Read State of War: The Political Economy of American Warfare, 1945-2011 by Paul A.C. Koistinen Online


In his farewell speech, President Dwight Eisenhower famously warned us of the dangers of a military-industrial complex (MIC). In Paul Koistinen's sobering new book, that warning appears to have been both prophetic and largely ignored.As the final volume in his magisterial study of the political economy of American warfare, State of War describes the bipolar world that deveIn his farewell speech, President Dwight Eisenhower famously warned us of the dangers of a military-industrial complex (MIC). In Paul Koistinen's sobering new book, that warning appears to have been both prophetic and largely ignored.As the final volume in his magisterial study of the political economy of American warfare, State of War describes the bipolar world that developed from the rivalry between the U.S. and USSR, showing how seventy years of defense spending have bred a monster that has sunk its claws into the very fabric of American life. Koistinen underscores how during the second half of the twentieth century and well into the twenty-first, the United States for the first time in its history began to maintain large military structures during peacetime. Many factors led to that result: the American economy stood practically alone in a war-ravaged world; the federal government, especially executive authority, was at the pinnacle of its powers; the military accumulated unprecedented influence over national security; and weaponry became much more sophisticated following World War II.Koistinen describes how the rise of the MIC was preceded by a gradual process of institutional adaptation and then supported and reinforced by the willing participation of Big Science and its industrial partners, the broader academic world, and a proliferation of think tanks. He also evaluates the effects of ongoing defense budgets within the context of the nation's economy since the 1950s. Over time, the MIC effectively blocked efforts to reduce expenditures, control the arms race, improve relations with adversaries, or adopt more enlightened policies toward the developing world-all the while manipulating the public on behalf of national security to sustain the warfare state. Now twenty years after the Soviet Union's demise, defense budgets are higher than at any time during the Cold War.As Koistinen observes, more than six decades of militaristic mobilization for stabilizing a turbulent world have firmly entrenched the state of war as a state of mind for our nation. Collectively, his five-volume opus provides an unparalleled analysis of the economics of America's wars from the colonial period to the present, illuminating its impact upon the nation's military campaigns, foreign policy, and domestic life....

Title : State of War: The Political Economy of American Warfare, 1945-2011
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ISBN : 9780700618743
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 313 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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State of War: The Political Economy of American Warfare, 1945-2011 Reviews

  • Paul
    2019-05-09 05:47

    In 1961 in his farewell address to the United States, President Dwight D. Eisenhower left a permanent imprint on the English language when he warned of “the dangers of a ‘military-industrial complex’” (MIC) (p. 7). By the late 1960s, the phrase had become commonplace in anti-war circles, a headline to capture the entrenched institutional forces behind the Vietnam war, and an epithet to use in anger as the casualties continued to pile up. With the publication of State of War, the fifth volume in Paul A.C. Koistinen’s monumental The Political Economy of American Warfare, we now have a resource which moves us from warning, headline and epithet to analysis, explanation and policy prescription. The book is an indispensable guide to understanding U.S. military policy from 1945 to the present. The five volumes together are an extraordinary accomplishment, a survey of the entire history of the United States from colonial times to the present, tracing the emergence of the MIC, or what he elsewhere calls “a national security state, or a warfare state” (p. 220). The book begins with an outline of the analytic framework used in this and the four earlier volumes. He identifies three stages in the political economy of American Warfare, the “preindustrial, transitional, and industrial” corresponding to the “Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and twentieth-century warfare” (p. 2). For each stage Koistinen suggests there are four factors to consider. “(1) economic, or the level of maturity of the economy; (2) political, or the size, strength, and scope of the federal government; (3) military, or the character and structure of the military services and the relationship between them and civilian society and authority; and (4) the state of military technology” (p. 2). Most analyses of the MIC equate its emergence with the Cold War competition between the United States and the Soviet Union. Koistinen sees the Cold War as a factor, but insufficient as an explanation in itself. The competition between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. he identifies, not so much as between two competing social systems, but as a “confrontation between two imperial systems” (p. 8). This is consistent with his earlier work, which has consistently argued that the evolution of the U.S. warfare state has been embedded in the expansionism characteristic of all U.S. history from colonial times, and the imperialism with which it has been identified in the twentieth century, an imperialism with deep economic roots. State of War focuses on the remarkable and unique contours of the U.S. economy, from the Korean War on, where for the first time in its history, the U.S. embarked on a course of development which embedded a massive arms sector as a permanent feature of its political and economic landscape. In the 1950s, this warfare state was possible because of the “overwhelming industrial and financial might of the American economy” which “stood practically alone among damaged and destroyed economies in the war-ravaged world” (p. 8). Crucially, this construction of a warfare state, or military-industrial complex, separated the U.S. qualitatively from other advanced industrial states in the world system. Over the decades, Koistinen argues, this qualitative difference between the U.S. and other advanced states had quantitative effects leading to long-term, secular economic decline. “The multiple trillions of dollars expended for national defense since 1945 have fundamentally impacted the nation’s economy … A corporate financial system that stressed profits over production and defense budgets that drained America’s coffers and its creative talent without strengthening the economy have badly damaged the nation” (pp. 189-190). This secular economic decline has been masked through the creation of enclaves of prosperity based on arms production. Koistinen argues that the price of developing these enclaves – in particular a “gunbelt” concentrated in the South and West of the country – has been the neglect of the old industrial areas in the North and the East. For Koistinen, the emergence of a rust belt in these old industrial areas has been the flip side of the emergence of a gun belt. Further, Koistinen suggests, the development which has happened in the gun belt is inherently unstable. As U.S. economic decline, relative to its competitors, continues, there will be pressure to shift from military production to civilian production. But because “conversion attempts have been abysmal” this transition will be difficult. The industries created through the MIC “are saddled with obsolete and specialized equipment, astronomical overhead costs, and high debt levels”. As a result “most major defense contractors elect to remain under the DOD’s and NASA’s protective wings” (p. 110). Eisenhower warned of the dangers of the MIC. Nixon acknowledged the reality of U.S. decline, a decline Koistinen insists is embedded in the maintenance of a warfare state. Reagan attempted to reverse that decline through a massive new reinforcement of the MIC, partially reversed under Clinton, but then returned to under George W. Bush, who “attempted to reassert an exaggerated and distorted version of the Truman administration’s early Cold War hard line … when the United States no longer had the economic or military might, or perhaps even the will, for worldwide hegemony” (p. 34). The consequences have been predictable and extremely negative. Koistinen reminds us that Eisenhower did not simply warn about an MIC. His speech argued that it went along with a “scientific-technological elite”, surveyed by Koistinen under the headline of “Big Science”. “Think tanks, strategy intellectuals, and academic centers, institutes, and schools devoted to national defense and to area and international studies were the cerebral counterparts of defense contractors” (pp. 162-163). For those of us working in the academy and concerned about the integrity of research and scholarship, his analysis is sobering and thought-provoking.State of War will be a mandatory resource for all future scholarship on the military-industrial complex. The five volumes, together with Professor Koistinen’s many articles on the subject, mean that we now have a definitive library, a resource which can help us understand the political economy of the warfare state and the complex contemporary difficulties created by its many contradictions.[Draft of review, forthcoming in Political and Military Sociology]

  • Mills College Library
    2019-05-07 03:02

    338.47355 K797 2012