Iron Man: A Cinematic View on the Military Industrial Complex

Michael A Rizzotti

The summer of 2008 will be remembered as a superhero blockbuster. Among the year’s biggest box office hits were Batman, Incredible Hulk and Iron Man. Their release coincided with US status as a super-power at a crossroad. The war in Iraq did no go as planned. And the US military involvement in Afghanistan is likely to drag on for years. Russia is flexing its geopolitical muscles in strategic parts of the world. Domestically, the country is going through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. As a result, the country’s political status as a super-power is put in question. What better way to alleviate the current setback than to call upon Hollywood’s pantheon of gods to save the day and prop up America’s image.  

Tony Stark is a billionaire industrialist and genius inventor who is kidnapped and forced to build a devastating weapon. Instead, using his intelligence and ingenuity, Tony builds a high-tech suit of armor and escapes captivity. When he uncovers a nefarious plot with global implications, he dons his powerful armor and vows to protect the world as Iron Man.

Of all the superhero movies released in 2008 Iron Man stands apart by its direct reference to the military and Afghanistan. The movie is based on a hyped portrait of wealthy playboy Howard Hughes: A twentieth century American patriot, who shared a close relationship with the military. Howard Hughes like Tony Stark was an engineer. He was a real life Hollywood celebrity who held a personal control over the military aspect of his enterprise, especially aviation. Similarly Tony Stark is heavily involved with the military, and addressing a group of Air Force pilots he describes his armored flying suit as: “a pilot without a plane”.

Our hero is the son of industrialist Howard Stark founder of Stark Industries. At an early age Anthony showed signs of inventive genius with an aptitude in electrical engineering which he pursued at MIT at the age of 15. At his parents’ untimely death he inherited the company and turned it into a billion-dollar industry building weapons for the US government.

Iron Man is Hollywood movie making at its best. The cast is first-rate and the acting is top notch. Yet, the depiction of a super-rich lifestyle of luxury cars, concrete bunker home on top of a Malibu cliff is an outlandish display of wealth, especially in times of economic downturn. Perhaps the medium is doing what it’s meant to do. To be a visual rush, an escape from the ordinariness of everyday life, especially during an economic downturn, the new opium of the people. Nonetheless, the movie is set to become another classic of its genre. (1)

One of the more interesting premises of the film is the relationship between the military and Stark Industries and the indignation Tony Stark feels when he is almost killed by a bomb made by his own company. And the realization that these weapons also kill young American soldiers.

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The movie begins in a desert setting with the song Back in Black by AC/DC blasting in the background. The camera cuts to a smartly dressed Tony Stark with a drink in hand, riding in a Humvee joking with three US soldiers, one of them a woman. The convoy is driving through a desert in Afghanistan. Tony Stark is on tour to promote his company’s “crown jewel” missile the Jericho.

Suddenly one of the leading Humvee is hit by a bomb. The soldiers quickly exit their ambushed vehicle and are killed by a cluster of bullets. Tony Stark runs out and hides behind a pile of stones. He lays there and suddenly a bomb with Stark Industries logo on it lands a few feet away. Our hero is doubly shocked by the sighting and the explosion of the shell. The next scene shows an injured Tony Stark surrounded by insurgents in a portrait made for propaganda purposes.

A flashback 36 hours earlier redirects the viewer into a conference room in Las Vegas where the Apogee award ceremony is in progress. The screen on stage runs a biographical video about Tony’s life and accomplishments including photos on the covers of popular magazines. Meanwhile the narrator’s comments:

Tony Stark, visionary, genius, AMERICAN PATRIOT…At twenty one, a prodigal son returns and is ANOINTED the new CEO of Stark Industries with the keys to the KINGDOM… Entering a new era in the arms industry creating smarter weapons, advanced robotics and satellite targeting…Tony Stark has changed the face of the weapons industry by insuring freedom and protecting America and her interests around the GLOBE…

Colonel James Rhodes is on the podium to present the award to Tony Stark. The recipient is not present at the ceremony. His partner Obadiah Stane (2) obligingly accepts the award on Tony’s behalf. The camera then moves to a bustling casino where Tony Stark is seen surrounded by a cheering crowd. A drink in his hand, he is gambling lavishly. On his way out of the casino he is approached by reporter Christine Everhart who asks him if he has any moral qualms about being “a merchant of death”. Tony with his usual self-confidence is able to charm his way out of her thorny questions. The following scene shows the two having a one night stand at his Malibu bunker-home overlooking the pacific.

