President Obama's drone warfare policy is thankfully finally being discussed in the mainstream media. While the president's claimed authority to suspend the Fifth Amendment and order assassinations with no judicial oversight, even on American soil, is a disturbing outrage, the sale and spread of drone technology by the U.S. around the world also deserves attention.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the United Arab Emirates plans to purchase $179 million worth of drones from General Atomics. The purchase still needs approval from Congress and it is yet unclear whether they will buy surveillance drones or if it will also include the weaponized Reaper drones. What is clear, however, is that this development highlights the continuing growth of the influence of defense contractors, the spread of weapons that help governments tyrannize their citizens, and the dangers of America's permanent warfare state that has made the military-industrial-complex perhaps the most pervasive aspect of American society.
In President Dwight Eisenhower's famous farewell address, he warned the public about the threats that a large armaments industry posed to democratic process, constitutional liberties, and peace. Since then, the U.S. economy has been largely dominated by the perpetuation and exportation of weapons technology and a state of virtual perpetual war all over the globe.
Fifty years later, the U.S. is by far the world's largest weapons dealer in the world and spends more money on "defense" than nearly the rest of the world combined. All around the world, many of the most cruel and vicious states receive their means of maintaining their iron fists from the U.S. government.
American tanks and tear gas help quell protests in Bahrain, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and all throughout the Middle East. U.S. fighter jets are a staple of many militaries in countries where a large majority of their populations live in unbelievable poverty. The cluster bombs used to flatten southern Lebanon and the white phosphorous mercilessly dropped on the Gaza Strip by Israel might as well be draped in the stars and stripes. Even the much-maligned Iranian government received nuclear technology from the CIA.
It is only natural and predictable that the U.S. government's latest militarized technology is beginning to be exported.
The problem stems from America's foolish embrace of a foreign policy based on empire and global dominance, perpetual war, and the corporatist economics of "defense contractors."
The Pentagon's new F-35 program is the perfect example. While DC politicians play politics over a "sequester," the F-35 project will cost $1.5 trillion yet has performed so poorly in recent tests that the Pentagon has simply lowered the standards. It is big, bulky, and would be great against the Imperial Japanese Air Force, but it is completely useless in a world where enemies are increasingly stateless, decentralized and fighting fourth-generation warfare. Over-promising and under-delivering are staples of Pentagon contractors.
The reason that these programs are so popular in Washington is simple corporatism and politics. As even Lockheed-Martin notes, the F-35 would provide over 100,000 jobs in 47 states, spread out to hit nearly every congressional district. The incentive for perpetuating these monstrosities is enormous.
Unfortunately, the F-35 program is the rule not the exception. The bipartisan ideology of an interventionist foreign policy dominates DC, and weapons contractors spend millions lobbying for more weapons sales and wars that bring billions in returns; a self-licking ice cream cone of rent-seeking corporations and political power.
The military-industrial-complex is the perfect example of Frederic Bastiat's "broken window fallacy" and the problems with government intervention into the economy. What is seen are the engineering wonders of massive military hardware and millions of jobs hitched to the Pentagon and its contractors. What is unseen, however, is the wealth that could've been created serving people's actual wants and needs in the free marketplace that was instead forcibly extracted from the people by the state and handed out to politically-favored corporations.
For example, 85%-90% of large military contractors' profits come from government contracts. Each U.S. household pays over $1,000 per year in taxes to pay for the military-industrial-complex. The "shock and awe" 2003 carpet bombing of Baghdad might as well have been a Lockheed promotional video.
While the defenders of this military Keynesianism claim that this policy helps create inventions and technologies, there is actually very little useful spillover into the private sector. If people really wanted this national security state and weaponry, they wouldn't need to be forced to pay for it.
Unfortunately, from my libertarian perspective, it is very easy to highlight the horrors that unchecked state power unleashes but, very difficult to come up with answers and solutions. We can't un-invent drone technology, nuclear weapons and stealth fighters. But taking Lockheed-Martin, Northrop Grumman and General Atomics off of welfare would be a good start.
What we can do is make it loud and clear as frequently as possible that we are sick and tired of a policy of empire, perpetual war and corporatism that allows this system to exist. Our liberties, prosperity and peace depend upon it.