After years of repeatedly condemning America’s involvement in Afghanistan, President Trump announced his intention this week to ramp up military operations there.
Though Barack Obama adopted the exact same policy shortly after taking office in 2009, imposing a 30,000 troop surge to no avail, Trump is following the same failed path.
Despite the president’s repeated vows to “win,” there is little victory for soldiers who have suffered multiple tours of duty, Afghani civilians who have endured occupation and abuse from the U.S. military and other terrorist factions (whose influence is a result of failed American foreign policy), and the American people, who have poured billions of dollars into the United States’ longest war only to find terrorist groups have flourished.
So who is actually winning? It should come as no surprise that defense stocks surged on Tuesday amid the news of Trump’s own surge.
“Northrop Grumman stock rose 1 percent, while Lockheed Martin and Boeing advanced more than 0.7 percent. Boeing and Northrop were also awarded contracts for intercontinental ballistic missile system replacements.”
Those IBCM contracts are worth over $300 million each, making it clear why defense stocks rally when war is imminent.
The three companies enjoying stock market gains have found riches in American militarism for decades, living off the taxpayer and the United States’ longstanding obsession with violently policing the world.
Despite the president’s previous calls to cut wasteful spending in government, the Pentagon he continues to prop up is one of the worst perpetrators of inefficiency and careless expenditures, which can be traced back to its heavy reliance on contractors. As the Harvard Political Review summarized:
“Reports from the Inspector Generals’ offices of Iraq and Afghanistan estimate that the U.S. military has lost $60 billion to waste and fraud in Iraq, $100 billion to Afghan reconstruction efforts, and billions more in wasted equipment either burned or left behind after the withdrawal of forces. Part of the problem may be that the Pentagon has 1.7 million contracts open, which makes oversight difficult, if not impossible.”
In one specific example of fraud and waste, Reuters reported last August that the U.S. Army had deceitfully manipulated their books. “The Defense Department’s Inspector General, in a June report, said the Army made $2.8 trillion in wrongful adjustments to accounting entries in one quarter alone in 2015, and $6.5 trillion for the year,” the outlet explained.
Further, considering the president routinely decried special interests in D.C. and vowed to drain the swamp, his decision to perpetuate an industry dependent on government spending demonstrates his lack of sincerity.
The Harvard Political Review noted in 2016 that the defense industry is the 8th largest lobby in the country, spending over $100 million per year. “Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Honeywell International, and Northrop Grumman are among the top spenders.”
Despite the corruption, special interests, and revolving doors built into the foundation of America’s military-industrial complex, those who perpetrate it continue to profit off of ill-fated wars with no end in sight.
In June, Fortune noted the likelihood that defense stocks would increase in value amid the reign of President Trump. This is predictable considering he quickly ramped up wars and his administration has advocated nation-building despite his general contention during the election campaign that the failed practice was unwise.
“Boeing has seen its stock rise 31% since the presidential election,” Fortune noted.
“The S&P 500 aerospace and defense index is up more than 21% over the same span, nearly double the returns of the broader market. Now investors believe that Trump could be the best thing to happen to the sector in years, with the Commander-in-Chief promising ‘historic’ increases in U.S. defense spending (which has declined 17%, to $585 billion, since its peak in 2011) and an enormous expansion of the U.S. Navy to 350 ships, up from the current 275.”
“We’re in the early innings of a defense up cycle,” said Jason Adams, an aerospace and defense analyst at T. Rowe Price, Fortune reported.
While defense contractors continue to profit and “win,” the nation at large continues to lose (in one example, defense companies earn big off of arms deals with countries like Saudi Arabia, which is implicated in the growth and funding of ISIS). As former general and President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned when he left office:
“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.”
Nearly sixty years later, his warnings have gone entirely unheeded.
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