How has the Military-Industrial Complex effected the culture of America?
Kathryn Lynyak ('08-'09)

In Eisenhower’s farewell speech, he spoke of “an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.” In the decades since his farewell address, the military-industrial complex burrowed deep into society so that now it is the involved in the very founding of cities to serve the monster of war to our vernacular in everyday speech.

Like it or not, California is one of the most militarized states in the Union today. This is party has to do with the fact that California is strategically the furthest state west on the continental US and contained the copious amounts of land necessary for military bases, manufacturing, and weapons housing.
California contains 31 military bases that include 15 Naval Bases, 5 Marine Bases, 2 Coast Guard Bases (one of which being a national training facility), 3 Army Posts, and 6 Air force Bases. Oddly enough, there are slightly more bases located in South California than in the North and a definite majority in weapons housing is located in the South.

  • WHY?
    • One cause of this heavy military investment in Southern California has to do with one thing: Money. During the early years of the Cold War, land prices in the coastal areas of Southern California were not as steep as they are today, making the opening of bases relatively cheaper than in the populated areas of the North.
    • Another reason that so many of these bases were opened or expanded was the need to feel safe. Americans have a tradition of needing to feel safe from harm, regardless of where the threat comes from. Having 5 Marine bases stationed as the last defense against a military invasion from the West certainly helps things.

  • Weapons Housing and Manufacturing:
    • wsu_ms2002-
      Boeing Production
      Aside from the bases, California plays host to the housing and weapon’s manufacturing for the military. One such weapon was the IM-99/CIM-10A/B BOMARC. The BOMARC is a missile that is capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear warheads. Boeing, which has a manufacturing plant in Long Beach, mass-produced these missiles up until the missile’s retirement in the early 1970s.
    • There have also been five nuclear power plants in California from 1957 to present day. The plants that have since been tur
      Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant
      ned off line include the Santa Susana Sodium Reactor Experimental (that suffered a partial core melt down on July 26th 1959), the Vallecitos Nuclear Power Plant (shut down in December 1967), the Humboldt Bay Nuclear Power Plant (retired in 1985), the Rancho Seco Nuclear Power Plant (closed by public referendum on June 7th 1989) and the San Onofre Unit 1 Pressurized Water Reactor (closed November 30th 1992). The operating plants, in Diablo Canyon and San Onofre, are both plants that use nuclear power for energy production and use ocean water for cooling.
Because the military has played a pivotal role in the development of American culture since it’s very foundation, narrowing down the specific effect of the military-industrial complex on American culture is difficult. The three categories that the have been severely effected by the military's influence are video games, television, and music.
  1. Video Games:
    • In what has been labeled as an attempt to brainwash minors into joining the military, the amount of war games currently on the market is astounding. Some of the top rated games include: Call of Duty, Metal of Honor, Brother’s in Arms, Battlefield, and Wolfenstien. These games follow a program of set variables designed by the creators. If you were to include the amount of tactical real-time games available, the list expands: Close Combat, Sudden Strike, Commandoes, Blitzkrieg, Company of Heroes, and Heart of Iron. These games allow for players to fight against one another in real time and to think like a soldier.
    • Those against the violence and military themed video games claim that these programs are used to desensitize the American youth and make the idea of enlistment more appealing. Supporters of these video games argue that 1. It’s a free market, 2. It is a necessary and economical tool because these simulations can be reprogrammed to face multiple challenges, including peacekeeping and disaster relief.
    • These games, although creating EXTREME hypothetical situations for the gamer to tackle, are not that far off from the simulations that the military itself is beginning to use in the training of young recruits. One such simulation incorporates sight and smell, different languages, and an artificial intelligence that reacts to situations in unpredictable ways so as to anticipate all possible responses in real life.

  1. Television:
    • NCIS.jpg98881-large.jpgAmerican’s facination with war and the operations of war has led to a multitude of programming focusing on branches of the military. Such programs are: MASH, JAG, and NCIS, all of which are fictional but have real institutions and events behind key plot lines.
      • These fictional stories help to humanize members of the military as well as depict their struggle on a more personal level.
    • There are also several programs running on National Geographic, the History Channel, and the Discovery Channel that focus specifically on key military battles, personnel, and technology. In addition, the Military Channel, a branch off from the Discovery channel, focuses on twenty-four hour programming of all things military from the building of a new helicopter to the emotional trauma of war.30874_logo.jpg
      • These factual stories not only show the technological advances that the military has contributed to society and the personal struggles of members of the five branches of the military, separate from the machine.

The music industry is split between pro-war and anti-war and Americas cultural identification with the military is evident in music, and music videos, of the 21st century. In prior years, music was used as either a form of protest or a rallying cry for troops. Today, the music industry uses the military themes to enforce the messages of the song or issue.
Today, most of the songs are either in protest to the war or glorifying the soldiers.
  1. Respect for the soldiers:
One thing that the music industry has also done to support the troops is holding concerts either raising money for or for military personnel.

Since the 60's however, the music industry has also been active in political protest against wars and has played a pivotal part in motivating the youth to form political opinions.
Click for Music Video

Click for Music Video
Click for Music Video

The combination of strong lyrics and vivid imagery used in these music videos not only make the connection to the military even stronger. Because of the fact that military industry became a way for many Americans to earn a living, connection to the military also became a way of life. America, founded on the military revolt against our parent nation, has always had a deep respect for our soldiers and for the different branches of the military. We may have opposed a war or politician, but our nation has always acknowledged the sacrifices made my our troops. This cultural identification to our soldier, their work, and the idea that "American's do it better" stems from the fact that subsequent to Eisenhower's warning against the military-industrial complex, many people fled into its embrace because it was familiar and culturally identifiable. The military buildup and common use of modern media only serves to further impress the new cultural identity of Americans as "soldiers."