A Brief History of the Pentagon

A Brief History of the Pentagon

This article reflects on the development of the Department of Defense and the military-industrial complex, alongside the impacts of America’s permanent wartime economy throughout the twentieth century.  This essay then examines the prospects of transitioning focus to federal social spending, alongside the social, political, and economic ramifications of such reform.


Part I: Intent, Construction, and Development

Upon completion of his second term in 1961, President Dwight D. Eisenhower delivered a dark yet eloquent warning of the Department of Defense’s worrying relationship with the private sector: 

“Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime, or indeed by the fighting men of World War II or Korea… In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist…We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes…Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

Eisenhower’s Farewell Address foreshadows the seemingly contradicting roles of the United States throughout the remainder of the century as a beacon of liberty yet wielder of destruction. As the Cold War ensued, Eisenhower knew that the United States military would only expand to secure American interests abroad. Furthermore, he recognized the dangers of excessive military spending and feared this power being vested unto his successors. He claimed that “only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry” can regulate this awesome power; thus, he urged citizens to understand the military-industrial complex and monitor the government’s actions. However, to fully realize the initial intent, construction, and development of the Pentagon, one must first understand the defining events of its early conception, namely, the Great Depression, the Second World War, and the Korean War. Specifically, one must understand the solution which the United States implemented to address these unprecedented crises: federal spending. Throughout this essay, prices account for inflation and are be presented in USD as valued in the year 2000.

Throughout the 1930s, the globe faced the unprecedented economic crisis that would become known as the Great Depression. As a result, every powerful nation on Earth expanded its governmental reach to assist the failing economy in a system that Noam Chomsky describes as “a special form of economic arrangement with state coordination of unions and corporations.” In the United States, this took the form of the New Deal: a set of welfare policies that coordinated sectors of the US economy to address the rising unemployment and poverty rate. Federal spending rapidly increased in this period, though only once exceeded $10 billion in the 1930s. Although the New Deal assisted and inspired the struggling American workforce, it had a relatively small impact on the economy. By 1939, the Depression was approximately at the same point as in 1932.

However, the 1940s witnessed two momentous events; the Second World War and the creation of the Pentagon. Before 1941, the government relied solely on the private sector for weaponry only in times of war. There was no armaments industry; instead, companies such as Ford would quickly mobilize and begin temporarily creating products for the military. However, the Second World War began to change this dynamic. The United States gradually transitioned its Keynesian spending model from prioritizing social to military spending. In this timeframe, defense spending raised from $16.69 billion in 1940 to $716.24 billion in 1945, the highest point in the twentieth century when accounting for inflation (as the numbers presented do). This stimulus (among many other factors) enabled the United States to acquire over half of the world’s wealth by the war’s end. It also created the most expansive military in human history.

Following World War II, American defense spending rapidly declined from over $716 billion in 1945 to only $66 billion in 1948. The reason was likely America’s lack of necessity or justification for an even more powerful military. However, the post-Depression economy had become dependent on the stimulus of government funding. The widespread presumption was that the United States could return to the Depression without some sort of “Keynesian stimulus” to the economy, i.e., the government funneling massive amounts of public funds into certain industries. Therefore, Washington had to decide on whether to pursue military or social spending. They chose to increase military spending for two fundamental reasons.

Firstly, the United States economy faced a growing threat in the international rejection of free trade. Nations such as those affiliated with the Soviet Union increasingly rejected the presence of powerful American companies in their domestic industries – namely because corporations would utilize their workforce and resources while shipping profits overseas to the United States. Washington heavily considered this threat to American economic dominance as they decided to stimulate the economy through military (rather than social) spending. With an expansive and consistently updated national military, the United States government could effectively launch armed campaigns in foreign nations to protect and secure American interests.

