In his final address to the American people as President, Dwight D. Eisenhower said the following:
“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. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defence with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together”.
Eisenhower was of course among the country’s most distinguished Generals of the modern age who had seen the US military grow from a small body that was generally less well trained than its European counterparts at the dawn of the 20th century to a global military superpower in the age of nuclear weapons. Nevertheless, Eisenhower’s cautionary admonition of the military-industrial complex did little to curtail its growth and development throughout the 20th century. At the dawn of the 21st century, the military-industrial complex was largely successful in helping to shape, dictate and execute American foreign policy. The era of George W. Bush represented the zenith of an epoch where the needs of the armed forces were generally prioritised over that of pragmatic diplomats.
Today, the military-industrial complex remains powerful. This is so much the case that one could be forgiven for thinking that it was indeed stronger than ever seeing as some of Donald Trump’s most loyal Cabinet members and staffers have been from a military background. However, a new force has also emerged in Washington that is as potent and even more dangerous than the military-industrial complex. This is the academia-industrial complex that rose to power in the State Department and intelligence agencies particularly during the Obama years.
In any nation, military leaders are often more conservative in their mentality than those in foreign ministries or the diplomatic service. Military leaders are keen on preserving and enhancing traditional alliances and are often late in their apprehension of changing geopolitical trends that can turn foe into partner and traditional ally into rival. This is true in almost every country, but the more disciplined a central regime, the less likely divergences of mentality between high ranking military men and foreign ministry workers become a serious threat to internal stability. By contrast, the more academically minded and even worse the ambitious individuals in a nation’s foreign ministry not only pride themselves on being ‘ahead of the curve’ in respect of new trends in geopolitics, but they often grow arrogant enough to think they can shape these trends. Here, military men are far more down to earth in their understanding of geopolitics versus their academic/radical rivals within any given deep state.
During the Obama years, experiments in hybrid warfare and the so-called ‘lead from behind’ strategy tended to take precedence over traditional military ventures. This was particularly true in the aftermath of the disastrous NATO intervention in Libya which Obama later described as a regret in terms of planning for the consequences of the Hillary Clinton authored war crime. It was in Syria that the US under Obama decided to take a different tact. Rather than employ the condensed “shock and awe” of the Bush era that had its final hurrah in Libya, Obama’s Syria strategy relied on the arming and financing of a desperate set of Takfiri jihadist groups who would take on America’s role of “changing regimes”, thus leaving the US military out in the cold.
By imparting agency to Takfiri groups that would have normally been reserved for various branches of the US military, Obama’s State Department and CIA ushered in an era where American academics claiming to have a better understanding of the sociological dynamic of Syria vis-a-vis the military (in summary they did not) were calling the shots. After 2016 when the Obama administration de-facto turned against Turkey by de-facto sponsoring a coup against the legitimate Turkish government through its support of the Fethullah Terror Organisation which orchestrated the coup, a seismic schism began opening between America’s military-industrial complex and its academia-industrial complex.
In many respects, the size of this schism has only become apparent in the Trump years during which senior military figures, including and especially US Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis have proved to be voices of moderation on multiple issues ranging from sanctioning America’s new south and south east Asian allies (namely India and Vietnam) over their historic relations with Russia, a reticence to avidly promote regime change in Syria or Iran and most notably, about the importance of preserving the US alliance with Turkey.
On all of these issues, Mattis and his colleagues have adopted a moderate line while elements of the State Department, Congress and un-elected advisers have adopted the radicalism of the academia-intelligence complex that continues to germinate across various so-called “think tanks” and notorious so-called “NGOs”.
The most important case study which helps to illustrate this growing schism revolves around debates over whether to physically deliver Turkey’s order of F-35 fighter jets to Turkish soil. James Mattis in particular has been consistently yet quietly pushing for Turkey’s straightforward deal to be respected while the makers of the F-35 Lockheed Martin went ahead with a formal however symbolic handover ceremony in the presence of Turkish officials.
