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Who fuels war and profits from it

by Matthew Hoh
It is morally indefensible to support the strategy of fighting Russia to the last Ukrainian. Nor is it moral to remain silent when the U.S. pursues strategies and policies that cannot achieve its stated
goals. This senseless pursuit of defeating Russia in the spirit of some kind of 19th century imperial victory is unattainable.
Who fuels war and profits from it

The defense industry lobby is enormously powerful

by Matthew Hoh

How the military-industrial complex influences politics and the media - The costs and risks of war are suppressed.

[This article posted on 6/24/2023 is translated from the German on the Internet,]

No Western provocation justifies Russia's brutal war against Ukraine. Still, it begs the question of whether the immeasurable misery and widespread devastation could have been avoided.

In a first part, Matthew Hoh recalled warnings years ago. In this second part, we look at who benefits from war, who on the Western side influences the information, the costs and risks of war, and the prospects for peace.

New markets for the military-industrial complex

Behind the diplomatic misbehavior and the accompanying megalomania (see Part 1) is the U.S. military-industrial complex (here and here and here).

Dwight D. EisenhowerPresident Dwight D. Eisenhower on January 17, 1961 on the danger of the military-industrial complex. During World War 2, he was a Supreme Commander for Europe as a general.

More than 60 years ago, President Dwight Eisenhower had warned in his farewell address of "the potential for the disastrous rise of a misguided power." He was describing the ever-increasing influence, if not control, of the military-industrial complex's policies.

At the end of the Cold War, the military-industrial complex was facing an existential crisis. Without an adversary like the Soviet Union, it would have been difficult to justify massive U.S. arms spending. NATO enlargement opened up new markets. The Eastern European and Baltic countries that joined NATO had to upgrade their armed forces and replace their Soviet-era stockpiles with Western weapons, ammunition, machinery, hardware, and software that were compatible with NATO's armies. Entire armies, navies, and air forces had to be rebuilt. NATO expansion was a money grab for an arms industry that originally saw hardship as the fruit of the end of the Cold War.

From 1996 to 1998, U.S. defense contractors spent $51 million ($94 million today) lobbying Congress. Millions more were spent on campaign contributions. Once the arms industry realized the promise of Eastern European markets, the desire to beat swords into plowshares was over.

In a circular and mutually reinforcing cycle, Congress provides money to the Pentagon. The Pentagon funds the defense industry, which in turn funds think tanks and lobbyists to persuade Congress to spend more money on the Pentagon. Campaign contributions from the arms industry accompany this lobbying. The Pentagon, the CIA, the National Security Council, the State Department, and other limbs of the national security state directly fund the think tanks and ensure that any policy that is promoted is the policy that the state institutions themselves want.

Presence in media without disclosing conflicts of interest.

Congress is not the only body under the influence of the military-industrial complex. The same defense contractors that bribe members of Congress and fund think tanks often directly or indirectly employ the experts featured on Cable News and given ample space in media reports.

Rarely is this conflict of interest recognized by the American media. Thus, men and women who owe their paychecks to Lockheed, Raytheon, or General Dynamics appear in the media and make the case for more war and more weapons. These commentators and pundits rarely admit that their benefactors profit immensely from policies for more war and more weapons.

Hub between arms industry and government

Corruption extends into the executive branch, as the military-industrial complex employs many administration officials. Outside government, Republican and Democratic officials move from the Pentagon, CIA and State Department to defense contractors, think tanks and consulting firms.

When their party recaptures the White House, they return to government. In exchange for bringing their rotating rosters with them, they receive lavish salaries and perks. Similarly, U.S. generals and admirals who leave the Pentagon go directly to defense contractors.

This revolving door reaches the highest levels. Before becoming secretary of defense, secretary of state and director of national intelligence, Lloyd Austin, Antony Blinken and Avril Haines worked for the military-industrial complex. In Secretary Blinken's case, he founded a firm, WestExec Advisors, dedicated to trading and brokering influence for weapons contracts.

Do not ignore interests of the oil and gas industry, too

In the context of the Ukraine war, there is a broader level of commercial greed that cannot be dismissed or ignored. The U.S. supplies the world with fossil fuels and weapons. U.S. exports of petroleum products and weapons now exceed exports of agricultural and industrial products.