Secondly, the wealthy nation hosted a demand for new technological products such as refrigerators, radios, and televisions. Through the Pentagon, public funds are handed over to private companies in high-tech industries for the research and development of military technology. However, many innovations funded by the Pentagon were further developed, tested, and marketed to be also sold privately to the public – thus generating enormous profits for private corporations, providing wealthier Americans with the products they desire, and, most importantly, stimulating the US economy. Even today, virtually all American industries that are internationally competitive have received some subsidy or aid from the United States government.

Thus, in 1947, President Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947, creating a unified military command and vastly expanding the nation’s armed forces. He cited the wasteful military spending before World War II and the danger of improvising in wartime as the reasons to establish a permanent wartime economy. This dynamic would ensure a steady expansion of the nation’s military, a consistent paycheck to those in the military and high tech industries, and technological innovation which could someday be sold privately to the public. Almost immediately, heated controversy arose over the creation of the Pentagon. Critics feared that the Department of Defense would establish a new tone of militarism in the United States and consolidate a dangerous amount of military power to the executive. Nevertheless, the Department of Defense was formally created in 1949, and wartime military spending continued. American military spending gradually increased to $268 billion in 1953 – coinciding with another major conflict that would forever change American foreign relations and military spending: the Korean War.

Upon the conclusion of World War II, the previously occupied Korean Peninsula was divided into two independent nations along the 38th parallel. This division, intended to be temporary, was problematic as the North was to be occupied by the Red Army and the South by the Americans. As tensions built between the Communist and capitalist worlds, the Korean Peninsula became the first of many terrains to host a US-Soviet proxy war. After the Northern forces (backed by Communist China) launched an invasion of the South, President Truman declared a United Nations military operation in the Korean Peninsula to defend interests in the region. However, in time, the war became offensive for the West as they became determined to unify the Korean Peninsula under capitalist leadership.

During the Korean War, the United States utilized a “Scorched Earth” policy in which the US dropped more bombs on Korea than have been shot in the entire Pacific theater throughout World War II. As a result, nearly 4 million Korean and Chinese individuals were killed, wounded, or missing, many of whom were civilians. Furthermore, the Korean War further advanced the consolidation of power unto the executive as President Truman had successfully launched a military campaign without Congressional approval. Most importantly, the Korean War reinforced the Cold War mentality that perceived Communist nations as direct threats to the United States. This widespread fear of the Soviets enabled the Pentagon to gradually increase military spending throughout the Cold War without taxpayers questioning the dynamic or advocating for more social (rather than military) spending.

In the year which Eisenhower delivered his Farewell Address (1961), the Pentagon had funneled over $221 billion into the military; considerably less than was annually spent during the Korean War, but still over twenty times more than the yearly average throughout the 1930s (when accounting for inflation). This number exponentially increased throughout the remainder of the century to fund military operations across the globe and residually develop military technology that could be modified and sold commercially. After nearly seventy years of spending no less than $200 billion annually on defense, the United States still holds global supremacy and the most significant military in human history. Residually, we now have the internet, computers, GPS, and other forms of high technology which have been developed from the military to be sold commercially.

However, these advances in American society have come at high financial and moral costs. Firstly, the tens of trillions of dollars spent on defense in the last century far exceed our military necessity. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute Military Expenditure Database, the United States spent almost as much on its military in 2018 as the next eight largest-spending countries combined. Necessity is incredibly important when deciding our budget priorities as taxpayer money could otherwise be spent on social initiatives to redistribute wealth, advance healthcare and education, and further democratize American society. Furthermore, our expansive military has been utilized throughout the past century to perpetuate conflict across the globe. The sheer number of civilian casualties throughout World War II and the Korean War alone exemplify the incredible danger of excessive militarism practiced by powerful state-capitalist nations. Before only ten years after the Pentagon’s conception, American militarism had already been reflected in the nation’s foreign policy, economic functioning, domestic attitude, and governmental procedures.