The next morning Tony Stark is on his way to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan. He is on a tour to promote Stark Industries’ latest super-missile the Jericho to the military. Obadiah and Tony are both pleased about the successful outcome of the system display. In a show of solidarity Tony embarks on a Humvee with three soldiers. At this point the viewer is brought back to where the convoy is ambushed and Tony injured by the explosion. Tony is shown being held captive in a secluded cave in Afghanistan.

The bomb that almost killed him left pieces of shrapnel around his heart. A co-prisoner named Yinsen saves Tony’s life by surgically implanting a magnetic device to keep the shrapnel that would otherwise kill him from reaching his heart. The shrapnel around his heart symbolizing fragments of his own deadly creation: A vital reminder of his dependency on a technological device for his survival.

The leader of the insurgents orders Tony to build him a copy of the Jericho. Tony refuses and pretends to build the missile in order to stop the ring leader who threatens to kill Yinsen if he doesn’t comply. Meanwhile, both are busy building a miniaturized copy of an arc reactor, similar to the one located at Stark Industries’ headquarters. The device is made to replace Tony’s existing magnetic shield and designed to yield abundant energy to keep Stark alive. However the arc reactor will only generate a limited amount of power to fuel the armored outfit that will be used for his escape. With Yinsen’s help and his makeshift iron suit, Tony Stark undertakes his planned getaway.

The super-hero’s victorious battle against the insurgents has inflicted some damage to his iron suit. It left him with enough power to escape and crash land in the desert where he is rescued by the military. Once safely back home, Tony Stark is a changed man. The implant in his body is a visual symbol of a change of heart. It will prompt Tony to announce at a press conference:

I saw young Americans killed by the very weapons that I created to defend them…I saw that I have become comfortable with zero accountability. I had my eyes open…I have more to offer to the world…I am shutting down the weapons manufacturing division until such a time I can decide what the future of this company will be and what direction it should take. One that I am comfortable with and is consistent with the highest good for this country…

Tony explains to a shocked Obadiah that he wants the company to build arc reactors (a visionary solution to the energy crisis?) instead of weapons. Obadiah objects and explains that Stark Industries is not in the business of making baby bottles, but arms. And that the arc reactor he refers to was simply a publicity stunt that never worked. Later Obadiah informs Tony that the new direction that he envisions for the company is blocked by the board of directors.

The movie returns to our hero at a benefit event where he is sharing a drink with Pepper Potts, his beautiful personal assistant. A sensual chemistry between the two is displayed. The furtive love scene is interrupted by the arrival of journalist Christine Everhart who shows Tony proof that Stark Industries has delivered weapons to the insurgents.

Seeing reports on TV about a worsening situation in the Middle East Tony decides it’s time to test the latest prototype of the armored suit code named Mark 3. He flies to Afghanistan to defend a group of villagers and fight the terrorists, freeing them form their tyrannical hold. On the way back home, he is confronted by two F-22s who do not recognize the advanced flying suit. The dog fight ends when Iron Man accidentally hits one F-22 and the pilot is forced to eject from his damaged plane. Once ejected the pilot is unable to release the parachute and is ultimately saved by Iron Man.

Meanwhile Obadiah is seen in the Middle East asking Raza, the ring leader, why he did not kill Tony Stark as requested. A vengeful Obadiah paralyzes Raza for his incompetence and proceeds to kill the leader and the whole terrorist camp.

In order to gather proof of the arms dealing, Pepper is sent to search Obadiah’s computer for evidence. She copies files that reveal the shipping records of illicit arms shipment to the enemy. Pepper also discovers that he has made a deal to have Tony murdered while he was held prisoner by the enemy. She also finds out that Stane has recovered parts of the original power suit and plans to build his own and more powerful version.

