Military-industrial complex

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The term military-industrial complex (MIK) is used in socio-critical analyzes to describe the close cooperation and mutual relationships between politicians , representatives of the military and representatives of the armaments industry. In the US , think tanks such as PNAC are seen as a possible additional stakeholder group.

Coining of the term

The concept of a military-industrial complex was coined in 1956 by the American sociologist Charles Wright Mills under the title The Power Elite (German: "The American Elite: Society and Power in the United States"). Mills describes the close interests between the military, business and political elites in America after the Second World War . The 9th chapter "The Military Ascendancy" is particularly relevant. Mills does not use the term “military-industrial complex”. He speaks of the "military establishment". Mills saw it as a serious threat to the democratic state structure and a risk for military conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union. In criticizing the military's influence on science and research, Mills cites, among other things, the example that Eisenhower, as ex-general, was director of Columbia University . Eisenhower, of all people, later took up Mills' criticism and coined the term military-industrial complex:

The term gained popularity through the US President Dwight D. Eisenhower , who in his farewell speech on January 17, 1961 expressly warned of the interdependencies and influences of the military-industrial complex in the USA. Eisenhower, who himself had once been Chief of Staff of the Army , like Mills saw the military-industrial complex as a danger to democratic institutions and democracy. The effect of this complex on jobs and economic power could induce the political leadership to want to resolve conflicts more militarily than politically and thus act as an extended arm of the arms industry lobby:

Excerpt from Eisenhower's notes on his farewell speech: "military-industrial complex"

“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 in the institutions of government must protect ourselves from unauthorized influence - intentional or unintentional - by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the catastrophic increase in misdirected forces is there and will continue to exist. We must never allow the power of this combination to endanger our freedoms or our democratic processes. We shouldn't take anything for granted. Only vigilant and informed citizens can force the gigantic industrial and military defense machinery to be properly networked with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and freedom can grow and flourish together. "

The Americanist Michael Butter interprets this speech as the end of the long tradition of conspiracy theory in the United States since George Washington's Farewell Address of 1796, in which such suspicions against conspiracies and subversions were part of the mainstream discourse. Numerous conspiracy theorists subsequently referred to Eisenhower's speech. Oliver Stone's film JFK - Crime Scene Dallas , which suggests that John F. Kennedy was the victim of a conspiracy , begins with this.

According to the Pulitzer Prize winners Donald L. Bartlett and James B. Steele, this tendency has increased in the USA due to the constant pressure for the "small" government, since now originally government activities such as military research and weapons development are outsourced by companies, so-called " body " Shops “need to be delivered. Using the example of SAIC ( Science Applications International Corporation , today Leidos ), they show the interdependence of companies and government and warn of the increase in uncontrollable activity.

Features and characteristics

A military-industrial complex is used when there are phenomena of this kind in a society:

  • Pronounced lobbying work by representatives of the military industry,
  • numerous personal contacts between representatives of the military, industry and politics,
  • Intensive exchange of personnel between management positions in the military, business and state administration, especially when representatives of the military or politics move to significantly better paid positions in this industry,
  • intensive research in the field of innovative weapon systems, supported by government contracts,
  • targeted influencing of democratic control bodies and public opinion through an excessive security ideology.

Military-industrial complex in other countries


The term found regular use in letters of responsibility from the RAF . For example, the RAF command " Ingrid Schubert " claimed responsibility for an assassination attempt and justified the murder of Gerold von Braunmühl by saying, among other things, that he was a "representative of the military-industrial complex".


After the Second World War, France operated a complex and expensive nuclear program and built up the Force de frappe . For this purpose, some nuclear reactors and enrichment plants were built. After this armaments project was completed, this sector and the associated ministerial bureaucracy looked for new tasks and found them in the nuclear industry , i.e. in the construction and operation of nuclear power plants (see nuclear energy in France ).

Soviet Union / Russia

So far, little studied, but darlegbar various examples, there was in the Soviet Union respectively. there are similar intensive structures in Russia between the military, politics, science and economy. The best known in this context are the overlaps between space research and rocket development (see: Moscow Institute for Thermal Engineering or Makeyev State Missile Center ) as well as various institutions concerned with biological warfare (see: Biopreparat ). According to analysts, Russia's former defense minister Anatoly Eduardowitsch Serdyukov was also dismissed in 2012 because he had tried to restrict the power of the arms companies.

