The Pentagon Basks in Triumph: The Famed Military-Industrial Complex Has Won, While the Diplomats Have Lost All Clout

By Kampfner, John | New Statesman (1996), April 28, 2003 | Go to article overview

The Pentagon Basks in Triumph: The Famed Military-Industrial Complex Has Won, While the Diplomats Have Lost All Clout


Kampfner, John, New Statesman (1996)


As I wandered along the first floor of the Pentagon, past the portraits of secretaries of defence of yore and the framed newspaper front pages proclaiming America's great military victories, I considered the words of a former president.

It was Dwight D Eisenhower, who warned, in his farewell address of January 1961: "Our military organisation today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime, or indeed by the fighting men of World War II or Korea... This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. We recognise the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. 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."

There is no record of Eisenhower's words in the Pentagon. There is no record of failure. The memory of Vietnam has been excised. Soon pictures of the "liberation" of Baghdad will adorn the walls. For Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, the operator and the brain, there is a sense of total vindication. They have seen off the armchair generals who called into question their military strategy in those few days when progress was slow. And they have seen off their political critics. Their position in the Washington power play is now unchallenged.

To visit the Pentagon, the world's largest office building, is to appreciate what has happened to American politics and to understand Tony Blair's terrible dilemma.

For all Rumsfeld's pre-war misgivings about our Prime Minister, it is a good time to be British. We had telephoned the press office ahead of time to check arrangements. The woman there said at the end of the call: "Just let me tell you, we love your Tony Blair." As I was waiting to be escorted into the building, I bumped into an acquaintance from the American Enterprise Institute, a right-wing think-tank very much in vogue. His party was going in for one of its regular lunches at the Department of Defence. He introduced me to a colleague. "You Brits have been great, except for the BBC," she said. I did not say I was on assignment for the Baghdad Broadcasting Corporation.

There are no frills about the Pentagon. The only acceptable form of self-criticism is the standard of the canteen food. By way of "improvement", a new contract has been signed with McDonald's, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell to open restaurants within the complex to feed its 23,000 employees. …

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