Stane learns that his engineers are unable to re-create a copy of the arc reactor that is essential to make his Iron Monger suit. In order to get a copy of the device he drives to Tony’s house. He paralyzes his partner with a sonic weapon and yanks the arc reactor from Tony’s chest. A weakened Stark has barely time to fetch his original arc reactor that he had asked Pepper to replace with an updated version. He had given her the original miniature device to destroy. She kept it instead and put in a jar with a label showing “Proof That Tony Has A heart” and gave it to him as a gift.

Tony’s moral dilemma unfolds as he finds out that Obadiah Stane is responsible for selling weapons to the enemy. The split between Tony and Obadiah underlines a growing conflict within the company. The struggle unfolds and escalates.

Antagonism plays an essential role in the dynamic build-up of the hero’s identity. It is propelled by the introduction of an adversary in the story. The greater the opposition between hero and foe, the greater the heightened definition of each opposing characters. On one hand we have Tony Stark who is morally concerned about his company’s arms dealing with the enemy, and soldiers deaths. On the other hand we have Obadiah Stane whose only concern is profitability without regards for military casualty.

Obadiah’s possession of Tony’s arc reactor allows him to build a bigger and more powerful armored suit. The conflict that has escalated throughout the movie is finally reaching its final conclusion in a pyrrhic battle between Iron Man and a bigger and more powerful Iron Monger. The battle ends in a typical Hollywood crowd pleaser with Iron Man’s predictable heroic victory.

The movie ends showing security agent Coulson ─S.H.I.E.L.D. ─ giving Tony the details of a cover story to conceal Iron Man’s identity. As Tony addresses the group of reporters at the press conference, Christine Everhart questions him about the truth of the official version of events. Looking at his script and at the reporters, he hesitates. He finally discards his notes and confesses:

The truth is I AM IRON MAN

In the end Tony Stark reveals who he is, refusing to go along with the secret service to keep his identity secret. This openness is uncharacteristic of typical superheroes.

Tony is a talented, but somewhat flawed human being. He drinks too much and is an incorrigible womanizer. He is very wealthy. He is nonetheless a brilliant engineer. He builds things like his powerful armored suit. Iron Man being his own ultimate creation.

Unlike Superman whose power originates from another planet or Spiderman from being bitten by a genetically modified spider or even Batman whose addiction to gadgets is fueled by an endless source of wealth. Tony Stark’s power comes from his genius and engineering talent. He represents the epitome of America’s industrial power. Inventive, honest and industrious. He is the personification of Americanism.

Tony shows he is an accessible human being. He mingles with soldiers. He enjoys their company and empathizes with their patriotism. He even shares a risky and fatal ride with them in enemy territory. In addition, Colonel James Rhodes is a close friend with whom he shares his thoughts and good times. Our hero has a close and respectful relationship with the military. And he cares about the men and women that serve their country.

In the end our hero is left with an ongoing conflict between the new direction of Stark Industries and a profitable arms industry. He faces a dilemma about his company’s past and its future involvement with the government. This dilemma is akin to the military industrial complex spelled out by a career military officer and former President.

Dwight David “Ike” Eisenhower

“This conjunction 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…”

The 34th President of the United States is to this day best known for his 1961 farewell speech in which he warns the American people against “misplaced power” and the “military industrial complex”. Eisenhower was a career military officer and being elected President put him in a favorable position to describe the relationship between the armed forces and the industries that supply its weapons. To this day, his speech is a seminal starting point on any discussion about the connections between the military and the arms industry. The movie Iron Man has contributed to the ongoing debate about the subject and its author.

David Dwight Eisenhower was born on October 14, 1890 in Denison Texas, to David Jacob Eisenhower and Ida Elizabeth Stover, the third of seven sons, the first President to be born in the Lone Star state.

His father was a college-educated engineer whose ancestors came from Germany, most likely Protestant. Eisenhower’s mother, an only child, lost her mother at the age of five. She was raised by her grandparents and then by her elder brothers. By the time Ida Stover was old enough to go to high school she was not permitted to attend. Her brothers did not believe in the education of girls and encouraged her to memorize the Bible instead. Showing signs of resolve she ran away from home. She graduated high school at the age of 19 and taught for 2 years before entering Lane University where she met her future husband. Ida was a lifelong pacifist. And between 1895 and 1900 she joined the Jehovah’s Witnesses and remained a member until her death.

