The History of the Culture of War
5. The military-industrial complex 5,000 years of increasing monopolization of the culture of war by the state

The History of the Culture of War

What is culture and how does it evolve?

Warfare in prehistory and its usefulness

The culture of war in prehistory

Data from prehistory before the Neolithic

Enemy images: culture or biology

War and the culture of war at the dawn of history

--Ancient Mesopotamia

--Ancient Egypt

--Ancient China

--Ancient Greece and Rome

--Ancient Crete

--Ancient Indus civilizations

--Ancient Hebrew civilization

--Ancient Central American civilization

Warfare and the origin of the State

Religion and the origin of the State

A summary of the culture of war at the dawn of history

The internal culture of war: a taboo topic

The evolution of the culture of war over the past 5,000 years: its increasing monopolization by the state

--1.Armies and armaments

--2.External conquest and exploitation: Colonialism and Neocolonialism

--3.The internal culture of war and economies based on exploitation of workers and the environment

--4.Prisons and penal systems

--5.The military-industrial complex

--6.The drugs-for-guns trade

--7.Authoritarian control

--8.Control of information

--9.Identification of an "enemy"

--10.Education for the culture of war

--11.Male domination

--12.Religion and the culture of war

--13.The arts and the culture of war



Summary of the history of the culture of war


Over the past century, state militarism has been greatly expanded and strengthened by its alliance with a major branch of industry, the military-industrial complex. As military expenditures have increased, the military-industrial complex has become engaged with the state as a powerful lobby for the maintenance and strengthening of military force and the culture of war that goes with it.

In the United States it has become such an integral part of government that it has come to be called the "military-industrial-congressional complex". A particularly authoritative description comes from Chuck Spinney who worked in the U.S. Department of Defense Office of Program Analysis and Evaluation and who made a report in 1982 on the procurement of complex and expensive weapon systems. In the following extract from a television interview by the American journalist Bill Moyers (2002), he explains how Congressmen build their political power base by increasing military production in their home districts:

"SPINNEY: [The military-industrial-congressional complex] is the product of a long-term evolution that occurred in the 40 years of Cold War. If you think about it those 40 years were a very unique period in our nation's history. Now what happened was during that period the different players in the military industrial Congressional complex basically fine-tuned their bureaucratic behavior to exist in that environment . . "

"MOYERS: Tell me how members of Congress benefit from increasing costs like this, driving weapons systems that the country doesn't need, spending money that puts us deeper and deeper in deficit. How does Congress gain?

SPINNEY: They gain because they get money flowing to their Congressional districts. It's in the way Congress gains from controlling the federal budget. They get money flowing to the districts, that helps build your power bases."

There is a particular irony about the history of the term, "military-industrial complex". It was made famous by the farewell speech of American President Dwight Eisenhower in 1961. The speech was written by Eisenhower's speechwriter Malcolm Moos who, earlier that year had prepared a memo for the President stating that the top hundred defense contractors employed 1,400 retired military officers and that "For the first time in its history, the United States has a permanent war-based industry." According to one account, Eisenhower looked at the draft of his farewell speech and told Moos that he disagreed with it, demanding that he write another kind of speech. After all, Eisenhower's fame came from his career as a military general in charge of Allied forces in World War II. But all of the other Presidential staff members had left since it was the end of his Presidency, and they had taken jobs (guess where!) with the military industry. So when Moos refused to write a different speech, Eisenhower had no other speechwriter to turn to. Unable to write his own speech, Eisenhower had to read the one written by Moos. Moos had been an academic and professor prior to the Eisenhower years, and later he became the President of the University of Minnesota.

Back in the 1980's it was my opinion that the Soviet Union did not have a military-industrial complex, but subsequent revelations showed that this was mistaken. Its existence became evident when Gorbachev attempted to convert military industry to civilian production as a way to avoid the impending crash of the Soviet economy. As explained at a briefing at the United Nations, November 1, 1990 by Ednan Agaev, head of the Division of International Security Issues, Department of International Organization of the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Defense refused to provide the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with any information about defense industrial plants. When Agaev reported this to Gorbachev, he was told that there was nothing that could be done about it.

As Spinney describes above in the Moyer interview, the military-industrial-congressional complex has become a driving force for the culture of war in and of itself, as it has come to provide the power base for the political leadership in the United States and perhaps other countries as well. In this sense, one needs to add this "use" for the culture of war to the other uses that have persisted since the dawn of civilization: conquest, defense and internal control.

The military-industrial complex has reinforced the culture of war in smaller countries as well. Even the European countries of the Netherlands, Sweden and Italy are among the major exporters of armaments, ranking ahead of China. Putting "Sweden" and "military-industrial complex" into an Internet search engine revealed the following section of an article entitled Democracy and Globalization in which Professor Lars Ingelstam (2000), Institute for TEMA, Linköping University, Sweden explained how the Swedish government supports military spending as an essential component of the national economy:

". . a recent Swedish public inquiry on information technology found that the market for high technology within the defence sector was likely to decline. But instead of noting that probable development plainly and, one would have thought, with a degree of satisfaction that it was linked to a reduced risk of war, the commission expressed concern that the resulting 'loss of competence . . will create problems for related production in such areas as civil aeronautics, high-speed electronics, advanced MMI and control systems, etc.,'

The commission concluded that it was necessary for the government to guarantee an annual purchase-volume of at least one billion Swedish kronor for affected industries."

To take part in a discussion about this page, click below on the Culture of Peace Dialogues:

discussion board
World Peace through the Town Hall


1) The difference between "peace" and "culture of peace" and a brief history of the culture of war

2) The role of the individual in culture of war and culture of peace

3) Why the state cannot create a culture of peace

4) The important role of civil society in creating a culture of peace

--Peace and disarmament movements

--Ecology movement

--Movements for human rights

--Democracy movements

--Women's movement

--International understanding, tolerance and solidarity

--Movements for free flow of information

--The strengths and weaknesses of civil society

5) The basic and essential role of local government in culture of peace

--Sustainable development

--Human rights

--Democratic participation

--Women's equality


--Transparency and the free flow of information

--Education for a culture of peace

--Security and public safety

--Some ongoing initiatives

6) Assessing progress toward a culture of peace at the local level

--Culture of peace measurement at the level of the state

7) Going global: networking of city culture of peace commissions

8) The future transition of the United Nations from control by states to popular control through local governmental representatives

9) What would a culture of peace be like?