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Little Paper: Sundowner and the dark side of the defense industry

During the journey of Raiden in Metal Gear Rising Revengeance, our hero will face one of the warmonger’s enemy bosses of the game: Sundowner. He is very proud of that. Nevertheless, he also has a vision of war which is not focused mainly on the soldier but also on other war-sustaining variables like the economy. This holistic approach is interesting because it is a representation of the dark side of the defense industry.

To understand this tough side of the industry, the article will explain some unethical and/or criminal practices that this industry is known to engage in revolving door, bribery, kick-backing, etc.

To recall some information collected by the senator Elizabeth Warren in 2022(1), the report addresses the fact that major US defense industries have 672 former public agents on their sides, who advocate for them within/in the US administration, such as lobbyists(2). In term of the revolving door’s, we have the case of Dick Cheney, former secretary of defense during George HW Bush administration who became Halliburton’s CEO and overcharged services for US forces during interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan(3). Moreover, some of these projects botched works, thus causing risk(4) and unfortunately death to soldiers(5). This statement illustrates the ethical problem that poeple are facing with, due to unregulated code of conduct. Furthermore, it encourages people to use their clout to develop a rigged competition at the expense of small defense industry companies beside the fact that the Pentagon has a monopsony and the post-cold war US military budget policy has for years been characterized by the principle of consolidation which manages budget cut without decreasing quality, thus maintaining only bigger and/or historical companies(6).

Another issue to consider is the donation by those companies to defense oriented think tanks to influence politicians or to sell their products by another means. That, it was the case for the war in Afghanistan. On 21 September 2021, US forces operating in Afghanistan withdrew from this country after 20 years of intervention against Taliban… A conflict where 2000 US soldiers died. However, the US defense industries profited from this war with 2 trillion $ in revenue and thanks, above all, to the lobbying effort of concerned industries and their proxies to postpone the withdrawal(7). This postponement was further influenced via defense industry contracts with the Pentagon and US government subsidies. The Interceptor highlighted the manoeuvre of United Arab Emirates in financing the think tank Middle East Institute with a proxy in order to lobby for a continuation of sending weapons to Abu Dhabi(8). The In These Times did a focus on Lockheed Martin and the think tank Heritage legacy and how both want to undermine climate change policy and regulation of the current US administration(9).

In term of kick-backs, this trick concerns an amount of money for the middle-man which is deviated to an unknown beneficiary and this money is generally used for bribery or embezzlement. The defense industries are not far from those unethical behaviors. We can going back to the 1980s, when this problem was acknowledged(10). In addition, there is the case of British Aerospace with kick backing of Saudi officials(11); the case of Airbus with Libya and Kazakhstan(12); the case of insider trading between Dassault and both Belgian socialist parties during the late 80’s(13), etc.

In conclusion, we can see that the defense industry is also shaped by unpleasant realities such as criminal behavior and the use of loopholes to make profit at the charges of the taxpayers because Defense Ministries have monopsony in the defense market. A political atmosphere where the lack of transparency of the payment is prominent or the unregulated practice of revolving door which shrinks the world into a “constant war” mentality therefore to give war a chance(14)… the dream of Sundowner.

Footnotes:

  1. Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel, Pentagon Alchemy: How Defense Officials Pass Through the Revolving Door and Peddle Brass for Gold, by Senator Elizabeth Warren, Washington D.C, April 2023, (accessed December 2023) https://www.warren.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/DoD%20Revolving%20Door%20Report.pdf
  2. Ibid., 3-8
  3. William D. Hartung, “Profits of War: Corporate Beneficiaries of the post-9/11 Pentagon Spending Surge”, Center of International Policy, (September 2021): 6-11, https://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/files/cow/imce/papers/2021/Profits%20of%20War_Hartung_Costs%20of%20War_Sept%2013%2C%202021.pdf
  4. Ibid., 7
  5. Ibid., 8
  6. Congressional Research Service, The U.S. Defense Industrial Base: Background and Issues for Congress, by Luke A. Nicastro, Washington D.C, October 2023: 28-29 (accessed December 2023) https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/R/R47751
  7. Eli Clifton, ”Top defense firms spend $1B on lobbying during Afghan war, see $2T return”, Responsible Statecraft, September 03, 2021, https://responsiblestatecraft.org/ukraine-russia-talks/
  8. Alex Emmons, “Weapons money intended for economic development being secretly diverted to lobbying”, The Intercept, August 17, 2017, https://theintercept.com/2017/08/17/weapons-money-intended-for-economic-development-being-secretly-diverted-to-lobbying/
  9. Sarah Lazar, “Think Tank Funded by the Weapons Industry Pressures Biden Not To Regulate Military Contractors’ Emissions”, In These Times, November 17, 2021, https://inthesetimes.com/article/heritage-foundation-lockheed-martin-weapons-industry-climate-regulation-biden
  10. Ralph Vartabedian, “Defense Contracts : Kickbacks: New Growth Industry”, Los Angeles Times, August 9, 1985,https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1985-08-09-mn-2290-story.html
  11. Sam Peerlo-Freeman, “Al Yamamah Arms Deals”, Corruption Tracker, September 3, 2020, https://corruption-tracker.org/case/al-yamamah-arms-deals
  12. Le Parisien avec l’AFP, “Soupçons de corruption : Airbus paie 15,9 millions d’euros d’amende pour éviter des poursuites”, Le Parisien, November 30, 2022, https://www.leparisien.fr/faits-divers/soupcons-de-corruption-airbus-paie-159-millions-deuros-damende-pour-eviter-des-poursuites-30-11-2022-CT5T4WFFGRH3ZGVEJIDIFPXHZ4.php
  13. Michel Dumoulin, “Agusta-Dassault: la Belgique juge ses années corrompues”, Le Temps, September 03, 1998, https://www.letemps.ch/monde/agustadassault-belgique-juge-annees-corrompues
  14. Edward N. Luttwak, “Give war a chance”, Foreign affairs, (July/August, 1999): 36-44. https://peacelearner.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/edward-luttwak-give-war-a-chance1.pdf

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