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Building a peace-industrial complex

By Keith Suter - posted Wednesday, 5 June 2019

The disarmament situation is gloomy: there is the collapse of Cold War nuclear weapon treaty system and there is a continuing high level of military expenditure. We need to think about disarmament differently.

Here is an idea for a "Peace-Industrial Complex"

The term "Military-Industrial Complex" was popularized by President Eisenhower in his 1961 Farewell Address to Congress. He had been a professional soldier for most of his working life and had seen how the US military had been transformed from a small fighting force into a large permanent warfighting establishment.


In 1940 the Greek army was larger than the US army. The US entered World War II on December 7 1941 (after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour) and so there was a rapid expansion of the US defence forces. The US was transformed during 1941-5 and so ended the war as the world's major military power.

Eisenhower had lived through all this. As a traditional "small government" Republican he worried about how a new expensive industrial complex had been created to exploit the new military era - all at great cost to taxpayers.

The small number of corporations in the Military-Industrial Complex are not necessarily violent or warlike: they just want to make an easy profit. The workers in the Military-Industrial Complex are not necessarily violent or warlike: they just want a job.

The factories and other facilities are scattered around the US. Any attempt (as President Clinton found out in the post-Cold War 1990s) to cut back on military expenditure, will hurt voters in a constituency and so they lobby their member of Congress to protect their work.

In retrospect Clinton failed to provide a vision of what the conversion of military facilities to peaceful uses would entail. For example, all military contracts should contain a provision requiring the contractor to have alternative plans to cope with the ending of a military contract and the redeployment of the workers to peaceful purposes.

In my second PhD, I looked at the need for the creation of a "Peace-Industrial Complex". There is not a lack of ideas for disarmament – but a lack of political will. The creation of a Peace-Industrial Complex would be a way of generating political will.


Money is important for the shaping of US politics and so perhaps that same reasoning could be applied to ending the arms race: corporations could use their influence in the interests of peace.

Only a handful of companies make money out of war. Many more benefit from peace (such as health, law, education, tourism, and fast food outlets).

For example: Joan Kroc (1928-2003), the widow of the McDonald's CEO Ray Kroc gave US$50million for the University of Notre Dame for the Joan B Kroc Institute for Peace Studies. Her argument was that in the event of World War III there would not be a market for fast food.

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About the Author

Dr Keith Suter is a futurist, thought leader and media personality in the areas of social policy and foreign affairs. He is a prolific and well-respected writer and social commentator appearing on radio and television most weeks.

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