Part II: Cold War Conflicts in Indochina

Ten years after Eisenhower’s famous warning of the military-industrial complex, The New York Times began publishing a classified report detailing questionable usage of the United States military in Vietnam. Enabled by the power dynamic between the American government and the private armaments industry, American actions in Indochina serve as a landmark of Cold War tensions and the American response to the rise of Communism. The Vietnam War can also be viewed as yet another warning of the dangers inherent to militaristic state-capitalism, and the arguable embodiment of the “disastrous rise of misplaced power” that Eisenhower forewarned of in his famous Farewell Address. As the first installment of the Understanding the Pentagon focused on the intent, construction, and development of the military-industrial complex, this essay explores the negative impacts of America’s wartime economy thirty years after its creation. By utilizing these leaked documents, this essay studies the Vietnam War in the context of state-capitalism and the Pentagon’s method of ensuring Western diplomatic and economic domination over developing nations through arms spending.

Adjusted for inflation, the United States defense budget raised from $16.69 billion in 1940, to $716.24 billion in 1945, to only $66 billion in 1948, to $268 billion in 1953. This drastic fluctuation is the effect of a newly developed approach to military spending. Before the twentieth century, there was no permanent armaments industry; instead, companies such as Ford would quickly mobilize and begin temporarily creating products for the military in times of war. However, as the United States transitioned its model to prioritize military spending during World War II, the most efficient wartime economy in human history was crafted. This dynamic, though it stalled after World War II, was resumed in the 1950s as Cold War tensions brewed. Adjusted for inflation, the United States began spending no less than $70 billion annually on defense following 1953, as the Communist sphere of influence began posing a threat to American interests across the world. The first proxy war between the United States and the Soviet Union (and therefore, the initial Cold War usage of the military-industrial complex), took place in the divided Korean – where Communist and Western forces clashed in brutal and indecisive war. As the Korean War ensued, the looming threat of similar violence hovered over other potentially Communist regions such as the colonized nations of Indochina.

As the Japanese Empire fell in 1945, it was forced to return its occupied Indochinese territory to the French, who had colonized the area decades before the Japanese invasion in 1940. However, French occupation was deeply unpopular among the Vietnamese people, and there rapidly arose a widespread sentiment of revolution. Led by Ho Chi Ming, the Communists believed that the Vietnamese people were entitled to independence and that this could be achieved by eradicating colonialism and redistributing resources. In 1945, the Vietnamese Communists issued a Declaration of Independence in the likes of the French and American Declarations;

“All men are created equal. They are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness…They [the French] have enforced inhuman laws…They have built more prisons than schools. They have mercilessly slain our patriots, and they have drowned uprisings in rivers of blood…They have robbed us of our rice fields, our mines, our forests, and our raw materials…They have invented numerous unjustifiable taxes and reduced our people, especially our peasantry, to a state of extreme poverty…The whole Vietnamese people, animated by a common purpose, are determined to fight to the bitter end against any attempt by the French colonists to reconquer their country.” (Vietnamese Declaration of Independence, 1945)

Although this rhetoric of independence seems similar to that expressed by former French and American revolutionaries, they contain fundamental differences in their notion of freedom that defined Communist relations with the West. Most of the Western revolutionaries who achieved American and French independence believed that private property, alongside the monetary exchange of goods and labor, is vital to exercising their notion of freedom. Meanwhile, the Vietnamese Communists associated the concept of ownership with their colonial oppressors and believed that common ownership of goods and resources is crucial to avoid hierarchy, and therefore ensure their notion of freedom. This means that, under Communist leadership, foreign nations and corporations would be unable to utilize Vietnamese resources or labor – likely causing a disruption to international trade that could hinder the Western economy. From October 1945 to February 1946, Ho Chi Minh wrote at least eight letters to President Truman or the Secretary of State, formally appealing for UN intervention against French colonialism. Unsurprisingly, none of these appeals were answered.

In May 1950, the United States provided its first economic and military aid to the French in Indochina in the form of a $10-million grant. By 1954, the French had failed to gain popular support and was forced to grant North Vietnam to the Communists, yet the American military aid program had reached $1.1 billion and paid for 78% of the French war burden. At a moment of instability and oppression, it is worth pondering why the American military was so determined to keep Vietnam under colonial rule. National Security Council documents throughout the early 1950s reveal both the economic and diplomatic factors motivating the Americans’ rigorous support of the French.

