of “Peaceful Coexistence” in Europe and the world be declared or at least sought? How about détente with Russia? With Russia and China? What is wrong with that?
We’ll start peeling the onion by looking at the U.S. military-industrial complex. Of course, President Eisenhower warned us against the MIC over 60 years ago in his “Farewell Address” of January 20, 1961. Among other remarks he said:
“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”
Today about 2.1 million people are employed by the defense industry. According to Acara Solutions, a major MIC recruiting firm, their average annual salary is $106,700, 40 percent higher than the national average. The companies they work for produced revenues in 2022 of $741 billion. How much of their production is high-priced junk, no one knows. The performance of U.S.-produced armaments in the Ukraine conflict does not seem impressive. No modern U.S. weapons have ever been tested in an industrial-type war against an equal adversary.
The MIC also includes active-duty uniformed personnel of 1.37 million and reserves of 849,000. There are 750 U.S. military bases in more than 80 countries outside of the U.S. More than 100,000 U.S. military personnel are stationed in Europe. Annual salary and benefits of the military are currently $146 billion per year, escalating with COLAs compounded at two to three percent annually, sometimes more. Some former U.S. military personnel are assumed to be fighting in Ukraine as mercenaries or helping direct the fighting from safe locations like Kiev or Lvov.
Then there are the civilian employees. According to the DoD, it employs more than 700,000 civilians “in an array of critical positions worldwide,” with compensation totaling about $70 billion. According to the Government Accountability Office, we may also add 560,000 contractor employees, whose compensation is typically higher than the career workforce.
We can also add hundreds of thousands of executives, managers, employees and contractors of the three-letter Deep State agencies, such as the CIA, NSA, DEA, FBI, and now DHS, etc., who interface with the MIC day in and day out and are part of the same fabric of state-sanctioned force and enemy identification and interdiction.
Added to the above are members of Congress who vote on military budgets and make the laws that protect the MIC from accountability, lobbyists who pressure those members to cast votes favorable to their MIC clients, private sector financial service employees who handle the retirement accounts of the MIC multitude, foreigners who are employed at overseas bases, and various scoundrels and hangers-on. I would include in the latter category the multitude of MIC cheerleaders from Hollywood who produce trashy spectacles like Top Gun.
On top of everything else, there are millions of retirees drawing annuities in excess of what most working-class Americans earn, many of these retirees double- or triple-dipping with lucrative jobs in business or government.
Each of the above individuals supports multiple family members, workers, and vendors within the civilian economy who, with the ripple effect and velocity of money, keep entire towns, cities, states, regions, and industries afloat. An example is building the F-35 that has workers assembling it in 350 congressional districts. It is probably no exaggeration to say that given the vast exiting of civilian U.S. factories and jobs over the last half-century to cheap-labor countries abroad, the MIC is probably the principal economic engine of the U.S. as a whole.
So are we going to tell what adds up to tens of millions of people, sorry, your services are no longer needed? Good luck with that. And isn’t it obvious that all these people, especially the higher echelons, are going to do everything within their power to persuade us that their jobs are so essential that without them we will shortly be overwhelmed and eaten alive by every “enemy” on the planet?
If you doubt what I am saying, ask any retired colonel or general who has hired himself out as a talking head to CNN or MSNBC. It’s also why DoD has formally declared Russia and China our two “adversaries,” because, after all, you have to point the finger at someone and blame them for your own dysfunctional society.
But as I witnessed personally in my NASA days, many MIC personnel never do a lick of honest work, or are mainly occupied with paper shuffling or other busywork, especially with work-at-home now the vogue, with many spending their days surfing the internet, or worse, while drawing a level of pay that puts most civilian workers in the shade.
Not to mention stay-at-home mothers, teachers and caregivers, first responders, law enforcement personnel, food service employees, or the unemployed, underemployed, or homeless. Yet many of these people, while working hard for low pay, if any, have a sense of fulfillment and self-worth that surpasses the swarms of MIC bureaucrats who can’t help but feel degraded in their superfluous and often pointless vocational stagnation.
Is all this enough to create an imperative for World War III? You tell me. It certainly has to be a contributing factor. Plus it saps the nation’s natural strength. We could even say that the U.S. war machine is a cancerous tumor that has metastasized throughout the entirety of American society, polluting and corrupting every aspect of life, including the body politic, the environment, the entertainment industry, the mass media, education, scientific research, etc.
It was the military, for example, that supported planning for the U.S. lockdowns during the COVID so-called pandemic, as documented by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., in his monumental indictment of Big Pharma/MIC collusion in his book The Real Anthony Fauci: Bill Gates, Big Pharma, and the Global War on Democracy and Public Health.
A subset of the question whether the MIC could drive us to war for its own selfish reasons is whether a president, a political party, or the Deep State itself could use the MIC to generate a war to save their own sorry asses at a time of scandal or possible election loss, along the lines of the movie Wag the Dog?