Many such persons of her faith, selflessness, and boundless consideration of others have been called saintly. She was that—but above all she was a worker, an administrator, a teacher and guide, a truly wonderful woman.

“Ike”

David Dwight Eisenhower graduated high school in Abilene Kansas in 1909. He worked for two years to support his brother’s college education. A recommendation from Senator Joseph L Bristow (R-Kansas) led to his appointment at the Military Academy at West Point in 1911. Upon joining the Academy he reversed the order of his given names and became known as Dwight David. He graduated West Point in 1915.

By attending the Academy he distanced himself from Jehovah’s Witnesses and its anti-militaristic belief. By 1915 his parent’s home was no longer used as a Witness meeting hall. Eventually his brothers abandoned the movement.  On February 1st 1953, 12 days after his first presidential inauguration, Eisenhower was baptized, confirmed and became a communicant in the Presbyterian Church in one single ceremony.

Although Eisenhower had a remarkable military and political career, his lifelong dream was to become a professional baseball player. He admitted that one of his greatest disappointments in life was not making the baseball team at West Point. He nevertheless made a brilliant but short lived stint as a football player for the Academy.

During World War I he was put in charge of training tank crews in Pennsylvania. He never saw combat. During the 1920s and 1930s Eisenhower’s career stagnated. He served as a military administration official in different capacities. During that period most of his military colleagues left the army for lucrative jobs in the corporate world.

In the early twenties he became executive officer to General Fox Corner in Panama who instilled in him an enthusiasm for military history. In the mid 1930s he served as chief military aid to General Douglas McArthur in the Philippines. He returned to the US and held several staff positions. In 1941 he was appointed chief of staff to General Walter Krueger at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas and promoted brigadier general in 1941.

During the second world war he was responsible for supervising major war plans to defeat the enemy. In 1942 he was appointed Commanding General, European Theater of Operations and later appointed Supreme Commander of Allied Forces of the North African Theater of Operations. After the capitulation of the enemy in North Africa he oversaw the invasion of Sicily and Italy. Following the fall of Berlin and Germany’ surrender, he was appointed Military Governor of the US Occupation Zone, based in Frankfurt.

In 1948, Eisenhower became President of Columbia University. In 1950 he took a two years leave from the University to become Supreme Commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as commander of the forces in Europe.

In 1952 the Republican Party persuaded “Ike” to run for President to counter non-interventionist candidate Senator Robert Taft. He won the nomination and defeated Democrat Adlai Stevenson in a landslide victory in 1953. In 1956 Eisenhower won a second term with 86% of the Electoral College’s vote and 57.6% of the popular vote.

His major accomplishments were The Interstate Highway System. The Federal Aid Highway Act (1956) was believed to be essential to national security. Large cities were seen as possible targets in futures wars. As a result, highways were designed to evacuate the civilian population and allow the military to move in.

Since the end of World War II the US had undertaken a major role in overseeing Europe’s security with its commitment to NATO. Following the Suez Crisis, Eisenhower extended the US role as a military protector to include all of US’ allies in the Middle East.

He supported the French colonial forces in Vietnam fighting nationalism and communist insurgencies.

In 1952 the Eisenhower administration declared racial discrimination a national security issue. Televised racial tensions were perceived as being detrimental to the US credibility and image abroad. They were viewed as tools to be used for communist propaganda. As a result he proposed to Congress the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960.

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At the time of Eisenhower’s presidency Americans were living in a different social and cultural environment. The country was blessed with a sustained period of economic growth and the US political influence around the world was unequaled. Except for the rivalry of countries living under communist rule, the United States was the undisputed leader of the free world.

A brief chronology of events of that year will give us a political framework in which the speech was delivered.

On January 3rd, President Dwight Eisenhower announces that the United States has severed diplomatic relations with Cuba. A few days later on the 20th, John F. Kennedy becomes the 35th President of the United States.

