military-industrial complex is the close relationship between the armed forces of a nation and the industries that supply them with arms and military equipment. This definition will be of particular interest to readers who enjoy reading about the history of various wars, international conflicts, revolutions, and other global developments. Military-Industrial Complexes are fascinating to explore because they are so heavily intertwined with politics and economics. These are some best books on the military-industrial complexes that are worth your time.
Best Books on Military-Industrial Complex: THE LIST
1. Unwarranted Influence | By James Ledbetter
In Dwight D. Eisenhower’s last speech as president, on January 17, 1961, he warned America about the “military-industrial complex,” a mutual dependency between the nation’s industrial base and its military structure that had developed during World War II. After the conflict ended, the nation did not abandon its wartime economy but rather the opposite. Military spending has steadily increased, giving rise to one of the key ideas that continue to shape our country’s political landscape.
In this book, published to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of Eisenhower’s farewell address, journalist James Ledbetter shows how the government, military contractors, and the nation’s overall economy have become inseparable. Some of the effects are beneficial, such as cell phones, GPS systems, the Internet, and the Hubble Space Telescope, all of which emerged from technologies first developed for the military. But the military-industrial complex has also provoked agonizing questions. Does our massive military establishment—bigger than those of the next ten largest combined—really make us safer? How much of our perception of security threats are driven by the profit-making motives of military contractors? To what extent is our foreign policy influenced by contractors’ financial interests?
Ledbetter uncovers the surprising origins and the even more surprising afterlife of the military-industrial complex, an idea that arose as early as the 1930s, and shows how it gained traction during World War II, the Cold War, and the Vietnam era and continues even today.
2. Prophets of War | By William Hartung
Enthralling and explosive, Prophets of War is an expos’ of America’s largest military contractor, Lockheed Martin. When President Dwight D. Eisenhower gave his famous warning about the dangers of the military-industrial complex, he never would have dreamed that a company could accumulate the kind of power and influence now wielded by this behemoth company.
As a full-service weapons maker, Lockheed Martin receives over 25 billion per year in Pentagon contracts. From aircraft and munitions to the abysmal Star Wars missile defense program, to the spy satellites that the NSA has used to monitor Americans’ phone calls without their knowledge, Lockheed Martin’s reaches into all areas of US defense and American life. William Hartung’s meticulously researched history follows the company’s meteoric growth and explains how this arms industry giant has shaped US foreign policy for decades.
3. The War State | By Michael Swanson
Today when you factor in the interest on the national debt from past wars and total defense expenditures the United States spends almost 40% of its federal budget on the military. It accounts for over 46% of total world arms spending.
Before World War II it spent almost nothing on defense and hardly anyone paid any income taxes. You can’t have big wars without big government. Such big expenditures are now threatening to harm the national economy. How did this situation come to be?
In this book you’ll learn how in the critical 20 years after World War II the United States changed from being a continental democratic republic to a global imperial superpower. Since then nothing has ever been the same again. In this book, you will discover this secret history of the United States that formed the basis of the world we live in today.
By buying this book you will discover:
- How the end of European colonialism created a power vacuum that the United States used to create a new type of world empire backed by the most powerful military force in human history.
- Why the Central Intelligence Agency was created and used to interfere in the internal affairs of other nations when the United States Constitution had no mechanism for such imperial activities.
- How national security bureaucrats got President Harry Truman to approve of a new wild budget-busting arms race after World War II that is still going on to this day.
- Why President Eisenhower really gave his famous warning against the “military-industrial complex.”
- Why during the Kennedy administration the nuclear arms race almost led to the end of the world during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
- How President Kennedy tried to deal with what had grown into a “permanent government” of power elite national security bureaucrats in the executive branch of the federal government that had become more powerful than the individual president himself.
In this book, you will discover this secret history of the United States that formed the basis of the world we live in today.
4. The Military Industrial Complex At 50 | By David Swanson
5. The Complex | By Nick Turse
“Fascinating, no matter where you place yourself on the ideological spectrum.”―Wired
Now in paperback, a stunning breakdown of the modern military-industrial complex―an omnipresent, hidden-in-plain-sight system of systems that penetrates all our lives.