Diplomatic factors centered around Western resentment of Communist ideology manifested in the desire to limit the number of nations aligned with the Soviet Union and Communist China. In 1950, when the National Security Council decided to first extend military aid to the French in Indochina, they explicitly cited an argument that would become commonly known as the “domino theory.” It states that one nation successfully revolting against capitalism would result in others doing the same, eventually forming a large sphere of influence against the American values of private property, international trade, and limited democratic elements in the economy. Foreshadowing the future of U.S military involvement in both Vietnam and the neighboring nations for this reason, the Council stated;

“It is important to U.S. security interests that all practicable measures be taken to prevent further Communist expansion in Southeast Asia. Indochina is a key area and is under immediate threat. The neighboring countries of Thailand and Burma could be expected to fall under Communist domination if Indochina is controlled by a Communist government. The balance of Southeast Asia would then be in grave hazard.” (National Security Council, NSC 64, 1950)

Indochina was not only perceived as a critical area because it’s political relevance, but also its economic potential as well. When listing the dangers of a Communist-controlled Indochina, a top-secret National Security Council document (NSC 124/2) identified Southeast Asia as “the principal world source of natural rubber and tin, and a producer of petroleum and other strategically important commodities.” They declared that “the rice exports of Burma and Thailand are critically important to Malaya, Ceylon, and Hong Kong and are of considerable significance to Japan and India, all important areas of free Asia.” (National Security Council, NSC 124/2, 1954). From Ho Chi Ming’s perspective, international free-trade was simply a device used to exploit developing economies, only different from colonialism in degree. If Indochina were to become Communist, their governments would likely raise protectionist barriers (or close trade entirely) to prevent foreign companies from utilizing their local resources and workforce. This would be against American interests, especially in a region with the economic and political relevance of Indochina.

In August 1964, the Gulf of Tonkin incident occurred, an event designed to achieve public approval of direct hostilities in Indochina. The United States government reported two violent confrontations between U.S. and North Vietnamese ships and blamed the Vietcong for both incidents. The Pentagon Papers and later declassified NSA documents indicate that one of the encounters was misrepresented by the United States government to justify a war against North Vietnam, while the other incident was fabricated entirely. Nonetheless, after years of conducting covert military operations and aiding anti-Communist powers, the United States began the concentrated bombing of North Vietnam in 1965, alongside the introduction of over 200,000 American troops. Although the Pentagon Papers describes that American officials had long strategized their nation’s entrance into the Vietnam war prior to this time, they likely didn’t predict the difficulty of the conflict that would ensure.

Throughout the next decade, the Pentagon would purchase vast amounts of napalm and the over 7 million tons of bombs that would drop in the war: almost one 500-pound bomb for every human being in Vietnam. The Defense budget remained roughly $80 billion (adjusted for inflation in 2019 USD) each year of the war. Since enemy combatants were merely organized citizens with guns, it was difficult to distinguish the Vietcong from average citizens. Furthermore, since it is difficult to gauge success in such guerrilla warfare, the Americans relied on the updated death count for reassurance of victory. This mentality led to the massacre of millions of Indochinese civilians. The most famous of these cases was “Operation Phenix” (in which at least 26,000 suspected Communists were executed without a trial), and the “My Lai Massacre” (in which to 500 unarmed civilians were systematically murdered by American soldiers). Although these incidents fueled the anti-war movement in America, only one individual was convicted for either event: Lieutenant William Calley, who was sentenced only three and a half years of house arrest for commanding the My Lai Massacre. By 1970, the large-scale American bombings had spread to Laos and Cambodia, in an attempt to suppress the insurgencies in those regions as well. Estimates of North Vietnamese deaths widely range from 533,000 to 1,500,000, alongside an estimated 62,000 deaths in Laos and 273,000 deaths in Cambodia. American deaths are estimated at 213,324. Roughly 30% of American deaths were draftees.

