Thursday, May 13, 2004

Military Industrial Complex and Deterioration of State Power in Empire

I've been interested in the privatization of military personnel by companies like Blackwater, Erinys, and Dynamics Technology, Inc. I've read in places where these companies are paying $1500 per day for services to retired military turned contractors, while national guard specialists typically make $60 per day, both paid out of the same $80billion contract.

This is actually what I was trying to find, the disparity between pay with some better information. But in my internet search, I think I still found some information to note, such as the way these companies, such as Blackwater, represent themselves - grossly fascinating. Also, the shameless way the military recruits through offering citizenship to enlisted persons and preferential treatment to their families (you can find the pamphlet on the right hand column).

To me it's coming down to a more obvious conflation of a "democratic state" and capitalism, beyond networks of those running the show, although I now need to read C.W. Mills' The Power Elite. But somewhere in my search I ran across a study by the RAND Corporation on military retention rates, wanting to know what to do to keep the higher skilled officers! So the state's contracts are hurting the state's own ability to retain the persons it trains for warfare because they can make so much more money from the private corporations these contracts fund, and if you're vaulable why not make some cash for yourself? This fascinates me. Any thoughts on how the military industrial complex is aiding in the deterioration of state power? Bourdieu would not like my take here - but how else can you explain this? I'd love to hear others' thoughts on this so please comment!!


At 12:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting post. In some ways, you are asking questions related to Katie's post on Hen Houses. When is it OK to pay others to fight for us? When is it OK to pay others to "lay" eggs for us? To an extent, I'd have to say I'd pay $1500 in a heartbeat to some person who wants the job before I'd send my kid on Bush's fool errand to Iraq. Then again, there's that whole undermining the foundations of the Republic thing....


At 9:33 AM, Blogger Erin said...

Update: At first, I just found it interesting that the reservists and national guard are carrying a heavy load in Iraq and are making about $28,000-$29,000/yr (which translates into minimum wage with no overtime if you calculate their labor hourly) and contractors, who can't be court martialed were making, $115,000/yr (not to mention the profits their companies are making from their work).

Of course, mercenary soldiers are nothing new - but I think contract mercenary soldiers and contract warmaking is new - as opposed to reconstruction. And at the most coercive of the state's power is its ability to make war and if this ability is hindered (or perhaps control is given over intentionally) by its support of profiteering contracts, what does this mean for state power? Is the state an arm of the capitalist system? or is the state using these contractors to get more work done - that it couldn't get away with doing on it's own, being democratic and all?

There is an article in the Guardian today, a special report on Iraq,,2763,1218370,00.html, that goes into this if you are interested.

At 11:54 AM, Blogger Goesh said...

The problem with Hessians is that they fight for the highest bidder. Take the Gold Coast for instance, a place the French are not willing to discuss much. Ex Legionaires were in in opposition to the French Foreign Legion there. The Gold Coast never escalated into the international limelight, though. Don't kid yourself, the forces in Chechnyia and the frontiers of Pakistan are every bit as well trained and comparatively well paid as are any Western mercenaries. The trainers of Al Qaidah operatives and foot soliders are as skilled as Green Beret/SEAL instructors, and have a life style above and beyond the locals - just as you allude to regarding Haliburton fighters and National Guardsmen.
One man's saviour is another's terrorist, as they say. By this equation, economics is the State's power and at the risk of being politically incorrect, doesnt the bible call money " filthy lucre" ? Maybe it was the Upanishads that coined that term, no pun intended.

At 8:47 AM, Blogger Goesh said...

Correction: Ivory Coast, not Gold Coast -

Retaining highly skilled officers:
The more high tech a war, the more flexibility is needed, and the military is notorious for being inflexible. From slugging it out in the trenches of WW1 to the foxholes of WW2 and the firepits of Viet Nam ,we have gone to computer graphics and real time information transmitted from outer space to battle stations all over the world. Like a war mongering octopus,the tentacles of control are spread out and who is to really know if the head controls the tentacles or visa versa. I do believe there is a balance between compensation and control. There is an allure to be in control of high tech war machines - why else are so many potential fighter pilots screened out and those who make the grade do so for relatively low pay? In the first Gulf War, there was a small army of civilian techicians, high tech camp followers if you will, who were highly paid to monitor and evaluate the latest killing technology. I know a man who did evaluations on the Abrams tank during the first Gulf War, and he told me that he would have given anything to have been in the tank rather than evaluating it. There is some legitimacy to my assertion that a balance exists between compensation and control.

The deterioration of state power:
The private sector in Iraq has its own security and intelligence forces. Based on common need, I would speculate that they share and cooperate with the Military, but the mechanism for accountability is very blurred at best. Haliburton doesn't just have some former Green Berets riding shotgun in the convoys - oh no, the lads are out and about, nosing around, paying for information and paying bribes, making discreet inquires here, lavishing presents on certain elders there, a donation here, an assassination there - add some violence and the corporate agenda in Iraq is no different than back home. The logical extension of corporate head hunting, cornering the market and espionage is what you see in Iraq, and Kosovo for that matter. The dynamics of product outcome are no different - profit knows no borders, creed, nationality or religion.

Haliburton was dragged to a Senate Hearing during Clinton's Kosovo war - it seems the boys were price gouging, serious price gouging, on plywood - it was a shameful markup. Haliburton told the esteemed Senators, in affect, that if they didn't want to pay the prices, they could damn well hire someone else to do the job. This hearing sort of just faded away.

In repsonse to your querry, I would say yes, the ability of the State to wage war is significantly influenced by Corporate needs, and ability. The purpose of war is to sustain or enhance economic growth - right?

At 12:04 PM, Blogger Goesh said...

To quote from old Herbert here: " If we attempt to relate the causes of the danger to the war on which society is organized and organizes its members, we are immediately confronted with the fact that advanced industrial society becomes richer, bigger, and better as it perpetuates the danger"

The prophecies of national doom and redemption, of the defined enemy and needed defense to thwart said enemy can only be set in motion via the linear mindset so aptly dissected by Marcuse. Clearly we can villify the Corporate West, and it would be not at all unreasonable to conclude that a nation's ability to wage war is totally dependent on corporate will alone.

meandering -
How are the drums of war beaten? Who are the harbingers of it? I keep getting this nagging image of all the reporters imbedded with the military during the invasion of Iraq, and something doesn't sit right in my mind. I keep seeing in my mind carrion birds and nasty ravens swarming about. Ya' gotta' ask yourself, what was the real intent of their coverage? Were they foisting something on us? Did Mom and Pop America need to see that our boys were being professional and conducting themselves accordingly? Who would define any standard to the contrary with which Mom and Pop could judge the boys as it unfolded? We certainly got stark imagry of the destruction of 'enemies', didn't we? What if someone gave a war and nobody went? That has never been answered. Would our collective opinions of the war in Iraq be any different had not the media been imbedded? Were they after all nothing more than unwitting cheerleaders? Isn't that the real dupe here?


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