We’ll leave that an open question for now. At least Tucker Carlson seems to think so in his forecast that the Biden administration will spark a hot war with Russia before the 2024 election. Of course, we can’t know what they are really planning, because they hide behind billions of classified documents and imprison those who dare to lift the veil of secrecy. We are vaguely aware that the top dogs have their own “continuity of government” plans with hidden bunkers, an “underground Pentagon,” caches of MREs that can last decades, etc. Just don’t ask to see any of this.
Every war the U.S. has fought since Korea, including the proxy war against Russia in Ukraine, has been an MIC bonanza. Then there’s the simple fact that if you are an individual possessing a weapon of any kind, whether a military pistol or an ICBM, despite the protocols that govern their use, you still fantasize about using that weapon on somebody. This alone creates a societal imperative towards war. Plus I have had the wife of an MIC worker tell me straight up that she favored war because otherwise how would their family eat?
Another way to look at it is that we have a deeply entrenched system of military socialism. I happen to think it’s very corrupt, very inefficient, and very dangerous.
Is BRICS+ vs. the West Deciding the Parameters of the Conflict?
This brings us to the subject of economics. The national level of expenditure on the MIC and its role as the central tent pole of the U.S. economy certainly point to economic motives in any stampede to war. But wealth depends on resources and their exploitation. In fact, the seizure of the world’s resources had become a finely-honed specialty of the European powers, with the U.S. joining in the later stages, during the entire era of colonization. Even today, the populations of former Western colonies continue to work the farms, plantations, mines, and transport facilities of Western owners.
Of course, the Europeans and Americans have been justifying their expropriation of the resources of other countries for centuries by virtue of ideologies like “right of conquest,” “survival of the fittest,” “white man’s burden, etc.,” always proclaiming shock at native resistance. During the 19th century, such resistance was decisively subdued by the invention of the Maxim machine gun.
The U.S. gained early experience in grabbing the land and its bounty through dispossession of Native Americans and the massive growth of slave-worked plantation agriculture. Westward expansion brought the taking of land for gold and silver prospecting. By the time the U.S. began to gain colonies, the rich soil of Hawaii offered wealth to pineapple growers. A prime motive of the Spanish-American War was confiscation of Cuban sugar plantations. In Central America it was bananas and coffee. In Chile it was copper.
At the turn of the 20th century, U.S. bankers lent money to the British to aid them in fighting the Boers in order to secure the incredible deposits of diamonds and gold beneath the surface in South Africa. We also know that U.S. bankers saw a great business opportunity in the chance to lend money to Britain and France in order for them to prosecute World War I against Germany. After that war, the Rockefeller oil empire began its expansion into the Middle East. President Franklin D. Roosevelt is suspected to have baited Japan into attacking Pearl Harbor because there was nothing better than a good war to boost employment after failing to create a full-employment economy during the Great Depression. When the “War on Terror” commenced, the chief topic on the agenda at President George W. Bush’s staff meetings was the takeover of Iraq’s oil fields.
Today, the MIC has one overriding mission: protect the overseas interests of big U.S. banks, investment and hedge funds, and multinational corporations. The biggest U.S. defense firm is Lockheed, which itself is largely owned by three giant hedge funds: State Street, Vanguard, and BlackRock. The CIA is there to control foreign governments, overthrow them as needed, and keep foreign leaders and journalists on the payroll while quaking with fear for their careers or even lives. The paradigm is most egregious in Europe, which the Anglo-Americans view as vassals, with the E.U. a policeman. NATO is an enforcement mechanism for U.S./U.K. control, not to defend against Russia, which today has no discernible interest in political control over Europe, even if it were capable of making such a move, which it isn’t.
Rather than defend against a non-existent Russian threat, the West would love to get its hands on Russian oil, gas, and mineral resources, as it began to do in the 1990s before Putin took over and fostered a nationalistic revival. The U.S. had long been targeting the Caspian Basin and Central Asia, which now seemed vulnerable with the separation from Russia of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan. These countries are still in play for the West, as are the microstates of the Caucasus.
The 2014 U.S.-sponsored coup in Ukraine was partly for acquisition of Ukrainian land and resources, including the fertile farmland of the steppes. Big players are Cargill, ADM, and BlackRock, along with numerous E.U. companies. Despite global warming and professions of getting rid of fossil fuels, trying to get hold of hydrocarbons worldwide remains a matter of Western urgency.
But with the current situation, another dimension is “dollar hegemony.” This brings us to BRICS. Perhaps the biggest threat to Western economic imperialism is the formation of the economic compact consisting of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. As the Ukraine conflict deepens, BRICS expansion has become of particular importance to Russia, as it is obviously a means of outflanking the West and beating it at its own geopolitical game.