The following month the US launches its first test of the Minuteman I intercontinental ballistic missile.

In April the Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin becomes the first human in space. On the 17th of the same month The Bay of Pigs Invasion of Cuba begins and fails on the 19th.

On May 5th Alan Shepard becomes the first American in space aboard Mercury-Redstone 3. On the 25th President Kennedy announces his Apollo program to put a man on the Moon before the end of the decade.

On October 27th, a standoff between Soviet and American tanks in Berlin heightens Cold War tensions. On the 30th, the Soviet Union detonates the largest ever man made hydrogen bomb named Tsar Bomba.

November 18th, US President John F. Kennedy sends 18,000 military advisers to South Vietnam.

On December 2nd Cuban leader Fidel Castro announces he is a Marxist-Leninist and Cuba a socialist country.

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A look at books that were published in 1960 and 1961 are useful beacons to survey the cultural environment of the time. Literary publications are helpful to understand the scope and meaning of the terms used by the President in his speech. Sifting through the numerous titles two non-fiction books stand out:

R.D. Laing: The Divided Self: An Existential Study in Sanity and Madness 1960

M. McLuhan: The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man 1961

Psychoanalysis played an important role in America’s cultural makeup during the Eisenhower’s presidency. Freud and Jung were still considered the undisputed high priests of psychoanalysis responsible for revealing the depths of the human soul. Psychiatrists were widely respected and were consulted for an array of malaise ranging from phobias, neuroses, psychosis or sexual disorders. It was not unusual to find several books on psychoanalysis on the publishers list.

Books like R.D. Laing’s The Divided Self are one example. The author was considered to be part of the anti-psychiatry school of thought, a label that he rejected. Laing’s contribution to psychoanalysis consisted in giving emphasis to the patient’s own expression of his disorder rather than rely on established diagnosis. For Laing the patient’s own expression of his condition could be transformative and viewed in the same manner as a shamanic journey.

Marshall McLuhan erupted onto the cultural scene as a guru of sorts, heralding a change in human rationalism introduced by mass-media. According to the author the printed press was responsible for a major shift in cultural development. It led to ever greater standardization of culture, the alienation of the individual and the rise of nationalism. In “The Gutenberg Galaxy” he reveals how books represent the accumulated stored data of all human knowledge.

It’s safe to say that by 1961 televisions were firmly implanted in most of Americans living rooms. The growing power of the medium was being felt throughout the social and cultural framework of the nation. John F. Kennedy was the first President to be endowed with a “star quality” and elected with the help of TV. As McLuhan explained, the medium was surreptitiously re-inventing and shaping the character of the nation.

Eisenhower Farewell Address to the Nation January 17, 1961 (link)

In his televised address Eisenhower uses the terms “a large arms industry” in conjunction with “an immense military establishment”. He takes care to separate the two. He does not use the expression “defense industry”.

The same year Eisenhower delivered his farewell address, the Cold War would culminate with the Cuban Missile Crisis. The threat of nuclear war between the US and the USSR had reached unprecedented levels. Not surprising to find that Eisenhower’s first warning relates to communism:

We face a hostile ideology global in scope, atheistic in character, ruthless in purpose, and insidious in method.

The topic of the speech then turns to the subject of the military industrial complex.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

Eisenhower experienced first hand the meaning of the military: An organization authorized to use armed forces to defend the country and its allies from invaders or the attack of perceived or actual enemies abroad. The military also functions as a society within a society in terms of being an organization  with its own economy, educational and medical systems. Logistics and strategy are two important aspects of the military but the use of the best and most advanced technology in weaponry is essential to win battles and defeat the enemy.

The United States’ rise to power was made possible by its unprecedented industrial growth, unparalleled in history. The nation’s economy was based on the invention and manufacturing of material goods. These included ships, trains, planes, cars, tools, appliances, computers, etc. Americans were making and buying things that allowed its citizens to achieve the highest standard of living in the world. Stark Industries exemplifies such an industrial might and weapons innovation.

