When a person
lives in Iowa, as I do, one seldom gets the opportunity to meet
with a leading anti-war intellectual. But on August 31, 2009 I had
just such an opportunity over lunch with Ismael Hossein-zadeh, the
author of The
Political Economy and U.S. Militarism.
is a profile in courage. He is a sixty-three-year-old native of
a Kurdish village in the mountains of Iran with less than four hundred
residents. One of six children, he miraculously graduated from Tehran
University and ventured to New York City to do his graduate work
with less than one hundred dollars in his pocket.
received his doctorate degree from the New School for Social Research.
He has taught economics at Drake University in Des Moines for over
His most recent
book, now available in paperback, is both courageous and profound.
By his own admission, Hossein-zadeh knows little about the Austrian
School of economics and even less about this website. In fact, much
of the economic analysis in his book runs along Keynesian and even
all great anti-war intellectuals, Hossein-zadeh's approach to the
subjects he discusses is inter-disciplinary with a heavy emphasis
on historical facts. Also, his book is full of quotes from names
LewRockwell.com readers will readily recognize: Chalmers Johnson,
Smedley Butler, Michael Scheuer, William Hartung, James Mann, Patrick
Buchanan, Robert Higgs and Lew Rockwell. Hossein-zadeh also quotes
Paul Craig Roberts several times in his book and during our lunch
he expressed his total admiration for Roberts' work — thus, the
title of this article.
discusses American militarism, he talks less about a military-industrial
complex than he does a military-industrial parasite. Furthermore,
the military-industrial establishment in the United States isn't
even that complex an entity. It consists of an "iron triangle"
made up of civilian governors (the president, the congressional
oversight committees and so forth), professional personnel serving
in the military and the 85,000 private contractors who arm the military
machine and who profit mightily from their contributions to the
through history, Hossein-zadeh notes that the Roman Empire used
its military to achieve economic, territorial and other ends. After
Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon, however, the military establishment
undermined republican principles of civilian governance and ultimately
created a Roman military empire. Rome was transformed from a classic
economic empire into the first military-parasitic empire.
Empire, like its Roman predecessor, started out as an economic empire
that used its military to conquer territories and force the transfer
of the resultant colonies' resources to England. But Britain's mercantilist
policies were expensive ones. Once these policies (which included
protectionism) helped England achieve international economic superiority,
Britain's colonial-administrative forces became a very costly redundancy.
The primary role of England's military became, after the last Corn
Laws were passed in 1848, to merely keep foreign lands and markets
open for free trade.
colonial military-administrative establishment — which was huge
— did not go quietly into the night. It took less than fifty years
after 1848 for France, Germany and the United States to threaten
England's temporary economic superiority. Britain's colonial military-administrative
forces reasserted themselves as England returned to its policies
of protectionism, militarism and colonialism. Military conflicts
inevitably ensued (e.g., the Boer War) which ultimately led to World
For the first
150 years of its existence, the United States used the military
to defend itself, protect its internal markets and to expand its
territory. Many wars were fought and the United States military
was expanded in each case to fight them. But unlike Rome and Britain,
prior to 1940 the United States always reduced its military to its
At this point
in his narrative, Hossein-zadeh tells the fascinating story of how
the ruling elites in America worked through the Council on Foreign
Relations to convince Franklin Roosevelt and, subsequently, Harry
Truman that the United States must create a permanent military-economic
establishment to help plan for the future of the United States and
the international community after World War II. In this fascinating
chapter, Hossein-zadeh shares many facts such as the following:
1. FDR agreed
on November 28, 1941 to inform congress and the American people
that "if Japan attacked Singapore or the East Indies, the security
of the United States would be endangered and war might result."
At the time, a vast majority of Americans were not at all likely
to believe such a claim. On December 7, 1941 the Japanese attack
on Pearl Harbor took care of this problem for FDR.
2. By mid-1941,
before America entered World War II, FDR's outside brain trust concluded
that Germany could not possibly win the war after Hitler's foolish
invasion of Russia. They began to draw up the plans for a new economic-military-diplomatic
order before the United States entered the war. These plans were
later announced and adopted at Bretton Woods after the war.
3. In adherence
to these plans, Harry Truman remobilized the U.S. military beginning
in 1950 — in part to ward off a possible recession. As Hossein-zadeh
puts it, "Military spending rose — in constant (2002) dollar
— from $150 billion in 1950 (the last year of ephemeral postwar
demobilization) to $500 billion in 1953."
next traces the rise of parasitic-militarism through this period
up through the 1970s when the post-World War II consensus among
the nation's elites began to unravel. This part of the story includes
the "Nixon shocks" (e.g., his unilateral moves to abandon
the gold standard and impose new tariffs), to Jimmy Carter's transformation
from a Trilateralist to a militarist and Ronald Reagan's "second
But it is
the phase after the fall of the Berlin Wall that gets the most frightful
in Hossein-zadeh's telling. At that time, former defense secretary
Robert McNamara said the defense budget should be cut in half. The
Secretary of Defense at the time, Dick Cheney, said it should be
increased after the fall of the Soviet Union. Obviously, Cheney
and the military-industrial parasites have easily won the battle
over defense spending. The United States will probably spend at
least one trillion dollars a year on our military during the foreseeable
has written a must-read book. His chapter on the real reasons for
the Iraq War — which have nothing to do with oil — are worth the
price of the book all by itself. He and Paul Craig Roberts come
from completely different direction philosophically. But they reach
the same conclusion: "Enough is enough."
W. Tofte [send him mail] is
the manager of the BWIA Private Investment Fund and the author of
Principled and Grow Rich: Your Guide to Investing Successfully in
Both Bull and Bear Markets. He lives in Des Moines, Iowa.