At the South African BRICS summit of August 22-24, 2023, six new nations were added: Saudi Arabia, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Argentina, leading to BRICS+. Added to the earlier rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the effects of BRICS and its expansion are seismic. Additional nations that have expressed an interest in BRICS are Cuba, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Comoros, Gabon, Kazakhstan, and at least a dozen others.
The potential of BRICS is the inclusion of half or more of the world’s population. BRICS economies had overtaken G-7 economies by 2012, and the gap between BRICS and G-7 economies is widening irreversibly.
GDP is not a viable measure of economic performance for “reserve currency” nations like the U.S. that can print money “out of thin air.” But there is a linear relationship between real goods production and energy. Thus a much more reliable economic performance evaluation can be inferred from electricity generation, as the following chart illustrates:
The following can be noted:
- The BRICS economies overtook G-7 economies in 2012, with the gap increasing steadily since.
- G-7 economies have not witnessed any growth since the 2008-2009 “Great Financial Crisis.”
- G-7 economies have shrunk by 6 percent since their peak in 2007.
- BRICS economies were 50 percent greater than G-7 economies by 2020.
- BRICS+ economies (BRICS plus six candidate countries) were 60 percent greater than G-7 economies by 2020.
The graph also explains why the BRICS nations are not pursuing aggressive policies, despite Western propaganda, as they view time as being on their side. Naturally they refuse the “reserve currency” prerogative which allows G-7 countries to siphon hard earned wealth from the rest of the world. The most worrying aspect for the U.S. is the obvious intention of BRICS to foster trade exchanges in local currencies, bypassing the primacy of the dollar, and secondarily the Euro.
According to Stephen Jen, CEO of Eurizon SLJ Capital Ltd. and former IMF/Morgan Stanley economist, “The dollar share in foreign reserves has lost about 11 percent since 2016. The decisive event has been Western sanctions and the freezing of Russia’s dollar reserves.” He adds: “Taking purchasing power into account the BRICS nations currently account for 32 percent of global economic output, compared to 30 percent covered by the G7 countries.” This differential is bound to worsen as new nations are added to BRICS.
As BRICS, ASEAN and other countries increasingly trade in national currencies in lieu of Western reserve currencies, this results in weakening of those Western currencies, as evidenced by the drop in their purchasing power, aka inflation. Over time, the standards of living commensurate with the production of tradable goods will result in growing poverty in the U.S. and the EU that will result in social instability. But the damage will fall largely to the lower income echelons, resulting in growth in an already unsustainable wealth disparity, with the GINI factor for wealth distribution in the U.S. reaching 0.85 in 2020.
This explains several observations:
- Why BRICS do not find it necessary to issue a new currency: Trade in national currencies will bring an end to the wealth siphoning mechanism of U.S. dollar hegemony.
- Why Russia and China are trying to maintain non-confrontational policies despite provocations: As trade away from the U.S., UK, and EU increases with growing use of national currencies, political instability, particularly in the most de-industrialized Western nations, will result. Social discontent and political instability can already be witnessed throughout the West. This will only increase as impoverishment spreads due to depreciating currencies, leading to eventual implosion of the neoliberal political system. Thus Russia, China, and other sovereign nations have adopted a policy of “wait it out” rather than risk a kinetic war which would result in the deaths of millions. Nevertheless, these countries are embarking on an accelerated program of military development, along with strengthened alliances, in case war is inevitable.
- Why the West is embarking on highly aggressive policies: The neoliberal cabals in control of the West realize that the changes occurring in the world, particularly as regards the monetary and financial global architecture, spell their doom, and hence are increasingly acting hysterically, fomenting conflict and chaos wherever they can.
It is dollar hegemony, dating back to the World War II-era Bretton Woods Agreements and the Nixonian removal of the international currency gold peg, that has allowed the U.S. to attempt overcoming its massive trade deficit and its public debt at $33.1 trillion and growing. Only by selling trillions of dollars of Treasury bonds to foreign countries, especially China, Japan, and Korea, has the U.S. been able to straddle the globe with the hundreds of military bases and other facilities it relies on to secure a world order friendly to its interests. For decades, foreign countries have needed dollars to trade in petroleum and other commodities. But with BRICS, that imperative may end sooner rather than later. Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen has said this will never happen, but other policy makers are seeing the writing on the wall.
Are the prospects of BRICS so serious that the U.S. could launch World War III against its main powers, Russia, China, and now Iran, as a last-ditch act of desperation as its entire world order veers toward collapse?
It hardly bodes well that these three nations, along with North Korea, have been identified by Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee as the new “axis of evil.” She speaks for much of the U.S. political class.
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Richard C. Cook is a retired US government analyst and a former whistleblower. His new book, Our Country, Then and Now will soon be published by Clarity Press.