From iPods to Starbucks to Oakley sunglasses, historian Nick Turse explores the Pentagon’s little-noticed contacts (and contracts) with the products and companies that now form the fabric of America. He investigates the remarkable range of military incursions into the civilian world: the Pentagon’s collaborations with Hollywood filmmakers; its outlandish schemes to weaponize the wild kingdom; its joint ventures with Marvel Comics and NASCAR. Similarly disturbing is the way in which the military, desperate for fresh recruits, has tapped into the “culture of cool” by making “friends” on MySpace.
A striking vision of this brave new world of remote-controlled rats and super-soldiers who need no sleep, The Complex will change our understanding of the militarization of America. We are a long way from Eisenhower’s military-industrial complex: this is the essential book for understanding its twenty-first-century progeny.
6. Delta of Power | By Alex Roland
Does the Military-Industrial Complex as we understand it still exist? If so, how has it changed since the end of the Cold War?
First named by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in his farewell address, the Military-Industrial Complex, originally an exclusively American phenomenon of the Cold War, was tailored to develop and produce military technologies equal to the existential threat perceived to be posed by the Soviet Union. An informal yet robust relationship between the military and industry, the MIC pursued and won a qualitative, technological arms race but exacted a high price in waste, fraud, and abuse. Today, although total US spending on national security exceeds $1 trillion a year, it accounts for a smaller percentage of the federal budget, the national GDP, and world military spending than during the Cold War. Given this fact, is the MIC as we commonly understand it still alive? If so, how has it changed in the intervening years?
In Delta of Power, Alex Roland tells the comprehensive history of the MIC from 1961, the Cold War, and the War on Terror, to the present day. Roland argues that the MIC is now significantly different than it was when Eisenhower warned of its dangers, still exerting a significant but diminished influence in American life. Focusing intently on the three decades since the end of the Cold War in 1991, Roland explains how a lack of cohesion, rapid change, and historical contingency have transformed America’s military-industrial institutions and infrastructure.
Roland addresses five critical realms of transformation: civil-military relations, relations between industry and the state, among government agencies, between scientific-technical communities and the state, and between technology and society. He also tracks the way in which America’s arsenal has evolved since 1991. The MIC still merits Eisenhower’s warning of political and moral hazard, he concludes, but it continues to deliver, by a narrower margin, the world’s most potent arsenal. An authoritative account of America’s evolving arsenal since World War II, Delta of Power is a dynamic exploration of military preparedness and current events.
8. Corporate Warriors | By P. W. Singer
Some have claimed that war is too important to be left to the generals, but P. W. Singer asks what about the business executives? Breaking out of the guns-for-hire mold of traditional mercenaries, corporations now sell skills and services that until recently only state militaries possessed. Their products range from trained commando teams to strategic advice from generals. This new privatized military industry encompasses hundreds of companies, thousands of employees, and billions of dollars in revenue. Whether as proxies or suppliers, such firms have participated in wars in Africa, Asia, the Balkans, and Latin America. More recently, they have become a key element in U.S. military operations.
9. Cinema’s Military Industrial Complex
The vast and influential American military has been aided and abetted by cinema since the earliest days of the medium. The army, navy, and air force put films to work in myriad ways, enlisting them to entertain, train, and heal soldiers as well as to propagandize, strategize, spy, map, and develop weapons, from rifles to atomic bombs. Presenting new essays based on archival research, Cinema’s Military Industrial Complex addresses the relationship of military cinema to Hollywood, technological innovation, new modes of filmmaking, unique film styles and genres, and the rise of American soft power across the long twentieth century. This rich and timely volume is essential for scholars interested in the military’s use of media and the exercise of influence within and beyond American borders.
10. War is a Racket | By Smedley Butler
After his retirement from the Marine Corps in the early 1930s, General Smedley D. Butler embarked on a national lecture tour, where he gave his speech about how commercial interests benefit from war. The speech was well received and he wrote an expanded version of it, which was published as War Is A Racket. The work was published by Reader’s Digest as a condensed book supplement, which added to its popularity.