The terms “military” and “industrial” are terms easy enough to understand, whereas the word “complex” conveys a broader semantic significance. Its primary meaning consists of various parts connected together that are involved in a variety of degrees of subordination. It could also be inferred that Eisenhower’s use of “misplaced power” in conjunction with the word “complex” meant to convey a psychological reference.

In psychology a complex is a group of mental factors that are unconsciously associated by a person to a particular subject. Carl Jung originally defined the term. He described it as conscious or unconscious feelings and beliefs that result in puzzling behavior. At the core of any complex is a universal pattern of experience called the archetype. A prominent example of archetypes is the concept of shadow. According to Jung the shadow represents any aspect of the psyche that has been excluded from conscious awareness.

The Divided Self

R.D. Laing’s book was published in 1960. It sold 1,600 copies. However, in 1989 the year of the author’s death, the book became a best seller and sold over 700,000 copies in England alone. The book has since been translated in more than thirty languages.

The Divided Self was not intended for the academic world but rather for the general public. The book describes in lay terms the schizoid personality and schizophrenia. Laing explains that a schizoid personality is a person whose totality of his experience is split in two or more ways. The overall unity of the person has been broken into separate entities each with its own personality.

One of the senses implied by Eisenhower’s use of “misplaced” is “to displace”, to put in a wrong place or to be devoted to the wrong purpose. One of its synonyms is “to derange”, to cause disorder or to distort from its ideal state.

StarkThe movie depicts a growing confrontation between Tony Stark and Obadiah Stane. What follows is a struggle of two opposing visions of the company: A patriotic one versus a globalist weapons manufacturer without any loyalty to the state. Tony Stark is portrayed as a “real patriot”. A magnate dismayed by the discovery that his weapons kill American soldiers. In contrast, Obadiah Stane personifies a transnational company whose core interest is profitability regardless of military casualties. At stake is the integrity of Stark Industries.

Tony Stark and Obadiah Stane are partners. Each owns controlling interests in the company. The conflict precipitates a split between two incompatible personalities within the corporation.

In the US the corporation is defined as a person, more precisely as an artificial person. The idea of “person” has become shrouded in popular misconception. The ambiguity is attributed to a deceptive confusion between artificial, natural person and a human being. Adding to the confusion is the fact that the Latin origin of corporation is corpus or body. The word body in this sense does not mean a physiological organism commonly understood as a human body, but to a society or an association. In addition, the original Latin meaning for person is persona, a mask worn by an actor. One must keep in mind that the mask of a person, his or her personality, does not mean the essence of being, his or her soul.

The misconception about the meaning of person is exemplified by the oxymoron of corporate citizen. Although the corporation is considered an artificial person, it cannot be a citizen. Citizenship is granted either by birth or through the process of citizenship, one that involves the swearing and pledge of allegiance. In other words, it might be inferred that the misplaced meaning of person could be attributed to a misleading and deliberate corporate impersonation of a human being?

Although Stark Industries is an artificial person it nonetheless experiences a break down in its integrity, likened to schizophrenia. The split was triggered Obadiah’s psychotic behavior. Displayed in the movie  when he undertakes to kill his partner and take control of the company in order to continue his arms dealing with the enemy.

Acquisition of Unwarranted Influence and Misplaced Power

As a career military and President, Eisenhower experienced first hand the complex relationship between the military and the arms industry. Before he left office he warned the citizens about its grave implications. And he expressed his concerns about the future of the relationship.

Since his speech, the growth of the defense industry has reached startling proportions. By 2011 the military budget is projected to account for half of the US deficit. These numbers suggest that the US economy has become increasingly dependent on the growth of the defense industry. This expansion has favored distorted priorities in respect to alternative sources of investment for economic growth. As a result a mounting dichotomy has emerged between a civilian economy and a “large arms industry”, an industry that now includes surveillance and security services.

When Eisenhower spoke of “acquisition of unwarranted influence” he was more than likely referring to lobbying. Today lobbying has flourished and includes the services provided by ex-military advisers. On occasion retired generals are hired by the arms industry as consultants. As former career officers they yield considerable influence in the decision making for major weapons and munitions purchased by the government. Not all of their advice however benefits the security and wellbeing of fighting soldiers abroad.