In the face of such devastating numbers, it is vital to question our motives for conducting such a conquest. Does American political and economic leverage justify these deaths? Furthermore, we must also consider the constitutional merit of this war; was it democratically supported by the American people? An analysis of the events shows that the conflict was initiated virtually unanimously by Congress and the President. Although a Gallup Poll found that only 24% of Americans believed it was a mistake to send troops to Vietnam in 1964, that number rapidly rose to 61% before the end of the conflict. It is also worth noting that soldiers were sent to Indochina under pretenses, after the government had exaggerated a dispute in the Tonkin Gulf in August 1964, and entirely fabricated a second attack. The truth behind the Tonkin incident was not exposed until after U.S. troops had been deployed.

Lastly, as we must reflect upon the Vietnam War, we must question our trust in American leaders and (more importantly) the Pentagon. Under the same basic spending model as today, the United States conducted a total war against a coalition of oppressed peasants in competition for resources and political leverage. The tactics, as exposed in The Pentagon Papers, included the denotation of 7 million tons of bombs, alongside brutal search and destroy missions through Vietnamese villages. Their equipment was provided by powerful military defense contractors including McConnel Douglas Corp., Lockheed Corp., and Boeing Co. – all of which have a strong lobbying presence in Congress and made at least 1.5 million each year of the war. A permanent wartime economy is convenient in times of attack. Still, the Vietnam War proves that leaders are capable of lying and utilizing the military to pursue questionable political and economic interests. President Eisenhower famously stated, “Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.” As Daniel Ellsberg exposed the classified documents, over half of the American population objected to the Vietnam War, yet the dynamics of industry and military grew so powerful that it overcame the American pursuit of liberty and prosperity.


Part III: Prospects of Conversion

Almost sixty years after Eisenhower’s Farewell Speech, the United States’ annual defense budget has easily surpassed half a trillion dollars. The impacts of which are incredibly complicated, though my first two essays began to uncover the danger in excessive military spending. After studying the initial development of the military-industrial complex and its impacts throughout the past century, this essay questions the viability of converting from military to social spending. Perhaps a portion of the money spent on defense could be better utilized on healthcare, education, or other social services that mend inequalities and improve the American quality of life. This inquiry is guided by three central questions about the current state of military spending; ‘is it necessary?’, ‘is it popular?’, and ‘what are the ramifications of conversion?’. These are large and complex questions; however, the analysis of spending databases, public polling, and academic journal entries allow their answers to become more apparent. Studying the prospects of conversion is vital to using the government to minimize social inequality, rather than launching another Vietnam-type occupation.

Throughout the mid-twentieth century, as many Americans felt their interests and values were being threatened by Communist forces abroad, they believed that the nation required the most dominant military possible to conquer those with different views from spreading their ideology. However, as the Cold War tensions came to an end, there was widespread anticipation of a reduction in overall military expenditure. Such assumptions were incorrect, as quickly evident by U.S. military actions in the Middle East as early as 1990. Defense spending continued to increase, though now it was justified to combat terrorism rather than Communism. After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush conducted the most ambitious nation-building effort since the Marshall Plan. The U.S. military toppled the governments of Iraq and Afghanistan while providing aid to repressive regimes such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan. Military expenditure increased at the most dramatic rate since World War II, with the defense budget raising over $200 billion in the next ten years (to $805 billion in 2011). So far, the result of these actions has been instability and (according to a Brown University study) at least 500,000 deaths. Nearly twenty years after 9/11, sixty years after Eisenhower’s farewell speech, and over seventy years after the creation of the Department of Defense, the United States military continues to devote vast amounts of taxpayer money on armistices used in wars of conquest and regime change.