South Africa

The largely isolated foreign policy and thus also economically isolated situation of South Africa during apartheid mainly due to UN sanctions in connection with its own hegemony efforts in southern Africa had triggered a policy in favor of the country's military-political and technical self-sufficiency that lasted for decades . This situation led to extensive research and testing work in the field of weapons and defense technology on the initiative of South African government agencies, whose requirements were implemented in a diverse and mostly state-owned armaments industry. It all began in 1954 with the establishment of the National Institute for Defense Research . Examples of outstanding results in this sector are the acquisition of operational nuclear weapons (Y-plant in Pelindaba ) together with the RSA-3 intercontinental ballistic missile , the G5 howitzer , the Rooivalk attack helicopter and the Project Coast . According to the bodies involved in the Ministry of Defense, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and the state-owned arms complex Armscor founded in 1968 (later transfers to the state-owned company Denel ) were the leading institutions in this development.

In 1979, the former Prime Minister and Defense Minister Pieter Willem Botha described his government's armament policy as follows:

“What we cannot manufacture in South Africa, we still source from outside. As long as we have the necessary money, we will always find sources of supply. "

- Pieter Willem Botha : Le Monde Diplomatique, Jg. 1979, No. 10, p. 19, quoted in Ronald Meinardus: Die Afrikapolitk der Republik South Africa. (= ISSA scientific series. 15). Southern Africa Information Center, Bonn 1981, p. 382

The aim of the military-industrial complex in South Africa was and is not only to supply its own needs for armaments, but also to export them. Armscor exported South African armaments to 23 countries in the late 1980s.


In Egypt, depending on the estimate, 5 to 40 percent of the economy is under the control of the military.


The historian John Lewis Gaddis , whose research focuses on the Cold War, criticizes several substantive requirements of the concept of the military-industrial complex. In his article The Long Peace - Elements of Stability in the Postwar International System, in which he examines the absence of a Third World War , he notes that the historical idea of ​​the thesis is based on the Leninist-oriented, monopoly capitalist concept of imperialism . Gaddis sees the term primarily at odds with the US budget. On the one hand, the defense budget of the United States under Harry S. Truman was low between 1945 and 1950, on the other hand, at the time of the Vietnam War under Lyndon B. Johnson, extensive social policy measures were implemented at the expense of the defense budget. Furthermore, the existence of such a military-industrial complex in itself does not necessarily indicate an imperialist motivation, since conventional and nuclear deterrence would represent a sufficient right to exist for the military alike . Furthermore, Gaddis points to a network of similar institutions in the Soviet Union that had been examined rather sporadically up until then.

The documentary Why We Fight , produced in 2005, applies the term to the involvement of the United States in the 2001 war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq .


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Charles Wright Mills: The Power Elite. New York 1956, p. 219 (German: The American Elite: Society and Power in the United States. Holsten, Hamburg 1962)
  2. ^ A b c Donald L. Barlett, James B. Steele: Washington's $ 8 Billion Shadow. In: Vanity Fair. March 2007.
  3. Frida Berrigan; The Military-Industrial Complex: How to Investigate Company Relationships. In: The Broken Gun. September 2005, No. 67; Retrieved June 29, 2009
  4. Michael Butter: Plots, designs, and schemes. American conspiracy theories from the Puritans to the present. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / Boston 2014, ISBN 978-3-110-30759-7 , p. 64 ff. (Accessed via De Gruyter Online).
  5. The victims of the RAF. Materials from the Federal Agency for Civic Education
  6. De Gaulle's legacy is liquidated. In: The time . No. 17/1971.
  7. Intrigue swirls around Russia defense chief's fall. In: Washington Times . November 6, 2012; "Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, told The Associated Press that Serdyukov's moves to" replace the very foundation of the Russian military system "won him powerful enemies."
  8. ^ SAIRR : A Survey of Race Relations in South Africa 1968. Johannesburg 1969, p. 38.
  9. SAIRR: A Survey of Race Relations in South Africa 1977. Johannesburg 1978, pp. 86-87.
  10. ^ SAIRR: Survey of Race Relations in South Africa 1982. Johannesburg 1983, pp. 199-200.
  11. ^ Graeme Simpson: The Politics and Economics of the Armaments Industry in South Africa. In: J. Cock, L. Nathan (Eds.): War and Society. David Philip, Cape Town, Johannesburg 1989, pp. 217-231. online at (English)
  12. The Economy of the Generals. In: time online . 18th July 2013.
  13. ^ John Lewis Gaddis: The Long Peace - Elements of Stability in the Postwar International System. In: International Security . Vol. 10, No. 4, 1985, p. 117.