The military-industrial-congressional complex (MIC) is the insulated triangle consisting of the Pentagon, the decision-making headquarters of the U.S. military; the war industry, the corporations that sell goods and services to the U.S. military establishment and allied governments and regimes; and Capitol Hill, the elected representatives who fund it all and pass legislation abetting war. In concept and practice, the military-industrial-congressional complex is fascism.
“Peace is not an option. Not even in presidential debates, which instead are fora to flex, glorify the military, and threaten hyped-up enemies.”
Under fascism, the capitalist economy is deeply intertwined with government. The war industry floods the Pentagon’s civilian offices with corporate executives (e.g. Mark Esper, Secretary of Defense; Ellen Lord, Undersecretary for Acquisition & Sustainment; Ryan McCarthy, Secretary of the Army). It recruits retired generals and admirals (e.g. Joseph Dunford at Lockheed Martin, Jim Mattis at General Dynamics, James Winnefeld at Raytheon) to leverage their knowledge for profit. It spreads its production facilities across all 50 states. Indeed, the MIC’s very fuel is the federal budget. And, most markedly, the war industry assumes control of jobs once carried out by uniformed troops.
Under fascism, authority is concentrated in a dictator or a dictatorship that rotates figureheads. The United States’ one-party, two-faction system exemplifies the latter. The war industry’s lobbying of Congress and funding of Congressional campaigns (particularly politicians who serve on Armed Services, Appropriations, Intelligence, and Foreign Affairs committees) lock both factions into a belligerent foreign policy through which war corporations accrue fantastic riches. Furthermore, the war industry funds and runs pressure groups (e.g. NDIA, AIA, AUSA), which, in addition to administering arms fairs, generally badger Congress. Members of Congress, for their part, profit off of war. Executive policies and congressional legislation is often written by corporate lobbyists or crafted and implemented without public input. Presidents from both political factions ascend to authority within this fascist system and conform to a war-first foreign policy, as exemplified by all presidents since the 1947 National Security Act. Peace is not an option. Not even in presidential debates, which instead are fora to flex, glorify the military, and threaten hyped-up enemies.
“Under fascism, the state violently and systematically dismantles progressive and radical Left political parties.”
Under fascism, politics exalts the nation above all else and accretes a centralized autocratic government. Congress abstains from its constitutional mandate to declare and end wars, deferring instead to the Executive branch on such matters. As the nation is exalted, political discourse is dumbed down across the board, as professor and author Leo Panitch has noted. Knee-jerk vitriol replaces measured debate or discussion. Vapid slogans defend armed bureaucracies, foregrounding class-conscious challengers as savage anti-Americans. The war industry sets the broader boundaries of acceptable discourse by funding think tanks (whose primary purpose is the issuance of information amenable to donors’ bottom line) and corporate media, keeping the narrative pro-war.
Career militants—such as former Acting CIA Director Mike Morell at CBS, former CIA Director John Brennan at MSNBC, and retired General Jack Keane at FoxNews—steer the discourse regarding foreign policy. The former chief of propaganda at the U.S. Agency for Global Media, John Lansing, now runs NPR. A private equity firm owns Sightline Media Group, which runs most major military-oriented publications, such as Defense News and C4ISRNet. When war profits those in authority—the founding tenet of the MIC—peace is off the table and official enemies abound. Fascism’s need for scapegoats overlaps perfectly with the war industry’s need to manufacture and hype enemies in order to profit from the ensuing wars. Arabs, Persians, and Muslims have been the official bad guy for decades now, simultaneously serving as the pretext for overseas military action and domestic surveillance, and against which the ruling class funnels the working class’ socioeconomic distress.
“The fascist system then draws support from chunks of a white working class that lives precariously (due to bipartisan abuse and imposition of neoliberal economic policies outsourcing jobs and automating the rest).”
Under fascism, the state violently and systematically dismantles progressive and radical Left political parties. Such eradication of organized progressive movements has been a defining trend in the United States over the past hundred years. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was largely founded to do just that, performing quite well. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) also operates against political progressives and Left radicals. (Notably, the war industry carries out a large part of DHS’ workload, further imbricating capitalist profit with government activity.) The rare rebel who damages the infrastructure of war corporations is locked up. Charismatic leaders able to galvanize working-class opposition to capitalism and war (e.g. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Fred Hampton) are targeted as subversives by government agencies, and ultimately assassinated under various circumstances.
People of color, long denied even a taste of democratic pretense, are policed intensely by overmilitarized local and state law enforcement that are armed by the war industry. They are then stuffed at disproportionate rates into the prison system where they’re used as cheap labor. (Federal Prison Industries, a corporation owned by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons, makes a lot of light gear and clothing for the military.) The Commission on Presidential Debates doesn’t even allow non-corporate parties to participate, effectively banning anti-war discourse. Organized labor is dismantled piece by piece, helping corporate criminals, to the working class’ detriment. The fascist system then draws support from chunks of a white working class that lives precariously (due to bipartisan abuse and imposition of neoliberal economic policies outsourcing jobs and automating the rest). An invasive surveillance state and armed bureaucracies at the federal, state, and local level protect the status quo.
Fascism, the brutal fusion of corporate might with government authority, is the MIC. Democracy will be out of reach until working people recognize their enemy and addresses the MIC. This means dismantling the war industry and converting factory output to meet human need instead of war profiteering. This Veterans Day, if you wish to honor the troops and humanity as a whole, vow to break with or challenge the MIC. Do your part, and help create a better world for all.