Competition for the European fuel market, especially liquefied natural gas, has been a major concern of both Democratic and Republican administrations over the past decade. Eliminating Russia as the major energy supplier to Europe and limiting global fossil fuel exports from Russia have brought large profits to U.S. oil and gas companies. In addition to broader commercial trade interests, the sheer amounts of money that the U.S. fossil fuel business brings in cannot be ignored.

The cost of war

Hundreds of thousands have probably been killed and wounded in the fighting. The lasting psychological damage to both combatants and civilians may be even greater. Millions of people have been left homeless and are now living as refugees.

The environmental damage is incalculable, and the economic devastation is not limited to the war zone but has spread around the world, fueling inflation, destabilizing energy supplies, and affecting food security. The rise in energy and food costs undoubtedly resulted in a large number of deaths far beyond the geographic boundaries of the war.

The war is likely to evolve into a protracted stalemate of senseless killing and destruction. Worst of all, the war would escalate - perhaps uncontrollably into a world war and possibly a nuclear conflict. No matter what the mad realists in Washington, London, Brussels, Kiev and Moscow may say, a nuclear war cannot be controlled and certainly cannot be won. Even a limited nuclear war, with perhaps each side firing ten percent of its arsenals, will lead to a nuclear winter in which we will have to watch our children starve. All our efforts should be directed toward avoiding such an apocalypse.

The Potential for Peace

The two parts of this analysis were intended to outline how Russia perceives the deliberate provocations of the United States and NATO. Russia is a nation whose current geopolitical anxieties are shaped by memories of invasions by Charles XII, Napoleon, the Earl of Aberdeen, the Kaiser, and Hitler.

U.S. troops were among the Allied invasion forces that unsuccessfully intervened against the winning side in the Russian Civil War after World War I. Knowing historical context, understanding the enemy, and having strategic empathy for the adversary is neither deceitful nor weak, but smart and wise. This is what we are taught at all levels of the U.S. military.

Nor is it unpatriotic or disingenuous to speak out against the continuation of this war and to refuse to take sides.

President Biden's promise to support Ukraine "for as long as necessary" should not be a license to pursue unclear or unattainable goals. Such a policy could prove as disastrous as President Putin's decision last year to launch his criminal invasion and occupation.

It is morally indefensible to support the strategy of fighting Russia to the last Ukrainian. Nor is it moral to remain silent when the U.S. pursues strategies and policies that cannot achieve its stated goals. This senseless pursuit of defeating Russia in the spirit of some kind of 19th century imperial victory is unattainable.

Only a meaningful and genuine commitment to diplomacy aimed at an immediate cease-fire and negotiations without disqualifying or prohibitive preconditions will end this war and its attendant suffering, bring stability to Europe, and eliminate the risk of nuclear war.


This article appeared in Substack on June 6 and in Scheerpost on June 9. Translated and slightly abridged by Infosperber, also with support from Deepl.

Author Matthew Hoh

Hoh has been a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy in Washington since 2010. In 2009, he resigned from his post there in protest of developments in the war in Afghanistan. Previously, Matthew participated in the occupation of Iraq, first in 2004/5 in Salah ad Din Province with a State Department Reconstruction and Governance team and then in 2006/7 in Anbar Province as a Marine Corps company commander. When not deployed, Hoh dealt with U.S. operations in Afghanistan and Iraq at the Pentagon and the U.S. State Department until 2008.

In 2022, Hoh ran for a Senate seat in Washington as a Green Party outsider but received only 1 percent of the vote.

On May 16, 2023, as deputy director of the Eisenhower Media Network, he published a full-page open letter in the NYT titled "The U.S. Should Be a Force for Peace in the World." It was signed by 14 former U.S. security officials, including the U.S. ambassador to Moscow under Ronald Reagan. They called for a diplomatic solution in Ukraine "before a nuclear confrontation occurs." Shortly before that, the Biden administration had rejected any negotiations. First, he said, Ukraine's counteroffensive must succeed.

Infosperber, June 10, 2023:

How the arms lobby in the U.S. permeates society
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