The book consists of five chapters. The first chapter cites telling statistics: 21,000 people became millionaires and billionaires during the war; four million men served; the growth of national debt by a factor of 25 from 1898 to 1918. The second chapter details the level of profits made by many major US corporations made in the years preceding World War I and compares them to the significantly greater profits made from and during the war. The third chapter lays bare the ways in which the costs are borne by the public, with particular focus on humiliating deductions from the pay of soldiers.
Chapter four sets forth three simple methods to limit wars: insist that everyone in the war economy earn the same income as that of the soldiers; conduct a vote to decide whether or not to go to war and limit the voters to those who would serve; limit appropriations and activities to strictly defensive measures. The final chapter shows the futility of arms limitations negotiations and makes it plain that only total disarmament will break the back of the beast.
12. State of War | By Paul Koistinen
In his farewell speech, President Dwight Eisenhower famously warned us of the dangers of a military-industrial complex (MIC). In Paul Koistinen’s sobering new book, that warning appears to have been both prophetic and largely ignored.
As the final volume in his magisterial study of the political economy of American warfare, State of War describes the bipolar world that developed from the rivalry between the U.S. and USSR, showing how seventy years of defense spending have bred a monster that has sunk its claws into the very fabric of American life. Koistinen underscores how during the second half of the twentieth century and well into the twenty-first, the United States for the first time in its history began to maintain large military structures during peacetime. Many factors led to that result: the American economy stood practically alone in a war-ravaged world; the federal government, especially executive authority, was at the pinnacle of its powers; the military accumulated unprecedented influence over national security; and weaponry became much more sophisticated following World War II.
Koistinen describes how the rise of the MIC was preceded by a gradual process of institutional adaptation and then supported and reinforced by the willing participation of Big Science and its industrial partners, the broader academic world, and a proliferation of think tanks. He also evaluates the effects of ongoing defense budgets within the context of the nation’s economy since the 1950s. Over time, the MIC effectively blocked efforts to reduce expenditures, control the arms race, improve relations with adversaries, or adopt more enlightened policies toward the developing world-all the while manipulating the public on behalf of national security to sustain the warfare state. Now twenty years after the Soviet Union’s demise, defense budgets are higher than at any time during the Cold War.
As Koistinen observes, more than six decades of militaristic mobilization for stabilizing a turbulent world have firmly entrenched the state of war as a state of mind for our nation. Collectively, his five-volume opus provides an unparalleled analysis of the economics of America’s wars from the colonial period to the present, illuminating its impact upon the nation’s military campaigns, foreign policy, and domestic life.
13. The Military-Industrial Complex and American Society
The Military-Industrial Complex and American Society address the broad subject of the political economy of defense research and its wide-reaching effects on many aspects of American life. Ranging from the massive arms buildup of the Cold War to the influx of private contractors and corporations such as Halliburton, it reveals the interconnectedness of the military, industry, and government within the history of this public/private enterprise.
The Military-Industrial Complex and American Society offer over 100 alphabetically organized entries on a wide range of significant research bodies and government agencies, as well as important people, events, and technologies. In addition, a series of essays looks at such essential topics as propaganda, think tanks, defense budgeting, the defense industry, and the economy, and the breakdown of the military-industrial complex in Vietnam. With this work, students, policymakers, and other interested readers will understand the ramifications of the relationships between industry, scientific and technological communities, the government, and society.
14. Addicted to War | By Joel Andreas
“I highly recommend [Addicted to War] to anyone who is interested in learning the truth about US wars.”—Glenn Greenwald, author of No Place To Hide: Edward Snowden, The NSA, and The U.S. Surveillance State
“This is the most important comic book ever written. . . . It is my hope that you read this book and pass it along to as many people as you can.”—Woody Harrelson, actor
Updates include Barack Obama’s drone wars, Chelsea Manning and WikiLeaks, statistics on military spending;, and the ongoing costs and consequences of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Joel Andreas teaches sociology at Johns Hopkins University.