However strongly the military-industrial complex lobbied for the F-35 deal to go smoothly, it was not able to stop a State Department official from threatening sanctions against Turkey a day after President Erdogan won his historic re-election bid. The threat in question derives from Turkey’s refusal to cancel its purchase of S-400 missile defence systems with Russia and thus it should be noted that while the military-industrial complex has said little about the so-called ‘Russiagate’ scandal, the academia-industrial complex helped to propel, ignite and spread the scandal and do so to this day.
Until the final F-35 lands on Turkish soil, there is a danger that the academia-industrial complex will successfully rally its coalition of dangerous ideologues and ethno-confessional Turkophobic lobbies in attempts to gain allies in Congress who are busily engaged in attempts to openly sabotage the historic US partnership with Turkey.
In the US, a new alliance between the powerful Jewish lobby and the less powerful but still influential Armenian and Hellenic lobbies is working together to muster Congressional support for Turkophobic measures which includes the blocking of the F-35 deal that the military-industrial complex is eager to deliver.
For much of the 20th and 21st centuries, the large American based Hellenic and Armenian lobbies have agitated for a less friendly US approach to Turkey. For the Armenian lobby, the main goal is to convince the US Federal government to recognise the tragic events of 1915 as “The Armenian Genocide” while the Hellenic lobby has sought to persuade Washington to pressure Ankara into acknowledging the early 20th century conflict in western Anatolia as the “Pontic Genocide”. Additionally, the US Hellenic lobby has for years attempted to persuade NATO to take a tougher line on the status of Northern Cyprus. Thus far, none of these lobbying attempts have met with the desired success of the respective lobbies at a Federal level.
While the US based Jewish lobby is traditionally more powerful than either the Hellenic or Armenian lobbies, the US Jewish lobby has generally had little negative to say about Turkey in-line with the fact that of all of the Muslim majority governments in the region Tel Aviv had its best relations with Ankara, as well as the overriding reality that Turkey never passed any antisemitic legislation as most of the powers of Europe did prior to the mid-20th century.
But with Turkish President Erdogan openly calling for a wider pan-Islamic movement for Palestine, all the while calling Israel a terrorist state, the US Jewish lobby like Israeli politicians, have joined traditional foes of Turkey in openly agitating for a more anti-Turkish position from the US government.
This has expressed itself both domestically in the US and geopolitically in terms of “Israel’s” new regional partnerships. Against this background, it is perhaps not surprising that Gilad Erdan, a member of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud faction has called for Tel Aviv to recognise the events of 1915 as an “Armenian Genocide”. If Israel were to officially to do this, it would represent a clear break between Tel Aviv and Ankara and quite possibly a point of no return. The more Turkey stands up for Palestine, the more voices like those of Erdan will become amplified in arguing for a move that is less about Armenia (a traditionally anti-Zionist nation) than about sending a clear message to Turkey that the partnership has run its course.
Thus, one sees that just as the academia-industrial complex weaponized an anti-Damascus narrative during Barack Obama’s second term, today these same extremist forces are weaponizing a new even broader narrative against Syria’s rival Turkey. In both cases, the weaponization of these narratives by the academia-industrial complex if taken to its logical extent will only further de-stabalise the region, not least because Turkey is one of the few strong and stable nations in the Middle East/western Eurasia. One should make no mistake about it, in spite of the ideological contradictions involved (which in any case are hardly relevant in terms of strategic thinking), the same forces which conspired against Syria beginning in Obama’s second term are now actively conspiring against Turkey against the wishes of Turkey’s Russian partner and America’s home-grown military-industrial complex.
Thus, while the American military-industrial complex still can leverage the President’s hand particularly where Afghanistan and the South China Sea are concerned, when it comes to the Middle East, Europe, and western Eurasia as a whole – an open battle between a comparatively moderate military-industrial complex and increasingly unhinged academia-industrial complex is taking shape. Far from just having control over traditional deep state bodies, the new academia-industrial complex controls much of the mass mainstream media, the private sector bodies which constitute the liberal intelligentsia apparatus, numerous so-called think tanks and NGOs (including those funded by tax payers) and have become an incredibly vicious trolling force on influential social media. The danger is both real and imminent if such people are able to get their hands firmly on policy making bodies as they begun to do under the Presidency of Barack Obama.
To paraphrase Eisenhower’s words in order to bring them up to date:
‘In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the academia–industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist’.