The Pentagon Dropped $4.4 Trillion to Pay Off Defense Contractors Since 9/11

Neoconservatives love to say “freedom isn’t free.” Well, the missionary military ventures that they prosecute sure aren’t free. And they definitely don’t come cheap.

Brown University’s Cost of War Project published a new report on September 13, 2021 that highlighted defense spending in the aftermath of 9/11. In this study it was revealed that the Pentagon spent over $14 trillion ever since the war in Afghanistan kicked off. Even more shocking was the amount of money that went to private military contractors.

Dave DeCamp of Antiwar.com noted that “one-third to one-half [of the defense spending] went to private military contractors.” The report was authored by William Hartuhg of the Center for International Policy and it highlighted how $4.4 trillion of total spending was allocated towards weapons procurement and research and development. According to DeCamp, such an allocation of funds “directly benefits corporate military contractors.”

Of the $4.4 trillion doled out to contractors, the leading US weapons manufacturers — Boeing, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon — received $2.2 trillion. DeCamp put these shocking numbers in perspective by noting that in the 2020 fiscal year, Lockheed Martin received $75 billion in contracts from the Defense Department, which far exceeded the combined budgets for the State Department and USAID in that same year ($44 billion). 

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Private contractors have traditionally been used as mercenaries in the battlefield. Blackwater is the most notorious mercenary organization that the Pentagon has turned to in the last few decades. Blackwater was placed under the microscope in 2007 after its employees slaughtered 17 people in Iraq’s Nisour Square. 

Given how inefficient the state is, the Pentagon has routinely turned to private contractors to complete basic tasks in the US conflict zones. The Pentagon’s reliance on contractors is quite striking. Over the past few years, Washington has scaled back its presence in Afghanistan despite liberal and neocon interventionists’ attempts to keep troops stationed there indefinitely. However, towards the end of the Trump administration, when 2,500 troops were stationed in Afghanistan, 18,000 Pentagon contractors were still present in the country. 

,According to the report, China is the new justification for the U.S. government’s increase in military spending. 

“The most likely impact of the shift towards China will be to further tighten the grip of major weapons makers like Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, and Raytheon Technologies on the Pentagon budget,” the Brown University report detailed. 

Private contractors are likely here to stay with how broad U.S. foreign policy priorities have become. They will prove useful for counter-terrorism efforts in Africa, where countries’ state capacities are weak, hence the prevalence of Islamist militant groups trying to fill numerous power vacuums. Contractors and special forces units tend to be most suitable for conducting operations against non-state militant groups.

Regardless if these ventures are state-promoted or private, they are misguided because these types of interventions do not uphold American interests. In reality, private contractors could be useful for taming cartels and other criminal entities in Mexico and Central America. These types of endeavors don’t require nation-building operations nor are they state-on-state-on conflicts. Contractors’ sleek business models jive well with missions that involve fighting cartels and similar criminal organizations.

Though we need a totally different ruling class to reach such a point where we can have new discussions about America’s role on the world stage. The present set of foreign policy doyens are more concerned of getting involved in conflicts that are outside of the U.S.’s traditional sphere of influence and do not uphold any pressing national interest. 

As long as this cabal remains in power, we can only expect more graft and foreign policy corruption much to America’s detriment.

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