Crisis and imperialist militarism

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The US is the most militarist country and the world’s biggest arms supplier. The maintenance of a huge military infrastructure in the US is a stark feature of intensifying inter-imperialist rivalries for territory for investments, markets and oil reserves, among others. The US’ dominant power worldwide is based on the fact that it far outstrips other countries in terms of military might.

In the face of the current crisis besetting it, the US has stepped up its militarism. Its goal is to consolidate its dominant position in various parts of the globe. The US has openly declared its plans to strengthen its presence and power-projection in the Asia-Pacific. It recently announced that it would deploy up to 60% of its warships in the region, thereby worsening conflicts among imperialists and directly fomenting war.

This year, the US allocated $1.3 trillion for “defense.” This is almost 40% of its annual budget. It includes $673 billion for its armed forces, $166 billion for military projects of other agencies and $440 billion to service debts incurred during previous wars, among others. There are higher estimates on the actual overall defense bud-get, especially since almost 40% of the Pentagon’s expenses are concealed from the public.

US imperialism has the biggest and the most number of military bases. It has 539,000 facilities in 5,000 various areas within and outside the US. This number excludes more than a thousand secret bases and facilities maintained by the Pentagon in more than 150 countries. Among these are CSL (cooperative security locations), military equipment depots and communications bases secretly constructed in various countries, including the Philippines. It is estimated that up to $250 billion is spent annually in running these bases, and another $100 billion is spent on maintaining its huge warships that patrol all major sea routes in the world.

The arms industry is one of the biggest businesses in the US. Last year, the US earned $66 billion in arms sales, which is three times what it earned in 2010. Most of the weapons were sold to states in conflict, such as India and Pakistan; and Israel and Egypt. It also sold significant volumes to Saudi Arabia, Oman and the United Arab Emirates. The massive arms procurement in these countries is due to the US’ saber-rattling against Iran.

The defense sector is one of the biggest employers of American workers. More than 1.6 million Americans are directly employed by the US Department of Defense. About 1.4 million directly serve the various military branches, 73,000 are with the National Guard and 208,000 are members of the special reserve. Meanwhile, up to 370,000 people work in the three biggest defense companies: 123,000 at Lockheed Martin, 174,000 at Boeing and 72,500 at Northrop Grumman. One-third of all scientists and engineers in the US work in the defense sector. The unemployment rate would rise by an estimated 3% without the US military’s massive recruitment drives.

The alliance of the monopoly capitalist state and the gigantic defense companies or the so-called US “military-industrial complex” (MIC) buttresses and enhances militarism and warmongering.

Massive arms production for war has already formed part of capitalist production since the 1880s. But a distinct monopoly/alliance for this purpose emerged only during the Second World War when the US strengthened and enlarged its armed forces for its imperialist expansion in Europe, Asia and Latin America. Huge monopoly capitalists in military production arose and merged with the bureaucratic structure of the imperialist state.

The MIC is a product of the continuing monopolization of military production. The worsening of the overall crisis of capitalism and the attendant intensification of imperialist conflicts are promoting the stepped up militarism and warmongering that companies in the arms industry have been profiting from.

Defense companies are partners in, and directly intervene, in forming US defense policies. Defense monopoly capitalists have the biggest say in choosing US defense officials. These companies definitely land the biggest contracts through direct negotiations or “closed bidding.” As a reward, many former US defense officials are given seats in these companies’ board of directors.

The merger of the imperialist state and the defense industry signifies war’s central place in imperialist policy. This alliance creates situations of constant tension and war. Such situations pave the way for strengthening US hegemony and enlarging the superprofits of monopoly capitalists.

For the past 30 years, the biggest defense companies in the US hardly changed. In the 1980s, the list was led by the ten biggest companies — General Dynamic, McDonnell Douglas, United Technologies, General Electric, Lockheed, Boeing, Hughes Aircraft, Rockwell International, Raytheon, Martin Marietta, Grumman and Northrop. During Bush’s “war against terror” in 2001, the “Big Five” consisting of Boeing, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics became dominant. Currently, in the “New Pacific Century” under Obama, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, Raytheon, L-3 Communications and United Technologies are enjoying a heyday.

Like other areas of industry, mergers and the creation of bigger monopolies continue within the MIC. Lockheed and Martin merged in 1995 while Grumman bought Northrop in 1994. Rockwell International and McDonnel Douglas were both gobbled up by Boeing in 1996 and 1997. Parts of General Electric (the 18th company in the current list) were bought by Honeywell, currently the 15th largest company. L-3 Communications is a division of Lockheed Martin. In the 1980s, there were up to 51 separate giant companies operating within the MIC. By 1997, there were only five, and by 2001, only four. Currently, the biggest defense contracts are cornered by practically three companies: Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Boeing. In 2011, the three companies’ estimated combined income was $143 billion.

These companies monopolize research and arms manufacturing contracts in the US. The value of these contracts is humongous. From January to September 2012, the Obama regime allotted $245 trillion for contracts with these companies. One of the biggest contracts is for shipbuilding companies like Huntington Inggalls, in line with the US’ direction of establishing its military hegemony in the waters of the Asia-Pacific.

As a result, the US state enjoys a monopoly over the benefits of these companies’ research and the purchase of the most advanced weaponry in the market. For instance, more than 75% of arms manufactured by defense companies like Lockheed Martin and Northrop Gumman are bought directly by the Department of Defense and other US departments.

With the size of these companies, the weapons they sell to other countries are enough for them to monopolize the international arms market. More than 60% of the weapons sold worldwide in 2010 came from 44 US-based companies. Foremost among these was Lockheed Martin which sold $36 billion worth of arms. The ten biggest companies cornered more than half of sales amounting to $230 billion. Including the sale of military services, defense companies earned up to $411 billion in 2010.