Military-Industrial Complex as a force for good? Since when?


Josy Joseph argues in the Times of India (ToI) article “Farewell to foreign arms?” that India would benefit from a Military-Industrial Complex (MIC) as a “force for good”. Joseph’s argument is that our reliance on foreign powers for adequate military fire power is hurting us in two ways: (a) its draining our economy, and (b) it could be our Achilles heel. The proposal is to establish a MIC to enforce self-sufficiency in weapon production.

While the end (self-sufficiency in weapon production) is justifiable, the means (a MIC) is not.  Where do I even begin my arguments! There are so many. Let me try and coalesce them down to a few key ones.

First, there is Eisenhower who warned the US against the MIC in his famous farwell address where he said, “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 defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

We all know how well that warning was heeded to! The US has since become a country that has perpetuated conflict in various parts of the world since world war II, sometimes even to the detriment of its own citizens and soldiers, to ensure that the output of the MIC is sufficiently consumed and adequate profits are generated.

In the ToI article, Joseph argues that the MIC can be used as a force for good, but doesn’t really elaborate on how to ensure that we do not end up with a USA style MIC.

Of course, there are one who argue that the MIC build by the US is something we should strive for.  Let me assure you that its a bad idea!

For starts, the MIC is not working well for the people of USA to begin with; it is ruining their economy. US can afford its MIC because it does not have enemies in its backyard, and any weapons it sells is very unlikely to find its way back to the US mainland. But India shares its border with two enemies (Pakistan and China), and considering the volatility in Pakistan, it will be very difficult to ensure that any arms that India exports will not find its way into Pakistan or China only to be used to against India.

How about India not export its arms? Well, then to keep the MIC active, and hence profitable, India will be forced to engage in a perpetual armed conflict (be it an all out war or low intensity combats) to avoid the dismantling of its MIC by natural economic forces of demand and supply. So any way you look at it, an MIC will only hasten a war with India.

Of course, all my arguments are underpinned on the assumption that the MIC is a private entity whose primary goal is profit. What if India establishes a public-sector based MIC. Unfortunately, Joseph’s own assessment of India’s public sector undertaking DRDO makes a disastrous prediction for the prospects of such an enterprise. Furthermore, India’s abysmal ranking as the 76th most corrupt nation is not lending any confidence to a public-sector based MIC actually producing sufficient weapons in quanity and quality to defend the country in the first place!

So yeah, I have to strongly disagree to the notion of a MIC in India (or anywhere for that matter). Nothing good has come off of MIC so far, and nothing ever will. It is a systemically flawed concept of national security. MIC like any other institution only serves its own self-preservation, and that inevitably involves a perpetual state of war.


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