To begin assessing the prospects of conversion, we must first clarify whether the current amount of military spending is actually necessary to protect America’s national security. To answer this question, it is crucial to factor how the American military is currently being utilized. Most diplomats believe that the United States military should serve many roles simultaneously, such as maintaining a robust nuclear deterrent and protecting the nation from attack. Many Americans also wish for the United States military to serve not only as protection for our country but for others as well. According to this grand strategy, the United States should be deployed in all areas of the world simultaneously to spread democracy, oppose peer competitors with armed force, and maintain an extensive system of alliances and military bases. The degree to which America practices this costly military strategy is unique to the United States, explaining how a single nation accounts for one-third of all global military spending.

It is worth noting that, although this strategy helps maintain American influence abroad, it is not necessary to keep the United States safe given the limited number of real threats to the country and our expansive military. The strategy has also led to many U.S.-conducted regime changes in foreign nations, such as in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. Not only have these wars been incredibly costly, but they have also been counterproductive as well. Overthrowing the governments in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya have not resulted in peaceful democratic governments, but rather instability and chaos that creates additional threats. Rethinking this grand strategy could fundamentally change how the United States engages with the world. America will always be deeply engaged with other nations, but this could be primarily done through trade, diplomacy, and cultural exchange rather than military responses. Without rethinking America’s hands-on military role throughout the world, it would be challenging to minimize the defense budget, and transition that money and focus on domestic issues.

Secondly, we must ask if minimizing the current defense budget is the popular decision that would satisfy most Americans. Polls conducted on the subject often discover military spending to be a divisive source of controversy within the American population. A Gallup poll conducted February 1-10, 2018 (just before Congress passed President Trump’s $75 billion increase in military spending) discovered that 34% of Americans believe too little is being spent on the military, while 33% reported “too much” and 31% said “About right.” Meanwhile, only 13% of respondents on a separate question told Gallup that the military is “Stronger than it needs to be,” and 39% responded, “Not strong enough.” A similar Gallup poll conducted a year later asked the same question found a similar result; Americans admire a mighty military yet are divided on whether they are willing to pay for it. In the 2019 version of the report, only 25% of respondents believed that the United States is spending too little on the military. The report also found a correlation between the trends of increasing military spending and a declining number of Americans wishing to spend more on the military. Only once did a majority of respondents (51%) say defense spending was too little – in 1981, as Ronald Regan took office under the promise of increasing defense spending. This polling suggests that the public highly approves of the military and wishes it to be powerful, yet they aren’t convinced that more military spending is necessary – especially as the defense budget continues to increase.

Lastly, we must analyze the implicit impacts that conversion would have on the economy. We know that our military spending far surpasses the necessity to protect our nation, and spending increases are generally unpopular though incredibly divisive. However, defense spending is not merely just a method for producing weaponry and generating profits; it has been the primary catalyst to stimulate the economy since the 1940s. Economist Menard Keynes showed that any massive increase in government expenses could stimulate an economy. The war industry has served this role since World War II, so it would be an ambitious project transitioning the central sector. Aside from transitioning jobs to the social services and possibly halting the “spin-off” technology sold in the private sector, conversion would also have countless unpredictable economic impacts. Therefore, a conversion may entail more than merely transitioning spending priorities, but structurally altering the current system entirely. Scholar Noam Chomsky frequently discusses the subject in his lectures, often taking a radical stance against both conversion and the system as we know it.

“Look: this system was designed, with a lot of conscious and intelligent thought, for the particular purpose that it serves. So, any kind of ‘conversion’ will just have to be part of a total restructuring of the society, designed to undermine centralized control … So, the first thing simply has to be creating both a culture and an institutional structure in which public funds can be used for social needs, for human needs.” (Understanding Power, 2002)

Another quote by famed Professor Seymour Melman further explores the ambition of conversion:

“The problem of conversion from military to civilian work is fundamentally different now from the problem that existed after World War II. At that time, the issue was reconversion; the firms could and did go back to doing the work they had been involved in before the war. They could literally draw the olds sets of blueprints and tools from the shelf and go to work on the old products. At the present time, the bulk of military production is concentrated in industries, firms, or plants that have been specialized for this work, and frequently have no prior history of civilian work” (The Defense Economy, 1970).