15. The Sorrows of Empire | By Chalmers Johnson
Recalling the classic warnings against militarism, from George Washington’s farewell address to Dwight Eisenhower’s denunciation of the military-industrial complex, Johnson explores the trend of militarism that is bankrupting the United States and creating conditions for a new century of virulent blowback.
16. America’s War Machine | By Molly McCartney
When President Dwight D. Eisenhower prepared to leave the White House in 1961, he did so with an ominous message for the American people about the “disastrous rise” of the military-industrial complex. Fifty years later, the complex has morphed into a virtually unstoppable war machine, one that dictates U.S. economic and foreign policy in a direct and substantial way.
Based on his experiences as an award-winning Washington-based reporter covering national security, James McCartney presents a compelling history, from the Cold War to the present day that shows that the problem is far worse and far more wide-reaching than anything Eisenhower could have imagined. Big Military has become “too big to fail” and has grown to envelop the nation’s political, cultural, and intellectual institutions. These centers of power and influence, including the now-complicit White House and Congress, have a vested interest in preparing and waging unnecessary wars. The authors persuasively argue that not one foreign intervention in the past 50 years has made us or the world safer.
With additions by Molly Sinclair McCartney, a fellow journalist with 30 years of experience, America’s War Machine provides the context for today’s national security state and explains what can be done about it.
17. Torpedo | By Katherine Epstein
When President Eisenhower referred to the “military-industrial complex” in his 1961 Farewell Address, he summed up in a phrase the merger of government and industry that dominated the Cold War United States. In this bold reappraisal, Katherine Epstein uncovers the origins of the military-industrial complex in the decade preceding World War I, as the United States and Great Britain struggled to perfect a crucial new weapon: the self-propelled torpedo.
Torpedoes epitomized the intersection of geopolitics, globalization, and industrialization at the turn of the twentieth century. They threatened to revolutionize naval warfare by upending the delicate balance among the world’s naval powers. They were bought and sold in a global marketplace, and they were cutting-edge industrial technologies. Building them, however, required substantial capital investments and close collaboration among scientists, engineers, businessmen, and naval officers. To address these formidable challenges, the U.S. and British navies created a new procurement paradigm: instead of buying finished armaments from the private sector or developing them from scratch at public expense, they began to invest in private-sector research and development. The inventions emerging from torpedo R&D sparked legal battles over intellectual property rights that reshaped national security law.
Blending military, legal, and business history with the history of science and technology, Torpedo recasts the role of naval power in the run-up to World War I and exposes how national security can clash with property rights in the modern era.
18. Virtuous War | By James Der Derian
Virtuous War is the first book to map the emergence and judge the consequences of a new military-industrial-media-entertainment network. James Der Derian takes the reader from a family history of war and genocide to new virtual battlespaces in the Mojave Desert, Silicon Valley, Hollywood, and American universities. He tracks the convergence of cyborg technologies, video games, media spectacles, war movies, and do-good ideologies that produced a chimera of high-tech, low-risk ‘virtuous wars’.
In this newly updated edition, he reveals how a misguided faith in virtuous war to right the wrongs of the world instead paved the way for a flawed response to 9/11 and a disastrous war in Iraq. Blinded by virtue, emboldened by technological superiority, seized by a mimetic terror, the US blundered from one foreign fiasco to the next.
Taking the long view as well as getting up close to the war machine, Virtuous War provides a compelling alternative to the partisan politics, instant analysis, and technical fixes that currently bedevil US national security policy.
Final Thoughts on the Best Books on the Military-Industrial Complex
The military-industrial complex is a term that refers to government and corporate connections with the armed forces of a nation. The term has been used in reference to weapons systems, so it is most often associated with the military-industrial complex in the United States. The phrase was originally coined by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in his farewell speech on January 17, 1961. And while the phrase is relatively new, its meaning is not. It describes a negative relationship between democracy and the country’s national security goals.
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