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Lockheed Martin Meddles in Nation Building

March 31, 2010

I saw Avatar, the famous new James Cameron movie, with a bunch of other FCNL interns back in January. My brain must be conditioned by my work on the peaceful prevention of deadly conflict program because I couldn’t stop thinking about how the movie perfectly illustrated the problem with blurring lines between civilians and military. For those who have not seen the movie, the basic plot revolves around an ex-marine who travels to a newly discovered world charged with learning about the culture of the “natives.” A big company wants a powerful natural resource buried directly below the native people’s village and while the military drills elsewhere on the planet the company has decided to let the civilian scientists and anthropologists try to peacefully convince the natives to leave. Except all along it is clear that the military controls the situation, has more resources, and will ultimately get what they want by any means necessary.

I couldn’t stop thinking about how this futuristic world, while exaggerated, is a fair depiction of dynamics that already exist within the U.S. government. However, I was willing to try and push my FCNL brain aside in order to enjoy the movie.

Recently, I saw this Wall Street Journal article, which reinvigorated my anger and nausea over the creeping militarization of the civilian side of the government. Defense Secretary Gates and Secretary of State Clinton have long been talking about “smart power,” a concept based on the premise that all branches of the U.S. government should work together to achieve national interests. That sounds good, and in theory I am supportive of more coordination within the government, but not if that means that diplomacy and development become subservient to military interests. And let’s be honest, the military is the biggest kid on the block with a tendency to bully.

So, when I read that defense contractors like Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grummon Corp are looking to expand their businesses into activities like training Liberian prosecutors and Senagalese peacekeepers my stomach turned. These are civilian activities that should be conducted by civilians, not the military. As those lines blur it will become harder and harder to distinguish the proper roles and easier and easier for the military to control everything. Development dollars should be spent to alleviate poverty, bolster weak governments, help countries adapt to the effects of global warming, and prevent and mitigate violent conflict. They should not be used to line the pockets of the same companies who have long influenced the U.S. government to overspend on the military in the first place.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Steven Aldrich permalink
    April 11, 2010 4:20 pm

    While concerns about the increasing dominance of the military in shaping international policy are very valid, in the movie Avatar the military (was it a mercenary force?) or, more specifically, its officers, was and were subservient to corporate executives intent on exploiting the planet’s resources to increase their professional standing by increasing corporate profits.

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