Ultimately, minimizing the defense budget is a much more complicated task than it may appear. Our military isn’t merely just a defense unit for the United States; it is a global force seeking to maintain an extensive system of alliances and military bases. This dynamic accounts for the fact that the United States almost pays more on its military than the following eleven defense spenders combined. This incredible strength is not necessary for the safety of the United States, though it is required for America’s foreign policy objectives. Polls show that Americans are incredibly divided on this manner, and most are torn between their respect for the military and their unease with large-scale federal spending. Without rethinking our strategies and goals as a military superpower, the defense budget will not shrink anytime soon– especially with the contracting and lobbying dynamics in Washington that encourage the continuation of rapid spending increases. Because of this power dynamic, significant cuts to defense spending are unlikely as they would undermine centralized economic and political authority. Many analysts, including Professor Noam Chomsky, believe that this dynamic cannot be confronted without a massive change in both culture and institutional structure. Although spending conversion could result in a peaceful and more equal society, the information I have gathered over the past three essays indicates that Professor Chomsky is likely correct. A successful conversion would require more than merely transitioning spending priorities; it would necessitate a more significant political movement involving military budget reductions, re-industrialization, and infrastructure renewal. The prospects of the popular mobilization necessary for this reform are doubtful, though not impossible.



Works Cited

Chomsky, Noam. “The Military-Industrial Complex.” Understanding Power: 

The Indispensable Chomsky, The New Press, 2003, pp. 70-76.


Crawford, Neta C. Watson Institute at Brown University , Nov. 2018, https://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/files/cow/imce/papers/2018/Human Costs, November 8 2018 CoW.pdf.


Dumas, Lloyd J. “Economic Conversion: The Critical Link.” Bulletin of Peace Proposals, vol. 19, no. 1, 1988, pp. 1–10. JSTORwww.jstor.org/stable/44481368.


Eisenhower, Dwight D. “Military-Industrial Complex Speech,” Farewell Address. 1961. 


Newport, Frank, and Joseph Carroll. “Iraq Versus Vietnam: A Comparison of Public Opinion.” Gallup.com, Gallup, 7 June 2017, https://news.gallup.com/poll/18097/iraq-versus-vietnam-comparison-public-opinion.aspx.


Newport, Frank. “Americans Not Convinced U.S. Needs to Spend More on Defense.” Gallup.com, Gallup, February 28. 2018, https://news.gallup.com/poll/228137/americans-not-convinced-needs-spend-defense.aspx.


Newport, Frank. “The Military’s Positive Image and the Defense Budget.” Gallup.com, Gallup, September 4 2019, https://news.gallup.com/opinion/polling-matters/248153/military-positive-image-defense-budget.aspx.


“National Security Council Report, NSC 64, ‘Note by the Executive Secretary to the National Security Council on the Position of the United States with Respect to Indochina’,” February 27, 1950, Foreign Relation of the United States Archive, U.S. National Archives.


“National Security Council Report, NSC 124/2, ‘United States Objectives and Courses of Action with Respect to Southeast Asia,” June 25, 1952, Foreign Relation of the United States Archive, U.S. National Archives.


Minh, Ho Chi. “The Vetinamese Declaration of Independence.” Selected Works. Vol. 3, Hanoi Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1960, pp, 17-21.


Posen, Barry R., and Andrew L. Ross. “Competing Visions for U.S. Grand Strategy.” International Security, vol. 21, no. 3, 1996, pp. 5–53. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/2539272.


Roser, Max, and Mohamed Nagdy. “Military Spending.” Our World in Data, 3 Aug. 2013



“SIPRI Military Expenditure Database.” Stockholm International Peace Research Institute,



Zinn, Howard. “The Impossible Victory: Vietnam.” A People’s History of the United States, Harper-Perennial, 1996, pp. 469-501.


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