Joe Biden’s campaign message focused almost entirely on Donald Trump, and on Biden’s supposed ability to “unify” a polarized electorate and “restore the soul of America.” Since he claimed victory last week, Biden’s prospective administration has begun to take shape, and the reality behind the rhetoric has started to emerge.
On matters of defense, restoring America’s “soul” apparently means placing weapons manufacturers back in charge of the Pentagon.
Biden announced his Department of Defense landing team on Tuesday. Of these 23 policy experts, one third have taken funding from arms manufacturers, according to a report published this week by Antiwar.com.
A knot of hawks
Leading the team is Kathleen Hicks, an undersecretary of defense in the Obama administration, and an employee of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a think tank funded by a host of NATO governments, oil firms, and weapons makers Northrop Grumman, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and General Atomics. The latter firm produces the Predator drones used by the Obama administration to kill hundreds of civilians in at least four Middle-Eastern countries.
Hicks was a vocal opponent of President Donald Trump’s plan to withdraw a number of US troops from Germany, claiming in August that such a move “benefits our adversaries.”
Two other members of Biden’s Pentagon team, Andrew Hunter and Melissa Dalton, work for CSIS and served under Obama in the Defense Department.
Also on the team are Susanna Blume and Ely Ratner, who work for the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). Another hawkish think-tank, CNAS is funded by Google, Facebook, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin. Three more team members – Stacie Pettyjohn, Christine Wormuth and Terri Tanielian – were most recently employed by the RAND corporation, which draws funding from the US military, NATO, several Gulf states, and hundreds of state and corporate sources.
Michele Flournoy is widely tipped to lead the Pentagon under Biden. Flournoy would be the first woman in history to head the Defense Department, but her appointment would only be revolutionary on the surface. Flournoy is the co-founder of CNAS, and served in the Pentagon under Obama and Bill Clinton. As under secretary of defense for policy under Obama, Flournoy helped craft the 2010 troop surge in Afghanistan, a deployment of 100,000 US troops that led to a doubling in American deaths and made little measurable progress toward ending the war.
‘Forever war’ returns
President Trump, who campaigned on stopping the US’ “forever wars” in the Middle East and remains the first US president in 40 years not to start a new conflict, has nevertheless also staffed the Pentagon with hawkish officials. Recently ousted Defense Secretary Mark Esper was a top lobbyist for Raytheon, while his predecessor, Patrick Shanahan, worked for Boeing. Trump’s appointment this week of National Counterterrorism Center Director Christopher Miller as acting secretary of defense, coupled with combat veteran Col. Douglas MacGregor as senior adviser, looked set to buck that trend, given MacGregor’s vocal opposition to America’s Middle Eastern wars.
Yet Miller and MacGregor may not be in office for long, if Trump’s legal challenges against Biden’s apparent victory fail. Should that happen, Biden’s progressive voters may be in for a rude reawakening when the former vice president returns to the White House.
Many of these progressives were supporters of Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primaries, while others likely held their nose and voted for Biden out of opposition to Trump. Reps. Barbara Lee (California) and Mark Pocan (Wisconsin), two notable progressives, wrote to Biden on Tuesday asking him not to nominate a defense secretary linked to the weapons industry.
Lee and Pocan cited President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s 1961 farewell address, in which he warned of the “disastrous rise” of the “military-industrial complex.”
Given Biden’s fondness for Flournoy, whom he tapped in 2016 to head the Pentagon under a potential Hillary Clinton administration, the former vice president appears unconcerned about curtailing the influence of the armaments industry.
The industry apparently roots for Joe, too. As Donald Trump surged ahead of Biden on election night, stocks in Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, and the Carlyle Group all plummeted. Only when counting in swing states stopped and resumed, giving Biden the advantage, did they climb again.
It’s probably fine that all the big arms contractor stocks plummeted when it looked like Trump won but then skyrocketed once it became clear Biden would be the one to take office. pic.twitter.com/CKEZNS53Gx
— Hillary Fan (@HillaryFan420) November 7, 2020
Should a Biden administration make good on running mate Kamala Harris’ post-election promise to return to regime-change operations in Syria, these firms and their supporters in the Pentagon stand to make a killing.
However, anti-war leftists, progressives, and Bernie Sanders supporters may soon realize that voting for a Democrat who supported the Iraq War, instead of a Republican who called it“the worst single mistake ever made in the history of our country,” might just benefit the military-industrial complex more than the “soul of America.”
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