Military-Industrial-Pundit Complex?

James Fallows observes that, “The same people — same individuals, same organizations, same publications, same blog sites – that ginned up a war with Iraq, and that have supported ginning up a war with Iran, are settling in for a longer term confrontation with China.” He advises that they be “judged on their track record.” Fair enough.

John Cole, though, sees something more sinister than bad predictions at work.

These little wars we are fighting with conventional weapons in Afghanistan and Iraq- those pay the bills for the defense contractors and their friends for now. But the real money, as anyone will tell you, is in the long wars. They need hostile relations with China to keep the big money and the big contracts and the weapons research flowing. When the Iraq insurgency finally burns itself out or we finally get the willpower to withdraw, they will need a hot zone in China to keep justifying 500+ billion a year in your money going to the machines of war.

I don’t doubt that there are people and corporations who are willing to urge war in order to line their pockets, although I think they are far, far fewer in number than commonly believed. There’s plenty of money to be made from the mere threat of war. Indeed, an ongoing war — the ones in Iraq and Afghanistan included — tends to tie up resources that might otherwise be used for procurement.

Regardless, Fallows is talking about Bill Kristol, specifically, and neoconservative bloggers, publications, and think tanks more generally. While I suppose they can garner more attention, sales, clickthroughs, or whathaveyou during wartime, I can’t imagine any of them are willing to sacrifice thousands of American lives on that bet. The much more plausible explanation for their advocating wars in Iraq, Iran, and China is a particular worldview rather than economic incentive.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Dave Schuler says:

    The saber-rattling against China is just a return to the status quo ante—before 9/11 there was plenty of rhetoric, at least, suggesting that the Bush Administration wanted to take a harder line against China. Tom Barnett has written about this quite a bit.

    There are folks in the Pentagon who’ve built their careers around the idea of a high tech near-peer enemy and the only available prospect for the job is China.

  2. yetanotherjohn says:

    Regardless, Fallows is talking about Bill Kristol, specifically, and neoconservative bloggers, publications, and think tanks more generally. While I suppose they can garner more attention, sales, clickthroughs, or whathaveyou during wartime, I can’t imagine any of them are willing to sacrifice thousands of American lives on that bet. The much more plausible explanation for their advocating wars in Iraq, Iran, and China is a particular worldview rather than economic incentive.

    By the extension of that argument, can we say that liberal bloggers who advocate an immediate withdrawal from Iraq are willing to sacrifice thousands of American lives in down stream problems to garner more clicks? It would seem to be a similar argument.

  3. Michael says:

    By the extension of that argument, can we say that liberal bloggers who advocate an immediate withdrawal from Iraq are willing to sacrifice thousands of American lives in down stream problems to garner more clicks? It would seem to be a similar argument.

    War implies casualties. Peace brings only the possibility of casualties. Unless and until you can definitively prove than a pullout from Iraq will directly result in American casualties which would be otherwise avoided if we stay.

    You being a pessimist doesn’t make optimists bad people.

  4. yetanotherjohn says:

    But Michael, we aren’t at war with China (not that there are no casualties, Clinton would lose more people in the peacetime army than in Iraq). So the pundits on the right are talking about a potential war with China. The pundits on the left are talking about handing a victory to Al Qaeda and thus strengthening them for future terrorist attacks. Both are speculative future harm.

    Further, as Obama pointed out that he didn’t care if the US pulling out of Iraq would lead to genocide, you have the dead Iraqi’s to put into the equation. But then maybe you don’t consider Iraqi’s people.

  5. Hal says:

    But then maybe you don’t consider Iraqi’s people.

    Odd that this argument never came up in the ramp up to the war. It seems that even by conservative – read: even the numbers war supporters will grudgingly admit to – estimates, the sheer number of civilian casualties outstrips the horror we were supposedly – though in reality, only ex post facto – stopping in the first place.

    I’m also reminded of the phrase “a lack of planning on your part does not constitute a crisis on my part”. Those opposed to the war did not shit this bed. And if more shit will be laid out upon it because of the idiocy, then I don’t find it a persuasive argument by those who did the shitting that it’d be those who pull out’s responsibility for said shit.

    Cute argument, but really. It’s your shit.

    All of it.

  6. Tlaloc says:

    Regardless, Fallows is talking about Bill Kristol, specifically, and neoconservative bloggers, publications, and think tanks more generally. While I suppose they can garner more attention, sales, clickthroughs, or whathaveyou during wartime, I can’t imagine any of them are willing to sacrifice thousands of American lives on that bet.

    I honestly believe Kristol would sacrifice a million children if it got him $5. He’s just a &^%$ing psychopath. Other people are merely objects for him to use to get what he wants.

  7. tom p says:

    Excuse me, but what the “F” are we talking about??? (besides the fact that Bill Kristol is an idiot) Never mind American lives (they obviously enuf don’t care about them). Look guys, war with China IS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN!!! (no matter how many neocon idiots call for it)

    Why? Who is going to pay for it? You? Me? Hell, we don’t pay for the war in Iraq. Who is paying for that war??? You think those same people are going to pay for a war against themselves???

    Oh… Wait a minute… I forget… Conservative thinking these days says “wars don’t have to be paid for”…

    Look, all snide remarks aside, whether we like it or not, the US is in bed with China, and neither one of us can afford a war with the other right now (or at any time in the fore-see-able future).

    No matter how much neocon “war-mongering” goes on.

    End of story.

  8. Tlaloc says:

    well, we were in bed with Iraq at one point. And Vietnam. And Panama. And Russia. And Afghanistan.

    In fact, it seems the US is a domestic abuser- anyone who shares our bed winds up with a black eye, sooner or later.

  9. bains says:

    Referencing John Cole’s opinion will most likely result in worthless discussion. He has so much baggage behind his ruminations that honest discourse is precluded. Like Sullivan, Cole blames Bush for the bee in his bonnet. To rectify the perceived slight, both have embarked on scorched earth tactics, out to “get” not just the object of their ire, but anyone who has ever issued even the most meager of agreement with the evil McShrimpy BushitlerCO.

    The irony is that Cole builds caricatures of his political enemies that are more descriptive of himself than anyone else.

  10. tom p says:

    well, we were in bed with Iraq at one point. And Vietnam. And Panama. And Russia. And Afghanistan

    .

    Tlaloc: But none of them to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars a year(months?) We buy their stuff, keeping their economy going. They loan it all back to us, keeping our economy (and Gov’t) going.

    War between the US and China would be economic suicide for both.

    The very idea is ludicrous.

    tom