Reprinted from Bracing Views with the author’s permission.
In my eclectic reading, I came across a couple of references to ChatGPT, an experiment in artificial intelligence (AI). You ask the AI bot a question, or give it a task, and it spits out an answer, and I must say a pretty good one judging from the task I gave it.
My task to the AI bot: “Write a critical essay on the military-industrial complex.” Here’s what it generated:
The military-industrial complex refers to the relationship between a country’s military and the defense industry that supplies it, seen together as a vested interest which influences public policy. This relationship has been a source of concern for many people, who argue that it can lead to an unnecessary expansion of military budgets and an over-reliance on military solutions to problems.
One of the main criticisms of the military-industrial complex is that it can result in the waste of taxpayer money. Military contracts are often given to a select group of companies, which can result in overcharging for goods and services. Additionally, the military often purchases weapons and equipment that are unnecessary or not well-suited for the tasks at hand. This can lead to a tremendous amount of waste and inefficiency, as resources are poured into projects that do not provide much value.
Another concern is that the military-industrial complex can distort foreign policy decision-making. Countries with a strong military-industrial complex may be more likely to engage in military action, even when diplomatic solutions would be more appropriate. This can lead to an escalation of conflicts and an increased risk of war.
The military-industrial complex can also have negative impacts on domestic policy. It can divert resources away from other important priorities, such as education and healthcare. Additionally, the influence of the defense industry on policy decisions can lead to the prioritization of the needs of military contractors over the needs of the general public.
Some have argued that the military-industrial complex represents a threat to democracy, as it can give undue influence to a small group of powerful interests. This can lead to a lack of transparency and accountability in decision-making, as well as a distorted political process.
In conclusion, the military-industrial complex is a complex and multifaceted issue that has the potential to have negative impacts on both domestic and foreign policy. It is important for citizens to be aware of the potential dangers of this relationship and to hold their elected officials accountable for ensuring that military spending is responsible and transparent.
Not bad! Firstly, I’m glad I’m no longer a professor actively teaching and grading papers. Something tells me more than a few students might be reaching for help from the AI bot on their assignments. Often, I was able to catch plagiarism (the giveaway was an essay written too well with too many “big words” used correctly) by searching for certain phrases or sentences that struck me as more than odd or much too advanced, but now with these AI programs I’m guessing it’s going to be a lot harder to ensure students do their own work.
Anyhow, the AI bot essay on the military-industrial complex makes some good points, don’t you think? Though there’s still room for a human here (at least I hope so).
So what does this human intelligence (that’s me) have to say?
“Unnecessary expansion of military budgets”: that’s for sure! The latest Pentagon budget is $858 billion, and that doesn’t count roughly $45 billion in aid (mostly military) to Ukraine. It also leaves out much spending related to homeland security, policing, and the like. By some estimates, 2/3rds of the federal discretionary budget is devoted to military, security, and policing.
“Over-reliance on military solutions”: bingo! Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, the whole “war on terror” was and is driven by the idea that America’s singular military strength can solve everything.
A “vested interest” that “influences public policy”: I think the AI bot has read Eisenhower’s warning about the undue influence of the MIC and the danger it poses to freedom and democracy.
A “tremendous amount of waste and inefficiency”: Looks like the AI bot has heard that the Pentagon is missing trillions of dollars and has failed five audits in a row. It’s probably heard about wasteful weapons like the F-35 and B-21 as well. (Coincidence: as I was typing “wasteful,” the computer corrected my initial misspelling to “hateful.” Yes, I suppose a nuclear bomber that can kill millions could be described as “hateful”).
“Escalation of conflicts” and “an increased risk of war”: Well, I’m glad our leaders have the Ukraine situation firmly in hand and are seeking a well-considered diplomatic solution. (Yes, that’s sarcasm. Match that, AI bot!)
“Negative impacts on domestic policy”: Well, I’m glad Americans have excellent and affordable health care, virtually no debt due to educational costs, and that John Q. Public is heard as much as Boeing and Raytheon in the halls of power. (More sarcasm from the human!)
“Lack of transparency and accountability”: Boy, this AI bot is smart! When’s the last time you heard of a U.S. general or admiral being cashiered for losing a war?
“Important for citizens to be aware of the potential dangers” of the MIC: Hooray for the AI bot! If only we still had citizens in America who were kept informed about the dangers of the MIC. We’ve all been reduced to passive consumers and occasional voters who are told by the mainstream media to cheer for war and to revel in the beauty of our missiles.
I think you’ll agree, dear reader, that the AI bot is less sarcastic and more dispassionate than I am. It also speaks with much greater probity of the dangers of the MIC than people like Biden or Trump or Pelosi or DeSantis. So I say “three cheers!” for our new robot master. ChatGPT for President in 2024!
Just be sure to ask it the right questions …
William J. Astore is a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF). He taught history for fifteen years at military and civilian schools. He writes at Bracing Views.