In addition, officials at the highest level of government, some with a personal stake in the defense industry, have been suspected of over-billing, bribery and possible violations of the law. Investigations and government audits have found that waste, shoddy workmanship and corruption are not uncommon and are putting unnecessary strain on active military personnel.

Another issue threatening the integrity of the military is the increasing use of private contractors. A growing number are being used for logistics, the protection of convoys and as guards for military bases. Private contractors were in the past only used as a temporary measure. It has now become a standard practice of US military operations. The functions conducted by private contractors were previously performed by the military. These functions have increasingly been outsourced so that soldiers can focus on the more risky task of engaging the enemy.

In Irak and Afghanistan the number of private contractors have reached and surpassed the number of military personnel. In addition, mercenaries are paid disproportionately more than soldiers. The inequitable monetary compensation is nothing less than demeaning for the men and women serving their country. Adding insult to injury the presence of mercenaries also discredit and undermine the very role of the military in the nation’s defence.

Another example of misplaced power is the use of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or drones. The UAV program is run by a secret service agency and is not officially recognized by the government. The use of this type of weapon has caused a growing resentment among the surviving members of drone victims in Afghanistan. This anger is fueling a widespread resentment and retaliation against the troops fighting on the ground. These raids also help foster a nationalistic, anti-American movement in the country. Moreover, the use of drones to hunt down the Taliban may prove to be a violation of international law.

The most puzzling aspect of the military industrial complex involves the expanding infringement of the state’s sovereignty by corporations. During the Apogee awards the video refers to Tony as the “anointed” CEO with keys to the “kingdom”. An interesting analogy is made between the corporation and a kingdom. The film shows that the business of arms dealing knows no borders. And on occasion the transnational corporation behaves in ways that is counter to the national security of the state. Obadiah Stane’s double dealing reveals he puts the corporate interests above those of his country, violating the sovereignty of the United States in the process.

The growing allocation to the military budget, compounded by a growing deficit, may prove to be detrimental to the sovereignty and national security of the United States. In 2007 Ralph Gomory, head of the Alfred P Sloan Foundation, testified before Congress:

In this new era of globalization, the interests of companies and countries have diverged. In contrast with the past, what is good for America’s global corporations is no longer necessarily good for the American people.

The use of the expression “anointed” to describe Tony Stark is also revealing. The term refers to a ritual used to consecrate a king. A monarch by definition rules over his sovereign kingdom. The comparison between a corporation and a kingdom may not be too far-fetched. Some of the world’s biggest corporations are richer and more powerful than a great majority of third world countries. Conglomerates typically are run by a disposable king, own large chunks of real estate, hire their own security, provide income and supply medical care to their employees, pay for travel and provide shelter for a certain number of its upper management. They in effect erect a virtual wall around their kingdoms.

All the examples of misplaced power described point to the growing influence of a large arms industry. The existence of such a shadow system is not recognized by a great majority of people. This obscurity benefits the weapons industries. They thrive and expand while hidden from public and political scrutiny. The ever increasing power of corporations may one day evolve to challenge and abrogate the sovereignty of the state.

Eisenhower clearly stated that the role of the President is to “balance” the two connected but distinct parts. And he warned to keep a watchful eye that one does not override the other and become a power onto itself.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

In the end Iron Monger is destroyed by Stark Industries’ arc reactor. The mysterious power source did prove to be useful to annihilate the shadowy force that planned to take over the company. Otherwise, Iron Monger’s victory would have been detrimental for US’ national security. As depicted in the movie, the innovative power source could be an answer to promote the security, the liberty and the economic growth of the nation.

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(1) The film was directed by Jon Favreau, produced by Avi Arad and Kevin Feige.

(2) Obadiah is not an uncommon name in the bible. It means “Servant of Yahweh”. Obadiah also refers to a prophet that is also the title of the shortest book in the Bible ─21 verses in all. In it Obadiah preaches against the nation of Edom who was historically hostile to Israel. The text relates to a vision about the ultimate victory of the people of God against their enemy; God’s promise being conditional to the unwavering faith of his people.

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